Author Topic: Are excessively gory images of Christ wrong?  (Read 161 times)

Offline TheReturnofLive

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Are excessively gory images of Christ wrong?
« on: December 08, 2018, 04:55:33 PM »
So, I'm gonna say something that's rather controversial - but does anyone think of the fact that certain excessively gory images of Christ on the Road to Cavalry and the Crucifixion are incredibly problematic for a couple of reasons?

Some examples I have in mind (warning: gore, obviously)

I'll argue that it's two reasons that this is the case:

1. It's ahistorical

To show Christ in such gore and blood, with massive chunks of flesh missing, losing blood at such an incredible rate is not at all realistic given that there's no physical way Christ could've actually sustained such injuries without dying before the Crucifixion itself - biologically speaking. He certainly was whipped, and certainly suffered, but to the physical degree of what is often portrayed is incredibly unrealistic, where chunks of flesh are missing and there's more red than tan / white seems excessive.

Some may argue "well, He's God, so anything is possible, right?"


2. It could imply the heresy of Eutychianism

Some may argue that because Christ is God and thus because He is God He may not be subject to the same constraints of humanity, but this is the heresy of Eutychianism.

Eutyches was a heretical monk whom Pope Saint Leo explicitly rebuked, who argued that Christ's humanity and Divinity were not distinct from one another, but blended together such that Christ's Divinity was able to overwrite Christ's humanity (at least, those are the logical implications of his arguments; he stated that Christ was con-substantial with God but not con-substantial with humanity after the Hypostatic Union).

To paint a depiction which shows a supernatural amount of blood and gore seems to me like it denies that Christ was subject to the same physical human constraints we are.

To be clear, I have nothing wrong with reflecting on Christ's suffering - but when the object of the art or imagery which is used on such reflection leads to a point of denying that Christ is subject to the same physical restrictions as us, I draw the line there personally.

In fact, I hear this as a critique in Eastern circles on the topic of Mel Gibson's movie.

« Last Edit: December 08, 2018, 05:01:28 PM by TheReturnofLive »

Online Michael Wilson

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Re: Are excessively gory images of Christ wrong?
« Reply #1 on: December 08, 2018, 05:12:16 PM »
Well, the brutality of the flogging of Our Lord was pretty intense if you look at the "Shroud of Turin"; I think that a team of Forensic Doctors estimated that our Lord indeed must have experienced a massive trauma and loss of blood, from the evidence of the Shroud.
But let us say that the movie was overblown and that some Spanish crucifixes are indeed "too gory"; the evident intent of these depictions is to move the beholders to consider the effect that our sins had on our Divine Savior, to move us to contrition for our sins, to kindle in us a great love and gratitude for Him who loved us so much as to give us His very last ounce of blood on the Cross.
St. Teresa of Avila stated that there was no greater theme of meditation, than that of the Passion and death of Our Lord; here is some thoughts from "The Passion and The Death of Jesus Christ" by St. Alphonsus:

20 Introduction,

"He who desires," says St. Bonaventure, " to go on
advancing from virtue to virtue, from grace to grace,
should meditate continually on the Passion of Jesus. " J
And he adds that " there is no practice more profitable
for the entire sanctification of the soul than the frequent
meditation of the sufferings of Jesus Christ." 2

St. Augustine also said that a single tear shed at the
remembrance of the Passion of Jesus is worth more than
a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, or a year of fasting on bread
and water. Yes, because it was for this end that our
Saviour suffered so much, in order that we should think
of his sufferings; because if we think on them, it is im-
possible not to be inflamed with divine love: The charity
of Christ presseth us, 3 says St. Paul. Jesus is loved by few,
because few consider the pains he has suffered for -us;
but he that frequently considers them cannot live with-
out loving Jesus. "The charity of Christ presseth us."
He will feel himself so constrained by his love that he
will not find it possible to refrain from loving a God so
full of love, who has suffered so much to make us love

Therefore the Apostle said that he desired to know
nothing but Jesus, and Jesus crucified; that is, the love
that he has shown us on the cross: I judged not myself to
know anything among you but Jesus Christ, and Him cruci-
fied? And, in truth, from what books can we better
learn the science of the saints — that is, the science of
loving God — than from Jesus crucified ? That great
servant of God, Brother Bernard of Codione, the Capu-
chin, not being able to read, his brother religious wanted
to teach him, upon which he went to consult his crucifix;
but Jesus answered him from the cross, "What is read-
ing ? what are books ? Behold, I am the book wherein
thou mayst continually read the love I have borne thee."
O great subject to be considered during our whole life
and during all eternity ! A God dead for the love of
us ! a God dead for the love of us ! O wonderful sub-
ject !

