Kathy Schiffer is a Catholic blogger. In addition to her blog Seasons of Grace, her articles have appeared in the National Catholic Register, Aleteia, Zenit, the Michigan Catholic, Legatus Magazine, and other Catholic publications. She’s worked for Catholic and other Christian ministries since 1988, as radio producer, director of special events and media relations coordinator. Kathy and her husband, Deacon Jerry Schiffer, have three adult children.
A Spanish judge has ruled that a performance artist who stole more than 240 consecrated hosts, then turned them into anti-Catholic “art,” has done nothing wrong.
Judge Fermin Otamendi, a judge of the Pamplona Second District Court of Discovery, closed the case, claiming that there had been no desecration of the sacred hosts because desecration is “treating something sacred without due respect or using it for profane purposes.” He added that
“...lack of respect should not be confused with not doing what the Catholic Church requires its faithful to do with the consecrated hosts in the act of Communion.”
Apparently for artist Abel Azcona to steal the hosts, one by one, by pretending the receive Communion is not illegal. Neither is using them to write the word “Pederasty” in Spanish on the sidewalk. And photographing the display, then exhibiting the photos in a city-owned gallery, then selling the photos, then profiting from the sale of the hosts, the Body of Christ, in the amount of $268,000—that's no big deal, too.
The Archbishop of Pamplona-Tudela, Archbishop Francisco Perez, would disagree with the judge's ruling. Last November, Archbishop Perez celebrated a Mass of Reparation at the Cathedral following the opening of Azcona's exhibit, which was sponsored by the Pamplona Department for Culture. In a statement to the Spanish-language newspaper Noticias de Navarra, Archbishop Perez said,
“This is a serious desecration of the Eucharist, a fact that deeply offends the Catholic faith and feelings, and violates religious freedom.”
Therefore, the Archbishop expressed his
“strong condemnation of these painful facts which constitute an attack on the faith of that Catholic community of the faithful of this Archdiocese and of all Catholics.”
Judge Otamendi apparently fails to grasp the seriousness of the case on so many levels. In closing the case, the judge rejected a lawsuit brought by the Spanish Association of Christian Lawyers. That legal association had claimed that the exhibit was “an offense against religious sentiments and desecration” under Articles 524 and 525 of the Spanish Penal Code.
Polonia Catellanos, spokesperson for the Christian Lawyers Association, said that her organization had demanded that the Pamplona City Council close down the art exhibit. “If they don’t do it,” she said, “we’ll expand the lawsuit to include charges of complicity and necessary cooperation.”
The Christian Lawyers Association has now pledged to appeal the dismissal, taking their case to Spain's highest court, if necessary, to combat “a campaign of serious offenses against the Christian faith and religious freedom.”
* * * * *
Just who is Abel Azcona, creator of the blasphemous art? He's a controversial artist whose other projects include a highly sexualized video performance project titled “Intimacy.” The graphic videos feature the artist engaged in homosexual acts. In the first stage of the project, Azcona explains, he attempts to show the “intimate emotional bonds” with the artist Juan Yuste,
“...with whom he had a partner relationship for the last months of 2013.... further stages shall be recorded from now on with different collaborators during the life of the artist.”
An equal opportunity insulter of religion, Azcona also created a controversial “Eating a Koran” video in which he is shown tearing up a Koran and then eating it, page by page. For that presentation, he received death threats.
In this latest shocking presentation, part of an exhibit titled “Buried,” photos show Azcona spreading the Body of Christ on the pavement: He uses 242 consecrated hosts which he procured by pretending to receive Holy Communion at Mass. The Hosts themselves were displayed beside the photos, until a private citizen removed them from the exhibit.
Despite Azcona’s belligerent portrayals of anti-religious motifs, one can almost feel sorry for him after reading his bio on the artist’s Vimeo site. It tells of a tragic childhood marred by abandonment and maltreatment by his prostitute mother. (Awkward sentence structures are the result of translation.)
His artistic exploration considered highly biographical looks into his own childhood, scarred experiences of abuse, abandonment, and child maltreatment, being his biological mother a key reference of his experience and therefore his artistic craft.
The feeling of abandonment experimented for the first time because of his mother, who practiced prostitution, and his pass through multiple child shelters, mental institutions and different foster homes, are determinant to the way Azcona expresses himself.
His life experience, marked by drugs, prostitution, or several suicide attempts during his adolescence, are linked to his creation and so he doesn't hesitate to share with the viewers through his work. In his works on this intimacy, Azcona is known for experiencing pain and physical stamina, exposing himself to beatings, intoxications, aggressions and various tortures both physical and psychological, and doesn't cower to confront himself.
Azcona tells us that when inner pain is so intense, outer pain can disappear; uses pain to empathize with his own feelings and own experiences during childhood and teen ages. Also, he assures that when he practices self-harm, it's his own choice to alter the shape of his body, as opposing to an abused child or woman, without a chance to decide. A resilient Azcona, creator of a cathartic work as a means of self knowledge and personal construction.
It is the sad story of a troubled man. Nonetheless, Azcona should not be permitted to thrust his blasphemous performance upon the people of Spain, and should not receive official government recognition for his effort. Let us pray, as this case moves forward—presumably to Spain's Audiencia Provincial—that God's will be done: that the art will be permanently removed, and that the artist, Abel Azcona, will experience the peace of God which surpasses all comprehension, and which can guard his heart and his mind in Christ Jesus.