Playboy Mexico’s ‘Naked Mary’ cover

Playboy magazine has been offending sensibilities since it began publishing in 1953, and ordinarily its stunts to attract readers are not worth noting. But the cover of the December issue of Playboy Mexico, featuring a semi-nude model presumably portraying the Virgin Mary, is out of bounds even for a publication that revels in being out of bounds.

Amid international outrage, the magazine has quickly backpedaled, and Chicago-based Playboy Enterprises Inc. has issued one of those annoying, passive apologies: “While Playboy Mexico never meant for the cover or [inside] images to offend anyone, we recognize that it has created offense, and we as well as Playboy Mexico offer our sincerest apologies.”

There. Playboy is sorry -- for the public’s reaction, not for its own poor judgment. And is there ever a reaction. The “Naked Mary” cover has infuriated Mexicans on both religious and cultural grounds, insulted millions of Catholics around the world and offended Christians in general.

The publisher of Playboy Mexico, Raul Sayrols, maintains that no reference to the mother of Jesus was intended. Apparently the cover line “Te adoramos, Maria” -- We adore you, Mary -- and the model’s Pieta-esque resemblance have simply been misinterpreted. The magazine, he said, was aiming for a “Renaissance-like mood.”

We don’t buy it. This issue was published just days before Mexico’s most important religious celebration, the annual pilgrimage to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. The Virgin of Guadalupe is the country’s most revered figure, and the pilgrimage is one of the world’s largest religious events. And of course, Christmas is right around the corner.

To be clear, this isn’t a matter of politically correct overreaction to incendiary but meaningful content. Religion, like politics, is an endless source of satire and fair game for social commentary. Furthermore, there is a long history of artistic criticism of the Catholic Church in Latin America, as there is elsewhere, and depictions intended to irk believers pop up everywhere in Mexico, in the streets and on museum walls.

But this is different. There is no sociopolitical message conveyed by this piece of soft porn. Because Playboy clearly has poor judgment in these matters, let us offer a bit of unsolicited advice: If there is an upcoming issue featuring a scantily clad Fatima, trust us, it’s a bad idea.

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