Ugly as sin

"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder", it is said.


Beauty beauty cannot be separated from truth.

Some things are simply ugly, both by design and by intention.  They are ugly because they are deeply false.

Some "artists" hate their subjects, and what they produce reflects that sentiment.  Think of the art of Francis Bacon.

On other occasions, I have sadly had to write about what is going on at Stefansdom, the Cathedral of Vienna and in that Archdiocese.

Here is another sad establishment.

Don’t watch this unless you are not easily angered.

Here is the text on the e-mail which alerted me to this:

On May 27 the rector of St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna blessed a controversial bust of Sr Restituta Kafka who was murdered by the Nazis during Second World War and declared blessed by Pope John Paul II.  The bust was produced by the Austrian artist Alfred Hrdlicka. He is an atheist and describes himself as a "Stalinist". Hrdlicka was personally commissioned by Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn of Vienna to produce the sculpture.

I just don’t get it.  Why would someone pay for this, much less bless it, much less display it, much less not then prosecute the man who made it for a hate crime.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Jenny says:

    It doesn’t make me angry; it just makes me sad. That thing looks like a demon.

  2. Sal says:

    There is something so wrong with the Archdiocese of Vienna, and with Cardinal Schoenborn personally that, short of taking an industrial-strength firehose and going through the chancery office, I don’t know how they will fix this.

    Short-term: the Pope should “call” His Eminence to the Curia, there to sit in an office at a desk facing the wall, with a pad of paper and a pencil with an eraser on it.

    Then try to appoint a decent bishop (and given the Fr. Gerhard Maria Wagner controversy, all I can say to His Holiness is “God be with you.”

  3. Domini Sumus says:

    It reminds me of a gargoyle. Actually, it is uglier than most gargoyles.

  4. Andrew, medievalist says:

    Reminds me of Jeffrey Tucker’s many comments at NLM about liturgical music, the short version of which is “You get what you pay for”. So, if you pay an atheist, and self-professed Stalinist [!?], to produce a work of Catholic art, why be surprised at the result?

    I suppose, also, that there were no worthy starving Catholic artists available.

  5. B. says:

    I just don’t get it. Why would someone pay for this, much less bless it, much less display it, much less not then prosecute the man who made it for a hate crime.

    Because, according to Cardinal Schönborn, Alfred Hrdlicka is “one of the most significant living artists of Austria”, that’s why.
    His works depicting the last supper as a homosexual orgy were shown in the diocesan museum of Vienna.

  6. Matt K says:

    despicable. No need to desecrate churches in Austria when the Church there will pay for it to be done.

  7. Mitchell NY says:

    That is hideous and unfair that the Diocease is displaying something that would most likely not be received by many as in good taste..Most people will think it is ugly and others will simply ignore it…I doubt the masses will love it and talk about this as a magnificent piece of art..And theat is what should happen with real art…This is simply atrocious.

  8. Theodorus says:

    The church authority in Viena not only betrays a total lack of any sense of aesthetics but also clearly reveals a complete absense of a sense of right and wrong!

  9. alex says:

    Terrible, disgraceful, and to mention that the Blessed Sr was excueted along with communists? To put it in a Church? Truly we must pray for the clergy and the CHurch

  10. Anthony OPL says:

    What the hell has gone wrong with our beloved cardinal? Has Satan managed to turn one of the Church’s prized captains to his diabolical cause? Even the caption on that monstrosity gives more attention to communists than the blessed subject it’s supposed to illumine.

  11. thomas tucker says:

    Charitably, I might suggest that he was depicting her face in an
    agony at the time of her death.
    However, he most likely is simply wanting to court controversy
    for the attention, and doing so in an immature and infantile way.

  12. maynardus says:

    Now, Father – you’re being awfully subjective, aren’t you? We need to be objective about art, subjectivity is only a desirable attribute in appellate court judges! Keep thinking like this and you’ll be first in line for the re-education camp!

  13. John 6:54 says:

    That is no more “art” than what I deficated this morning. Except for some odd reason that “bust” is hanging in a church next to a crucifix, and my “art” is traveling through my local sewer system.

