The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

Did “The Simpsons” cross the line?

The Catholic League’s William Donohue thinks so

Bill Donohue says he’s okay with “gentle fun” being poked at his faith. But the Catholic watchdog says The Simpsons went too far on Sunday when they cracked wise about the Eucharist.


At issue is this year’s installment of the annual Halloween episode. One of the three stories – and we’re taking Donohue’s word for it, because we didn’t catch the show – involved people in Springfield becoming zombies after eating hamburgers infected with tainted meat.


Bart tries one of the infected hamburgers, but proves immune to the virus, and so becomes the “Chosen One.” When the Simpsons reach a safe zone with other uninfected people, a guard says, “Welcome, son. To survive, all we must do is eat your flesh.” Which leads Marge to ask: “What kind of civilized people eat the body and blood of their savior?”

“What kind of uncivilized people work at Fox?” asked Donohue, the president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights and the author of “Secular Sabatoge: How Liberals Are Destroying Religion and Culture in America.”


“Last year, when they poked some gentle fun at the Apostle’s Creed on the Halloween episode, we said nothing,” Donohue said. “That’s because it didn’t cross the line. This year is different: mocking the heart of any religion always crosses the line, and mocking the Eucharist does it for Catholics. They know this at Fox, which is precisely why they did it.” 

Check out the link for the rest.  

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posted October 22, 2009 at 5:38 pm

Deacon Greg I agree with you one hundred percent. Fox has gone too far with the attack on the Eucharist. Honestly, I have tried to be just and give Fox a fare shake by tuning in on a regular basis. However, this is too much and if I could arrange to delete Fox programs from my TV, I would do so.
Being rude, crude and unattractive appears to be a way of life with the Fox network. I have lost all respect for this station!

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posted October 22, 2009 at 5:56 pm

Oh, lighten up. They did us a favor with the “Catholic Heaven” bit they did in the episode “The Father, The Son, and The Holy Guest Star.”

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posted October 22, 2009 at 6:30 pm

I’ve never watched the Simpsons, so I’ve no idea of the favor they did for us in the episode on “The Father, The Son, and The Holy Guest Star.” I can think of some favors others did for me that I could have lived without.
Paul, I’m with you. I think Catholics should lighten up whenever a secular TV show ridicules our most precious beliefs and central articles of faith and basically tells Catholics that we’re all idiots for believing this junk.
I also think blacks should lighten up whenever someone tells a blatantly racist joke at the office about how lazy they all are. And Jews should lighten up about those anti-Semitic jokes that portray them as hook-nosed crooks. And Hispanics should lighten up about all the “wet-back” references.
Can we be clear, please? The purpose of degrading humor is to degrade. There’s a big difference between someone throwing a pie in your face and laughing with you, and someone spitting in your face and laughing at you. Fox isn’t laughing with you, Paul, they’re laughing at you. That’s a lesson you should have learned on the playground, dude.

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posted October 22, 2009 at 6:55 pm

I think that was kind of a funny line. It IS kind of weird that we eat the body and blood of our Savior. It IS weird that we put images of our Savior dying upon the instrument of his death on our walls. We do and believe in some pretty weird and unbelievable things.
I don’t feel that I’m putting any of it down when I say that. I do believe in our Savior Jesus Christ who gave us his Body and Blood and told us to eat and drink in memory of Him. But, you gotta admit- it just sounds weird if you just take it at face value.

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posted October 22, 2009 at 6:57 pm

I saw the episode, and it was hilarious.
Bill Donohue is nothing more than a thin-skinned attention whore — he needs to grow up and get a sense of humor.

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Kevin J. Jones

posted October 22, 2009 at 7:20 pm

The Simpsons has lost the joy it had in its first decade or so of writers. Now they just go for the wannabe transgressive college audience.
I swore off the show after its 2008 Halloween episode, which featured both a same-sex “marriage” and sloppy kiss between Lincoln and Washington in a parody ad. They also had Abraham Lincoln’s ghost repeatedly imply he was a homosexual. Before 7:30 local time, even.

