Catholic Church Has a Problem with Its Painting of Jesus on the Cross Because… um… the Resurrection

There’s a famous image of Jesus on the crucifix called the “San Damiano Cross” that was painted in the 12th century.

In 2001, the Shrine of St. Bernadette church in Albuquerque, New Mexico commissioned a version of the painting and the artist’s rendition was pretty true to the original. Turns out the parishioners weren’t pleased about that.

See if you can guess why:

For years, parishioners at St. Bernadette’s in the Heights have looked up from the pews and wondered about the same thing.

“I looked up at Jesus because it’s up by the ceiling on the altar,” said Geri DeBoo. “I immediately saw genitals of a man.”

Actually, they’re just his abs… but we can’t have a (perceived) cock-n-balls hanging (Ha!) in a Catholic Church, can we? That’d be nuts.

So the Church is finally taking action:

On Thursday, the Archdiocese announced the painting will be removed.

It didn’t say it suddenly found the painting offensive — just that it wanted to respect the concerns of parishoners.

They haven’t said when it will be removed or what they’ll do with it.

The church estimates a similar work of art will cost around $40,000.

(The church later said it would just repaint its midsection.)

One news station even went so far as to pixellate Jesus’ abs:

You have to ask what they’re so worried about. Even if it really was a naked Jesus, so what? It’s not a sexual image. It’s a depiction of the crucifixion. It’s art. It’s anatomy. How repressed do you have to be to freak out over (possibly) seeing a penis even when the focus of the painting is Christ on the cross? (What do these people do in an art museum?)

Either way, I’m going to snicker next time I hear the phrase “Jesus is risen.”

(Thanks to Mike for the link)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • L.Long

    And Xtians say atheists obsess over sex!!!
    I never saw the problem, and by really staring and shifting my thoughts into
    ‘christian obsessing over sex’ mode, I thought they made the penis shaped cord hanging down into a penis, which is awful just we all know that jesus genetic code was ONLY from his mother which makes him have a vagina.

    • PG

      Sooooo … Jesus was trans? That’s an entertaining hypothesis.

      • L.Long

        OK I guess the alien genes from his psychotic dad could have given him a giant 10′ cock. And he was going back to heaven soon and it has all those virgins there. I know this because I read about it in a holey book somewhere.
        But a science book says that he probably only got Mary genes as his psychotic dad is an invisible nonphysical ghost and so has no jeans.

      • Randay

        If Jesus was not a trans, he/she was a hermaphrodite. The Bible says that he made man, i.e. mankind, in his own image so that must include vaginae. If “God” is male, let’s see his dick and balls.

  • kielc

    Wow. If they think that’s his willie, they must think he was hung like a god.

    • Contantant

      I see what you did there.

  • Hugh Kramer

    I didn’t notice the cock and balls until their presence was pointed out but now that I’ve seen them, I can understand why Jesus is such a *potent* religious figure.

    • LizzyJessie


  • kielc

    I forgot to add: What a bunch of rubes.

  • A3Kr0n

    Yup. we’re officially insane. Going home to sleep now.

  • Art_Vandelay

    Didn’t notice that at all. I thought the reason was going to be that he looks way too apathetic for a dude that’s hanging by nails from a cross.

    • Glasofruix

      “Those fucking idiots, i’ve told them 4 nails aren’t nearly enough”

  • TheUnknownPundit

    Well, you do have to have a pair of big ones to claim to be the son of god.

  • Gus

    I thought it was the belt. Anyone who “immediately saw genitals of a man” has probably never actually seen genitals of a man and desperately, desperately wants to see them up close and personal.

    • Lee Miller

      Let them know they can see mine any time they want.

  • Todd Heath

    The sexualy supressed have dirty minds!

  • CanuckAmuck

    Perhaps it’s overly-picky of me, but I get irritated with depictions of the crucifixion with the nails through the hands rather than how it really would have been, through the wrists.

    • allein

      You’re not the only one, if it makes you feel any better ;)

    • Holytape

      For me, I get irritated when they depict Jesus’s giant testicles and penis originating from his belly button. Just because he had a cock that made porn star jealous and elephants weep doesn’t mean his was hideously deformed.