St. Thomas Aquinas was one day paying a visit to St.
Bonaventure, and asked him from what book he had drawn
all the beautiful lessons he had written. St. Bonaven-
ture showed him the image of the Crucified, which was
completely blackened by all the kisses that he had
given it, and said, "This is my book whence I receive
everything that I write; and it has taught me whatever
little I know."

In short, all the saints have learned the art of loving
God from the study of the crucifix. Brother John of
Alvernia, every time that he beheld Jesus wounded,
could not restrain his tears. Brother James of Tuderto,
when he heard the Passion cf our Redeemer read, not
only wept bitterly, but broke out into loud sobs, over-
come with the love with which he was inflamed toward
his beloved Lord.

It was this sweet study of the crucifix which made St.
Francis become a great seraph. He wept so continually
in meditating on the sufferings of Jesus Christ, that
he almost entirely lost his sight. On one occasion, being
found crying out and weeping, he was asked what was
the matter with him. " What ails me ?" answered the
saint. " I weep over the sorrows and insults inflicted
on my Lord; and my sorrow is increased when I think
of those ungrateful men who do not love him, but
live without any thought of him." Every time that he
heard the bleating of a lamb, he felt himself touched

"The World Must Conform to Our Lord and not He to it." Rev. Dennis Fahey CSSP
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Offline TheReturnofLive

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Re: Are excessively gory images of Christ wrong?
« Reply #2 on: December 08, 2018, 05:28:11 PM »
I don't deny that much can be learned from the Passion of Christ, but I wonder that "if" the object that is the sole focus of meditation is an overtly exaggerated and physiologically improbable depiction, can that be harmful - especially if someone rationalizes the heresy of Eutychianism?

These depictions are something more of a recent phenomena - even if there are some slightly gory depictions of Christ from the Renaissance, they don't match the excess of blood or gore of these images from like the 19th century onward. They are also more in the minority in terms of religious artwork.

I don't think St. Augustine or St. Bonaventure had icons, paintings, or statues of Christ that depicted him as mostly blood and flesh wounds, which was centuries before the Renaissance where Gothic, Byzantine, and Romanesque art was the norm, and paintings of Christ and the Saint were still 2-dimensional for the most part.

The most gory Renaissance paintings I found was the gallery of Matthias Grunewald - and even then, not even comparable to the types of images I'm thinking about.
« Last Edit: December 08, 2018, 05:37:36 PM by TheReturnofLive »

Offline martin88nyc

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Re: Are excessively gory images of Christ wrong?
« Reply #3 on: December 08, 2018, 05:50:33 PM »
I think it is not wrong at all and for the simplest of reasons. Christ has borne all of the sins of the world. If sin can disfigure an individual to the point of utter ugliness then it is possible that Christ might have been disfigured to a point of being irrecognisable due to injuries. God the Father must have sustained and supported him through the agency of angels, otherwise the sins of the world would have crushed him right away.
"These things I have spoken to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you shall have distress: but have confidence, I have overcome the world." John 16:33
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Offline Gardener

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Re: Are excessively gory images of Christ wrong?
« Reply #4 on: December 08, 2018, 05:52:52 PM »
Do you realize what an in-shape man in his early 30's can endure without death if his mind and will, will let him?

Keep in mind, Christ only carried His Cross for a period of time, not the whole way. Simon of Cyrene completed the carrying.

Have you ever heard of Master Sergeant Roy P. Benavidez? Read on, cus it's gonna get interesting.

He was a Green Beret in Vietnam who was awarded the Medal of Honor.