  14. Anne Gomes says:

    Looks like a lot of what passes for art in Vienna now. St Stephens is so overwhelming that nobody will notice it. Really sad and I do feel sorry for both the artist and Cardinal Shoenborn when Sr finishes praying for them. AnneG in NC

  15. Lauren says:

    I have to say I’m with my brother in St. Dominic Anthony. It seems Cdl. Schoenborn has been acting … questionably as of late.

  16. Maureen says:

    Unfortunately, when your last name is Kafka, Murphy’s Law and the stupidity of modern life are almost bound to hit you. It’s like living in a Midwestern trailer park during tornado season.

    However, I am delighted to learn that there is a Bl. Kafka, and that her name is the delightful one of “Restituta”. Why are there no Catholic T-shirts of this lady, even were it just her name? Why not an onslaught of bumper stickers being sold to English departments of “Blessed Kafka, pray for us”?

    And besides the jokes, a mere twirl of the search engine reveals a redoubtable figure. Who doesn’t want a saint in your corner who was a nurse who loved her nightly goulash and beer?

  17. philip says:

    The statement about communists could be interpreted as a comparison to the crucifixion of Christ. Perhaps there was even a good communist.

  18. bear-i-tone says:

    After seeing stuff like this I like to go over the Art Renewal Center as an antidote, get a dose of beauty and truth, as well as some sanity.

    Most crud like this would never see the light of day if their mission statement were taught at universities. I particularly like point number six:It is their mission “To repudiate the idea that development in art requires destruction of boundaries and standards, pointless emphasis on ‘newness,’ or pursuit of the bizarre and ugly as ends in themselves, and to expose as artistic fraud those works conceived only to elicit outrage.”

    There are still gifted artists out there who still paint religious subject matter in a worthy manner. Here are a few from the ARC Website: Dewar – The Dicers – 67 X 58 inches – Oil on Canvas.jpg

  19. Janet says:

    Do I remember correctly that Card. Schonborn was one of the main ‘authors’ of the Catechism of the Catholic Church?
    I’d always heard good things about him from that angle, but to see that he is capable of appreciating and promoting this abominable ‘art’ makes me wonder if our CCC has some hidden “gotchas” in it…. not a happy thought.

  20. Cdl Schonborn needs to go. Give him a nice pension and tell him to write books.

  21. bear-i-tone says:

    I just noticed my links on’t work. Try this page and scroll down. You’re looking for “The Dicers” and “Gethsemene”.

  22. Alina ofs says:

    That is….something to be put on the wall a priest faces when he celebrates ad populum. In every Catholic Church.

  23. Warren says:

    People need beauty, truth and goodness as much as they need air in order to live. This example of “gart” is bad evangelization. “Gart” is the term my philosophy professor used to describe something less than art. There is no such thing as bad art, only art and non-art. Art embodies the true, the good and the beautiful (yay Aristotle!). Anything less, and you have “gart”. This thing in Vienna – it’s definitely gart. Furthermore, if we understand that a morally upright man imagines and produces art, then gart must issue from a corrupt imagination. Gart is corrupt and corrupting. Anyone who blesses and approves of gart is himself gartful,… at least until he repents (and consigns such miserable objects to the fire in order to stop people’s eyes from bleeding… or ears from bleeding in the case of trashy music). Thank goodness we have Pope Benedict and many authentic “beauticians” leading the restoration of Catholic art.

  24. Michael Furlong says:

    Whatever happened to Cdl Schonborn? I thought he was a possible future pope? Can someone share their thoughts on his situation?

  25. peregrinator says:

    I’m with thomas tucker above… I think the artist was trying to depict her martyr’s end.

    It seems to me that the best religious art is iconographic in some way. Art representing a saint must communicate to its audience some hint of the person’s herioc holiness. Often the saint’s death is a part of that holiness, but many times (St. Stephen is an exception) the death of saint is represented by an object or some other reference (St. Maximilian Kolbe wears the garb of a prisoner of Auschwitz) because the emphasis is always on the saint’s virtue.

    This particular piece of art fails miserably at that, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that was, in fact, the artist’s aim.

  26. John Michael says:

    I made the mistake of watching this with my 2 year old son on my lap. The words out of his mouth were, “Is that a monster?”

    What a sad day for Vienna.

