Butterflies & Wheels

Like discussing the rules of quidditch
Jun 24th, 2011 | By Ophelia Benson
Category: Notes and Comment Blog
There’s nothing like a good healthy sense of priorities, is there. What could be more urgent for Irish Catholics than to pitch a huge fit about an art installation that has something to do with “the Virgin Mary”?

In Our Lady and Other Queer Santas, Chicana artist Alma Lopez will exhibit her picture Our Lady, a digital pastiche of Our Lady of Guadeloupe, a 16th-century Peruvian manifestation of the Virgin Mary…The Madonna in a bikini, basically…

On last Friday’s Liveline, one of Ireland’s most popular radio shows, presenter Joe Duffy was flooded with calls from irate Catholics mortified by this “blasphemous” artwork.

You see what I mean. That’s what these irate Catholics are irate about – a picture of something labeled “the Virgin Mary.” Not Magdalen laundries, not child rape by priests, not industrial schools, not the Catholic church’s relentless stranglehold on the people of Ireland for generation after generation – but a picture of a putative “manifestation” of a putative woman who lived (if she lived) two thousand years ago in unblemished obscurity like nearly everyone else in human history.

Cork South Central TD Jerry Buttimer chimed in, saying the university should not be supporting an event that was “overtly blasphemous and blatantly disrespectful” and that “those in charge at UCC should consider whether or not it is appropriate to permit this exhibition to take place on its campus without affording others the opportunity to present an alternative and balanced point of view”.

Point of view? Alternative point of view? Balanced point of view?

………….What would that be? A kitsch “Mary” from a souvenir shop? Our Lady of Guadeloupe in a burqa topped by a full set of sealskins suitable for winter in Barrow? Joseph in a Speedo?

Lopez has been under attack for her artwork since it was first exhibited in California in 2001. The current campaign is headed by America Needs Fatima, a Mariolatrous US group that organises anti-abortion and anti-blasphemy rallies…Ireland, meanwhile, is facing its first blasphemy controversy since the Fianna Fáil/Green government introduced a new blasphemy law. Buckley’s claim that all Irish people revere Mary chimes dangerously with that law’s definition of blasphemy as something likely to cause “outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of [a] religion”. UCC could yet have a case on its hands.

Priorities, people. Fix them.

Looking at pictures
Confused about a Virgin?
You may think our rules are crap, but that’s tough
What is blasphemy
Rules of supermarket deportment
June 24, 2011 at 3:34 pm
We’re not outraged about those other things because our Catholic leaders tell us they are nothing to worry about.

We’re outraged about this because our Catholic leaders tell us we need to be outraged about this.

Improbable Joe
June 24, 2011 at 3:41 pm
I think it is almost a weird form of Stockholm Syndrome, except it is only the Catholics’ “immortal souls” that are being held hostage. So attacks on the church and its iconography must be defended against. On the other hand, to try to hold the church accountable for its crimes is also an attack on the church, and if you pipe up they’ll send your soul straight to eternal torment. Better to be doubly sure by not saying anything AND attacking critics of the church at every opportunity just to be safe.

Marie-Thérèse O'Loughlin
June 24, 2011 at 4:10 pm
John Buckley, Catholic bishop of Cork and Ross never said a truer word about ‘the mother of God being bred in the bones of the Irish people’ and ‘entwined in their lives’. At cross-roads, estates, outside churches, as well as inside; garden’s of private houses; parks, and everywhere else one looks – without even touching on Knock Shrine, reminders of how wrapped up people are in Our Lady is very evident. One can’t make too little of the mother of the church; she must be revered where-ever she appears, as she is very sacred. Mocking mothers is not acceptable and seeing her in a bikini is not exactly what her spiritual offspring would like to see.

Ani Sharmin
June 24, 2011 at 4:12 pm
I think this kind of thing is a consequence of people believing that being a member of the One True Faith and getting into that religion’s Heaven is more important than real-world consequences. After all, people can “defend” their anger at this piece (while ignoring the real-world problems) by saying that the art might cause people to question the faith, getting them sent to Hell, which (to them) would be worse than short-term real-world consequences.

Their calls for bans and protests were countered by Michael Nugent of Atheist Ireland, who later commented: “It was like discussing the rules of quidditch with people who believe Harry Potter was a documentary.”

He-he. Obviously, The Creator (a.k.a. J. K. Rowling), as is written in The Canon, agrees with my understanding of quidditch, and everyone who disagrees is a heretic.

