Anonymous artist Hogre wasn’t expecting to be arrested while checking their email at an internet café in Rome. Neither were they anticipating being charged under an archaic Italian law that punishes a public offense to religion with a fine of up to 5,000 Euros or a prison sentence of up to two years.
Hogre was one of two artists who, on June 1 of this year, placed satirical posters in bus stop advertising spaces in the Italian capital. Hogre’s poster “Ecce homo erectus” depicts Jesus with a conspicuous erection, resting one hand on the head of a praying, kneeling child. This was a response to sexual abuse charges against Cardinal Pell, the third highest-ranking Vatican official.
The other poster, “Immacolata conception in vitro,” is by Hogre’s friend doublewhY. Less obviously inflammatory, it shows two women holding a baby; one of the women is flipping off the viewer. The text and image suggest a parallel between in vitro and immaculate conception.
The moral panic that ensued was instigated by right-wing politician Fabrizio Ghera, who called for the resignation of the transport official responsible for the posters. The Italian media fanned the flames of this panic; according to Hogre in an interview with Hyperallergic,“the articles that were around looked like they were written by parrots and pigeons.”
Another lofty height achieved in the annals of pious hypocrisy. “Jesus with an erection, the whole world will fall apart!” but it’s perfectly okay for the Catholic Church to keep playing transfer the rapist, making denials, and protecting and sheltering those who sexually assault and abuse. Is that not an offense to religion? Might be nice if the church was more concerned about actual harm, rather than depiction of Jesus’s boner.