  27. RBrown says:

    Do I remember correctly that Card. Schonborn was one of the main ‘authors’ of the Catechism of the Catholic Church?
    Comment by Janet

    No, that is not correct–he was not one of the authors. He was a cut and paste man.

  28. Maureen says:

    She was a short, stout sister whom Nazis could not turn from doing things properly, who fought the culture of death with every breath. She was granted the favor by God of being executed the same way as the first St. Restituta — by having her head cut off — in the world’s only Nazi gullotine execution.

    The artist is obviously scared to death of her.

  29. Helen Donnelly says:

    Very sad. The depiction is so evil looking that it takes your breath away. God help us all….

  30. Keith says:

    I should have heeded Fr Z’s advice about watching. As someone who spent time in that particular chapel in Stephansdom at the time I was converting to Catholicism in 1990, I am saddened and angered. I simply can’t fathom what has happened to Cardinal Schoenborn. It was the beauty and mystery I found in the Church’s liturgy and art in some places in Austria that originally drew me in and sent me looking for the Truth behind that beauty.

  31. Causus Omnium Danorum says:

    I’m with Michael Furlong–can someone in the know PLEASE tell us what is going on with Cdl. Schoenborn? I had thought he was an Orthodox, upstanding Catholic Bishop, with an appreciation for Sacred Tradition. Has something changed in the past year or two, or was that never the case, or am I missing something else entirely?
    Fr. Z? Fr. Schwarz (who may be reading this)?

    Causus Omnium Danorum

  32. Mark says:

    I dont like this particularly any more than the rest of you, but there seems to be a misunderstanding here about the philosophy of beauty.

    When we say beauty is objective, we mean Beauty is objective. That is to say, there is a form “Beauty” and when we say we find something beautiful, we are all discussing the same Idea or experience.

    But what objects or traits in them, specifically, evoke that idea of the Beautiful for each of us…is indeed subjective and based very much on taste.

    As Aquinas defines it, the beautiful is merely “that which pleases to perceive”. And if some people are pleased by viewing this, then it is indeed beautiful in their eyes.

    Assuming that the experience they are describing is indeed simple pleasure in the sheer perception of it and not some other pleasant (but more composite) experience like humor, lust, or mere “significance”, etc.

    But I see no reason to doubt what they say when they make their claim. I find this ugly. But I also find the Baroque to be almost as offensive and garish. Lots of Catholics obviously disagree.

    I think the real problem is not in some idea that there are “french academy vs. the impressionists” material criteria that art must conform to in order to be “objectively beautiful,” but in artists creating works that, even if they personally find them beautiful, do not conform to the masses’ conceptions of beauty. Which is totally a culturally determined taste (some African tribe might find this very beautiful), but which it is the artist’s duty to work WITHIN, not to try to mock, oppose, or deliberately deconstruct…which all too often one gets the sense is the real intent of these works.

    They arent trying to evoke the experience of beauty in a wide range of people, in the cultural millieu in which they are produced. They are rather trying to evoke any emotions whatsoever, including anger, disgust, etc…and then try to call those beautiful, which at that point is objectively wrong; perceiving “beauty” is, objectively, a different experience than “disgust”…and in fact on a totally different plane, as disgust is itself material/objective (ie, we can register it in animals, because it is external-response defined…where as beauty demands no particular action/motion like an “emotion”, it is a purely contemplative/internal/spiritual reality)

    Some people might still find this work beautiful, subjectively, and they are not “wrong”. But certainly in context it is gravely, seemingly deliberately, deviant from the mass-cultural notion of beauty. And thus one questions whether the artist himself (not being from a radically different culture, like the tribes of New Guinea or whatever)…really finds it beautiful. And if he doesnt, if his intent wasnt to make something beautiful (or was to conflate beauty with any strong emotions) then he isnt an artist and it wasnt art in any sense. Much of art seems to have become “performance art,” transgressive sociological experiments for entertainment, inside humor,

    But again, that doesnt mean some individual who does, for whatever reason, find them beautiful outside the cultural tastes, is “wrong”.

  33. Sacristan Ricardo says:

    Total Rubbish Indeed!!!

    What do you expect from a man who potrayed Our Lord’s Last Supper as a homosexual orgy…and yet they continue to speend good Catholic money on this kind of vulgar and offensive garbage…

    Religious art is meant to inspire prayer, devotion, and love for God and not disgust!