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posted October 22, 2009 at 9:15 pm

I disagree with both Deacon Greg and Bob. First to Bob, “The Simpsons” does not attempt to spit in the eye of Christianity. That’s not its job. Its job is to encourage people to lighten up (per Paul’s suggestion) about religion and culture. Though I haven’t watched it in years, the last time I regularly did, the show was doing a great job of doing just that.
And to Deacon Greg, Marge’s comment actually reminds me of the way that 3rd century Christian apologist Minucius Felix mocked those who themselves couldn’t understand the eucharist. He put these and other words into the mouths of the skeptics:
“Now the story about the initiation of young novices is as much to be detested as it is well known. An infant covered over with meal, that it may deceive the unwary, is placed before him who is to be stained with their rites: this infant is slain by the young pupil, who has been urged on as if to harmless blows on the surface of the meal, with dark and secret wounds. Thirstily – O horror! they lick up its blood; eagerly they divide its limbs. By this victim they are pledged together; with this consciousness of wickedness they are covenanted to mutual silence.”
The point was to make fun of those who had no faith, those who couldn’t understand. “See what those clueless boobs think of the eucharist?” Felix seemed to be saying.
Again and again the members of the Simpson family are shown to be clueless. Even brainy little Lisa frequently can’t get simple concepts. As far as I can tell, this is another way that the show pokes fun at the family’s naivete and gives Christianity a knowing and playful ribbing for good sport.

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J Straub

posted October 22, 2009 at 10:04 pm

Didn’t Jesus say people wouldn’t find this “normal”, didn’t he say that people would have “a hard time” with this. Heck, didn’t he rebuke people for questioning this very topic.
This will always occur (culture trying to convince people its NOT body and blood). Its our job as Catholics to be counter-cultural (in the culture, not of the culture).
Getting worked up about this just points to the fact we are scared about controversy. We should learn from Opus Dei – They took teh controversy and used it as a chance to evangelize (i.e. speak the truth).
Lets start turning lemons into lemonade, not vinegar….

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posted October 22, 2009 at 10:13 pm

Nice try. No cookie.
I don’t have the quote from Felix in my sources (at least not that I can quickly find), but there were many similar apologies written in response to an actual accusation against Christians by non-believers of this age. The Christians were being accused of cannibalism. These apologies, as I’m sure Felix’s did, included a correction of the misconception they ridiculed. I didn’t see the Simpson episode, but I rather doubt there was much in the way of a defense of the Catholic Eucharist included in the script.
Again, when people start recommending that blacks, Jews and Hispanics “lighten up” when they’re the butt of debasing humor, maybe I’ll take the advice to heart. Until then, I’ll just shake my head in wonderment at my fellow Catholics when they laugh along because they fail to recognize that they’re being played for fools by jerks who hate them. Get a clue, guys. When the playground bully gives you a wedgy, it doesn’t mean he thinks you’re cool.

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posted October 22, 2009 at 10:20 pm

No, the Simpsons did not cross the line — not because they were good and stayed good, but because they were on the wrong side and stayed there.
It had been about 2 years since I’d watched an episode of the Simpsons, and I decided to give them another chance. After all, I remember it being funny 17 or 18 years ago. The mocking of the Eucharist jumped right out and confirmed that I had been right to let it go.
One thing I do not agree with, though, is the idea that Matt Groening ought not to do this kind of thing because it is offensive to me or to you or to Deacon Kandra. No, that is too much like saying the reason for not peeing on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is because it would offend veterans. Of course it would offend veterans, but anyone who sees no other problem with peeing on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier has far deeper ethical problems than merely being offensive to others. Otherwise, he should see how wrong this act would be, not because it offends veterans, but FOR THE SAME REASON everyone else sees it as wrong.

