Chocolate Jesus Display Shut Down After Catholic Outcry

By Melanie Arter | July 7, 2008 | 8:06 PM EDT

( - A Manhattan art gallery cancelled plans Friday to exhibit a life-sized naked Jesus made out of chocolate during the Easter season after news of the exhibit ignited anger among the Catholic community.

The "My Sweet Lord" display was created by artist Cosimo Cavallaro and made out of more than 200 pounds of chocolate. It shows Christ stretched out as if on the cross.

"The media have reported that a so-called 'work of art,' manifestly intended to offend the Christians of our community, will be displayed during Holy Week in the Roger Smith Hotel in Manhattan," Cardinal Edward Egan, archbishop of New York, said in a statement.

"It is a scandalous carving of Jesus Christ allegedly made out of chocolate. What the Roger Smith Hotel would hope to achieve by this sickening display, no one seems to know. The Catholic community is alerted to this offense of our faith and sensitivities. This is something we will not forget," Egan added.

As a result of the outcry, the hotel shut down the show, which led the Lab Gallery's creative director, Matt Semler, to submit his resignation. He said critics of the display haven't even seen the show and "jumped to conclusions completely contrary to our intentions."

Semler said the display was "intended as a meditation on the Holy Week."

"The cowards at the Roger Smith Hotel, who were brazen enough to tease their trash to selected media sources over the past few days, have shut down and are refusing to talk to the press," said William Donohue, president of the Catholic League, in a statement on the group's website.

"But the artist has decided to go his own way. He is now inviting everyone to eat his chocolate Jesus," Donohue added.

"The Roger Smith Hotel is morally bankrupt. It is the goal of the Catholic League to make it financially bankrupt as well," Donohue said, announcing a direct mail campaign calling for a boycott of the hotel.

"These organizations represent millions of Americans across religious lines, as well as those who belong to non-sectarian groups. All of them can be counted on to never hold a conference at the hotel. And more -- they will let all of their allies know about this incident," he said.

"The Roger Smith Hotel will rue the day it sought to declare war on Christian sensibilities," Donohue added.

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