Priests say when it’s ok to joke about priests

The Ottawa Citizen asks: is it ever OK to satirize religious leaders or beliefs?

Which seems like a silly question. Yes, of course it is.

But asking it gets people to say why they think it’s not ok, and it’s useful to know why people think that.

First up is a rabbi, and a radio rabbi at that – head of Congregation Machzikei Hadas in Ottawa and host of Sunday night with  Rabbi Bulka on 580 CFRA.

…the fact that it is legally OK to make such comments does not translate into  it being OK on other levels.

The Pope was certainly no stranger to controversy, even within the church.  Arguing with his views on matters of principle is fair game. But this is all fair game when it is within the boundaries of respect.

Arguing not on the issues, and instead undercutting the person, is difficult  to justify. I can see it when there is evident hypocrisy, or lying, or deliberate truth twisting, but failing that, it is important that we have some appreciation of the sacred.

Well, Rabbi, there is evident hypocrisy and lying and deliberate truth twisting. But suppose there isn’t. Suppose there is only protection of child-raping priests, telling people in Africa (and everywhere else) not to use condoms, trying to force hospitals to refuse life-saving abortions, the effort to silence “radical feminist” nuns, refusal to contemplate the ordination of women while still expecting women to obey The Rules of The Church…and so on. Why is it important that we have so much “appreciation of the sacred” that we treat the head of an institution that perpetrates all that and more as above satire?

No, on the contrary. Bullshit like “appreciation of the sacred” is the main reason institutions like the Catholic church get away with so much evil activity.

A Catholic priest says what you would expect.

Particularly when talking or writing of the religious beliefs, traditions or  leaders of other faith communities, we need to pay special attention to how our  communications will be perceived by members of that community.

Uh huh. That’s what they think in Bangladesh, too…but only for certain understandings of “members of that community.” Some communities are more sacred than others.

The Anglican priest does a much better job of it.

There’s a difference, however, with humour whose sole intention is to hurt and  harm. Its unlovely and usually unfunny character is generally accompanied by a  sneering sense of superiority on the part of the “humorist.” It doesn’t really  matter if such humour is directed against religion or against any other persons  or sets of belief. The world hardly needs any more aggression, vitriol, or  contempt. Whatever our differences or conflicts, we all, as human beings,  deserve respect. We all need to try to develop empathy toward others.

Kevin Smith of CFI-Canada gets to grips with the particulars…to amusing effect.

If the Harper-Cons thought it an offensive issue, I have no doubt they would  have established, with suitable fanfare, the Office of Religious Freedom from  Satirical Persecution. Spoofing Buddhism or Bahá’i? They wouldn’t bother you.  Lampooning Catholics, certainly a stern warning letter. But mocking an  Evangelical would guarantee your name in a CSIS binder for life.

There are times when satirizing religion should be forbidden, where their  words or actions are no joking matter. History is littered with them.

For instance, any religion that not only fails to deal with sexual abuses of  children in their care but also willingly covers up the vile acts should be held  accountable in a court of law. Otherwise they’ll be the ones getting the last  laugh.

Skip the satire and call the cops.


  1. glodson says

    The rabbi is a great example of how religion gets a free pass. Somehow, it is special. It demands a respect it is not due.

    It is how the magic works. When we mock the religion, we show the charlatans for what they are. Con-men trying to co-opt the search for truth by smearing their bullshit all over it.

  2. And How says

    Quote from Rabbi defending religous leaders such as the pope:

    Children need to grow up with role models whom they respect — parents, teachers, elders, even friends

    This is pretty much the only statement you made there Rabbi that I agree with.

    But here is a news flash – the pope is NOT a role model for children. Not only do we have his personal role in shielding child abusers; we also have all the anti-women, anti-gay, anti-condom bullshit.

    All this coming from a guy who claims to be a mouthpiece of “God”. And since he is the mouthpiece of God, the papacy’s position is that its 1 Billion rank and file members accept these teachings without question.

    I’m convinced that the popes really believe themselves to be “moral wizards”. After all, they dress up in the fancy robe, silly shoes and wear that stupid looking 3 foot tall white cone atop their head. These guys are deluded. Sad thing is that with some – it works.

    Another point I’d like to make to the Rabbi is this:

    If the religous tradition or teaching is IMMORAL, then the religous tradition or teaching is NOT SACRED. I repeat, IMMORAL = NOT SACRED. Also, noone should we be expected to respect the religous leadership that pushes PRIMITIVE IMMORAL teachings that deny billions of basic human rights.

    I would really, really like to know why in hell this Rabbi thinks religous leadership should be treated with treated with kid gloves. I wonder if the Rabbi feels the same way about people satarize or speak out against political leaders?

    Get a clue Rabbi. That is my rant for the day, I feel better !

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