What does this ad really say?

In preparation for the Pope’s trip to Washington, an effort is being made to get people to use public transportation to Nationals Stadium for the papal Mass.  The Metro transit company developed an ad to promote this.  The ad features Pope bobble-head doll using the Metro train.  The Archdiocese of Washington D.C. complained and the ad was taken down.

The ad had pretty low production values, was farily dopey, and you would have thought they could have dressed the Pope correctly, but, was the ad offensive?

I have my ideas, but you can chime in here.


Another version if the YouTube version is removed.




In the meantime, a story from the WaPo says:

"Our concern is that this was a bad bobblehead," said Susan Gibbs, a spokeswoman for the archdiocese. "You had unauthorized merchandise and you had a misdressed pope."

The bobblehead portrayed in the Metro video was wearing a red skull cap, known as a zucchetto, and a red cape. "Popes don’t wear red skull caps" and they don’t wear red capes, only white ones, Gibbs said.

"We think there’s a better way to encourage people to take Metro," Gibbs said. "This is the Holy Father, and I think a lot of people would not be comfortable with a bobblehead ad."


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Christopher Milton says:

    What makes it most offensive is the lame production value. 10 to 1 they had to borrow the bobble-head.

  2. Christopher Milton says:

    Yes, the His Holiness only speaks in Gregorian chant…. WTF!?!??!

  3. Flambeaux says:

    Oh that was great! What a pity some killjoys objected.

    I can’t stop laughing. That took some serious creativity to conceive of, and it indicates that the wider culture hasn’t forgotten Catholic distinctives even if we have for the last 40-odd years.

  4. Paul says:

    Production value was very low and the chant very poor, but I don’t think it was meant to cause offense.

  5. Kradcliffe says:

    It was sorta lame, but not offensive. It meant to be cute or funny and I appreciate the effort.

    I really want one of those commemorative Mass Passes.

  6. Martin Gomez says:

    Maybe the Archdiocese objected to the use of Gregorian Chant.
    – “We don’t do that anymore!” –


  7. TNCath says:

    I wasn’t offended. I just thought it was dumb.

  8. xathar says:

    The Archdiocese of Washington cracks down on Metro ads while Catholic politicians who support abortion continue to be given the Eucharist.

  9. Aelric says:

    1. I find various forms of witty papal humor quite engaging (e.g. many of the ‘provide a caption’ blog entries): this video was not amongst them.

    2. Imagine had the bobble-head been an imam or a rabbi. Fatwahs (sp?); PC-media screaming how we stereotype (fill-in-the-blank) as being too inept to use the Metro properly thus requiring some ‘special reminders’ on public decorum.

    I think this ad absurd not only because it was lame in and of itself (insulting to one’s intelligence), but because of what is says about who can and cannot be “insulted” in the media.

  10. Didn’t bother me. Stupid, yes, but with lots of valuable information to help people attend a papal mass, and to warn other travelers so they can avoid being inconvenienced by the mass.

    Not offensive.

  11. Dorky, yes. Funny, sure. Offensive, no.

    I hear that the vestmentally-incorrect bobblehead is sold without proper licensing rights. I bet that’s why they’re making a big deal of it.


    Related: a priest once told me that you know that a Mass is valid only if they pass a collection plate.

  12. Mike says:

    The Archdiocese of Washington is displeased by the bobble-head while at the same time they are selling Papa Ratzi bears dressed in full
    papal regalia? Perhaps if Metro offered them a cut of the increased
    revenues for the week of April 15-20 they would be happy.

  13. Mike: Are they really?

  14. I thought it was clever and inoffensive. Given the low production values, a little white-out could have turned the
    “offensive” incorrect zuchetto correct… But even that didn’t bother me – the bobble-head has been in production and for sale for at least a year now… They just bought it for $15.00 (or whatever) and used what they thought would have been correct, I guess.

  15. I thought it was clever and inoffensive. Given the low production values, a little white-out could have turned the
    “offensive” incorrect zuchetto correct… But even that didn’t bother me – the bobble-head has been in production and for sale for at least a year now… They just bought it for $15.00 (or whatever) and used what they thought would have been correct, I guess.

    With what I grew up with – all the disrespect for the Catholic Church and the eye rolling at the Pope (before the media realized it was cool to be respectful because he was beloved)… Well, this kind of positive attempt at a little humor is welcome in my world.

  16. Templar says:

    I wish I had a third vote choice…like it was sad and pathetic. Because it was that while managing to be neither offensive, or funny.

  17. Francis says:

    I’m not a man who constantly thinks up jokes. But I think it’s very important to be able to see the funny side of life and its joyful dimension and not to take everything too tragically. I’d also say it’s necessary for my ministry. A writer once said that angels can fly because they don’t take themselves too seriously. Maybe we could also fly a bit if we didn’t think we were so important.

    –Pope Benedict XVI

    hat tip: Rocco Palmo

  18. I don’t think it’s insulting. There are many much more insulting things published in the US daily (and reported – daily – by the Catholic League) which the bishops are almost always silent about. I’d rather thank the NY Metro for their efforts.

  19. Melody says:

    The chant parody od “Deo Gratias” and “Et cum spirito tuo.” will have me chuckling all day… (Was that actually Latin they were saying).
    As for the bobblehead, it’s funny and was probably chosen rather than have someone impersonate the Pope. I also love how it gives information about the Holy Father’s visit as well as help and advice to travelers.