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posted October 22, 2009 at 10:56 pm

If you’d seen the episode I mentioned, Bob, I’m sure you’d agree it’s not offensive. But regarding that, as a judge once said about porn, “I’ll know it when I see it.” And it though it wasn’t, it’s no guarantee the “Simpsons” writers might push the boundaries a bit more…though I doubt to the point of “South Park” writers. So, again – lighten up, dude.

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posted October 23, 2009 at 12:38 am

Perhaps we need to form a Anti-Defamation League for Christians.
However, rather than attack those who defame and offend, we could go out and minister to them with compassion and love.
We could approach them, note their hostility, overt or veiled, and ask to engage in a dialogue regarding the need they feel to ridicule or degrade or defame another.
Perhaps we could take up the issue of “humor” being used as a weapon to cudgel those with whom they disagree.
Most of the time, when confronted with the question of “why did you wish to hurt me?” delivered with compassion and love, they offender can do little else than take a look at their conscience.
Men of good conscience will consider their actions in a new light.
Those who are truly evil will redouble their efforts but, in doing so, stand out for all to see as they are.

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posted October 23, 2009 at 6:16 am

I don’t think the Simpsons writers warrent a pass simply because they’re not as bad as South Park. That’s a pretty minimalist standard you’re setting there, bro’.
Hey, if it makes you feel better about being made a fool, then laugh all you want. Still, I think you look pretty pathetic with your drawers jammed up your crack.

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Pax Vobis

posted October 23, 2009 at 8:19 am

If we are to believe the account offered in the article, I think all right thinking people should see this as “crossing the line”.. Because the Church should never be challenged? No. Because the Church should never be held to account for it’s stated aims and beliefs? No
Consider for a moment a person who has no belief in an after life. Would it be “wrong” for this person to urinate or throw paint on a cenotaph commemorating the fallen heroes of a war long since ended? Even if this person disagreed with the war being commemorated, would their actions be morally justified? If so, why?
In my view it is wrong because of it’s fundamental disrespect for the beliefs of others. It crosses the line in it’s derisory and disrespectful manner. Of itself the monument does not prohibit the individual attempting to have it removed but it does challenge him to show respect for others and the beliefs he may disagree with.
Such double-standards are becoming a regular occurrence in Western society. We claim to hold respect as being an important and necessary virtue but only in cases of agreement. Respect is no longer seen an absolute virtue. This may be because respect is often understood to be synonymous with agreement. If we disagree with another person’s religious, political or social views then it becomes permissible to disrespect them as people.
Whilst we may possess an ability to be disrespectful to others, we have a greater moral obligation to be respectful to them. This does not mean the beliefs of others shouldn’t be challenged; nor does it mean they shouldn’t be held to account for their actions. However it does require us to be respectful of them as people. Without this chaos naturally ensues. Society as a whole does not benefit from the moral cowardice that merely rants, sneers, jeers and openly mocks the beliefs of others. This only spreads hatred, rancour and a considerable degree of negativity. Society is strengthened by the courageous efforts of those who don’t resort to such actions but instead, seek to enter into dialogue and debate to achieve a greater level of mutual understanding. In a society dominated by relativism “me” is all that matters. Others are only important in so far as how much pleasure they can give “me”.
Finally I will conclude by suggesting that the programme went too far simply because it dehumanised the people whose beliefs it was mocking. For them I suspect it is the dollar not people that matter.

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don't get it

posted October 23, 2009 at 10:43 am

My standard is *harm*. How were those who were offended *harmed?*
I suspect the answer is *not at all*. It is not harm to feel uncomfortable. It is not harm to hear something one dislikes and disagrees with. It is not harm to have another believe that what one believes is ridiculous, nor is it harm to have it ridiculed.
In other words – some people will believe things, and others will believe other things. Both are free to think the other is foolish, and in this country they’re free to express that sentiment.
Read this as an If/Then statement: No harm; no foul.

