ANNAPOLIS A dozen Maryland legislators accused a Baltimore Catholic weekly newspaper of fueling violence and extremism after it published an editorial cartoon depicting abortion rights legislators boiling in a pot.
The Jan. 7 Catholic Review showed abortion rights politicians boiling in a pot with bishops standing over them saying, “I think it’s time to turn up the heat.”
The newspaper published a letter written by 12 Maryland senators on Feb. 18 that chastised the newspaper for going “beyond propriety and into intimidation” and “fueling the destructive flames of violence, intolerance, and extremism.”
“Violent images and rhetoric have condoned, if not caused acts of violence against abortion providers,” said a letter signed by the abortion rights senators, led by Sen. Paula C. Hollinger, D-Baltimore County. As an example, the senators pointed to Dr. Bernard Slepian, a Buffalo, N.Y., physician who performed abortions and who was killed by a sniper last year. Slepian’s picture and personal information was posted on anti-abortion websites.
Catholic Review editors say letters from readers continue to pour into their Baltimore offices on the subject, mostly supporting the paper’s decision to run the King Syndicate cartoon. The drawing was inspired by an October 1998 meeting of U.S. bishops, where they vowed to become more outspoken against Catholic politicians who act against the church’s teachings.
“If there is any regret at all, it would have been more appropriate if the cartoon referred to Catholic pro-life politicians, not all politicians,” said Christopher Gaul, the newspaper’s managing editor. While he said he is sorry that lawmakers interpreted the boiling pot as encouraging violence, he said it is a commonly used device in political cartoons.
“If anyone thought these people are suggesting that they should be boiled, that’s just not the case,” Gaul said. “It was cartoon satire.”
Delegate Sharon Grosfeld, D-Montgomery, sent a separate letter blasting what she sees as the church’s hypocrisy and comparing the cartoon to incidents of Jewish persecution in her family.
“How can you print a cartoon which shows a murderous attack on your adversaries when you claim the sanctity of all living things?” Grosfeld’s letter said. “As a Jew whose family survived Dachau and Auschwitz, I am particularly offended by the symbolism of burning people with whom you disagree.”
Catholic Review is an organ of the Archdiocese of Baltimore with 70,000 subscribers and a readership of about 200,000. Its editors say it is Maryland’s largest weekly newspaper.
This isn’t the first time in recent history that the feisty newspaper got on the wrong side of elected officials. During last fall’s campaign, despite repeated requests, Gov. Parris N. Glendening refused to grant the newspaper an interview, despite giving interviews with the Jewish Times, according to Dan Medinger, Catholic Review Associate Publisher and Editor. So the newspaper instead printed a large photograph of Glendening’s back, implying that the candidate turned his back on Catholic Review readers.
“We have some strong views, and the legislators have strong views as well,” Medinger said. In hindsight, though, Medinger said if he could do it all over, he wouldn’t run the boiling pot cartoon again.
“I wouldn’t because I think there might have been another way to illustrate how (legislators) contribute to the culture of death,” he said. “I’m sorry that the cartoon got us off track.”