It’s probably not too much of a stretch to say the just-retired Pope Benedict XVI isn’t a terribly popular figure around the offices of The New Yorker, one of the flagship publications of East Coast liberalism. One subtle clue might be the Feb. 12 article, “The Disastrous Influence of Pope Benedict XVI,” in which John Cassidy accused “Benedict’s Vatican” of “setting its face against the modern world in general … needlessly alienating countless people around the world who were brought up in its teachings.”
So when a question arises as to whether a cartoon depiction of the pope on the magazine’s cover is slyly malicious, it’s difficult to give the magazine the benefit of the doubt.
Influential media blog JimRomenesko.com asked the question on March 5 about The New Yorker’s most recent cover. It’s a cartoon depiction of the retired Pope in a beach hammock reading a newspaper and … possibly grabbing a bulge in his bathing suit. Romenesko included a denial from the artist, Barry Blitt, who responded, “Oy vey. Not intentional. [cross my heart].”
The image is ambiguous, certainly. But hell hath no fury like liberals scorned by an institution unimpressed by their sensibilities, and Benedict’s resignation has the media demanding the Church “modernize” on issues from the role of women to gays and even abortion.
Still, a high-brow publication like The New Yorker wouldn’t use its hallowed cover space to make a cheap push for an agenda, would it? Surely its readership wouldn’t stand for a cover depicting the Pilgrims sneaking illegally into the country or the White House with gay rainbow pillars? It wouldn’t feature an outrageous portrait of Barack and Michelle Obama as black/Muslim militants to mock their conservative critics? The New Yorker wouldn’t stoop to adolescent dirty pictures. Would it?