UPDATE: ‘God is trans’ exhibit remains in church, but with controversial title removed
Boston, Mass., May 15, 2023 / 12:04 pm
A controversial art display at a Manhattan Catholic church titled “God is Trans: A Queer Spiritual Journey” is undergoing a name and description change, but has not been removed as was previously reported.
News of the exhibit at the Church of St. Paul the Apostle in Manhattan was originally reported by the New York Post on May 7, causing a firestorm online with many calling the artwork “blasphemous.”
A sign accompanying the display said the artwork, a three-painting collection, “maps the queer spiritual journey” while claiming that “there is no devil.”
Joseph Zwilling, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York, told CNA Monday that the archdiocese expressed its concerns about the display to the parish and only became aware of the artwork through media reports.
Fox News Digital reported on May 10 that the exhibit had been removed from the 19th-century mother church of the Paulist Fathers, but Paul Snatchko, a spokesman for the Paulist Fathers, told CNA Monday that the display is still up at the church.
Snatchko said that the Paulist Fathers took the concerns of the archdiocese “very seriously” and, in response, removed the sign with the name and description of the display on May 9.
When asked if the Paulist Fathers believe it is acceptable to say that God is transgender, Snatchko answered “no.”
A new name and description are currently being worked on by the artist, Adah Unachukwu — a student at Fordham University — and the Paulists Fathers’ New York City “artist-in-residence” Father Frank Sabatté.
Snatchko said that Sabatté directs a group based at the Church of St. Paul the Apostle called the Openings Collective, which is “a group of visual artists in New York City that often exhibits at our mother church,” the Paulist Fathers’ website says.
The group has existed for more than ten years and puts on “two or three exhibit shows” every year, Snatchko said, with most being at the the Church of St. Paul the Apostle. The “God is Trans: A Queer Spiritual Journey” display was one of eight displays in an exhibit, Snatchko said.
The full exhibit, called “Vessel: A Spiritual Art Experience,” is scheduled to run from May 6 through June 14, 2023. It is sponsored by the Openings Collective and Fordham University’s Center on Religion and Culture Duffy Fellows Program.
“It’s not the practice of the parish to get pre-approval of the titles of the artworks,” he said. “The idea is that Father Frank [Sabatté] is overseeing that.”
“That title was the title that one artist gave to their display,” he said. “So it is not the opinion of the Church of St. Paul the Apostle. It was one artist in an eight-person exhibit, and that was the title they gave to their display. It was not a statement of theology in any way.”
CNA reached out to Sabatté and Fordham University for comment at the end of the day on Monday.
Editor’s note: This is an update of an article CNA published earlier today. CNA previously reported that Fox News Digital had said the exhibit had been taken down. At time of publication, the parish had not responded to CNA’s inquiries and attempts to receive confirmation.