Archbishop John Nienstedt's anti-gay DVD becomes art fodder

What would Jesus do?
What would Jesus do?
Photo: midiman

Minnesota Archbishop John Nienstedt is helming the mailing of 400,000 anti-gay marriage DVDs to Catholic households this week.

If you don't know what to do with yours, maybe you should forward it to Lucinda Naylor, who wants to assemble the discs into an art installation protesting the archbishop's political campaign.

An Artist in Residence at the Basilica of St. Mary, she says she wants to take the negative message from the archbishop and transform it into something completely new, inclusive and positive. "I don't really want it to be "anti" anything," she said. "I want it to be a different message."

The DVDs were produced by the Knights of Columbus, and a secret donor paid for the massive mailing, but "I personally do not know the cost of the DVD or the mailing," Nienstedt told MPR. "It was an anonymous person -- who asked to remain anonymous -- came forth and said that they would be very happy to support this project."

Nienstedt also says the DVDs are supposed to be "educational," not political. But the production is political on its face, with a specific call to action: Catholics should seek a state constitutional amendment barring sex couples from marrying.

But Naylor has other ideas. And the response to her call for donations has gathered speed, through her Facebook page, friendly blog posts and news media coverage. So much so that she's going to need volunteers to help her gather the material.

She was prompted to act for two reasons, she says. First, women friends of hers with gay children had written letters to Nienstedt begging him to cool his hostile rhetoric about same sex couples and marriage. In return, she says, they got form letters questioning their salvation.

Then she opened up the newspaper on Wednesday and saw the story about the mass mailing and thought to herself, "I can't believe he's wasting time and money on this." Where are similar campaigns before the election, tackling poverty, joblessness and health care, she wanted to know.

At this point, Naylor says she's not exactly what form her art will take, but she envisions an inspirational depiction of fire or water as a 3D sculpture, and she hopes to have it finished before the election.

She's pretty sure it won't be permitted to be displayed in any Catholic church, though. For that matter, she's not sure the archdiocese will even permit her to stay on as the Basilica's artist in residence.

"Maybe," she said, "we'll put up temporarily outside the archbishop's residence."

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