In 1965 he was sent to South Vietnam as an advisor to an Army of the Republic of Vietnam infantry regiment. He stepped on a land mine[1] during a patrol and was evacuated to the United States, where doctors at Fort Sam Houston concluded he would never walk again and began preparing his medical discharge papers. As Benavidez noted in his 1981 Medal of Honor acceptance speech, stung by the diagnosis, as well as flag burnings and media criticisms of the U.S. military presence in Vietnam he saw on TV, he began an unsanctioned nightly training ritual in an attempt to redevelop his ability to walk. Getting out of bed at night (against doctors' orders), Benavidez would crawl using his elbows and chin to a wall near his bedside and (with the encouragement of his fellow patients, many of whom were permanently paralyzed and/or missing limbs), he would prop himself against the wall and attempt to lift himself unaided, starting by wiggling his toes, then his feet, and then eventually (after several months of excruciating practice that by his own admission often left him in tears) pushing himself up the wall with his ankles and legs.[2]

After over a year of hospitalization, Benavidez walked out of the hospital in July 1966, with his wife at his side, determined to return to combat in Vietnam. Despite continuing pain from his wounds, he returned to South Vietnam in January 1968.

Six hours in hell[edit]

On May 2, 1968, a 12-man Special Forces patrol, which included nine Montagnard tribesmen, was surrounded by an North Vietnamese infantry battalion of about 1,000 men. Benavidez heard the radio appeal for help and boarded a helicopter to respond. Armed only with a knife, he jumped from the helicopter carrying his medical bag and ran to help the trapped patrol. Benavidez "distinguished himself by a series of daring and extremely valorous actions... and because of his gallant choice to join voluntarily his comrades who were in critical straits, to expose himself constantly to withering enemy fire, and his refusal to be stopped despite numerous severe wounds, saved the lives of at least eight men." At one point in the battle an North Vietnamese soldier accosted him and stabbed him with a bayonet. Benavidez pulled it out, yanked out his own knife, killed the North Vietnamese soldier and kept going, leaving his knife in the dead soldier's body. After the battle, he was evacuated to the base camp, examined, and thought to be dead. As he was placed in a body bag among the other dead in body bags, he was suddenly recognized by a friend who called for help. A doctor came and examined him but believed Benavidez was dead. The doctor was about to zip up the body bag when Benavidez spat in his face, alerting the doctor that he was alive.[3]

The six-hour battle left Benavidez with seven major gunshot wounds, 28 fragmentation holes, and both his arms were slashed by a bayonet. He had fragments in his head, scalp, shoulder, buttocks, feet, and legs, his right lung was destroyed, and he had injuries to his mouth and back of his head from being clubbed with a rifle butt. A bullet shot from an AK-47 entered his back and exited just beneath his heart.[4] Benavidez was evacuated to Fort Sam Houston's Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, and he spent almost a year in hospitals recovering from his injuries.

A devout Catholic, Benavidez was attending prayer services [I assume they mean Mass?] on May 2, 1968 when he heard a desperate radio plea, “Get us out of here! For God’s sake, get us out!” The cry for assistance came from a twelve-man Special Forces Recon Team that was pinned down in thick jungle and surrounded by a North Vietnamese Army (NVA) regiment west of Loc Ninh. Three choppers had already attempted a rescue but were driven back by small arms and anti-aircraft fire. Benavidez did not have orders to go, but with a medical bag in one hand and a knife in the other, he jumped into the bay of a Huey revving up for another rescue attempt.


He later recollected, “I made the sign of the cross across my chest so often my arms looked like an airplane propeller.”

7 major gunshot wounds, one of which almost took out his heart
28 frag wounds (from grenades)
Deep slashes from bayonets
Stab wound(s)
Right lung destroyed
Injuries from being clubbed

This is a man in his early 30's who was in great shape and this occurred just 3 months before he turned 33. AND, he did all this after having previously spent 1 year in the hospital because he stepped on a land mine at age 30 and, against all medical thought at the time, returned to duty with SF by sheer will power.

When the medics, thinking him dead, put him in the body bag and were about to zip it up, he spit at them to let them know he was alive.

These injuries all occurred over 6 hours, roughly the same amount of time as Christ's entire Passion as far as the events of the scourging, crowning with thorns, and crucifixion (which killed Him earlier than the 2 thieves).

So yeah, I believe the gory representations because the human body is much more resilient than people understand.

It's the mind which is weak and Christ didn't have a weak mind.

