Brooklyn diocese condemns SNL R. Kelly sex abuse jokes

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The Diocese of Brooklyn has demanded an apology from the NBC network, calling jokes comparing Catholics to supporters of a disgraced singer charged with child sexual abuse "disgraceful and offensive."

The jokes were broadcast by the late-night comedy show Saturday Night Live on March 9. Cast member Pete Davidson suggested that the only difference between practicing Catholicism and supporting disgraced R&B singer R. Kelly is that Kelly's music is "significantly better."

The Brooklyn diocese released a statement condemning the routine on Monday.

"The Diocese of Brooklyn is demanding an immediate public apology from Saturday Night Live and NBC," the statement from the diocese said.

"Apparently, the only acceptable bias these days is against the Catholic Church," said the statement.

The diocese criticized the use of the sex abuse crisis as a laugh line, "at the expense of the victims who have suffered irreparably," and insisted that widespread reforms had been instituted to prevent sexual abuse.

"The faithful of our Church are disgusted by the harassment by those in news and entertainment, and this sketch offends millions. The mockery of this difficult time in the Church's history serves no purpose."

During the Weekend Update segment of the show, Davidson said "If you support the Catholic Church, isn't that the same thing as being an R. Kelly fan?"

Kelly, a former songwriter for Michael Jackson, was indicted in February on 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse. He was the subject of a recent documentary series Surviving R. Kelly, in which several women accused him of sexual abuse against both adults and minors.

The SNL audience had a mixed reaction in response to the joke, while Davidson added that the only difference between the Catholic Church and R. Kelly is that "one's music is significantly better."

"The other day, my Mom is like 'I'm going to Mass' and I'm like OK, I'm going to go listen to the Ignition remix," said Davidson, referring to Kelly's hit single from 2002. Davidson also called Kelly a "monster" who should be jailed.

Davidson was raised Catholic and graduated from a Catholic high school in Brooklyn before briefly attending St. Francis College.

Kelly has a long history of accusations of sexual misconduct. In 1994, Kelly, who was 27 years old, illegally married his protege Aaliyah, who was only 15 years old at the time. Kelly used a fake birth certificate that claimed the singer was 18. The marriage was annulled in 1995, and Kelly was not charged for the illegal relationship. In 2008, he was acquitted on 14 counts of child pornography that stemmed from a video discovered in 2002.

In January 2019, Kelly was dropped from his record label. He maintains his innocence, and said recently in an interview that he is "fighting for his life" against the charges.

The Diocese of Brooklyn said in its statement that "it is likely that no other institution has done more than the Catholic Church to combat and prevent sexual abuse."

"The insensitivity of the writers, producers, and the cast of SNL around this painful subject is alarming."

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