Beliefnet
New York, Dec. 22 - A Jesuit magazine has apologized after inadvertently publishing an advertisement for a Virgin Mary statue wrapped in a condom that an artist intended as a protest against the church's opposition to condom use.

The Rev. Drew Christiansen, editor-in-chief of America, said in a note to readers that the condom was not visible in the black and white proofs that were used to review the final draft of the Dec. 5 issue, which appeared with color photos.

"We are returning payment for the ad and protesting the abuse to the artist," Christiansen wrote to subscribers.

The headline for the ad read, "Unique Contemporary Religious Art Work for Sale." In the text, the statue was called "Extra Virgin," and was described as "a stunning 22 cm high statue of the Virgin Mary standing atop a serpent wearing a delicate veil of latex."

The statue was made by Steve Rosenthal, who said he was an artist in London. Rosenthal released a statement Thursday saying he placed the ad as a protest for World AIDS Day against Vatican opposition to the use of condoms to stem the spread of the disease. World AIDS Day is Dec. 1.

"I at no time tried to dupe or deceive `America' magazine," Rosenthal said. "The description of the work was clear by both the text included and image provided."

The Rev. Jim Martin, associate editor, called the ad "a deliberate attempt to embarrass us and denigrate Mary."

"The word condom is not in the ad," Martin said Thursday. "The word `latex' for a celibate priest does not register as it might with lay people."

Christiansen said America was changing how it reviewed ads in response to the mistake. Martin said the magazine, which has a circulation of about 46,000, received a few dozen complaints from readers.

America previously had been the target of criticism from church officials.

The Vatican's doctrinal watchdog, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, pressed Jesuit leaders to remove the previous editor, the Rev. Thomas Reese, after the magazine published articles by scholars who took issue with Catholic teaching, according to sources in the religious order. Reese resigned in May.

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