Vatican drops image of bound woman after complaints

Slingshot_Venus_031215ROME (RNS) Following complaints, the Vatican’s cultural office has removed an image of a naked female torso bound in ropes that was used to advertise a women’s conference.

The Pontifical Council for Culture had chosen a photograph of the 1936 "Venus Restored" sculpture, by the late American artist Man Ray, as befitting for its Feb. 4-7 conference titled “Women’s Cultures: Equality and Difference.”

But the choice of a sculpture bound in ropes to discuss women’s emancipation was deemed inappropriate in some quarters. The Pontifical Council’s president, Italian Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, initially defended the choice. Ravasi was seen as a contender going into the conclave that elected Pope Francis two years ago.

“Cardinal Ravasi has chosen not to remove the image as it speaks clearly for one of the central points of the document: many women, alas, are still struggling for freedom (bound with rope), their voices and intellect often unheard (headless), their actions unappreciated (limbless),” according to a statement that appeared alongside the controversial image.

Both the message and the image have since been removed from the Pontifical Council’s website, replaced with a 15th-century Madonna and child image. Ravasi was not available to comment on the about-face.

Marina Caffiero, a modern history professor at Rome’s La Sapienza University, focusing on politics and religion, first praised the Vatican’s earlier choice.

“It was an act of courage to choose this image, because it’s very strong and features a nude woman,” she said. Caffiero noted, however, that a sculpture of oppression was contrary to the aims of the event it was used to advertise: “From the point of view of the scope of the document, perhaps it wasn’t the most suitable image.”

Richard C. Hamlin, trustee of the Man Ray Trust, said that while the sculpture was undoubtedly controversial, the meaning of the artist’s work should be left open to interpretation.

“His work was groundbreaking and frequently controversial in his own time, and so it is not surprising that controversy continues to arise when his work is displayed in a public forum,” he said.



  1. I’m shocked the Vatican would have ever found this image appropriate under any circumstance.

  2. The image of a bloody, whipped, tortured naked man nailed to a wooden contraption with a spear in his side is no better. Shock value is apparently god’s plan.

  3. With marketing of Madonna, or Lady Gaga, I guess the Vatican looks to gain the attention of this particular market. The problem comes in when you can have multiple interpretations of what you see.

  4. Max, for once has a point, but the Crucified One is not being portrayed for “shock value” but for devotional purposes.
    I am surprised and disgusted that the Vatican would be so tasteless and actually degrading women by this figure. I do not call it “art” because true art makes one think about the GOOD that we should be doing for others.

  5. “God writes straight with crooked lines.” There is reason to be angry about sexism in the Church, but there is hope. Based on the “Catechism of the Catholic Church” and John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body,” my understanding is that the ordination of women to the priesthood would be in perfect continuity with apostolic tradition:

    Ordination of Women in the Sacramental Churches

    In brief, the ordination of women will be a natural extension of the Acts 15:28 decision to discontinue the requirement for male circumcision. This is not about what women (or men) want. This is about discerning what Christ wants for the Church in the 21st century, for the glory of God and the good of souls. Would Jesus, in today’s globalized world, choose 12 males to represent the patriarchs of the 12 tribes of Israel?

  6. In answer to Mr. Gutierrez’s question about Jesus (Yeshua) choosing 12 males today, the answer is YES! I have written previously about roles. A mother cannot take the place of a father and vice versa. Women who want to be ordained as priests see it as a power tool. Men and women are different, but equal, but not in physical strength, etc. A priest is male because it is a male role. And he is to exercise that role with humility, obedience and service to the Church and the People of God at all times. And all Christians (priesthood of the people) are to do the same.

  7. It seems to me that the painting is certainly a bit odd, but maybe there is a deeper meaning. We have a headless, armless, legless woman, with an otherwise well-shaped body, and, maybe that is the point. The mission of the Conference is probably designed to add legs, arms, and a head/brain to the woman presented, so that she can be fully respected. She must be free to act (hands), travel (legs), think & speak (head/brain), apart from the parts of her body that men lust after (what is presented), and is tied tied with rope. I’m not trying to justify the use of the painting, but only stating the realities of what our sexual culture has done to the minds of men, reducing women to mere sex objects, having no other use than to give men pleasure. At least that is all I see when I turn on the television these days.

  8. “so tasteless and actually degrading women by this figure.”

    A bloodied, nailed, tortured man on a cross has been degrading men for centuries.

  9. They aren’t supposed to think. They ‘believe’.

  10. I had the same idea. And they put it around the necks of children!

  11. The Catholic church should slowly start to remove statues and other images from its church. There is no point in having a picture of Jesus -nobody knows what Jesus looked like, you are looking at a portrait of Jesus which is not the real Jesus .Also, pictures or statues of Peter, Paul or other disciples and Mary should be removed – nobody knows what they really looked like.

    The Church would do well to keep the focus on Jesus and His message.Just keep the focus on God and the Bible and the message.

  12. @James It is called Iconoclasm and the Church already tried it and found it lacking from what has been already revealed.

    “Viva Cristo Rey!!”
    “Ya Rabbi Yasou!!”

  13. James,

    “Just keep the focus on God and the Bible and the message.”

    Which message?

