Holy Mary, mother of God ... lactivist icon?

The Vatican condones depictions of baby Jesus at the breast.

Published June 25, 2008 6:56PM (EDT)

It's not every day that the Vatican admonishes worshipers to stop being such a bunch of prudes, but that's apparently what happened earlier this week in the pages of L'Osservatore Romano, the official newspaper of the Holy See, according to the Telegraph.

Not one but two articles in the Vatican's official organ called on the devout to be more accepting of images of Mary breast-feeding the baby Jesus. Apparently, many paintings depicting the Madonna's bare breasts have been "censored by the modern age" because they have been considered "unseemly." But divinity scholars argue that these images of mother and breast-feeding child have important religious significance.

"Jesus was a baby like all others. His divinity does not exclude his humanity," writes church historian Lucetta Scaraffia, who wants images of the Madonna with baby at the breast to be rehabilitated. Father Enrico dal Covolo, a professor of Christian literature at the Pontifical Salesian University, agrees, writing: "The Virgin Mary who nurses her son Jesus is one of the most eloquent signs that the word of God truly and undoubtedly became flesh."

I foresee new lactivist slogans in the making, such as: "Offended by public nursing? Tell it to the pope!"

By Katharine Mieszkowski

Katharine Mieszkowski is a senior writer for Salon.

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