  34. This is fairly benign compared to most modern religious ‘art’….I’ve seen far worse.

  35. Mark says:

    The problem is this in some sense the new emphasis on the individuality of the artist, who asserts his radical individualism rather than submit to cultural tastes.

    In some way, this may be inspired by a very real (and, in theory, commendable) rebellion against Kitsch, which sadly has become the new mass-cultural taste in many ways because of mass-media and mass-production.

    And even those of us not won over by kitsch, are divided in our particular tastes, in what we personally associate with Beauty, because there is not a true culture of beauty to nuture any collective experience in us (even if such experience is ultimately “arbitrary” in any culture, though it is only arbitrary inasmuch as languages themselves are), so our own tastes are based largely on our own experiences. A “language of beauty” (and there isnt just one, and different people do validly speak different tongues)…has been replaced by a Newspeak kitsch. And those of us who refuse it have been forced into numerous separate dialects in our own little circles.

    But one cannot simply adopt ANYTHING to oppose kitsch merely because it is different or unsettling or defiant. Maybe these little circles of artists have been so isolated from a culture of beauty that, like an isolated tribe, they have developed their own language that is simply utterly incomprehensible to us but does convey the meaning Beauty to them. And yet, one gets the sense this may not be what they’ve done at all, sometimes it seems like they are defiantly speaking gibberish just to oppose the kitsch newspeak. Because even any new language developed would be tainted if it took the kitsch as it’s seed, it’s starting-point.

    But there is another option. Namely, going back to a historical point when things werent yet corrupted, and starting again from there. But it’s a very complicated psycho-sociological problem, but simply expecting Catholic artists to continue aping historical styles is not necessarily the solution either.

  36. Hideous. Absolutely hideous.

    Was that not one of the Communist goals? To destroy beauty in art and culture?

  37. Nathan says:

    Mark, you make some very good points. Ceteris paribus, St Thomas Aquinas’ arguments on Beauty vs something beautiful are right. I would argue, however, that the philosophical basis for Beauty, in this case, is undermined–just like so much of 20th century art and architecture. I don’t think for a moment that Hrdlicka sculped this in order for anyone to achieve pleasure in its perception. Quite the contrary–the philosphical rejection of truth (as a concept, especially in post-modern thought) leads so many modern artists to seek shock and demand that the viewer impose his own feelings on the piece instead of seeking either of St Thomas’ concepts of Beauty or the beautiful.

    I don’t know enough about Hrdlicka to ascertain whether hatred is the basis of his art, but his public statements are enough to reasonably conclude that shock and his political agenda are the philosophical foundations for his work. That alone, IMO, should be a reason for Catholics of good will to seek art elsewhere.

    As to the discussion about Card. Schoenborn, two unanswered questions come to mind. First, why did the Cardinal commission this? Did it have something to do with some deals coming out of the removal of Hrdlicka’s horrible Last Supper from the archdiocese’s art show a few years ago or does it reflect the art tastes of influential people (or the Cardinal himself) in the chancery? Second, how much of the Cardinal’s reaction comes from the influence of environment in which he has lived?

    In Christ,

  38. TomH says:

    if that lack of beauty disturbs you, perhaps this will cheer you up (barf)

  39. Steven says:

    Poor Sister, I wish I was an artist so I could do her justice.

  40. Keith Kerscher says:

    This type of “art”, I believe, can only be created under diabolical influence. It is truly hideous and unnatural. What a shame and scandal to bless and display such an abomination so prominently. This saddens me as much as it disgusts me.

  41. Mary in CO says:

    Even if this sculpture were intended to be a death mask of Sr. Restituta Kafka, there would be nothing poignant, beautiful uplifting about it. Seems a disrespectful depiction, down to the red-embossed scrawling on the chest, the caption that says little about Sr. Kafka, the rictus of pain on a grotesque face that does not resemble Sr. Kafka, and the apparent lack of clothing.

    How sad. Where is the evidence of hope in God and peace in the face of a horrific death?

    Bl. Restituta, pray for us all!

