Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Many things, but not blasphemy...

Just prior to the Pope's visit to Naples, this huge billboard was put up on the side of a building featuring a bare breasted woman wearing traditional nuns headgear. Rosary-clutching hands serve to conceal her - a bit. Ross de Serra is apparently a fashion house that maybe sells bluejeans. It's hard to tell.

This kind of depiction is increasingly stupid as most nuns don't wear wimples and veils anymore, and those who would recognize the model as a nun (or even know what a nun is) are increasingly few. Some people got in an uproar about the billboard, especially in light of the pope's imminent arrival. They complained that the sign was blasphemous. I don't agree.

What then? The advertisement is ignorant, dishonest, in poor taste, a cheap shot, low-end, mindless, pandering, an icon for the money-grab, over-board materialistic - but not blasphemous. Blasphemy is a God insult. The Genesis account tells us that human persons are made in the image and likeness of God, and Jesus spent his ministry-years in the closest union with the world's suffering people: Whatever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters you do to me. (Matthew 25)

So let's re-think blasphemy...

Bombing of Gaza - not an earthquake

Syrian Refugees

Trash City

Homeless in Seattle

God's Paradise Despoiled

Billions upon billions, upon many billions, of dollars spent on traveling to Mars and asteroids and outer, outer space... while on earth.....

And God has gone to a great deal of trouble to be with us on earth. And God became a human not an angel. So we urgently need to rethink the meaning and use of the word blasphemy. Really!


  1. Powerful message!!

  2. There are many atrocities in the world, but a billboard in ill taste is not one of them. Thank you for this message. It gives us much to think about.

  3. Someone wrote and asked: Isn't blasphemy being against sacred things too, not only God himself? I think we must be very careful with all religious language because people today have so little exposure to these words and they are so readily misunderstood: grace, salvation, redemption, etc. Blasphemy is one of those words. And it is a power-packed word. Militant Islamists call a cartoon of their prophet: blasphemy. They call the cartoon blasphemy but not decapitating the person who made the cartoon. It is the human person that is made in the image and likeness of God - not the drawing. Is Madonna blaspheming when wearing a rosary around her neck while she wears very little clothing? When does a tattoo become blasphemous? But we would say destroying a tabernacle is blasphemous. Remember Jesus is charged with blasphemy in identifying himself with God. So yes, sacred objects can be employed in blasphemy but we mustn't be quick to look for it or identify it otherwise we'll exhaust and distract ourselves from our lives with God. I would reserve the word blasphemy for really outrageous insults against God - the rest is stupid, boorish, crude, low-end, etc. But the blasphemy we pay too little, or even no attention to, is the insults to God in the destruction and abuse of his human creation. Interesting: we might call the add of the model dressed as a nun blasphemy, but we wouldn't give a thought to the slaves in Asia who make all this designer stuff for the First World in decrepit factories, unjust wages, no health care, enslaving even children. If we believe in the Incarnation: God become human in Christ - then how we look at all things human changes. Some years ago the Brooklyn Museum displayed an image of the Virgin Mary decorated with elephant feces and pornographic pictures around the border. There was a great protest in front of the museum and the protesters were told by the museum that they "didn't understand." I'm not arguing with the protesters. I'm asking would these same folks recognize God's being insulted in any of the pictures I posted above. I'm sorry to say, but I have my doubts.