Seriously, though, it does get a bit ridiculous that people who readily realize that all sorts of other fantasy, including novels and other people’s religions, are fictional still maintain that equally fantastical things in their religion are real—and then defend them so angrily.

Then John Buckley, Catholic bishop of Cork and Ross, chimed in, describing the exhibition as “unacceptable”, adding “respect for Mary, the mother of God, is bred in the bones of Irish people and entwined in their lives”. Which neatly ignores the recently discovered fact that some Irish people aren’t devout Catholics, or even Catholic at all.

I always find it really frustrating when religious leaders pretend to speak on behalf of everyone, ignoring the existence of anyone who’s not a member of their faith (and even ignoring the existence of people within their faiths who don’t agree with them), making it seem like the effects of their actions on the lives of everyone else don’t matter.

June 24, 2011 at 4:29 pm
One recounted the story of Our Lady of Guadeloupe and then told how “Microsoft and Nasa” had recently used a special microscope which had proved the miraculous nature of the image of Mary that had appeared on the poncho of Juan Diego.

You have to take them seriously. This is why they are nasty to young women in laundries.

June 24, 2011 at 4:48 pm
I’m sure race has nothing to do with this…

SC (Salty Current)
June 24, 2011 at 4:56 pm
The worst thing here – truly deplorable – is your strident attack on those criticizing the exhibit. I think this needs to be the subject of several blog posts, tweets, etc.


June 24, 2011 at 5:05 pm
In the early christian church some bishops, at least, were elected so could claim to speak for their own congregation perhaps. Nowadays they are only appointed executives of RCC Inc and speak for no-one but themselves and their superiors in that organization.

BTW I love that word “maryolatrous” – so true, so true.

June 24, 2011 at 5:09 pm
You forgot “atrocious”, SC.

@themann: of course not! What a thing to say of good God-fearing Christians!

Actually, this reminds me about the fuss made about the ants:

I felt then that what was really going on was just plain simple trouble-making. Gives the Cause a profile, you see.

June 24, 2011 at 5:16 pm
Good thing they named those laundries after the Whore Mary and not the Virgin Mary. That makes the abuse totally non-blasphemous, I’m sure.

Dave Ricks
June 24, 2011 at 5:20 pm
Alma López rocks —

Jonathan Figdor
June 24, 2011 at 6:39 pm
Good call here, Ophelia. Change those priorities!

Dave Ricks
June 24, 2011 at 10:14 pm
Mariology is evidently a big deal.

Warning to epistemologists: Your head will explode if you click here.

Mary gave birth without breaking her hymen? Intredasting. In my opinion, some people have sexual talents that can’t be taught, but I didn’t know that was one of them, or why anyone would find that one admirable.

June 25, 2011 at 3:02 am
I have my own Mother and she means more to me than any of the statues that litter Ireland. And since she’s a real person she’s even worn a swimsuit from time to time!

The Ireland these people think they live in is dead and gone. Hell even when I was growing up in the 80′s and 90′s it was the Ireland of adults telling me “The next time I go to church I’ll be in a box.”

The dying animal is lashing out, but it can’t generate much sympathy now that everyone knows its legacy is child rape.

Jack M.
June 25, 2011 at 4:27 am
When I was a catholic I tried to believe.

No filthy evil semen ever entered her holy vagina, or any other holy place of hers.

Never once did she quiver or convulse in diabolical orgasm.

She’s so much better than a regular human. God wouldn’t have traveled a beaten path to be born.

Marie-Thérèse O'Loughlin
June 25, 2011 at 5:46 am
“Mariology is evidently a big deal.”

Dave Ricks: you can say that again; as we now speak, thousands of pilgrims are flocking to Knock a high profile ‘Marian’ Shrine in Co Mayo, in preparation of anniversary of the “Eucharistic Congress” which will be celebrated (with perhaps the pope’s visit to Ireland) next year. Mother Mary is laying out the groundwork, as per usual. The very same church who venerates the Salve Regina is also the same church who keeps clear of women.

Irish children, whom I grew up with in GB, who were never taught properly how to read or write, invariably, were experts in singing hymns in latin, like the Salve Regina

ernie keller
June 25, 2011 at 10:53 am
How do you balance the Virgin Mary in a bikini? Why do you need to balance it? Do I need to balance Freud in a tutu or Napoleon the Astronaut? Apparently “balance” means that any irreverent treatment of this person must be countered by the claim that she gave birth to a god. How do you “balance” that idea?

