Religion: How to Spell Universal

"All this is preposterous," boomed Academician Eugenic d'Ors. "We have to draw the line somewhere."

The 74-year-old patriarch of Spanish art critics limped scornfully out of Madrid's baroque Crystal Palace. What shocked him, and many another Spaniard, was an exhibit of religious art from Roman Catholic mission fields. Traditionalist Spaniards looked with anger upon the freedom with which the faraway artists had rendered scantily clad Virgins, Chinese Holy Families, Indian Gods squatting Buddha-like—all dominated by a huge statue of Christ dressed as a sannyasi (Hindu ascetic) renouncing this world.

Part of the work was shown at the Vatican itself last summer (TIME,...

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