Wednesday, January 04, 2006                                                                                       View Comments

"South Park" Parked by Complaints

by Sarah Hall

Did Comedy Central grant the Catholic League its Christmas wish?

Following the Dec. 7 season finale of South Park, titled "Bloody Mary," the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights slammed the network for its irreverent portrayal of church icons and sought to block the episode from being rebroadcast.

It appears the group may have met with success. A repeat of the finale was scheduled to air Wednesday night, but was seemingly pulled from the Comedy Central lineup without explanation.

In the episode, a statue of the Virgin Mary is believed to be bleeding from its rear end, inspiring faithful parishioners to flock from miles around to be healed by the miraculous blood.

Eventually, Pope Benedict XVI is called in to investigate, whereupon he determines that the statue is actually menstruating and thus is nothing special.

"A chick bleeding out her vagina is no miracle," the pope declares in the episode. "Chicks bleed out their vaginas all the time."

Somewhat predictably, the Catholic League was incensed by the satirical portrayal of the Virgin Mary and the pope and by the fact that the episode aired on the day before the Catholic Church celebrated its Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

The conservative group demanded an apology from Viacom, Comedy Central's parent company, to Roman Catholics everywhere and "a pledge that this episode be permanently retired and not be made available on DVD."

The Catholic League also sought a personal condemnation from Viacom board member Joseph A. Califano Jr., who the group noted is a "practicing Catholic."

Califano was only too happy to oblige. After viewing the episode, he released a statement calling the episode an "appalling and disgusting portrayal of the Virgin Mary."

"It is particularly troubling to me as a Roman Catholic that the segment has run on the eve and day of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, a holy day for Roman Catholics," Califano said.

Califano also pledged to have Viacom president and CEO Tom Freston review the episode.

Comedy Central did not respond to a request for comment on why "Bloody Mary" was yanked from the schedule.

Screencaps of the episode were no longer available on Comedy Central's press site, or on comedycentral.com's South Park section.

The Catholic League previously tangled with Comedy Central in 2002 over a South Park episode titled "Red Hot Catholic Love," but failed to produce any results.