Madonna has always been a lightning rod for scandals both religious and sexual. From "Like a Virgin" (1984) to "Like a Prayer" (1989) to her last Confessions Tour in 2005—not to mention her choice of stage name—the singer has long limned her freewheeling sexuality with symbols of the Roman Catholic Church. Perhaps, then, it should come as no surprise that her latest tour has sparked a controversy inside the church in Poland. The trigger: the scheduling of the singer's Warsaw concert on Aug. 15— the holy day of the church's real Madonna, the Feast of Assumption of the Blessed Mary.
Fundamentalist Catholics see the timing as provocative and blasphemous. Marian Brudzynski, a former member of the ultrareligious party LPR (the League of Polish Families) and the leader of the ultrareligious group, called on local and national leaders to cancel the performance. Neither the political leaders nor the mainstream church leaders have responded to Brudzynski's petition and his demand that they denounce Madonna, but Brudzynski has called for a "prayer crusade" that will begin Aug. 1 and continue every day in front of Warsaw's city hall.
Bruczynski has gained support in some prominent circles. Former president Lech Walesa has come out saying that he believes a concert like this shouldn't take place on such a holy day. Columnist Tomasz Terlikowski from the influential weekly Wprost argues that holding the concert on so holy a day is a stupid idea, and parliamentarian Marian Blaszczak has gone so far as to suggest that the organizers deliberately picked the date to profit from the controversy. Ordinary Poles are less certain: online debates tend to favor the view that the concert was not a provocation and that the religious protesters are mainly seeking publicity.
Jaroslaw Dabrowski, the mayor of Bemowo—the concert venue on the outskirts of Warsaw—says organizers assured him that the date was dictated by the calendar of the singer's current Sticky and Sweet Tour. Bishop Piotr Jarecki, the president of the Council for Social Affairs of the Polish Episcopate, shared the view that the date was probably a coincidence rather than an act of malice. Some skeptics, though, think that the tour managers may have deliberately courted controversy to generate buzz for the tour. To support this theory, they cite Madonna's latest choice of boyfriend, whose name—Jesus—has provided endless fodder for tabloid headlines like WILL MADONNA MARRY JESUS. (Jesus, for the record, is 22-year-old Brazilian model Jesus Luz.) Latest reports say that 50-year-old Madonna has dumped the younger man, but the blogosphere buzz may yet outlast the relationship.
Indeed, Madonna may not even know of the Polish controversy. News coverage of her tour has been dominated by a crane collapse that killed two during the setup of her stage in the French city of Marseilles. Reviewers, meanwhile, have focused on the energy of her dance and gymnastic routines as she has moved through Europe. Others may yet focus their spotlight on those skin-hugging costumes and superbuff muscles, but unless Jesus opts for a kiss-and-tell-all, Madonna's latest flash point will remain more spiritual than corporeal.