Madonna calls out Catholic Church over ‘hypocritical’ attacks – while dressing up as Virgin Mary

Madonna wearing a Virgin Mary-style headpiece for Vanity Fair, and a picture from her Like A Prayer video, in which she's peering between prison bars and wears a crucifix around her neck

Madonna called out the Catholic Church while dressing both Jesus and the Virgin Mary in a Vanity Fair photo shoot.

The music legend, who is embarking on her Celebration tour later in 2023, has never shied away from using religious iconography, particularly of the Virgin Mary, as part of her artistic vision.

And her latest photoshoot with Vanity Fair is heavy on religious allegory – she poses as the other Madonna, and channels Jesus in an alternate last supper with an all-female cast of disciples.

Madonna’s continuous references to her Catholic upbringing have caused her backlash in the past, not least over her 1989 “Like A Prayer” music video which featured burning crosses and erotic images of Jesus.

The video was condemned by the Catholics, including the Vatican, and Pope John Paul II called for a boycott of her subsequent tour, Blond Ambition.

Madonna reflected on the row, telling Vanity Fair that while promoting In Bed With Madonna, her Blond Ambition tour film, she was “shocked to see myself being attacked by the Church, because they weren’t able to understand how much my work was trying to produce something good”.

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“I quickly realised that they were the problem, not me,” she added, “They were the problem because they hadn’t understood that my work as an artist united people, gave them freedom of expression, unity. 

“It was the mirror of Jesus’ teachings. Whoever attacked me was just a hypocrite.”

She reflected on how she felt “exposed” dressing as the Virgin Mary for her cover shoot, with the image taking her “back to Rome” where she was “fiercely criticised by the Catholic Church”.

In 2015, Madonna tried to set up a meeting with Pope Francis.

“I’m a good Catholic. I swear!” she tweeted at the time, adding it didn’t “seem fair” that she had been “excommunicated three times”.

Also in the interview, Madonna expanded on what she meant by promoting diversity and inclusion, as someone who has been hailed a gay icon by the LGBTQ+ community.

She said that it was queer people and people of colour who helped her when she was a “nobody” without “money and without food”.

“How could I ever not support them myself?” she added.

“The more time passes, the more I understand that I am an artist and a person who must give a voice to those who are marginalised.”

As for her own religion, Madonna said these days she “cultivates” her “spiritual practices” and doesn’t believe in “adhering to a dogma without study”.

Madonna has been a defender of LGBTQ+ rights for decades, from working combat HIV stigma during the height of the crisis to challenging Russia’s anti-LGBTQ laws.

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