    “Kill my enemies in front of me” – JESUS (Luke 19:27)
    [The Parable of the Minas describes what Jesus intends to do – he will arrange for the mass slaughter of those who do not believe in him]

    “Love your enemies” – JESUS (Matthew 5:44)
    Paradoxically, he has no love for his own enemies:
    “I never knew you!” – JESUS (Matthew 7:21)

    “Let he who does not love the Lord be cursed!” – Paul (1 Corinthians 16:22)

    The world is much worse for these contradictory, inhuman, anti-intellectual claims.

  14. “lacking from what has been already revealed.”

    What has been revealed?
    Islam, Christianity, Judaism and have been revealed to be divisive, antagonistic, woman-hating, human-hating, man made theories about reality.

    Is one of these religions true? How would anyone know?
    if God exists he seems not to care enough to come down and straighten it out.

    It is far likelier that these damaging, ancient theories are all wrong.

  15. A poorly chosen image indeed, but I’ll bet that some of its fiercest critics went to see “Fifty Shades of Grey” and are among its most vocal defenders.

    One of the favorite attack words of the left is “hypocrite,” and here’s a chance for the rest of the world to hurl that word right back at them.

  16. That depends, Max, on what the “man on the cross” wanted.

    There is nothing in any of the Gospels contradicting the notion that Jesus saw the heart of his mission as dying exactly the way he did. Remove that thread and the entire fabric unravels.

    People have spent centuries trying to rewrite the story or get behind it to the “real story” of Jesus, but every attempt has ended in failure. The search for the “historical Jesus” ends up taking us on a round trip…..right back to the Gospel portrayal of a man whose self-understood mission was to die on a cross.

    Once we see that, we see that we honor the man and his mission when we take that mission as seriously as he did.

  17. Well, Max, since you don’t believe in God, then from your perspective, it wasn’t “God’s plan,” but another example of man’s inhumanity to man — of just how lovely people behave when they get power over other people.

    And that conforms very nicely to the Biblical doctrine of original sin — those old doctrines of human depravity and wickedness….and need for a Savior.

  18. Oh, yeah, edwords, those uneducated prelates…..every one of them high school dropouts… advanced degrees, no rigorous intellectual training in philosophy, theology, science, or history…..

    Try again, edwords….

  19. Actually, since every one of these religions allege that specific things happened in a specific place at a specific time, many of their claims are indeed capable of being verified or falsified.

    Just for starters, you can read their accounts as to time and place, compare them with what we already know about same, and see how well or how poorly they line up.

  20. Edwords, let’s compare life in pagan times to life today and see whether the cross has degraded or uplifted humanity.

    And let’s compare apples to apples…..high paganism to post-Gutenberg’s-printing-press Christianity, when everybody finally got a chance to read the Bible for themselves.

  21. Max, it’s your inability to have an honest conversation on the evidence for Christianity that is “anti-intellectual.” When the subject comes up, you run and hide under your mountains of spam, like someone hiding from a storm until it passes over.

  22. You are correct. I don’t believe it was God’s plan.
    God is just another imperfect, secular creation – a man made theory.

    The theory goes like this:
    God made man in such a way that he would be doomed to eternal Hell. Knowing this he arranged to wipe out humanity – which he did in a big flood. Except for 8 people who survived to commit incest on steroids to repopulate the world.

    This plan didn’t work either.
    Everyone was still doomed to God’s Hell according to God’s rules about sin.

    So God became human to have himself tortured, bloodied and murdered by the 1st century’s equivalent of an AK-47 to commit suicide to save humanity by making a loophole from God’s old laws – but it only works if everyone believes it – or else you are going to eternal hell anyway!

    And the only way to believe it is to suspend All Reason!

    Good grief. It makes no sense at all.
    Ridiculous from beginning to end.

    Jesus causes more human misery than he prevents!

  23. Your reasoning is circular.

    There is no reason to believe Jesus intended any of what is claimed.

    If Jesus sacrificed himself, humanity is not guilty of murder.
    If Jesus was murdered, it was no sacrifice.

    The Jesus theory does not survive a moment of serious thought.

  24. The words of Jesus are “spam”?

    You want honesty?
    There is no evidence shown to me
    that any of the claims of Jesus (OR BY JESUS)
    are true.

    Prayer fails. In fact, prayer fails so badly that answers from god are no different from the flip of a coin – for a reason!

    The claims do not survive examination. You are free to believe it, but I don’t have a clue why anybody should.

  25. “compare life in pagan times to life today”

    And to whom shall we credit the persistence of humanity’s endless dilemmas even 2000 years into Christianity? Are you going to blame Satan?

    How about you just admit the truth? If Jesus was the answer, why isn’t he the answer even to those who studied him and believed in him?

    Christianity is just a re-compiling and plagiarism of paganism anyway:

    Zoroaster – (a God-Man centuries before and right up to the years before Jesus. The three wise men were Zoroastrians blessing the Christ Child as Zoroaster’s replacement. The whole thing is pure myth!)

    All these Gods and legends rhyme perfectly with the Jesus legends.
    The stories may not even be based on any real individual!
    The Jesus legend reads exactly like Psalm 22 – written centuries before Jesus was born:

    “For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me;
    they have pierced my hands and feet …” (Psalm…

  26. Jack,

    “your inability to have an honest conversation”

    I keep trying. Here’s another attempt.

    Where is the God you claim? Give me an honest answer. Show me your honest evidence.
    Show me some honest demonstration of your God that isn’t just a hollow assertion easily debunked!

    Surely the most powerful, most reliable, most incredible being in all of existence must be demonstrable to exist in some way!?

    Otherwise, how do I know you are not lying?

Leave a Comment