Ophelia Benson
June 25, 2011 at 11:15 am
Well to adapt Jack Nicholson in Five Easy Pieces, you balance it between your knees.

June 25, 2011 at 1:26 pm
@ernie keller:

or christ on a bike…..

Claire Ramsey
June 25, 2011 at 2:12 pm
These people are so fucking ignorant that they don’t even know how to spell Guadalupe. Further, I don’t know what the Peruvians have, but the V of G that Alma Lopez portrays is Mexican. Jesus H Christ. They can’t even get the details right, why should anyone believe anything they say. Some of the letters in response to one of the many organizations recruiting letters of protest are addressed to Mr. Lopes. She’s not a Mr. And she is spelled López. Get it right, people, or shut up!

I guess the church doesn’t care for La Guadalupana appearing in dogs’ water dishes, stop signs, oily rain puddles, or walls of freeway underpasses either. Why aren’t they out there protesting that shit. Apparently every single square millimeter of real estate is a sanctified church to them. I just want to scream.

I personally have read a very high level extremely holy and sanctificious novel about Mary, and that woman is exhausted. She just hates all the sanctimonious bullshit out there. She’s really busy trying to shut people up too. Also, she carries an ATM card. This business of shutting people up and generally getting down to business isn’t free, you know! (It’s Our Lady of the Lost and Found by Diane Schoemperlen, and, as a disclaimer I don’t think it’s non-fiction. But I know a couple of people who do. It’s a novel, though, so don’t be fooled).

Ian MacDougall
June 25, 2011 at 3:21 pm
Dave @ #13:

Mary gave birth without breaking her hymen? Intredasting. [sic] In my opinion, some people have sexual talents that can’t be taught, but I didn’t know that was one of them, or why anyone would find that one admirable.

Be that as it may. But you might not have heard. I read a report not so long ago that Indonesian surgeons have developed a procedure to restore virginity, thus making the patient a more suitable marriage prospect. Market potential galore there.

But you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs; what goes around comes around, and life is full of surprises. Perhaps unwittingly, they have set up a situation whereby a woman can lead a most promiscuous life, but still die a virgin.

Science truly works wonders.


Ophelia Benson
June 25, 2011 at 3:29 pm
Claire yes I copied the rong spelllling from the article. I figured it was rong but copied it anyway because it was theirs. I should add a sic. Sic sic sic, so there.

June 25, 2011 at 4:22 pm
This inspires me. I take classes at a community college, one of the campuses where the Catholic hate group Justice For All visits once a year sporting huge signs which display graphic depictions of aborted fetuses, citing “free speech”. I wonder if an effective reply might be to just set up outdoor exhibitions of Alma Lopez’ artwork – or something similar – right next to the J4A people and see what kind of reaction we get from these sanctimonious assholes.

Claire Ramsey
June 25, 2011 at 4:46 pm
Oh Ophelia, mercy, I KNOW perfectly well that you know how to spell everything correctly. [sic] U R always rite.

(PS Yesterday my goldsmithing teacher showed me the receipt he got when he bought a wrench at a thrift store. It said “1 rinch.”)

Ophelia Benson
June 25, 2011 at 5:04 pm
The sic sic sic was for the Outraged Catholics of course, Claire, not for you. (My spelling is ok in English but highly fallible in Spanish!)

Justice for All…hmmmm…I think they should be greeted with big pictures of Magdalen laundries and derelict industrial schools and fugitive rapist priests.

Marie-Thérèse O'Loughlin
June 25, 2011 at 6:03 pm
I was recently looking at some powerful flickr photos of a derelict industrial school/Magdalen Laundry/Mental institution in Cork. They were so hauntingly gothic-like and spoke volumes. For example in one of them a massive cross lay strewn among the ruins and in another a shattered statue of Our Lady, who, with outstretched arms, was graciously holding on to some dead flowers and a set of rusty broken rosary beads. They were so eerie.

I had some years ago visited the religious institutions in question, with a survivor whose mother had died in the Cork mental hospital. The mother was allegedly placed there because of having gone against the religious grain and had a second child out of wedlock. The mother subsequently died when she was only 32 years old. The survivor never knew her. She spent her whole childhood in two industrial schools, before entering a Magdalen Laundry. The survivor also found out as an adult that she had a brother.

