Westerly Sun editor David Tranchida is taking some heat for running this political cartoon:
According to his editorial on January 4th, LOOSE ENDS: Religion and a clash of opinions:
The caller was upset about the middle panel. It was disrespectful, he said, and an unwarranted attack. Had we known anything about the church we would know that the current pope and other current Vatican leaders have made great strides in addressing the abuse of children at the hands of priests that took place for decades.
But he wasn’t surprised that we ran the cartoon. The media loves to attack the Catholic church, he said, though other religions and other organizations seem to be able to commit heinous acts with little to no reporting or calls for accountability. And then he said it was clear I didn’t know the community I was serving.
Tranchida responded by stating his Catholic bona fides, assuring readers of his Italian-Catholic heritage before closing with:
We don’t agree with all the opinion pieces or cartoons on the editorial page. They are intended to provoke thought and debate by airing differing views. And I do think I serve readers willing to listen rather than bury their heads in the sand.
All well and good, but I think Tranchida misses the real issue here. Thought provoking points of view and critiques are only valid when aimed at legitimate targets, and in the minds of many who complain about political cartoons like the one above, religion in general and Catholicism in particular are special subjects that can never be subjected to satire or criticism.
This is religious privilege. Somehow religion has built a little bubble around itself that prevents anyone outside from subjecting it to rigorous questioning. From inside that bubble the religious can hurl all manner of absurdities, threats and insults: The Pope can offhandedly reprimand homosexuals and condemn them to hell, but pointing out that the same Pope has in the past protected pedophiles from criminal prosecution and thereby abetted the rape and torture of children causes those those in the bubble react with shock at your distasteful and crude attacks.
What are these thin-skinned defenders of faith afraid of? Why do they need to so vociferously counterattack each and every critique of their religion? Are they afraid that their protective bubble will pop, and some sort of reason and logic might penetrate, destroying their fragile beliefs? Or are they simply invested in the world view that privileges religion and religious beliefs over all others, what my friend Tony Houston calls the theonormative culture?