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Cleric rapped for using Nazi term on art

A leading member of the Catholic Church in Germany was criticized for using Nazi terminology to complain about modern art.

Cardinal Joachim Meisner of Cologne in a sermon warned against the separation of culture from religion, which he said leads to the “degeneration of culture.” Critics say it was a poor choice of words, as the Nazis used the word “degenerate” to describe nearly all modern art that was banned.

The Central Council of Jews in Germany added to the volley of criticism coming from politicians and pundits. The council’s chief representative, Stephan Kramer, likened the cardinal to a “spiritual arsonist.” The archdiocese rejected the criticism as “completely out of proportion.”

Meisner made his remarks after the opening of the new Art Museum Kolumba in Cologne.

He told reporters that he only wanted to say that art and culture should be bound together, and that when they are not, both suffer. He denied adopting Nazi terminology, and insisted his remarks were taken out of context. He said he was “appalled” that his call to safeguard the relationship with God could be so misinterpreted.

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