  42. Paladin says:

    It is their mission “To repudiate the idea that development in art requires destruction of boundaries and standards, pointless emphasis on ‘newness,’ or pursuit of the bizarre and ugly as ends in themselves, and to expose as artistic fraud those works conceived only to elicit outrage.”

    :) Talk about a cool breeze to blow away the hot smoke of Satan! That was beautiful!

    Is a non-profit organization?

  43. Hidden One says:

    I guess that I’m easily angered after all.

  44. bear-i-tone says:


    To the best of my knowledge they are, but don’t quote me.

  45. CatholicGandhian says:

    That’s it. It’s about time Schoenborn was demoted to Altarboy…

  46. birdfeeder says:

    At the least the sculpture violates good taste I would not want anyone portrayed like that.

    The artistic treatment of a Martyr should reflect the love, mystery, and power of God, Holy Mary, and God’s Angels and Saints working with a cooperating soul. The art should make me want to be thankful to God who raised up the martyr on our behalf.

    Blessed Kafka please pray for each of us poor sinners.

  47. Nick says:

    Why all this outrage??? “Our beloved cardinal” had no objections to the Jesuit priest Saju George dancing half naked in the sanctuary of a Viennese church paying homage to the Hindu god Shiva. At least this ghastly “art” is supposed to be Christian. See:

  48. Bill in Texas says:

    In spite of the ugliness of the sculpture, and its total inappropriateness, perhaps the publicity given to it will at least serve the purpose of getting more people to find out about St. Restituta Kafka.

    So thanks for posting this. I’m glad I looked her story up on Google. What an inspiration!

    And I am pretty sure that her face exhibited no such rictus in death. Like St. Maximilian Kolbe, I’d be willing to bet her features were composed and smiling.

  49. brendon says:

    Beauty is not subjective anymore than goodness is subjective. St. Thomas defines the good as that which is desired. Does that make sin good insofar as some desire to sin? No.

    In such a case sin would be an apparent good, i.e. something that appears good to someone, but not a real good, i.e. something desirable in itself. The same is true with beauty. “That which pleases when seen,” means that something is beautiful when it is loved and desired – since pleasure exists when an appetite rests in that which it desires – simply by being known – since sight univocally refers to the sense knowledge gained by sight and analogically refers to intellectual knowledge. As with goodness, beauty is objective. A thing is beautiful in itself when it is the kind of thing whose objective goodness is recognized and loved immediately when objective knowledge of it is acquired.

    A man who subjectively thinks an ugly thing is beautiful, i.e. someone who perceives apparent beauty in something that is not beautiful in itself, is just like a man who thinks sin is good. He is man who is in error due to a darkening of the intellect, a disorder of the will, or severe concupiscence of the passions. To say otherwise, to argue that beauty for St. Thomas is completely subjective or, “in the eye of the beholder,” is to misunderstand completely important aspects of his metaphysics and his philosophical anthropology.

  50. I am horrified by this image. How embarrassing for the members of Blessed Restituta’s congregation. Her story is as yet little known to the English-speaking world, but she is an extraordinary witness to the Faith. She restored the crucifixes to the hospital rooms where the Nazis had taken them down, replacing them with swastikas. Restituta, a woman of such courage and forthrightness that she was nicknamed “Resoluta” by her hospital staff, went around at night, tearing down the swastika and replacing the image of the Crucified Jesus.
    She suffered a year’s tortures and deprivations in prison before her condemnation. She could have saved her life if she had left her religious vocation — but instead died faithful to the end, a true martyr of the Crucified. We should invoke her for the virtue and the Gift of Fortitude. She was also a woman of great humanity, gifted with laughter and joy in the simple pleasures of life — including drinking Austrian beer! Only our Church has “room” for such marvelous characters, gifted by Grace and remarkably ordinary human nature!

  51. Joseph says:

    I find that ugly sculpture is much easier to bear, than the above vituperative sentiments of yours .

  52. Fr. F says:

    It looks like a monster with a big brown bra. Almost obscene! That is NOT sacred art, no matter how far you want to stretch it!

  53. Girgadis says:

    What I find most offensive isn’t the face but the not-even-subtle naked bosom
    that appears beneath it. At least that’s what it appears to be from the angle
    at which this was recorded. To think that the sister undoubtedly lived a life
    of chastity and modesty only to be “immortalized” this way is shameful. The
    facial expression somewhat resembles those seen on exhumed incorruptibles but
    is not, imo, appropriate for a sculpture that should honor its subject rather
    than mock her in this manner.