I drove her to see him at the mental hospital in Cork, where he was placed as a youngster, after serving his time in two boys industrial schools. He never saw the outside world and died a few years ago in the mental hospital in Cork.

We went looking for the grave of the mother of the survivor and couldn’t find it. I was not in good shape for a long time afterwards because of the harrowing experience. The sad story is out in the public domain, so it is okay for me to to tell it.

it was okay for our lady to have a child out of wedlock, but it was not okay for an irish woman to find herself in the same position. This was at a poverty-stricken time in Ireland when lots of women had over 20 off-spring, some even as many as 26. The host family i went out with had 15 and that was not considered a very large family.

‘Buckley’s claim that all Irish people revere Mary chimes dangerously’ with those who were chastised in the past and made ‘penitents’ because they never lived up to the likeness and image of Our Blessed Lady. Or, perhaps, because, it was perceived that they may be a danger to men, if they should enter the outside world, after serving their whole childhoods in industrial schools..

The flickr photos definitely told a sordid tale of a sordid era in Ireland. Bishop Buckley claims that ‘all Irish people revere our Lady…’ is more than exaggerated given the putative history of industrial schools and Magdalen laundries.

June 25, 2011 at 6:25 pm
I see your point, Ophelia, although mine was to point out Catholic hypocrisy specifically on the area of free speech, and also the group’s official pretense that they are not an expressly religious – let alone Catholic – organization. Unsurprisingly enough, when I engage their activists in conversation on campus, I never have to bring religion into the discussion; they always do it themselves, e.g. “but where do morals *come* from?” etc.

Stephen Turner
June 26, 2011 at 12:44 am
I recall reading years ago in the Guinness Book of Records that Ireland had the world’s highest rate of mental illness. Looks like we’ve found out who the “patients” were.

Marie-Thérèse O'Loughlin
June 26, 2011 at 4:21 am
Bold, boisterous Goldenbridge children were perpetually threatened with Moate, which is where Kathleen O’Malley, author of “A Childhood Interrupted” whom OB did a post on many years ago – spent her childhood. It turned out to be less bad than GB.

Grangegorman – a notorious Dublin mental institution, was another place where children were regularly threatened with by the religious. It put the fear of God in the children. I guess it was so easy for nuns to talk like this to defenceless children, who were already perceived unwanted by Irish society. Besides – where else was there, for them to go in sixties ireland? Nowhere! The work-houses were dispensed with and thus created into hospitals. The mental hospital was the next port of call for ‘troublesome’ children. Remember – we are talking about a time when children never opened their mouths in the slightest bit to adults. I don’t ever recall in all my childhood, expressing myself, good, bad or indifferent to an adult in Goldenbridge. It just did not happen. You always obeyed without question. i know that those who went against the grain were seen as abnormal and were flogged to a pulp till the boldness, which was classed as the devil-had fled out of their bodies. Bold children were evil, bold children were not even akin to those who scourged JC – they were worse and therefore blood had to be drawn and they were reminded that they would be beaten till they were black and blue.

The brother of the survivor who died in a Cork mental hospital is just one of many from vulnerable institutional backgrounds who were locked up. There is a huge story to be told about their wrongful incarceration. In fact, I know many survivors who were thrown into mental hospitals at very tender ages and are banging their heads against a brick wall trying to fight the government.

Stephen Turner
June 26, 2011 at 8:27 am
It also made me think of the Soviet Union, where dissidents were regularly locked up in mental hospitals. After all, they must have been mad if they couldn’t appreciate the great society in which they lived.

Not sure if any minors were given this treatment though.

Guadalupe is in the outskirts of Mexico City, with a nice garden and a huge statue of John Paul II, and the BVM allegedly put in an appearance in the 16th century.

Marie-Thérèse O'Loughlin
June 26, 2011 at 9:30 am
This is a very interesting take on a painting of Our Lady of Guadalupe. ART 160: Women in Art

How come Our Lady only ever seems to appear in very poor countries?

My relatives are related to some of the Knock *visionaries?* My jaw just dropped when I found out that piece of info, as the Golden Rose, Queen of Ireland never intervened on my behalf or those of my GB counterparts in the suffering and rosary-bead child slave-labour that occurred in the institution. And of which I might add, went on to be sold to Knock pilgrims. The hypocrisy knows no bounds. As OB states the priorities need fixing.