By Hilary White

VIENNA, Austria, April 7, 2008 ( – Outrage from viewers and readers of online coverage, including that of, has prompted Vienna’s Dommuseum, the art gallery attached to St. Stephen’s Catholic cathedral, to remove some of the works in a blasphemous exhibit of paintings and sculptures. One of the worst paintings in the exhibit depicts Christ and his Apostles as homosexuals engaged in an orgy.

The Gloria TV website carried a short film of the exhibition and Catholics around the world responded condemning the depiction of Christ as an active homosexual. 

The artist, Alfred Hrdlicka, a Marxist and self-proclaimed atheist, had titled the exhibition of his work “Religion, Flesh and Power,” and said that he was pleased it was being displayed in the Catholic museum.

He told Reuters, however, that he had been surprised that the museum had agreed. “For me it was quite surprising the museum wanted to show the piece in the first place,” he said. “If the Cathedral Museum is having problems now, it’s not really my affair, it’s for the Cathedral Museum to deal with.”

The museum’s curator, Bernhard Boehler, replied to the complaints saying, “I don’t see any blasphemy here. People can imagine what they want to.” He referred to a depiction of the flagellation of Christ that showed a Roman soldier holding the Lord’s genitals.

Boehler told Reuter’s news service that the work that drew the most complaints was the painting of the Last Supper that depicted Christ and his Apostles in a homosexual orgy. The museum said many of the complaints came from overseas where people had read about the exhibition online. Boehler added, “We look for art on biblical themes, but we can’t always choose how the artist will interpret them.”

But many have asked how the exhibition could have been accepted in the first place, given the reputation for orthodoxy of the Cardinal Archbishop of Vienna, Christoph Schönborn. US conservative columnist Rod Dreher wrote on his widely read religion blog, “I wouldn’t have guessed that, given his reputation, a man like Schoenborn [sic] would have stood for this abomination for half a second.”

“I take it that Vienna’s Cardinal Archbishop Christoph Schoenborn must be deceased or imprisoned, because I can’t imagine that an actual bishop would allow a desecration like this in a church museum, much less the one belonging to his cathedral (and next to his residence),” Dreher wrote.

A statement from the Cardinal’s office said that the removal of the works “has nothing to do with censorship, rather corresponds with the understood ‘reverence for the sacred’”.

The Cardinal’s spokesman made no statement condemning the works, saying merely, “It is also an act of respect towards those believers who feel this portrayal offended and provoked them in their deepest religious sensitivity.”

The verbal complaints from Catholics around the world were compared by Boehler and Hrdlicka to the riots, bombings and killings that followed the publication of the Danish newspaper cartoons of Mohammed.

Dreher continued, “I’m glad that we don’t have to worry about Catholic mobs worldwide burning down Austrian embassies and attacking screenings of ‘The Sound of Music’ to protest this blasphemy. But quietism from church authorities in the face of something like this – and not only quietism, but tacit endorsement, given the venue! – sends a powerful message of how deep the rot has gone.”

Read related coverage:

Vienna Cathedral Museum Exhibits Lewd, Blasphemous Homosexual “Religious” Art