On Campus

UVic student in hot water after calling the Pope a “jackass”

Student paper refuses to print apology, religious group says issue is “unresolved”

A University of Victoria student’s controversial comments about Pope Benedict XVI have landed the school’s student-run paper in the bad books of both on and off-campus religious groups.

According to BCLocalNews, Will Johnson, writing for The Marlet, began his March 26 opinion piece like this:

“Pope Benedict XVI is a jackass.”

Johnson’s column, which was written at least party tongue-in-cheek (as the adjoining cartoon featured the Pope wearing a condom on his head) made a case for why the Pope’s anti-condom views are wrong.

“The problem is, Africa is one of the most Catholic continents in the world. Some countries are over 60 per cent Catholic,” he wrote. “Though many people in the world think the Pope is a creepy-looking old man, these Africans actually take what he says seriously.”

In the subsequent fallout, The Marlet’s editor-in-chief, Danielle Pope, had a series of mediated meetings with UVic’s interfaith Reverend, Dean Henderson.

She agreed to pull the online version of the column, and printed more than 20 pro-Pope Benedict responses from around the world in subsequent issues of the paper, but refused to apologize for running the story.

“I knew there would be a response, because it was a pretty sensational piece. Whenever you print something sensational you know you’re going to have an encore,” says Pope.

“Certainly the Martlet doesn’t attest to being polite. We don’t have anything in our mandate saying we won’t piss people off. At the same time there’s something to be said about what the purpose of that is.”

The Reverend still says he feels “unresolved” about the issue, since no formal apology has been given.

For his part, Johnson says he stands by his column and believes some quality discussion was generated from the topic.

“I wanted to drive this point home: I respect Catholics, I respect Catholicism, but I do not respect the Pope. I don’t think he has earned my respect.”

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