Bavaria: Catholic Museum shows exhibition about church and sex

Sex and the Catholic Church has always been a touchy subject.

Bavaria: Catholic Museum shows exhibition about church and sex

Sex and the Catholic Church has always been a touchy subject. Ironically, the Freising Diocesan Museum is now dealing with this in a remarkable exhibition. An offensive and quite courageous project in turbulent times.

Munich / Freising (dpa / lby) - Maria Magdalena erotic staged for the male monastery audience, Saint Sebastian as a homoerotic fetish icon: The museum of the Catholic Archdiocese of Munich and Freising is dedicated to the sensitive topic in an exhibition that is very unusual for the house church and sex.

This weekend the exhibition "Damned Lust - Church.Body.Art" starts in the Freising Diocesan Museum. "We dare something," says museum director Christoph Kurzder on Thursday.

And it is actually an offensive project in turbulent times for the Catholic Church in Germany - with its tough and always seemingly hopeless struggle for a more humane sexual morality in the "Synodal Way" reform process and in the abuse scandal.

The archbishop himself had the idea for the project. Cardinal Reinhard Marx will open the exhibition on Saturday. Among the works on display are paintings by Lukas Cranach and Albrecht Dürer, a drawing attributed to Leonardo da Vinci and a naked body of Christ by Michelangelo. Specific topics such as celibacy or sexual violence in the church are also addressed.

The Archdiocese is thus addressing a topic that is "timeless and highly topical and controversial at the same time," writes Marx in a welcoming address in the exhibition catalogue. The discussion about how to deal with cases of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church not only revealed "problems such as clericalism and abuse of power", "but above all a crucial basic problem, namely the often very strained relationship of many people in our church to physicality and sexuality". .

"In the past, theology, preaching and pastoral practice often drew a very negative picture of human sexuality, burdened with guilt and atonement, which led to repression and double standards," writes the cardinal.

The exhibition, in which more than 150 works of art from antiquity to the early 19th century can be seen, also shows this double standard in a very impressive way: when Mary Magdalene, for example, appears as a penitent in paintings commissioned by churchmen, but above all very much is staged lasciviously. "Here male fantasies are set in motion," says Kurzeder. "Here art debunks."

A picture at the very beginning of the exhibition is revealing, showing the church princes engaged in lively discussions about the key theological case. They don't even look at the personalized Fall of Man, the naked Eve with the apple in her hand in her midst.

The theological discourse in the Catholic Church has been conducted almost exclusively by men for 2000 years, says Kurzeder, and art is also shaped by men. Only one work in the exhibition comes from a woman, a painter, who herself was a victim of sexual violence. Kurzer speaks of a "counterimage": "The baroque painter Artemisia Gentileschi painted the famous story of Susanna in the bath. It makes it very clear how her own body was exposed to male violence, how oppressive she experienced being a pure object of pleasure that can't resist."