I know I reveal my old-fogeyism when I say that I’m only vaguely aware of who Britney Spears is. I’m told that she falls somewhat short as an exemplar of virtuous living. That may well be, but it does not excuse the ruckus over a sculpture being exhibited at the Capla Kesting Fine Art Gallery in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn.

I note as an aside that goings on in Williamsburg are of particular interest to me, since that is where I was for 17 years pastor of the Lutheran parish, St. John the Evangelist, which we called St. John the Mundane in order to distinguish it from St. John the Divine, the Episcopal cathedral up on Morningside Heights. The Williamsburg—Bedford Stuyvesant part of Brooklyn in the 1960s and 1970s was then viewed as the pits of New York City. A fine-arts gallery in Williamsburg was then as unlikely as a race riot on the East Sixties of Manhattan.

But back to the story. Daniel Edwards has done this sculpture of Britney Spears on her knees and elbows giving birth atop a bearskin rug. It is titled, "Monument to Pro-Life: The Birth of Sean Preston." The gallery has reportedly received thousands of protests. From pro-abortionists who are upset by anything suggesting pro-life sentiment being displayed in a neighborhood proud of its rebirth as a center of politically correct bohemianism. And from pro-lifers who at first welcomed the sculpture but then had second thoughts about the association with Ms. Spears, who, it says here, "is known for her skimpy outfits and sometimes racy lyrics."

Mr. Edwards says that he believes that life begins at conception and intended the sculpture as a neat way to deliver an anti-abortion message. He even wanted Right to Life literature on display. The owner of the gallery says he is pleased with the squabble, and why not? "The work of art is creating controversy," he says. A little iconoclasm from the other side of the artistic aisle is to be welcomed.

About her skimpy outfits and racy lyrics, I don’t know. But good for Britney Spears for letting her baby be born. And good for Daniel Edwards for celebrating that. As for the pro-lifers who are letting their prudery obscure their message, they should think again.


In discussing R.A. Scotti’s new book, Basilica , the other day, I mentioned reasons for my ambivalence about Baroque art. Philip Bess, a Chicago architect of catholic and Catholic tastes, countered with this appreciation from Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, now Benedict XVI:

Baroque art, which follows the Renaissance, has many different aspects and modes of expression. In its best form it is based on the reform of the Church set in motion by the Council of Trent. In line with the tradition of the West, the Council again emphasized the didactic and pedagogical character of art, but, as a fresh start toward interior renewal, it led once more to a new kind of seeing that comes from and returns within. The altarpiece is like a window through which the world of God comes out to us. The curtain of temporality is raised, and we are allowed a glimpse into the inner life of the world of God. This art is intended to insert us into the liturgy of heaven. Again and again, we experience a Baroque church as a unique kind of fortissimo of joy, an Alleluia in visual form.

The Holy Father has been living with the Baroque much longer than I have, and I do not doubt that he has also given the matter more thought. So I will only confess my underdeveloped appreciation by saying that I prefer glimpses into the inner life of the world of God that leave more room for the imagination.


In addition to which :

Massachusetts demanded that Catholic Charities place adoptive children with same-sex couples, and, in response, Catholic Charities opted out of the important work of adoption. In the June/July issue of First Things , Gregory Popcak explains what went wrong and why it is both courageous and compassionate to insist that adoptive children have both a mother and a father. Isn’t it time for you to subscribe to First Things ?

Articles by Richard John Neuhaus

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