    • keddaw

      Could have tied rope around the wrists and ankles and still nailed the hands and feet – if that would have been more painful.

    • trivialknot

      It’s an art tradition. Like Jesus being white.

      • CanuckAmuck

        Ah, yes, as you say – one of those white, blue-eyed, dirty-blonds that were oh-so common in zeroth-century Judea.

        Seriously – I think those sort of Jesuses (Jesii?) are hilarious.

  • Jett Perrobone

    Christian 1: “This image of a man dying a slow agonising death on a cross is so disgusting!”
    Christian 2: “Why is that?”
    Christian 1: “Because you can see his frank and beans!”

    • john

      jesus didnt die on the cross. his brother took his place. jesus died in japan at the age of 106 and with a family.

      jesus died in Japan , not on the cross.

      and this is a false image of jesus also. THEY ALL ARE.

      • JA

        Yeah, and monkeys fly out my butt.

        • Logan Blackisle

          Holy crap! That’s gotta hurt!

      • suzeb1964

        Jesus never existed.

      • Ibis3

        Santa doesn’t live in the North Pole! That Tim Allen film was FALSE. All the xmas specials are. Santa’s got a condo in Florida and his elves rent a nearby beach house also.

      • busterggi

        No, you’re thinking of Agent Coulson!

      • FTP_LTR

        And there’s a guy works down the chip-shop swears he’s Elvis.

      • Without Malice

        And invented sushi while he was there.

      • Michael

        I’m not sure why this got so many thumbs down. The idea of Jesus dying in Japan at 106 is kind of loopy, but an amusing Japanese myth nonetheless, but the first link you provided is actually very interesting and a unique, and very possible, spin on the story of Jesus.

    • Ciro Galli

      Spot on. That’s how Christianity is so sick. It makes the repugnant suffering of innocent men desirable, and the natural a sin.

  • Richard Thomas

    Wait.. $40,000?! How pious of them.

    • Kevin_Of_Bangor

      I have a cousin who is an awesome artist. I’m willing to bet he would do it for 10K

  • billybee

    I heard they liked the “He is coming soon” picture even less.

  • C Peterson

    These sorts of Christians should have to register when they move into town, the way sex offenders do. Honestly, sane people have a right to know when people with such dangerous thinking, with such obsessions, are living in their neighborhoods. How else can we keep our children safe?

  • 7Footpiper

    Maybe this will help, please bear in mind it’s been almost 20 years since I’ve found a need to graffiti cocks onto things so I’m a little out of practice! I think the meaning shines through.

    • cyngus

      Like father, like son. Mary couldn’t have a son of god unless Mary got one cosmic phallus and conceived Jesus.

      Mary was still virgin maybe because Mary went through the eye of that cosmic phallus and got pregnant.

  • Kat N. Nerdvana

    I couldn’t guess why until it was pointed out… But, I also suck at hidden images (no pun intended. okay, maybe a lil bit)

  • Kevin_Of_Bangor

    On my local news last night they did a story about Omegle and they showed some of the screen text which read….

    I’m pounding my cock right now.

    Seems that is ok for the news but showing abs that don’t even resemble a dick and balls is a huge no no.

    • Lando

      I want to believe it was poking fun at church members’ outrage. Can’t prove it, but having worked in a TV newsroom for years, I’m pretty sure they were having fun with the story.

  • Redorblack Nigelbottom

    Insert joke about second coming here…

    • busterggi

      Insert? You’d need a gopher hole!

      • Achron Timeless

        Well I do recall a bit about gopher… wood.

  • JT Rager

    I thought Christians were always trying to prove that Jesus was HUNG on the cross!

    • Randay

      Maybe you mean “well hung”.

  • Darren

    Wood of the True Cross…

  • C High

    I guess they’re all too soft and squishy to know what abs look like. ;-)

  • Max Ibanez

    Jesus was probably naked when he was crucified. A fact that the pious fail to acknowledge.

    • The Other Weirdo

      Why? Was that a thing back then?

      • Andy Anderson

        Why waste clothing on people you’re nailing up to die? Crucifixion was supposed to be painful *and* humiliating.

