Yet more papal gossip emerged this week, as the Foreign Office was lambasted for a “disgusting” memo which suggested that the Pope might encourage condom use, bless gay marriage and sponsor a network of AIDS clinics.

Okay, so Steven Mulvain (the guy behind it) actually suggested the Pope make his own brand of condoms. But the point remained that it was these suggestions that were “hugely offensive” to the Catholic Church.

Despite the Pope’s courageous vow of silence on all matters of significance, some of his colleagues couldn’t help but take the bait. While admittedly it would have been less contentious had it not come from the foreign office, what was essentially a private joke was heavily criticised for implying that the Pope might take a vital step towards controlling AIDS in the Third World and bringing Catholic ideas on women’s and homosexuals’ rights into the twenty-first century.

There appeared to be many parallels with the reaction of Revolution Islam to the perceived depiction of Muhammad in a bear suit by South Park.

In a plot twist, it turned out that it was in fact Santa in the bear suit, so there never was any depiction of Muhammad. The fact is, however, that even had they shown a picture they called Muhammad, it would in no way be the prophet of Islam.

The Muhammad of the Quran could no more be depicted by South Park than Buddha can be truly depicted snorting cocaine, or Jesus truly depicted murdering terrorists. The religious figures in South Park are merely characters that take on traits to suit a story designed to purvey a particular ethical or political stance.

In this case their point was that dogma within religion is getting in the way of common sense and prevailing modern standards. Revolution Islam’s subsequent issuing of what was effectively a death threat over showing Muhammad in a bear suit just reinforced their point.

Mulvain’s point was very similar – it is outright wrong in today’s society to take the Catholic Church’s view on contraception and homosexuality. It was a heavy-handed critique, but part of the point was that in fact the world would be a better place with Benedict-brand condoms.

The point is that, like Revolution Islam, the Catholic Church are mistaking God for a bear suit.

The essence of Christianity is in “love your neighbour as yourself” – a message of charity, equality and social responsibility. The God of Christianity is no more depicted in outdated misogynistic and homophobic dogma than that of Islam is depicted by South Park.
The Pope knows his Bible verses. Perhaps he realised this. “Love your neighbour as yourself”. Catchy. A slogan perhaps?

Maybe the reason behind his outrage isn’t because of an outdated moral code at all. The Pope’s a clever guy – he knows an opportunity when he sees one.

He’s not morally outraged – he’s just been found out. Benedict-brand condoms would have been a real money-spinner. He could even have extended into Benedict-brand toys, Benedict-brand lube. A whole business model has been wasted due to one stupid joke. Mulvain let the cat out of the bag too soon.

In similar vein, perhaps we can see the reason behind Revolution Islam’s reaction to South Park. Perhaps there is an element of truth.

There was outrage in Saudi Arabia when British woman Gillian Gibbons named a bear Muhammad, and now there has been another over-the-top reaction to his ursine depiction. Muslims banned images being drawn of Muhammad.