Sweet Jesus! A Chocolate Sculpture of the Crucified Christ Can Give Us the Chance to Learn the Difference between a Mere Aesthetically Upset Stomach and Real Moral Indigestion

Article excerpt

EASTER THIS YEAR WAS ALMOST SPOILED BEFORE HOLY Week even began--by a life-size chocolate sculpture of Jesus Christ, sans loincloth. Coming in at 6 feet, 200 pounds, and 485,460 calories of pure milk chocolate, My Sweet Lord by artist Cosimo Cavallaro never made its planned debut. When news of its appearance at New York City's Lab Gallery broke, William Donohue of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights immediately denounced the anatomically correct sculpture as "one of the worst assaults on Christian sensibilities ever." New York's Cardinal Edward Egan called the piece "a sickening display." Headlines the world over echoed that of the U.K.'s Guardian, "Catholic fury at chocolate Jesus," though a few echoed Australia's The Age: "My Sweet Lord! Christians need to lighten up."

Though it's true that a chocolate sculpture of Jesus might shock some, it seems a titch extreme to call it "one of the worst assaults ... ever." In fact, it's really too bad that Donohue and the media he courts have shut down any possible intelligent conversation about this piece, which may actually have a point. After all, hasn't Easter largely been reduced to a basket of religiously non-descript chocolate bunnies?

Take for example Jesus' exposed "anatomical correctness." Medieval artists were not shy about showing Christ's full naked humanity at his Crucifixion. That true and complete humanity was at the heart of medieval faith. Could our modern obsession with genitalia be preventing us from appreciating the full significance of the Incarnation?

Indeed, for our own day, Jesus' nakedness has new relevance. Jesus' stripping was, as the gospels tell it, his final humiliation before Crucifixion, a deliberate act of violence perpetrated by his executioners. It is also an indignity he shares with the tortured mass of humanity, whose victims to this day are still brutalized and beaten to death, often in sexualized violence like rape. Have we forgotten the pornographic humiliation of the prisoners of Abu Ghraib?

These are the true insults to Christ's image. While the Catholic League and few others pitch fits over a piece of art that few would have seen if not for League-provoked media coverage, we Catholics have hardly mustered sufficient public outrage at far more profound attacks against God's image. …