Ross Kolby

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And the truth shall make you free

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Oil on wood, 140 x 120 cm. 2013. (Details of the painting after the text.)


For 1,800 years the Catholic Church has been the site of unspeakable crimes. Performed by the clergymen onto the most vulnerable in the Kingdom of Christ; the children of the Catholic Church.


Along with the painting Kolby made a 10 minute documentary film about the crimes and published it on YouTube:



For almost two millenniums, the thought of placing a Catholic clergyman in the indictment box of a court was unthinkable. The Church was left to deal with its own - until 1983.


That year numerous allegations of sexual abuse hit Father Gilbert Gauthe in the archdiocese of Louisiana - and shook the public and the Church in their foundations. Two years later, for the first time in history, a Catholic priest was sentenced to prison. Gauthe was found guilty of having sexually abused 37 children, and was to spend the next 20 years in jail.


The conviction of Father Gauthe breached an enormous dam. The following years came a flood of allegations of clerical child molesting, not only in the United States, but all over the Catholic world. The sexual crimes spanning nearly two thousand years could no longer be kept secret.


Shocked by these facts, Kolby in the spring of 2013 started the work with a painting dealing with the topic. The motif was clear to him from the beginning; a portrait of the very symbol of the church. Kolby wanted to paint "God's representative on Earth", but in a portrait unlike all previous images of a Pontiff. In a silent and tormented cry Kolby's Pope stares at the spectator, clinching a letter in his hand - containing a list of priests who have been convicted of sexual abuse of children.


Is his outcry caused by the devastating scandal of all the convicted priests - or is it because the Church's dark secret finally has been revealed? Kolby leaves to the viewer to decide that.


The inspiration to the motive was a mix of his countryman Edvard Munch's "The Scream" from 1893 and Francis Bacon's "Study after Velázquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X" from 1953. Munch's iconic work has become the single most famous depiction of fear and anguish. Kolby's screaming Pope has adapted much of the disturbing atmosphere from the two masterworks.



(Copyright; The National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design/The Munch-Ellingsen Group/BONO 2013)


Hundreds upon hundreds of Catholic clergymen have been convicted of child molestation around in courts around the world since 1985. What the numbers would have been through history is unfathomable. But even more shocking, is the fact that these priests and brothers have been given protection and help to hide their crimes by the Church itself - not only from their dioceses - but from the very top.


The first mentioning of sexual abuse of children in the Catholic Church are in the penitential books; the Church's religious manual, from the 7th century. Then, in year 1051 Italian Father Peter Damian wrote a book denouncing the priests' widespread sexual abuse of minors - and demanded the Pope to take decisive action. Damian later made it all the way to Cardinal, without being able to end the Church's crimes.


But nothing was done. And now - a thousand years alter, still all too little is done to protect the children of the Catholic Church.


In his book "Beyond Belief" British investigative author David Yallop reveals the truth about the global extent of the clerical child abuse. With a stunning mass of evidence he shows how the Catholic Church has acted to hide the crimes, has stopped reports, investigations and initiatives that would reveal the abusive clergymen.



(Copyright; David Yallop. 2013)


The massive child abuse scandal has a price. The legal systems rule high economic compensation for the victims, and in the United States alone the Church's financial cost has passed six billion dollars. In Ireland it is in excess of two billion dollars, and it will cost the rest of the Catholic world at least another two billion dollars.


But there is a spiritual cost of these crimes that is far higher than the economic one. Families are torn apart, victims need years of treatment and many commit suicide. That is the price an unfathomable number of children and relatives have paid throughout history - and still pays - because of criminal priests and a Church protecting them.


In recent years the Church has spoken many fine words about how they will end clerical child abuse - but far from enough has changed. A thousand years ago Father Damian demanded that the Pope should take decisive action on the child abusive priests and brothers. That is no less needed today. The enormous, worldwide institution does not easily change. What the Pope forcefully states in a speech in Rome may not affect the way a Catholic orphanage is run in the countryside in Ireland or Nigeria, and the abuse continues.


Only the Pope can put enough force into the efforts to end these hideous crimes. And only the newly elected Pope Francis can demonstrate whether he hears the echo of St. Peter Damaian's thousand year old demand - and stops the darkest chapter of Catholic priesthood.



(Copyright; The Catholic Church, England and Wales. 2013)




 

Kolby's first sketch of the screaming Pope. Pencil on paper.




 


(The model for Kolby's painting, Norwegian actor Erling Klaussen. Photo: private)














































































Ross Kolby

«Painting, writing or acting are like colours on my palette. I mix them and make use of the crafts to create living, breathing, believable characters - people that I feel inside me»

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