  20. Prof. Basto says:

    What is meant by full papal regalia, Mike?

  21. Lee says:

    This could have been made very offensive. It was not. I kind of liked it. I would rather they had a Latin Mass Pass, though.

  22. I think it’s kind of cute, in a cheesy way. It’s not exactly perfect (as far as the clerics go), but, gosh, people! We have SUCH bigger fish to fry than an imperfect bobblehead of the Holy Father riding the Metro, don’t we?

    I think complaining just makes us look a bit petty. If we complain about this harmless fun, then how on earth will they take us seriously when we complain about real offenses?

    Thank you, Father, for the second video in case YouTube pulls the original.

  23. Patrick Rothwell says:

    A more foolish controversy over nothing particularly important is hard to imagine. Everyone involved looks more than a tad silly.

  24. Petrus says:

    Mike: The teddy bear that is being sold is not in full regalia it just has a t-shirt featuring the official logo for Pope Benedict’s trip to the US.

  25. Typical of the superificial research given to religion and Faith coverage and advertising in the media.

  26. Carolina Geo says:

    The phrase that keeps coming back to me is “loss of a sense of the sacred.”

    Maybe it’s because I’m in a bad mood. Offensive? A titch, perhaps. Funny? Definitely not. Brainless? A big yes.

  27. techno_aesthete says:

    “[popes] don’t wear red capes” – Susan Gibbs, a spokeswoman for the archdiocese.

    Benedict XVI most certainly wears a red mozzetta.

  28. The fact is that Popes do wear red capes!  All the time when they are travelling.

    Here is just one example of the late Pope from a quick search.  Surely you can find others.

  29. techno_aesthete says:

    Fr. Z., yes. I have forgotten the Italian word for that long cape, but Benedict XVI has worn one to some of his general audiences in St. Peter’s Square. In my previous comment, I was responding to Susan Gibbs’ statement regarding the clothing of the bobble-head doll.

  30. Allan says:

    I thought it was HILARIOUS! But then again, I also like Mr. Bean movies. So there’s no accounting for taste!

    I have a sneaking suspicion B16 would have liked it, actually….

  31. Sheesh. Where is the Washington Archdiocese when the
    secular media and politicians make vicious bigoted and
    untrue statements about the Church. I think their
    priorities in protesting a harmless if silly add are

    Wasting the Church’s public capital protesting non-events
    like this is, well, not good stewardship.

  32. If memory serves the cape is called a pellegrino.

  33. Tadhg Seamus says:

    Hey! I HAVE one of those bobbleheads! It stands proudly on my desk at work (I’m an organist) where it delights those who should be delighted and annoys the living daylights out of those who think the Pope is a regressive Neanderthal. I’d say it’s a pretty good conversation starter (or stopper).

  34. I just loved the comment “avoid the unholy traffic.”

    Now how’s about a bobble head Fr. Z?

  35. Dominic says:

    I wasn’t offended and voted that it was funny. The humour (spelt properly to show that I’m from the country that invented English) however was only at a pretty mild level. It wasn’t offensive. I suspect that Papa Ben would have been mildly amused by it too.

  36. Animadversor says:

    Father, I had thought that the cloak was called a tabarro, but perhaps I am wrong or maybe it goes by more than one name, like soutane and cassock. I believe that the tabarro/pellegrino was suppressed by our most holy lord Pope Paul VI in 1969 (except for himself).

  37. larry brooks says:

    Hey Fr. Z maybe you could send the Archdiocese a couple of pictures of popes and how they dress. I know they don’t wear red zuchettos but as for capes! Oh and that red hat Benedict wore last winter. You better send them some pics ohterwise they might miss him when he gets off the plane. Then he’d probably end up having to take a cab. As for bobble head popes etc. I rember here in Denver “Pope on a Rope” and bobble heads and any number of other typical American souvenier items. The AD is probably ticked because they didn’t think of this first and get the sales rev.

  38. Fr. John says:

    Not offensive – and not intended to be offensive – just tasteless. We call him ‘your holiness’. He is holy to us. Many people cry when they meet him. “Do not throw what is holy to dogs” might also be rendered “do not turn what is holy into a bobblehead.”

  39. Emilio says:

    Fr. Augustine – where is the archdiocese? Under really lousy leadership, that’s where, especially concerning politicians. I say that with a very heavy heart, and do not intend to be disrespectful.

  40. Maureen says:

    I hit “Yes” when I meant to hit “No”.

    My head was in a Wuerl.

  41. RosieC says:

    I thought it was kind of cute. Kitchy, cheesy, definitely, but I thought cute.

    And instructive.

    I tried to picture the president, Nancy Pelosi or the Dalai Lhama and similarly themed versions of the ad with any of them would work, too.

  42. Marysann says:

    I did not find this offensive at all. I thought it amusing that one of the passengers was reading the diocesan newspaper. I’ve never seen that on the metro. My only problem was that the bobblehead looked like Pope John Paul II. Don’t they know that we have a new Pope?

  43. GJP says:

    Actually, the bobblehead looks like it is of Cardinal Ratzinger in choir dress. Other than the fact that they don’t have an up-to-date bobblehead, I thought the commercial was pretty funny. I also liked the bit about “avoiding the unholy traffic.”

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