My friend forwarded me this post from the Atlantic Wire blog, about the U.K.'s Advertising Standards Agency banning a series of ads by Italian ice cream company Antonio Federici Gelato Italiano.
(While the U.K. has much stricter censorship laws than the United States in general, the ban conveniently came right before the Pope was set to visit, though they may have banned them anyway since they banned this similar ad in 2009.)
Advertisers pushing boundaries to the point of offensiveness is nothing new, but what shocked me the most were my own reactions to these ads and their censorship.
I find nothing offensive about homosexuality or pregnancy. I think that priests and nuns should be allowed, as they originally were, to marry and have children. I am a journalist and I loathe most forms of censorship. But my gut reaction to these ads was to be offended. They make me feel uncomfortable and defensive of Catholicism.
It's the same way I feel when I spot a 15-year-old kid on the subway wearing rosary beads as a necklace. I tense up. I think about my grandmother, who clutches similar beads almost daily in prayer, and I want to tap that little dude on the shoulder and say, "Excuse me, but that thing you're wearing isn't jewelry, you know."
For sure, some of it is the whole inside-outside thing. Like, I can make Catholic jokes because I'm Catholic, but don't you try it, ice cream company! Some of it is knowing how much it would offend, say, my grandmother. But what really bothers me, when I think about it, is the fact that a company is using Catholicism to sell ice cream, not to push for any kind of useful change within the Church.
If women were allowed to be priests, if all were allowed to marry and have children as priests or nuns, we'd have a lot more priests. We'd serve a lot more people. This is, to me, a simple equation. Jesus had no problem with women serving alongside men. The original Church didn't either. If a group interested in Catholic reform printed ads depicting a pregnant nun or a priest with his wife and kids, that would not be progressive, not offensive. It's not the imagery so much as the intent. I wasn't really offended by Lady Gaga's video for Alejandro, for example - and neither was this nun.
But that's just one woman's opinion. What do you think? Are these ads offensive or funny? Do they make you want to eat ice cream at all? Are we just too sensitive these days? Is it really any worse than this: