Thursday, December 22, 2005

Queen of Heaven: "We are not amused."

FAIR WARNING: The more spiritually squeamish among you might find some of this post's content, um, well, offensive. An unfortunate ad snuck past the censors at the Jesuit weekly America, one that involves both a statue of the Virgin Mary and a condom. Forewarned is forearmed.

Poor America! First its editor, Tom Reese, SJ, resigns under pressure from the Vatican, and now this. The Dec. 5 issue includes an ad for a "unique contemporary religious artwork," the description of which follows: "A stunning 22 cm high statue of the Virgin Mary standing atop a serpent wearing a delicate veil of latex. $300 plus shipping from the UK."

Now you'd think the "delicate veil" would have caught someone's attention, but if that didn't work the photo of the piece--you guessed it, typical Virgin Mary with a pink condom stretched over her--probably should have, but unfortunately for America didn't. To top it all off, the piece was titled "Extra Virgin." Oh dear.

Evidently, the ad was sent in black and white, so the ad folks missed it, and since editors usually don't look at advertising (this I know from experience), they missed it too. So it took readers to notice it.

Jim Martin, SJ, one of America's associate editors, offered this for explanation: "We're Jesuits. I don't think you could have found anyone in the editors' room who has seen a condom." Aw, come on! I can't believe he said that with a straight face!

The "artist" was allegedly trying to call attention to the Catholic church's opposition to condom use to prevent the spread of HIV. While I agree with him on that, I would discourage anyone else from stretching latex over religious images--people tend to get grumpy when you do that.

I've been experimenting with putting images on the blog, but thought I ought to skip this one. But I have seen the ad... Wow, that's a BIG miss. But, being an editor myself, it happens.


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