After controversy, Philippines museum closes exhibit of defaced icons

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Archbishop Emeritus Oscar V. Cruz

Catholics and political leaders have strongly criticized the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ controversial exhibit showing defaced religious icons. The exhibit later closed in response to vandalism and reported threats.

Archbishop emeritus Oscar V. Cruz of Lingayen-Dagupan said the exhibit was “consummate sacrilege,” “sick and sickening.” He also called it “radically insensitive to natural decency” and “hideous to moral norms.”

The archbishop criticized the cultural center for displaying “radical vulgarity” instead of “nurturing and promoting Filipino positive cultural values.” He said that art is meant to uplift the human spirit and not to “demean its aspirations,” CBCP News reported.

The “Kulo” exhibit included the works of Mideo Cruz depicting Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary. One particular item is a replica of male genitalia which incorporates a crucifix. Another depicted Christ the King with rabbit ears.

Archbishop Angel N. Lagdameo, a former Philippines bishops’ conference president, said the exhibit is “blasphemous and an affront against Christianity.”

Auxiliary Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of Pampanga said the artist knows vandalizing religious icons and symbols is a sure way to hurt people’s sensibilities and is “an effective way of provoking violent reactions from people he labels as fanatics.”

The exhibit did in fact trigger reactions. One couple vandalized the exhibit and attempted to set fire to it, ABS-CBN News reported. The Cultural Center of the Philippines said that “hate mails and threats” to members of the center’s board intensified after the incident.

There were “an increasing number of threats to persons and property,” the center said. Because of this the board members decided shut down the exhibit.

The exhibit opened on June 17 and had been scheduled to run until Aug. 21.

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