      • Neko

        Yes. Crucifixion was designed to be as painful and humiliating as possible. After death the victim was frequently left hanging for vultures to eat. This may have been the historical Jesus’s fate.

        [Sorry, Andy, you edited; I wouldn't have repeated what you said.]

        • The Other Weirdo

          I see. I thought the other person meant that that he was actually crucified naked. Being left that way I can understand.

      • evodevo

        Yes. The Romans were the only civil power in Judea that could sentence anyone to be crucified, and that is the way they did it for EVERYONE.

  • Kimpatsu

    Jesus: such a stand-up guy…

  • David Joseph Post

    Mormons don’t seem to have a problem with having a penis in one of their holy books: The middle figure is the god Min with an erection.

    It is the second to bottom row with the man sitting down on the right. Also known as figure 7.

    • baal

      I suppose I feel the same way about all religions but that fake Egyptian crap is spawning red flags faster than I can tally them.

  • Itarion

    You know, it used to be that people liked artistic nudity. Even very very suggestive nudity.

    Image at other end of link is fairly NSFW. Behold the Garden of Eden

  • Neko

    I have no tolerance whatsoever for philistines, but the parishioners may have a legitimate grievance. The icon painter, Br. Robert Lentz, is a terrific artist. He often eroticizes his subjects; it’s part of the allure.

    The abs here are within the conventions of “San Damiano” images and do resemble a dislocated phallus; the effect might be more pronounced from some angles and an unwelcome distraction. Say what you will about Jesus, he’s not a phallic god.

  • Amor DeCosmos

    This article is from 2010 in Oklahoma.

    Apparently, this is not new that Americans don’t appreciate 12th century Jesus art.

  • baal

    Anyone ever think that the artist was having a lark? I might not have noticed the genitals but for the post title. However, having seem them, they looks entirely on par with some hentai junk. I’m not so bothered by the size (holy giant weenies batman!) but it does bother me that the placement is above the belt line…they should be lower down.

  • islandbrewer

    “Watcha gonna do with all that junk,
    All that junk inside that icon …”

  • MNb

    Some more religious paintings prone to offend the sensitive believer:

  • rob

    The only way to deal with it without bloodshed is sarcasm.

  • Jonathan Olds

    I honestly didn’t get it. I clicked on the pic to see it full screen and still didn’t “see” what the fuss was about until I read further–and then thought, “Really?!?” Like a great artist would paint something so sophomoric? It’s not like he worked for Disney (

    • baal

      The link has a missing close caret or something. I was able to repair it after clicking by manually removing the final parens.

  • Artor

    I have to assume that none of the people who attend this church have ever seen their own abs, or anyone else’s. This is facepalm worthy.

    • jdm8

      Maybe it’s safe to assume they couldn’t see their abs that way, given how few Americans are in that kind of shape.

      However, as abs go, those are pretty odd looking.

  • John

    I honestly didn’t even know what I was supposed to be looking at until the article pointed out. And then I thought it was talking about the…whatever that is on the front of his clothes looking vaguely phallic until I saw the bit about abs. And then I still had to squint kinda funny to see it.

    For such a homophobic organization, they sure do spend a lot of time thinking about male genitalia.

    • Bullshot Bill

      no kidding!

    • Randay

      I thought that it was because there seemed to be too many women around him.

    • chicago dyke, TOWAN

      count me in your group. i was quite confused.

      it’s really hard for me to imagine the mind of the person who objected to this painting. for so many reasons. i mean, i can see the objection of say, “it’s too crude and medieval” or something like that. but to sexualize it as the primary representation? that’s just nuts silly.

    • litesp33d

      Got to agree with you. Could not see it until it was pointed out to me. Must be one of the benefits of being an atheist. I even went so far as to consider that maybe they had painted the wrong type of nails.

    • Jon

      I’m a gay man and like you couldn’t see what I was supposed to be looking at. What goes on in the minds of these people???

    • Nathan Stohler

      I didn’t see it either. Even after I read the article, I thought maybe they were talking about the drawstring hanging down. Christians seem to be some of the most sex-obsessed (repressed?) people around.

