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How do you spell mea culpa?

Post by Patrick O'Callahan on March 30, 2009 at 6:09 pm |
March 30, 2009 6:09 pm

We’ve gotten a raft of complaints from Roman Catholics – and at least one Lutheran – about a Mike Peters cartoon we ran a week ago Saturday that depicted the Pope covered by a condom.

It was a criticism of the questions he’d raised about the use of condoms to prevent the spread of AIDS in Africa. Political cartoonists are not big on subtlety.

When possible, we respond to every critic who brings a complaint to us. Here’s one response I wrote today:

I’m sorry the political cartoon we published a week ago was the cause of distress in your home. Although I didn’t select that cartoon myself, I am responsible for the opinion section and ultimately for the publication of the cartoon in question.

I and the editorial board of The News Tribune have the utmost respect for the Roman Catholic Church. Our opinion pages serve as a forum for many different points of view, some conflicting with each other and some conflicting with our own. They are meant to be provocative and to stimulate thought about important issues in the news.

There’s often a fine line between being provocative and critical, and being merely insulting. We have to look for that line on a daily basis, with many of the items we print, and I can’t say that we invariably get it right.

In this case, the cartoon reflected a widespread criticism of Pope Benedict’s comments about condoms. Much of the criticism did not address the nuances of the Pope’s comments, but our section runs commentary – including cartoons – even from critics whose own views are open to criticism. We will print the other side, too; we have already run letters attacking the cartoon. Tomorrow, in fact, we are running a defense of the Pope’s comments written by a senior researcher at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Again, I’m sorry the cartoon caused distress. It does not reflect the editorial board’s view of Pope Benedict XVI or the Catholic Church.

Patrick O’Callahan

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