New Zealand's Prime Minister Helen Clark an avowed agnostic said she found the depiction of a statue of a menstruating Virgin Mary on upcoming episode of SOUTH PARK offensive, reports the SYDNEY MORNING HERALD. Despite protests and a call for a boycott from Roman Catholic bishops, Channel 4 plans to still air the controversial episode in May.
"I'm not a religious person myself, but I think it is important to show religious faiths respect and tolerance towards each other," Clark said at her weekly news conference. "It comes down to issues of taste and judgment. From what I've heard of it, I consider it quite offensive personally. As a woman, I find it offensive."
She said the fervor over the SOUTH PARK episode is probably being fueled by the widespread Muslim protests over the publication of newspaper cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad. Two New Zealand newspapers had reprinted the Muhammad cartoons.
New Zealand's seven Catholic bishops signed a pastoral letter that was read to worshippers at services on Sunday, Feb. 19, 2006, and dubbed the episode "ugly and tasteless."
"The Catholic Church has long been regarded as fair game for satire and derision," the bishops said. "We believe that, while most of us have a sense of humor, there are some things that go beyond the bounds."
The clergy called for the country's 500,000 Catholics to boycott the channel, its sister TV3 and advertisers if the episode is broadcast.
Rick Friesen, coo of CanWest TV Works, which owns both channels, told newspapers that if Catholics feel they will be offended, they should switch it off.
"There's a lot more issues in the world the Catholic and other religions need to be concerned about rather than a half-hour satirical comedy," he told Wellington's DOMINION POST. "It's only television. It's really not that big a deal."
The episode aired on Comedy Central in the U.S. last year, but a repeat airing was cancelled after a Catholic group protested.