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posted October 23, 2009 at 11:56 am

“don’t get it” above has the right idea.
Bob misses the mark when he equates race insults with religious insults. You can choose what you want to believe in, but you can’t change your skin. Freedom to criticize other people’s beliefs specifically without having to respect them is part of our great freedom of speech. It’s a little hard to refrain from mocking those who still believe in a flat Earth, that men never landed to the moon, or that Xenu brought aliens to Earth in giant space airplanes, blew them up with nuclear bombs, and that their souls stick to human bodies (Scientology). That was their choice to believe.
Pax Vobis’ example about urinating on a memorial doesn’t quite work as an analogy. Obviously that action would be illegal, as you would be defaming private/public property. Destroying property is quite a step up from saying a few mocking words.
All this being said, The Simpsons hasn’t been funny for the past 12 years (since season 9 or 10) and I don’t really think the remark is that hateful at all, merely pointing out that the idea of the Eucharist is a bit strange to the average person if taken out of context.

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ray in essex

posted October 23, 2009 at 12:58 pm

This trash speaks volumes about doofus murdoch

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Newbie Catholic

posted October 23, 2009 at 4:05 pm

“I didn’t watch this show but…” People always lose me when they start a comment that way. I just went over to HULU and watched the show so I wouldn’t have to say that (it’s the computer age people… take advantage of it).
I don’t see what the big fuss is over. I didn’t find the Simpson’s episode as offensive. I just saw it as the viewpoint of someone who doesn’t understand what they are missing. Actually, in the show they were commenting that the concept of it seemed crazy, but they came to realize that it worked. So, in a way, they ended up seeing that there was a reason behind the extreme action they were told to do.
I’m a new convert and I have to say, when I heard that Catholics eat and drink the body and blood of Christ I thought it sounded crazy! I think it’s natural to think that. Don’t you think when Jesus told them to do this they thought it was a bit extreme? It IS extreme and that’s what’s so AWESOME about it!
It seemed crazy to me until I experienced the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist and then I realized what an awesome gift that was. The Eucharist is the source of healing and strength and I am so thankful. Is that extreme? Sure it is! It’s extreme, but it’s the Truth! I eat and drink the body and blood of Christ! Get in mah BELLY!!!

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jay everett

posted October 23, 2009 at 4:17 pm

Why do people watch this stupid show? If you watch it you are a part of the problem. I have never watched cartoons that parody human events. Could be children that never grew up? Stick to the teachings of Jesus Christ and let the trash alone–you will be much better for it…..
By the way they only do it to get a rise out of you–and they did…..

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posted October 23, 2009 at 6:10 pm

First of all, let’s not get our issues crossed, please. No one is talking about outlawing the Simpsons or any forms of speech. Of course, they have the freedom to express themselves. This isn’t Canada. The question is not whether what they said was legal, or should be legal, but whether it was degrading and disrespectful, rather than simply poking harmless fun.
Let’s remember what the Eucharist is: the Real Presence of Christ, body, blood, soul and divinity. It’s the sacrifice of Christ for us made present before us. To mock the Eucharist, then, is to mock Christ and His sacrifice. Martyrs have been made defending the Eucharist and their faith in the Eucharist.
For Catholics of genuine faith (yes, as opposed to cultural Catholics, which do exist), the truth of Catholic faith in Christ is the transformative and meaningful part of their lives. It is what first and foremost shapes their identity. To reduce this to a choice likened to a preference of one faith or tradition over another is to miss the point entirely. When you learn the truth, you can’t just choose otherwise. After the bread of life discourse, when so many left Jesus, He asked the disciples if they, too, would leave. Peter replied, “Lord, to whom shall we go? We have come to believe and we know that you are the holy one of God.”
Nothing goes into a script by accident. It’s there because someone wanted it to be there. For a good many years now, there have been those in the entertainment industry who have exploited their pulpits for the purpose of ridiculing and degrading people of faith and the tenets of faith. The purpose of degrading humor is to degrad: to make the targets of the humor look foolish and, as such, not worthy of our consideration. That’s the foundation of racist humor, anti-Semitic humor and anti-Catholic humor. There were plenty of blacks who laughed when Steppin Fetchit shuffled across the silver screen. Some even saw it as progress: “Hey, at least they’re putting us in movies!” No one is laughing today, because they understand why that character was put into the movies in the first place. As Catholics, we don’t need to respond with hatred or violence. But neither do we need to laugh along when others play us as fools.
So, I would second jay everett’s recommendation: turn off your TV. Don’t feed the monkey. Read the Gospels.

