Catholic Bid to Ban Pope Satire Fails

By Patrick Goodenough | July 7, 2008 | 8:17 PM EDT

( - After dodging a legal challenge by the Catholic Church in Germany, the MTV television network on Wednesday night screened the first episode of a program lampooning the Pope, but said it would gauge audience reaction before deciding whether to proceed.

Earlier Wednesday, a court in Munich rejected an eleventh-hour bid by Catholic bishops who sought an injunction to prevent the scheduled screening of Popetown.

The regional court said the reaction provoked by plans to air the satirical program had not reached the level of threatening to disturb the public peace, which would have warranted a ban under a clause of the German penal code.

The archdiocese of Munich and Freising -- the home diocese of Pope Benedict XVI -- initiated the legal action, saying the program was disparaging to Christianity. It pointed for example to the use of a cross, the central symbol of the faith, as a pogo-stick by the program's infantile pope character.

MTV Germany's website is running a discussion forum following the airing of the first episode, and said it would consider viewers' reactions before making a decision on the other nine episodes.

Comments on the site in the hours after the screening, generally from viewers in their teens and 20s, were mostly in favor of the program, although some did report having found Popetown offensive.

Many German Christians were also upset when MTV, in the run up to Easter, ran a magazine ad promoting Popetown, featuring Jesus having come down off the cross to watch television.

Popetown has not been broadcast in the U.S., and was pulled ahead of its scheduled programming in Britain - where the BBC first commissioned it -- after churches protested.

The only country where the entire 10-episode show has been broadcast was New Zealand, where it prompted an outcry last year and calls by Catholic bishops for congregants to boycott the television channel that screened it and its advertisers.

See earlier story:
MTV Pokes Fun at Jesus' Crucifixion (Apr. 13, 2006)

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Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow