"I was horrified,” Smith said. "I believe in freedom of expression. I believe in artistic freedom. I believe that a church is a holy place, and I certainly don’t want people telling anyone how to worship, but I was shocked, stunned, and if I hadn’t been prepared already, I think I would have just been ill.” Smith said she grew more concerned upon learning that students from the neighboring St. Charles Borromeo Catholic School regularly attend Mass in the church. "I’m already very sensitive because of the pedophilia issue,” Smith said, referencing sexual abuse scandals that have plagued the Catholic Church in recent years. Smith said she stopped going to church because of those scandals. "This doesn’t make it any better,” Smith said.
Crucifix is a Catholic iconJaime, a local iconographer known for her religious artwork, was commissioned by the church to design the crucifix. Seeton wouldn’t disclose whether Jaime was paid. Jaime’s husband, Reggie, said his wife will not discuss the crucifix publicly until she meets with officials from the church and Oklahoma City Archdiocese to discuss the controversy it has caused. Reggie Jaime said critics of the crucifix probably aren’t aware of its history and meaning to the Catholic Church. "This isn’t just a subjective drawing. This is a historical icon of the church,” Reggie Jaime said. "I can’t help what you see in things, or she sees in things, or anyone.” The crucifix in question is a San Damiano cross, a common Catholic icon that originated in Italy in the 12th century and is widely associated with St. Francis of Assisi and the order he founded, the Franciscans. The original cross is in Assisi, Italy. The San Damiano cross is considered an icon because it depicts biblical figures. The crucifix hanging at St. Charles Borromeo resembles other San Damiano crucifixes except for Jesus’ abdominal area, which is noticeably more pronounced than on similar crucifixes. Seeton said he and Janet Jaime reviewed numerous San Damiano crucifixes to decide how the crucifix should look. Several parishioners have since come to Seeton with complaints about how the crucifix looks. Seeton said he tries to alleviate their concerns by explaining the history of the crucifix and pointing them to places where they can learn more about it. He said most parishioners are OK with the crucifix once they learn its history. Contributing: Staff Writer Jesse Olivarez The Oklahoman’s Watchdog Team: Looking out for you. Visit NewsOK.com/watchdog.
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Click the thumbnail images above to view other examples of San Damiano crucifixes.