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posted October 27, 2009 at 3:03 pm

blood, plasma, marrow, bone, tissue, organs, stem cells,…
Bread and Wine
Modernity and the Eucharist too?

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posted February 19, 2010 at 8:49 pm

A religious belief is just that, a belief. It has no more right to be free of criticism, satire or even ridicule then any other belief. Yes, eating the flesh and drinking the blood of a deity is a strange belief. One might not find it strange or get mad at someone having that opinion but the fact exists that it is a very strange and weird belief. The Catholic Church has tremendous power. In fact, they through it’s power, still strongly influence non-Catholics and even nonbelievers ability to run their lives free of Catholic doctrine and dogma. Same sex marriage is banned in much of the US, in part because of the Catholic church opposing it. So, if the Catholic church can use its’ muscle to push for things that it wants, then it sure can take a little criticism now and again.

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posted June 10, 2011 at 3:26 pm

So…does that wafer still turn into a piece of 2000 year old flesh?

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Andrew Sindler

posted July 14, 2012 at 10:01 am

I am truly sad that the standards of secular society falls so short for the Cathies. I am beg God every day to raise my level of virtue to the level of the Catholic Church so some day I may become pope and help encourage practice of and help to cover up sex with millions of children throughout world.

Sadly, I am (the saracasm has now ended) a good person who is not on a one way trip to burning in Hell for eternity like the Catholic Pope of present (and all the popes past) almost all of the cardinals, bishops/archibishops, priests, deacons, etc. throughout the world. The Catholic Church without a doubt is one of the most evil enterprises which graces the pages of history to the present. There is no God in you freaks of nature only perversion and sordidness. You Catholics are just the same as the ancient Romans because you adopted more than half of their traditions. You Catholics are so backwards that your moral compasses say north is south and east is west.

If you were anything like what you claimed you were you would made sure every single clergyman who ever touched a child was excommunicated and handed over to their country’s criminal justice system. But, you are nothing more than liars and sickos. You people are the Antichrist and have been the greatest purveyors of evil for over 1500 years. Your church’s lust for pedophilia harks back to days so far in the past that even Michelangelo Buonarroti Simoni (the renaissance painter) was probably a priest rape victim. Leo X was known for having little boy orgies and that was all the way back in the 1510′s and 1520′s.

The homosexuality and pedophilia have always existed in the church as it was a popular custom amongst the wealth of ancient Rome and hypocrites that the Roman Catholics are and have always been they of course deemed it necessary to adopt and assimilate the culture of the people who were feeding them to the lions (Catholics do not know the difference between power and good and so treat them interchangeably). There was never a time in history when the Catholics stood for anything other than evil and demonic ethics. Jesus Christ and the disciples were never Catholic and if the church existed in their time they would have flat out refused to join an organization so despicable. Jesus was critical of the priesthood from the Temple of Solomon to a high degree and they were not even 1/100 as bad as the Catholic Church in their lack of ethics.

So, in conclusion Bill Donoahue go to hell where you belong and let the fire burn some perspective and tolerance into you if that is possible. The rest of you religious catholic should go and follow him and leave and take with you your superstitious and nonsensical religion and its zealous followers.

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