Condom artwork of Benedict XVI sparks outrage

A decision by an American museum to display a portrait of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI fashioned from 17,000 coloured condoms has sparked outrage.

The artwork titled “Eggs Benedict” was created by Niki Johnson to spark a discussion about sexual health.

She said it was inspired by comments made by Benedict during a 2009 visit to Africa in which he suggested that the use of condoms could exacerbate the spread of AIDS.

But Ms Johnson denied she intended to offend Catholics with the artwork.

Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki blasted the decision by the museum to display the piece as insulting and callous.

In a blog he questioned whether the museum would accept art depicting Mahatma Gandhi sporting an uzi, Abraham Lincoln in Klu Klux Klan garb or Adolf Hitler with a yarmulke reading the Torah, all in the name of art.

The museum acknowledged it has fielded about 200 complaints.

The museum acquired the portrait from local philanthropist and gay rights advocate Joseph Pabst, who bought it for about US$25,000 and donated it to the institution.

It will go on display when renovations at the museum are complete.

Museum board of trustees president Don Layden said: “This was never intended to be derisive, mocking or disrespectful of the pope.”

“It was to have a conversation about AIDS and AIDS education. And my hope is when the piece appears in the museum that will be the focus of the discussion.”

Jerry Topczewski, chief of staff for Archbishop Listecki, called that explanation “a smoke screen”.

“What’s at play here is either an intentional attack on a faith tradition and its teachings or a publicity stunt for the artist,” he said.

“And we would be opposed to any faith tradition or religious leader being attacked in such a way.”


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