Offending gays or speaking ill of Muslims is a cultural taboo, but mocking the Blessed Virgin Mary is just good clean fun.
That was the approach the Santa Fe Reporter took when it published its 2013 Summer Guide. The New Mexico weekly’s cover featured a full-page cartoon of Our Lady of Guadalupe in a strapless yellow bikini and sunglasses, sipping a margarita, accompanied by a beer-drinking hiker and a shirtless cowboy.
The cover sparked outrage from Catholics in Santa Fe, including one letter to the editor which declared the picture a “slap across the face” to Catholics and urged the Reporter “not to take Our Lady, who we Catholics venerate and adore, and use her image to shock and mock the faithful and the Catholic faith.”
The Huffington Post, on the other hand, laughed the matter off. Joking that the paper was in “hot holy water,” HuffPo Live Host Caroline Modarressy-Tehrani smirked that “understandably, Catholics are smidgen upset,” but emphasized the “deluge of hate mail” the paper has recieved. And, of course, Tehrani ended with a disrespectful joke: “I just don’t understand why she’s drinking a margarita and not a Virgin Mary,” she remarked snidely, “Just seems like the obvious choice.”
Of course, popular secular media have taken aim at the Blessed Virgin before as the target of their ribald and inappropriate jokes. The image of Our Lady of Guadalupe was blasphemously usurped to push politics in years past, for instance, and Mexico’s Playboy magazine took Christmastime as an opportunity to attack Christians and push porn by mocking the Virgin Mary on the cover of their December issue in 2008.
But the Santa Fe Reporter tried to justify the image as not blasphemous by claiming that it was not meant “to insult or denigrate any religion or ethnicity,” but simply to incorporate “part of Santa Fe's culture into an image that also unites other diverse cultures." The paper’s publisher, Andy Dudzik, gave a similar excuse by saying that Our Lady of Guadalupe “is a cultural icon in this town, not just a religious one … Which means she belongs to the whole community and not just the church.”
So the image of the Mother of God, which is a focal devotional point for Mexican and American Catholics, can be offensively degraded just because she is connected to a particular culture? Sure. That makes a whole lot of sense.