Mar 23, 2006 / 22:00 pm
The Catholic Church in New Zealand is lodging an official complaint with the country’s Broadcasting Standards Authority after a television channel aired an episode of South Park, which depicted a statue of the Virgin Mary menstruating.
Chief Operating Officer of C4, Rick Friesen, apologized for any offence caused by the controversial “Bloody Mary” episode, which aired Feb. 22. During the broadcast, a group of about 400 Catholics prayed the rosary and sang Marian hymns outside C4’s studio.
The station received dozens of complaints over the episode, but did not uphold any based on the country’s Television Code. However, Friesan admitted, the channel misjudged the number of people who would be offended.
The COO said the channel has "detected a shift in the public's perspective on matters of a religious nature” and has since “reviewed [its] internal processes for dealing with religious programs, particularly in relation to religious satire," reported the New Zealand Catholic. The station has decided not to rebroadcast the episode.
A similar situation developed in the United States a few months ago, when the program was aired Dec. 7. Comedy Central, which broadcast the show, also decided to cancel scheduled repeats of the episode.
Catholic Communications national director Lyndsay Freer questioned Friesen’s claim that his channel has "detected a shift in the public's perspective."
"What they really mean is that they have learned the hard way that the public will not put up with arrogant denigration of groups of their fellow citizens simply because the media perceives that it can get away with it."
In February, the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference asked CanWest Media, C4’s parent company, not to screen the episode. They said the decision to air it was “arrogant” and “cynical” and urged Catholics to consider boycotting the station and their advertisers.
“Press freedom is not a license to incite intolerance or to promote hatred or derision based on religion, race or gender,” they said in a Feb. 14 letter. “We believe that while most of us have a sense of humor, there are some things that go beyond the bounds.”
Friesen said he is confident the Broadcasting Standards Authority will not uphold any complaint from the Catholic Church because he does not believe the program breached any broadcasting codes.