Catholic College Officials Offended by Student Newspaper Parody

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A student newspaper at a Catholic university drew a rebuke from school officials for its April Fool’s edition, which called Philadelphia’s cardinal gay and included an ad in which the college president, a priest, endorsed a condom.
Student journalists at Saint Joseph’s University apologized Wednesday for the satirical material in The Squawk, an annual parody traditionally written by seniors at the student newspaper, The Hawk.

Some students and administrators were upset by the newspaper’s content.

“Most of the university community really found it very offensive, very disrespectful,” school spokeswoman Harriet Goodheart said Wednesday. “They did cross the line of what was appropriate even in a so-called humor issue.”

The fake story about Cardinal Justin Rigali, archbishop of Philadelphia, said he announced that he was gay. The condom ad featured the university’s president, the Rev. Timothy Lannon, saying, “I approve of this product.” The Catholic Church does not sanction birth control.

Hawk editor David Spain and three students who had contributed satirical material published apologies in Wednesday’s paper.

“I grossly underestimated the personal and hurtful consequences that such nonsense could incur,” Spain wrote. “Parody does not sanction disrespect, and last week’s Squawk was disrespectful to many.”

Lannon also apologized to Rigali for the phony story, and the Hawk editor is expected to do the same, Goodheart said.

The cardinal is appreciative of how the university has handled the matter, said Donna Farrell, spokeswoman for the archdiocese.

The Squawk was published March 28 and wrapped around copies of the regular paper, which has a weekly circulation of about 3,500, according to its Web site. It also contained an editorial comparing Jesuits to Nazis and reported the “murder” of the sole fan of the women’s basketball team.

The admissions office removed copies of the parody from the building, but Goodheart did not know if it was removed from other areas of campus.

Sophomore Emily Domineske, 19, said Wednesday that she wasn’t offended by The Squawk but understands why some people were.

“I don’t think they meant to harm anyone,” Domineske said. “I think they were trying to have fun … and maybe they took a few things too far.”

Four students wrote a letter to The Hawk on Wednesday calling the parody a “disgrace.” But a Jesuit professor wrote in to praise The Squawk.

“I laughed my head off at it,” wrote Tom Brennan, who teaches English. “Of course, I imagine that some did not…”

Saint Joseph’s is a private university in Philadelphia serving nearly 7,000 students.

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