  54. David Kastel says:

    “communist” “diabolical” “hideous”

    Just some of the comments posted above. Who can deny that Pope Paul VI was correct when he said that the smoke of Satan had entered the Church itself?

    And who here would say that Catholics of Vienna have to continue to subject themselves to this man when their own souls are at risk? If you can find orthodoxy outside the juridical structure of this diocese, you should remember that the salvation of souls is the supreme law of the Church.

  55. Maureen says:

    To be fair, I don’t think the artist was aiming at “demonic”, or at a death mask. Looks more like he was trying to do a mask of tragedy.

    I suppose the naked bust thing was some kind of combination of “socialist people’s hero looks like a Greek goddess” with “I’m not restricted to clothing like the repressed old USSR artists”. Truth be told, I think he’s more interested in his dead Communist comrades, and in the frisson of commemmorating them at a cathedral and at the Cardinal’s expense, than in the actual subject of his work. So why should he try to produce something technically difficult?

    If he’d actually tried to do a serious work, he would have to face up to Bl. Restituta and to the problems of his own lifestyle and beliefs. He was too afraid of the truth to create good art. So why should he try to produce something psychologically difficult?

  56. Lee says:

    Also, memorialized on her bosom are the communists who were executed with her. Why? Were they also martyrs? Undoubtedly in the eyes of the sculptor.

    I cannot understand why we EVER commission non-Catholic artists to produce sacred art. How can they make visible spiritual realities of which they have little or no knowledge?

    There is also the risk that they will use the opportunity to mock the Kingdom to which they choose to remain foreigners and enemies.

  57. Tess says:

    Sadly I can’t find a photo of it online, but the new Stations of the Cross at the Christchurch Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, in New Zealand, show Mary naked from behind. Yes, you see Mary’s naked bottom. And no, the artist was not Catholic.

    This is the artist:

    You can imagine what his Stations look like.

  58. Tess says:

    Ahh, I should have searched further. My husband took photos and put them online, but I couldn’t find them before. Here are the Stations in all their glory.

  59. Lori Ehrman says:

    I wonder if there will be HOLY CARDS and MEDALS with this image on them. Maybe even T Shirts and posters.

  60. Mark R says:

    I am quite open to modern art…but whatever that is it is quite nauseating.

  61. people have managed to reduce the church to the level of the state. We have the mass being dragged down to the masses, rather then us being transcendantly lifted to experience of God. We have the church being treated as a mere “Social club”, both by those on the outside, and inside.

    When you reduce the truth to a “personal belief”, and equate it with others, its VERY easy for these things to happen. No right or wrong, we all have a “Good Idea”, as the director Kevin smith advanced in the heretical movie “Dogma”

    See the word I used there? Heretic. Lets say it together, Heretic. We have forgotten how to say it, a spade, is still a spade.

  62. TNCath says:

    U-G-L-Y, it ain’t got no alibi…

    In a country renowned for its history of beautiful churches, art, and music, how could the Austrians stoop this low? But, are we really that surprised? Remember those hideous blue and gold vestments Pope Benedict wore on his visit to Austria a couple of years ago? Weird.

  63. Greg in Houston says:

    Fr Z – What a shame, but not unforseen. Will pray a Divine Mercy chaplet this evening.

    Cathcon blogspot had news of this last year…See the link for the bloggers translation of a German article covering the whole sordid background of how this tragic commission came about, including a pathetic quote by a starstruck rector, Fr. Faber, who seems to be the prime mover in all these art scandals there.

    I cannot read the German original, and I do not fully understand Cathcon’s English translation, but it suggests to me that the Rector and Museum Director argued with and never quite convinced the Cardinal about the Last Supper, etc…but somehow dismissed his concerns and decide to hand the works last year in the Cathedral Museum….the rest is history.

    Said rector also is quoted as enjoying Hrdicka as a ‘dialogue partner’.

    Oh please! Spare us the waste of church funds and church space for so-called dialogue with corrosive aetheistic shocksters who market themselves as an ‘artist’.

