Saturday, December 17, 2005

Conveniently Ignoring the Obvious

America magazine made a mistake. It ran a deceptively presented and offensive advertisement in its December 5 issue. I find the advertisement offensive and so, by the way, do the Jesuits at America. This should come as no surprise.

Yet, what was obviously an oversight by whomever is responsible for vetting the advertisements, has become another opportunity for the tiresome anti-Jesuit voices to chastise us bad Jesuits.

Bill Cork is “shocked” and “outraged,” and for good reason, but his shock and outrage is misdirected. He should be shocked and outraged at Steve Rosenthal, the artist who duped America magazine into running what, at first glance, looks simply like an ad for a piece of devotional artwork.

Yes, somebody at America obviously dropped the ball on vetting the ad copy. But to even suggest that the offending advertisement was included deliberately and conscious of what, at second glance, the ad seems obviously to be selling is disingenuous.

And how should a responsible Catholic journalist act when coming across such an obvious oversight? If it were me, I would charitably contact the magazine and make them aware of the problem, so they can catch it before the next issue comes out. But that's just me. I would not write a caustic commentary as Joseph Bottum does. And Diogenes’ acerbic rant against “America’s thinking Catholics” shows very little thought itself.

Criticize the magazine for the oversight, if you want. That's fair. But don't be so silly as to imply that it was knowingly done. That, too, is offensive.


Blogger angelmeg said...

One of my friends saw the add, and sent a letter making them aware of what they might not have noticed. No chastisement, just a heads up (no pun intended).

He then told me that it actually made him feel a bit better, to think that even a magazine like America could let something like that accidently slip by without noticing.

I had to read the copy a few times myself to get the gist of what was going on. But then I have led a really sheletered life.


10:14 PM  
Blogger Steve Bogner said...

I read each issue, but was oblivious to that goof.

Mistakes happen. It's still one of the best Catholic publications out there.

10:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would like to give America the benebit of the doubt; however, the the ad specifically states that it is a "22 cm high statue of the Virgin Mary standing atop a serpent wearing a deliate veil of latex." It is hard to believe that America wasn't aware of what the "art" depicted.

7:08 PM  
Blogger Gen X Revert said...

Anyone who is aware of things in the Church can't help but think this WAS deliberate on the part of someone at the magazine. When I had a 1 year subscription years ago, I couldn't believe how much the magazine hated Pope John Paul II. Not disagreed with him, intellectually argued his writings, etc.. but HATED. I am told the magazine has gotten better, but I don't see any evidence of the Jesuits becoming more Catholic. Sorry. Thing is, the Jesuits created the mess they are in, as did most religious orders, and you can't blame people for assuming the worst, when they have seen the worst.

7:06 PM  
Blogger Mark Mossa, SJ said...


If all Jesuits were as you think they are, I would not be a member of their company. I've been reading America magazine for years, even before I was a Jesuit, and I never got the impression that they hated John Paul II. I think the problem is, and it is reflected in this whole debate, is that many people think that to criticize someone means you have to hate them. This may be the reality of contemporary politics, but this is not a Christian point of view.

One can be critical of a Pope without hating him, and one can be critical of the Jesuits without hating them as well!

Thanks for your comments.


7:49 PM  
Blogger Jen P said...

Apparently I have led a sheltered life, too. Even *knowing* that it "was offensive," I had to look at the picture multiple times and read the copy three times before I was certain I knew what the problem was. That copy would have made it past me, no problem.

The hysteria over America is, in my opinion, totally misguided. It's not always orthdox, but it is always intelligent. This joke doesn't have enough class for that magazine.

9:16 PM  

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