US Catholic Faith in Real Life

The story behind ants crawling on the cross

Bryan Cones | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

Apropos of Meghan's post on the removal of a controversial segment of video at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery, there's a great piece in today's Washington Post about the artist, David Wojnarowicz, a gay man who died of AIDS in 1992. What is most interesting to me is that Wojnarowicz' connection with the Catholic Church long predates his posthumous conflict with Bill Donohue of the Catholic League. Like many AIDS activists of his generation, he was involved in a pitched battle against some in the church whom he saw as obstacles to fighting the disease that at the time was wiping out the gay community.

Reading Philip Kennicott's Post essay, I was surprised at how far away in history that period feels and how HIV has become more and more a sub-Saharan African disease in the popular imagination (though not necessarily in reality). It is easy to forget the prejudice and fear those with HIV suffered, and Kennicott includes a chilling quote from the late William Bennett--a Catholic--who argued that those with HIV be tattooed, alluding to practices of the Nazi regime.

Having ignored the latest Catholic League-generated dust-up (which I wish everyone would so the League would go away), I just read that the offending image involved ants crawling on a cross, which, being increasingly Franciscan in my approach to creation and salvation, I don't find upsetting at all. Even the ants are gathered up into God's saving plan as far as I'm concerned. And I have a feeling that Wojnarowicz may have had something similar in mind. Too bad we couldn't sit with our discomfort long enough to learn his story and perhaps be challenged by his message.