    And for what? This clearly is not beautiful. This image fails at narrating both her heroic lifetime in her age and her enduring example for all the ages. It is disrespectful to Bl. Restituta, and hurtful to those of traditional Catholic faith. It does not foster prayer or devotion. It says nothing of nor does it glorify God or His Church. What a complete failure.

    Metals like bronze are expensive commodities today — Why not sell off this black hearted metallic insult for a good recycling meltdown and with the proceeds hire a Catholic artist to do a loving portrait that shows the heroic persevering love of Bl Restituta for her Church, her neighbor, and her God?

    Or alternately, maybe they could just harvest the cash at the recycler’s and go buy a potters field nearby…the money that went to Hrdicka was bad, and the elders of Vienna got what they paid for, as was said earlier.

  64. Mark says:

    “Beauty is not subjective anymore than goodness is subjective.”

    I’d agree.

    “St. Thomas defines the good as that which is desired. Does that make sin good insofar as some desire to sin? No.”

    Sin is the desire for a lesser good in such a way that it takes incorrect priority over our final and ultimate Good. But Aquinas admits that the object of that desire (though not the disordered desire in itself) must be truly Good to be desirable at all.

    “In such a case sin would be an apparent good, i.e. something that appears good to someone, but not a real good, i.e. something desirable in itself.”

    The OBJECT of that sinful desire is truly good, though a lesser good being given wrong priority to the final. It must be good or it wouldnt be desirable at all.

    We can describe what Beauty is, but there are no objective material criteria we can give to say what specifically someone must personally find beautiful anymore than to what tastes good. Because objectively everything with Being is good and beautiful, and in fact only to a greater or lesser degree according as it has more or less Being.

    “The same is true with beauty. “That which pleases when seen,” means that something is beautiful when it is loved and desired – since pleasure exists when an appetite rests in that which it desires – simply by being known – since sight univocally refers to the sense knowledge gained by sight and analogically refers to intellectual knowledge. As with goodness, beauty is objective. A thing is beautiful in itself when it is the kind of thing whose objective goodness is recognized and loved immediately when objective knowledge of it is acquired.”

    Yes, but all those “objectives” are a lot more subjective than they sound, when parsed in lay parlance.

    Different people find different things beautiful. That’s just the truth. We all indeed recognize the same objective experience or idea or form “Beauty” IN them, yes, and in that sense it is objective…but what specific objects are recognized as corresponding “objectively” as beautiful to each of us, are different according to tastes and our formative experiences. Because it is theoretically recognizable in ANYTHING that has Being.

    “A man who subjectively thinks an ugly thing is beautiful, i.e. someone who perceives apparent beauty in something that is not beautiful in itself, is just like a man who thinks sin is good.”

    No. Someone who calls an experience like mere strong emotion of any sort “beauty” is a better analogy. Real beauty is found in anything that has being, just as real goodness is.

    There is no such thing as “apparent” good or beauty in the ultimate ontological sense. “Apparent good” in the scholastic terminology is, somewhat confusingly, the designation of an actual type of good, namely the [lesser] good objectively perceived in what is subjectively imputed as a moral evil, but which is the aspect that made the evil desireable (because, inasmuch as it has Being, it has a goodness in it which can be attractive, even if inordinately prioritized with reference to the ultimate Good).

    That’s the whole point of them being objective. The object of sin really is a type of Good. And the object of disgust (as long as it has Being) is beautiful in some sense, even though confusing the aspect of it which disgusts with the aspect of it which is beautiful…is wrong (and that seems to be the mistake of artists like this).

  65. Mark says:

    People can obviously prefer according to taste or are free to choose among the different lesser beauties (ie, anything that has being) that exist with reference to the Ultimate Beauty.

    If you take pleasure in perceiving something you have experienced the Beauty in its Being. That is objective. You CANNOT be wrong, as that is a simple immediate perception directly apprehensible. That’s what makes it objective.

    Based on culture, or even certain innate biological traits, we can say that certain qualities are more likely to elicit pleasure in an object perceived by a given group of people.

    And one would hope an artist who was going to display his works to the masses would direct his work towards eliciting that experience in them. We would hope he wouldnt be indifferent to whether it pleased the people who were going to be its main audience, nor worse…deliberately tried to disgust them.