  • Lando

    I want to credit them with a wonderfully sarcastic jab at the church. Not sure if they deserve it, but *slow clap*

  • JA

    There’s apparently a lot of religious art from the Middle Ages of Jesus with a boner and/or people touching his groin. Apparently it was a thing back then to depict this.

    • john

      its a false image of jesus. they ALL are.

      • baal

        Well, if only the christians through time had skipped making images of the christ, this never would have happened.

  • tatoo

    Catholics see sex in everything. They are obsessed with it.

  • Raising_Rlyeh

    I thought they had a problem because it is clearly a middle eastern man and not a blue eyed blonde haired european.

  • Leah

    If you have access to JSTOR, this is an interesting read on this sort of subject:

  • averydashwood

    Everyone knows that Jesus was at least six feet tall, had washboard abs, immaculate grooming and perfect teeth. It only follows that he would have a package the size of a rugby ball.

  • Tor

    We all know that Jesus was “hung” on the cross, and presumably, elsewhere.

  • suzeb1964

    Oh myyyyyy….(well) hung on the cross indeed.

  • EuropeanCommunist

    I’d be more concerned about the fact that Jesus looks more like he’s bored out of his mind than suffering for everyone’s sins.

  • busterggi

    With all that wood no wonder there are so many pieces of the ‘true cross’ !

  • Amor DeCosmos

    What are you on about?

    • wmdkitty

      What is he on might be more appropriate…

  • wmdkitty

    The pixelization just makes it look more like genitals.

  • Tobias 27772

    I always suspected that jesus had a huge cock ! Holy Mary Magdalene !!

  • Kellie Jones

    Seriously? if that’s what it’s supposed to be……WHOA! That woulda made it hard to walk!

  • CottonBlimp

    Wow, I thought this was going to be about the traditional paintings of Jesus with *intentional* boners.

  • Guest0000001

    Well at least they didn’t see jesus on a sandwich this time… improvement?

    • Itarion

      The Grilled Cheesus doesn’t have penis abs, so it’s hard to judge.

  • Jason Valentine

    For everyone’s info..biblically..he was naked on the cross.

  • clarkbennett

    That gives new meaning to let Jesus come into your heart, kneel before God and lay prostrate before the lord.

  • Chris

    This coming from the same group of people who tend to see Mary in their toast.

  • katiehippie
  • rupi capra

    I wondered why this story seemed like a rerun. The same thing happened in Oklahoma 3 years ago. Edward Current even did a video on it.

  • Poose

    Reminds me of the old shrink joke-”Doctor, why do you keep showing me pornographic ink blots?”

    Not the first time something like this has happened, and as much as I would love to say “meh, who cares?” they are seriously considering altering a twelfth-century image over a perceived penis? I think it would be funnier if they simply pixelated it as above. It would sorta say “Why yes, we’re very devout here, no imaginary willies allowed.”

  • $925105

    They were right, Jesus is risen.

  • Bryan

    I like the women stareing and snickering in the background.

  • Paul Sellnow

    My first thought was to wonder if there was something genital, so I looked at the two rope strands hanging down from the middle of the belt (which hint at a pretty impressive endowment.) But… balls on belly button? Don’t they teach ANY anatomy lessons in Catholic schools?

  • John Kieffer

    “hung” on the cross

  • Fred Edwords

    Alright, let me see if I understand what’s happening here. First people see the image of Jesus in a grilled cheese sandwich (and on a back-porch refrigerator door, and numerous other odd places). Then they see the image of His holy junk in a Jesus painting. Somehow I must be “blinded by science” because I just don’t see any of these things. (But I do see the Man in the Moon.)

  • Robster

    They could, with a little effort, get some variety in their church ritual thingies to make it more enticing and entertaining. Along with the jesus on a stick figures they all have on display, why not, say a hanging or beheading victim up on the wall with the decomposing jesus? They could venture into the whole death/torture thing they seem to love and enjoy with gay (perhaps not) abandon. They could expand the Sunday menu and have mother Mary hot dogs along side the crackers, a strawberry thick-shake could be offered as an alternative to the blood wine silliness or tomato juice. They’re worried about rapidly emptying churches, surely a more interesting post millennium menu would get them in. Then there’s the Children’s menu for the kiddies, served by very friendly priestly types.