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Disturbing exhibit

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 Contents - Jun 2006AD2000 June 2006 - Buy a copy now
Editorial: Pentecost: Church needs a spiritual kick-start - Michael Gilchrist
China defies Holy See to 'ordain' two bishops - Peter Westmore (reviewer)
News: The Church Around the World
Books: Look for AD2000 Books online at!
Vocations: Sydney seminary's growth continues - Michael Gilchrist
The Da Vinci Code: did the Church vilify Mary Magdalene? - Frank Mobbs
Education: Why do CEOs use Groome's RE method? - AD2000 Report
Is dialogue possible between Christians and Muslims? - Cardinal George Pell
Respect: New text book series vilifies the Catholic Church - Kevin Donnelly
The John Paul II Institute after five years - AD2000 Report
Liturgy: Catholics at prayer: why we stand and kneel - Fr Sebastian Camilleri OFM
Letters: The new barbarism - Fr. B. McGrath
Letters: Victory?
Letters: Disturbing exhibit - Veronica Sidhu
Letters: Thank you from India - Fr. A. Joseph
Letters: Meditation - Rosemary Chandler
Letters: Priestly celibacy - Tim Coyle
Letters: Pope Benedict and liberation theology - John Schmid
Events: VIRTUS Retreat 7-9 July 2006
Books: Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church - Michael Gilchrist (reviewer)
Books: Letters to a Young Catholic, by George Weigel - Michael Daniel (reviewer)
Books: The Defamation of Pius XII, by Ralph McInerny - Michael Daniel (reviewer)
Books: Dear Son, Dear Daughter: God's Plan for Catholic Marriage and the Family - Michael Gilchrist (reviewer)
Books: Stimulating reading from AD Books
Reflection: Pentecost, launching of the Church - Cardinal Francis Arinze

Recently I visited St Patrick's Cathedral, Melbourne, to view an Art Exhibition advertised through the Carnivale Christi. I was deeply disturbed and troubled by this exhibition which is titled "Crisis, Catharsis and Contemplation".

One exhibit I found particularly disturbing was a television set placed on the mensa of one of the beautiful side altars. This work, titled "Fire, Water, Sky and Earth", played still pictures of these four elements. With my limited understanding of Church law, I believe that a consecrated altar must be reserved for divine worship alone, to the absolute exclusion of any profane use.

This would seem to prohibit the use of any consecrated altar for the purpose of displaying works of "contemporary art". Indeed by divine worship it would seem the Church is referring to the sacrifice of the Mass and adoration.

Concerned about the ideological basis of this work, I undertook an Internet search and found that the person responsible for this work was a Professor Claudia Terstappen of Monash University. On the Monash website Professor Terstappen states that her recent work was inspired by her travels to Brazil and the US where she came across "Macumba rituals and the Sacred Land of the Navajo Indians."

Undertaking further research of the term "Mucumba", I discovered that this refers to "black witchcraft". As readers can appreciate, this greatly distressed me. To think that such a work has been placed near where the Eucharist is reserved in the tabernacle.

I was further surprised to discover that the curator states in the exhibition brochure that this is not a Catholic, nor a Christian, nor even a religious art exhibition, but rather "an exhibition of contemporary art in a sacred space."

It seems rather odd that a Catholic cathedral, the mother church of the archdiocese, should be used to exhibit works of contemporary art. I always thought that a cathedral, or indeed any church, was a house of God exclusively reserved for divine worship, to the exclusion of any and all profane uses.

There were other equally disturbing exhibits.

I have written to the Archbishop and at the time of writing look forward to further clarification from his office.

Did those who gave permission for the use of the Cathedral actually understand the nature of this exhibition or was this an unfortunate oversight?


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Reprinted from AD2000 Vol 19 No 5 (June 2006), p. 15

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