    And since, unless the artist is totally naive, a visitor from a culture with very different tastes, or totally crazy…we can assume that this artist was not trying to elicit pleasure in the simple perception of this work (because even a toddler could tell you that most normal Westerners wouldnt find pleasure in looking at this), and thus by definition wasnt attempting to cause the experience of beauty, and thus wasnt truly intending art.

    But I wouldnt be quite so quick to judge, given the very complicating fact that at the other end of the intellectual spectrum…the masses have been seduced by kitsch. And can we really call kitsch beauty or art even if people take pleasure in perceiving it? It’s a question I’m not sure we’ve answered yet. Kitsch and beauty both seem to involve pleasure in the perception of something. So what distinguishes them? I’m not sure it’s a question Aquinas anticipated. “Shock” art is often an attempt to rebel against kitsch, which in itself is a good intention even if executed poorly

    But anyway, the point is, we cannot tell, and Aquinas would not tell, and the Church does not tell people that any material trait must elicit pleasure for them nor, on the other hand, that it cannot.

    Not even orgasm or pain themselves, possibly, because as you say we are talking about the intellectual pleasure caused by the sensory, and some people might indeed mentally dislike (physical) pleasure or like (sensory) pain. Someone cannot say “being happy is sad for me” (at least not immediately, though they may find that happiness leads to a “crash” for them soon afterwards). But they can, according to taste, be made sad by an activity that makes most people happy. Likewise, someone cannot say “I find beauty ugly”…that’s nonsense…but they can find things that most people find ugly things that most people in their culture find beautiful, or vice versa.

    What you can be wrong about, however, is how you prioritize it with reference to the Final Beauty. But that’s a different question entirely. And, in fact, it is often times the things mass-culturally perceived by people as beautiful in their own culture’s tastes…which have been the “apparent beauties”…the hanging apples…which are what they are tempted by to choose with wrong priority to the Ultimate Beauty.

  66. Carlos Palad says:

    Why did the artist have to show the martyr’s nipples?

  67. Margaret says:

    Comment by Warren – gart? I would use the consonant f instead of g. Apparently the man who made this experienced a brain one when he made it. Ugh.

    As a woman, I am especially upset. I would not want to be memorialized in such an immodest and humiliating way. The artist is disgracing this poor woman for all to see.

    This ugly and disturbing THING looks like an obscene Han Solo with a habit in carbonite.

  68. Jeremy says:

    Yuck that is just tacky, it looks like someone threw it up from their stomoch,and is just tacky. It dont even resemble her at all.

    This is clearly worse then even most of the rubbish they call post modern carvings that they put in churches.

    Why would they trust an atheist to carve something for a church anyway, most cant stand the though of religion, let alone take the commission.

  69. Humilitas says:

    WOW! That is really ugly.

  70. Jacques says:

    Am I not dreaming? Do you see what I see? This poor nun has her breast uncovered !

    This exquisite sculpture “bust” is displayed in a catholic church on the order of Card. Schönborn. This cardinal is a tasteful man: He is not at all shocked, nor is he afraid to shock the local faithfuls either by the ugliness of this piece of religious “art”, or by a kind of “sex symbol” it is purported to represent. In this last case I would have preferred the natural bust of Brigitte Bardot when she was younger than Sr Restituta (she died aged 49)
    His excellency couldn’t find another sculptor than a stalinist atheist whom he already appreciated in allowing him to exhibit all the hate he has against the RCC. I don’t ask which was the price: 30 siver coins?
    Woe to the man whom the scandal happens through.
    We have much to pray the blessed Sr Restitutata for this cardinal who has lost the common sense.

  71. michigancatholic says:


    OK, I’ll be objective. It stinks. Like week old kitty litter with lumps. I’ve rarely seen anything so ugly and yet so expensive at the same time. BTW, she’s lost her shirt. Isn’t that a nice way to treat a nun?

    How’s that?

  72. michigancatholic says:

    BTW, in case you think that’s a pretty crude review from me–

    This “bust” doesn’t deserve any better. One doesn’t hop out of the car and pronounce an art opinion on road-kill either. Well, except maybe they do in Vienna, who knows?

    No point in mincing any words over such garbage. It’d be time wasted. Next?

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