The Curious Case of Andy Warhol

Known for being the iconoclastic pioneer of the Pop Art Movement, Andy Warhol was lauded as a hero of the Countercultural era. He was a gay man who came out before “#lovewins” was trending on Twitter . He was the owner-operator of The Factory, a popular hangout for New York City’s most salacious libertines. In other words, Andy Warhol was one to rub clean-cut, red-blooded conservatives the wrong way (pun intended).

And yet, unbeknownst to most, Andy Warhol was a Catholic. And no, he wasn’t your run-in-the-mill nominal Catholic who only attended mass on Christmas and Easter purely out of family obligation. Warhol was basically your Latin-chanting, rosary-welding, “holier than the Pope”, bonafide Roman Catholic.

Warhol was so Catholic, he attended mass daily at St.Vincent Ferrer in Manhattan’s Upper East Side. He was so Catholic, he produced an entire collection of religious paintings solely for his own devotion. He was so Catholic, he took immense pride in financing his nephew’s seminary education.

How could a man known for his fondness for voyeurism and homoerotic nude painting be so faithfully devoted to a church that frowns on the very act of homosexuality? Like many, Warhol had a complicated relationship with the Catholic Church.

Andy Warhol, artist, portrait, himself, white background

Andy Warhol (1928-1987)

Andy Warhol was born Andrew Warhola in Pittsburgh to an immigrant family originally from the village of Miko in present-day Slovakia. Being of Slavic origin, the family belonged to the Ruthenian Catholic Church, an eastern-rite branch of the Roman Catholic fold. During his childhood, faith was an intrinsic part of Warhol’s family life. It was planted as a cornerstone of his identity that could never be removed.

Ironically, Warhol’s Catholic faith was as essential to his core identity as his homosexuality.

I can’t help but wonder how Warhol was able to balance his sexually explicit public persona with his traditionally devout inner self.

It seem evident to me that, like most Catholics, Warhol was burdened with a tremendous amount of guilt. Despite attending mass daily, Warhol never received holy communion. He deemed himself unworthy of the sacrament.

Being that homosexuality is a sin in the eyes of the Catholic Church, Warhol claimed to be virgin, excluding acts of voyeurism and mastrubation. However, a few alleged ex-lovers tell a different tale.

I’ve come across a few articles from Catholic websites, hailing Andy Warhol as a model for gay Catholics. I find it amusing how, in our #lovewins era, the Church seems desperate to market itself as loving and tolerant to gay people, while simultaneously admonishing homosexuality as a “disorder”. The documentary film, The Third Way, is a perfect example of this phenomenon. I suppose it’s a preferable change of pace from the days of burning sodomites during the inquisition. However, in my opinion, the homophobic undertones behind the veneer of supposed acceptance is all too conspicuous.

According to those articles, Andy Warhol was the perfect example of a gay Catholic man who remained devoted to the faith and dedicated himself to a life of celibacy (which, as aforementioned, may not have been the case).

I’ve heard this line of rhetoric numerous times in Catholic circles. “Gays are called to be celebate”. Which raises the question, why didn’t God made them asexual if they are supposedly called to celebacy?

Andy Warhol was a legend. But he was also a troubled man drowned in guilt thanks to his religion. It’s baffling to me that the newly-emerging American Catholic youth culture is lauding Warhol’s supposed virginity as an example for all gay Catholics to live by. It’s indicative of an ulterior motive. The Church wants gays to negate their homosexual identity.

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