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Archbishop Paglia depicted in the painting he commissioned.

March 15, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — A large homoerotic mural commissioned by a leading Vatican prelate at his former Italian cathedral church is coming under strong criticism from Catholic leaders, including founding members of the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life, a pro-family Catholic medical doctor, and a renowned Catholic artist and author. 

Critics are saying the work commissioned by Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia is “blasphemous,” “disgusting,” and even “demonic.”

“There is a need for reparation for this blasphemous work. And it is blasphemy because of the effeminate depiction of Christ in a context that the artist himself said was meant to be ‘erotic,’” said Dr. Thomas Ward, president of the National Association of Catholic Families and former corresponding member of the Pontifical Academy for Life. 

“It is especially insulting that this image is in the presence of the tabernacle, in the presence of Our Blessed Lord. It is no stretch to say that in this context, and with the image’s clearly erotic content, it is demonic,” he told LifeSiteNews. 

Paglia, former bishop of the Italian diocese of Terni-Narni-Amelia where the mural hangs in the cathedral, has been elevated to influential levels of responsibility. 

After serving as President of the Pontifical Council for the Family, Pope Francis appointed him last year to head the Pontifical Academy for Life and also made him Grand Chancellor of the St. John Paul II Pontifical Institute for Studies of Marriage and Family. As the former head of the Pontifical Council for the Family, he oversaw the development and launch of a sex-ed course for teens that experts criticized as “thoroughly immoral,” “entirely inappropriate,” and “quite tragic.”

Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, tasked by Pope Francis to create a sex-ed program for teens.

Paglia commissioned homosexual Argentinean Ricardo Cinalli to paint the cathedral mural in 2007. It depicts Jesus carrying nets to heaven filled with naked and semi-nude homosexuals, transsexuals, prostitutes, and drug dealers, jumbled together in erotic interactions.

READ: Vatican archbishop featured in homoerotic painting he commissioned

Cinalli told the Italian newspaper La Repubblica in March 2016 that the archbishop oversaw every detail of the work.

“There was no detail that was done freely, at random,” he said. “Everything was analyzed. Everything was discussed. They never allowed me to work on my own.” 

In the right-hand net, what appears to be young naked children can be seen entangled with the bodies of older men and women (see time 2:45 of video below).

In one instance, one male can be seen with his hand between another male’s legs groping his reproductive organ. 

The image of the Savior is painted with the face of a local male hairdresser, and his private parts can be seen through his translucent garb.

Included in one of the nets is Paglia, the then diocesan bishop. Wearing his skull cap, he is depicted as clutching another semi-nude man who is tenderly embracing him. 

Cinalli told La Repubblica that the naked people in the nets were meant to be “erotic,” although Paglia drew the line when Cinalli proposed to show people actually copulating.

“In this case, there was not – in this sense – a sexual intention, but erotic, yes,” Cinalli said. “I think that the erotic aspect is the most notable among the people inside the nets.” He later added, “The one thing that they didn’t permit me to insert was the copulation of two people within this net where everything is permitted.”

Dr. Ward questioned Paglia’s recent appointments to influential posts within the Vatican given his artistic sensibilities. 

“Given that Archbishop Paglia is in the net of erotic figures going to heaven, and given that he discussed every detail with the painter, the question has to be asked by parents worldwide why was this man put in charge of a prototype of sex education aimed at Catholic children throughout the world?” he said. 

“Catholic parents must look at the scale of evil [that has infiltrated the Church at the highest levels]. They have to wake up to what is going on: It’s a moral nuclear wasteland,” he added.  

Christine Vollmer, president of the Latin American Alliance for the Family as well as a founding member of the Vatican's Pontifical Academy for Life, called the mural “disgusting.” 

“This work is absolutely disgusting,” she told LifeSiteNews. “Added to this scandal is the huge debt Bishop Paglia allegedly left in his diocese. Given this, along with his elevation to key posts in the Church, it’s obvious that this man has high-ranking protection at the Vatican.”

