Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Sticks and stones

The Catholic bishops of New Zealand are making one last-ditch effort to prevent the airing of a particularly offensive episode of South Park. "Bloody Mary," which features a bleeding statue of the BVM that later is discovered to be menstruating, has been given the go-ahead by N.Z.'s Broadcasting Standards Authority. The Catholic bishops have one more shot at an appeal and are raising the money to do so. The episode received a record 35 complaints seeking to prevent the it from airing.

As offensive as this show is, though--and let's admit that this episode is indeed particularly repulsive--I'm not sure protest is the best response. In fact, I wonder if getting all hot and bothered about things like this just encourages further abuse. Sometimes people do things just to get a rise out of their target, and we Catholics seem to get in a huff pretty easily.

I wonder, too, if there's not a message for us in South Park and similar parodies: In a way, they tell us how we're viewed by a certain segment of the population, one that for better or worse tends to decide how we might be viewed. It's certainly true that visions of Mary in frosted glass, in a stain beneath a Chicago underpass, and on a grilled cheese sandwich make Catholics seem a little credulous, even silly.

There's also no denying that there are are some people who use alleged visions of Mary to drive their ideological agenda. Isn't there a woman in New Jersey who claims that the BVM appears to her to vomit in disgust over abortion and to complain about lay people distributing communion? Even the bishop of the diocese in which Medjugorje is located has asked the visionaries there to stop claiming that Mary is appearing to them, as the alleged visions there have been as much a source of discord as harmony in that diocese.

At any rate, if we don't like South Park, we probably shouldn't watch. But it's probably not best to ignore it either. As for the BVM, I don't think she's in any danger.


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