Read more about MSG Benavidez here:
« Last Edit: December 08, 2018, 06:15:26 PM by Gardener »
"And what use are the victories on the battlefield if we are ourselves are defeated in our innermost personal selves?" - St. Maximilian Kolbe

Off and on for Advent. Probably only while at work.
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Online Daniel

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Re: Are excessively gory images of Christ wrong?
« Reply #5 on: December 08, 2018, 06:25:00 PM »
I wasn't there so, I really don't know whether it was historical or not.

However, I would say that Christ probably was not subject to "the same physical restrictions as us". Because if he was subject to those restrictions, then how did he walk across the sea? I think some priest once told me that Christ had a glorified body from the start (ever since the incarnation), but that he miraculously hid his glory for ~33 years until after his resurrection. (Glorified bodies aren't subject to those same restrictions.)

I suppose it's also possible that his pre-resurrection body (if it was not glorified from the get-go) was subject to those restrictions, but that he miraculously prolonged his life.

In either case, scripture seems to indicate that Christ would have died a lot sooner during his passion, but that he postponed his death until the opportune moment.
« Last Edit: December 08, 2018, 06:39:48 PM by Daniel »

Offline Non Nobis

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Re: Are excessively gory images of Christ wrong?
« Reply #6 on: December 08, 2018, 08:34:10 PM »
As a weak woman I am uncomfortable and even appalled by the gory images.  I have a holy card in my missal that disturbs me when when I see it (in fact I too often turn away).  The Passion disturbs me even more, and I don't think my reaction is entirely pious.

But Christ was immeasurably worse than uncomfortable on the Cross. How could we think that the suffering of the God-Man for the salvation of the world would be something limited by our personal imagination, and our understanding of what is possible to other men?

I do keep the holy card in my missal. I do watch the Passion every year.  I think that The Passion is the greatest artistic depiction of Christ's sufferings precisely because it is most realistic for Him, even if it might not be for other men.

Of course we don't know exactly what Christ's physical sufferings were.  But however they looked externally we know that He felt them even more than we could possibly see. St. Thomas says that God made Christ's body most sensitive, as a body that COULD suffer despite the fact that it was otherwise most perfect.  Christ accepted more suffering than "gory" pictures can possibly show.  They are "reaching" to represent this suffering in a way that is most vivid to us. And I think it is most likely that what Mary saw on the Cross was literally far worse than any art can show.
Children say that people are hung sometimes for speaking the truth.

If I am not in the state of grace, may God put me there; and if I am, may God so keep me

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Offline Josephine87

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Re: Are excessively gory images of Christ wrong?
« Reply #7 on: December 08, 2018, 11:17:53 PM »
One factor is that wounds to the head bleed significantly, even when they're rather superficial and I don't think the crown of thorns was superficial.  So there likely was a lot of blood merely from that one group of wounds.

The gory depictions first seemed odd to me. I'm a convert and never saw them before and have only seem them in people's homes. I don't see anything wrong with them and anyone who has knowledge of military history (see the story above) knows the human body can lose a lot of blood and still keep going. Adrenaline is incredible.

It also makes sense that he lost a lot of blood and died before having his legs broken, like the good thief and bad thief.
"Begin again." -St. Teresa of Avila

“My present trial seems to me a somewhat painful one, and I have the humiliation of knowing how badly I bore it at first. I now want to accept and to carry this little cross joyfully, to carry it silently, with a smile in my heart and on my lips, in union with the Cross of Christ. My God, blessed be Thou; accept from me each day the embarrassment, inconvenience, and pain this misery causes me. May it become a prayer and an act of reparation." -Elisabeth Leseur

Online Michael Wilson

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Re: Are excessively gory images of Christ wrong?
« Reply #8 on: Today at 10:44:10 AM »
Re. What N.N. Said about meditation on the Passion: St. Teresa in her book "The Way of Perfection" does state that while the Passion should be the preferred subject of meditation, there ares souls that are too sensitive and cannot bear to meditate on this subject. She recommended that they imitate on another subject in the life of Our Lord. She said it was a big mistake to leave off meditating on the Humanity of Jesus under the pretext of entering a "higher degree" of contemplation.
"The World Must Conform to Our Lord and not He to it." Rev. Dennis Fahey CSSP
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