Earlier this month, another anti-Catholic skirmish broke out. The debate centered on -- of all things -- a Doritos commercial in which a priest and pastor are brainstorming about ways to raise funds.

If nothing else, give Doritos points for good timing. This all happened just as the New York Archdiocese announced that nearly 30 Catholic schools would either be closing or consolidated.

One wonders if the church higher-ups might actually consider dispensing Doritos instead of Communion wafers, if the orange-dusted snack would actually put fannies in the pew and, thus, more dollars in the collection plate.

Anyway, some people got all riled up. They said mocking the sacrament of Communion was offensive.
The only trouble is that the commercial was never really an officially-sanctioned advertisement. The Doritos ad, instead, was one of several proposed ads which were entered into a contest which was designed to produce an official advertisement.

Either way, the corporate big wigs got nervous and pulled the ad.

It should not be surprising, though, that this had the apparent effect of actually encouraging other advertisements that poked fun at the sacraments.

Perhaps you’ve seen the ad for Red Bull energy drink, in which the slacker boy enters a church confessional and begins speaking to an Irish priest, complete with red hair and a bad brogue. (What? No freckles? No Irish Spring theme song?)

The boy confesses vague sins related to females, and the priest questions him, asking him about this particular girl or that particular girl. In the end, the boy is told to say something like 40 Hail Marys.

The boy, though, is quite happy. He says he’s now got a couple of hot prospects in the female department, all thanks to the pushy questions from the Irish priest.

I don’t know if the ad is new, but I don’t recall seeing it until the whole Doritos mess went down. I’ve since seen the ad about 20 times since.

So what can we take out of this? Sometimes, professional spotters of anti-Catholic humor actually encourage the very forces they are hoping to tamp down.

I’m not sure why the likes of the Catholic League and Bill Donahue have not gone after Red Bull. Let’s face it, that’s got to be pretty much what Red Bull wants. After all, you can’t pay for that kind of exposure.

Meanwhile, some Catholic bloggers and letter writers who have commented on the Red Bull ad take this as an opportunity to flaunt their own angry side. They believe Catholicism remains the only religion which is okay to mock, a patent falsehood to anyone who has seen an episode of Seinfeld or The Simpsons or Family Guy in the past decade or so.

Others add bitterly that Catholics are at least more tolerant than Muslims, who would surely set about torching the corporate offices of any company which so much as mentions Islam -- much less the prophet Mohammed -- in anything so crude as an advertisement for chips or drinks.

What all of this does do is deflect attention from some real problems the Catholic Church is facing, around the world, but particularly in America and Ireland. In case you’d forgotten, we have Dennis Leary to remind us.

Leary has a new stand-up comedy special out called Dou***bags and Donuts. The special, which can be seen in repeats on Comedy Central, opens up with a rousing musical number that may very well be the most offensive song ever recorded about the ills of the Catholic Church.

Suffice it to say, not much of it can be printed here, but the emphasis is on the sex scandals which have rocked the church in both the U.S. and Ireland.

Leary’s raucous song, which features rather graphic descriptions of horny priests and exploited boys and bodily fluids, makes both the Doritos and the Red Bull ad look like grade school productions.

But who is to blame? Is it Leary, the angry lapsed Catholic? Or the high church officials who let things go so far?

Anti-Catholicism isn’t dead. A Protestant main character in Jonathan Franzen’s best-selling novel Freedom is an unabashed hater of the Pope. The trouble is, more and more people baptized into the church are coming to the same conclusion.

(Contact “Sidewalks” at tomdeignan@earthlink.net or facebook.com/tomdeignan)