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Vollmer agreed with Ward that Paglia should not have been allowed anywhere near the creation of a program intended to form teens in Catholic sexual morality. 

Under Paglia’s oversight, the program — titled “The Meeting Point: Course of Affective Sexual Education for Young People” — uses sexually explicit and suggestive images in activity workbooks and recommends various sexually explicit, R-rated movies as springboards for discussion. 

“It’s incredible that Paglia was tasked with overseeing a sex-ed program given his involvement in this work and his own self-portrait in it,” she said. 

On December 31, 2016 the Academy for Life under Paglia's watch unexpectedly removed all of its members, listing instead 172 “former” members. The move came after Pope Francis had approved new statutes for the academy two months earlier. One revision included that academy members are no longer required to sign a declaration that they uphold the Church’s pro-life teachings.

Mercedes Arzú Wilson, president of Family of the Americas and also a founding member of the Pontifical Academy for Life, said that Academy for Life founders Pope John Paul II and Professor Jerome Lejeune would be “scandalized and distraught” to see Paglia as head. 

Wilson said it is “incomprehensible” that Pope Francis appointed Paglia not only as head of the Academy for Life but also as the Grand Chancellor of the Saint John Paul II Pontifical Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family. She also called it “scandalous” that he was selected to oversee the launching of the Vatican sex-education course for teens, a course that she said is “repulsive and destructive to the innocence of children” as well as “contrary to the true teachings of the Catholic Church.”

“I hope that Pope Francis will reconsider the appointment of Archbishop Paglia before it becomes another scandal to his Pontificate,” she told LifeSiteNews. 

Catholic artist and author Michael D. O’Brien criticized the mural for giving the viewer the “false message” that “all sexual activity, regardless of how depraved, is blessed by God.” 

He gave LifeSiteNews the following commentary on the work: 

Ricardo Cinalli is undoubtedly talented, revealing strong influences of Dali, Picasso, and Michelangelo, a mixture of Surrealist and Renaissance styles stirred into the contemporary obsession with sexuality. In the great majority of his work, the nude, including graphic depictions of sexual activities, is primary. 

In the mural at the Cathedral of Terni the theme appears at first glance to be Christ as divine fisherman, ascending into heaven with nets containing the souls of grave sinners — a legitimate theme, if one considers Mary Magdalen and numerous saints before their conversions. 

However, in this mural the entangled male and female forms, young and old, are broadcasting significant signals that they live in the darkest depths of human sexuality, in a variety of “lifestyle choices,” some tattooed with diabolic symbols. They are being taken upward by the Christ figure to paradise with no apparent signs of repentance. 

O’Brien suggested that the work leads the viewer to see the human person simply as a sexual being created for sexual pleasure, not as an embodied spiritual being who has been created and redeemed to share in God’s own life. 

He commented: 

Unlike the past masters of religious art who have painted the nude — one thinks of Massacio's “Expulsion from Paradise” or Michelangelo's “The Creation of Adam” — in Cinalli's work the human body and sexuality are paramount, and redemption is merely the excuse or the costume in which it dresses for the performance of the artist's real intention: Everyone is loved by God and therefore all sexual activity, regardless of how depraved, is blessed by God. 

This false message is in direct contradiction to the urgent imperatives of Sacred Scripture. It also violates the norms outlined by St. John Paul II in his Theology of the Body, in which he devotes a significant section to nudity in art. The dignity of the human person, he emphasizes, must always be respected by both artist and viewer, and any depiction of the naked human body should lead to the contemplation of the whole truth about man — his eternal value. The problem of pornography in the modern age, John Paul II writes, must be assessed according to Christ's words in the Sermon on the Mount, about purity of heart and about its opposite, adultery of the heart. [See Theology of the Body, General Audiences, 29 April 1981, and 6 May 1981]

O’Brien called Cinalli's mural “neo-pornography thinly disguised by its apparent religious theme.”

“It is not about divine mercy. Nor is it about the inherent dignity of humanity in its masculine and feminine forms. It is the misuse of art as socio-political, sexual propaganda,” he said.