September 23rd 1968  (Age 53)

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Random Thots is brought to you by Graeme MacKay, Editorial Cartoonist at the Hamilton Spectator, in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Website:

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Wednesday, June 28, 2006
Pope Cartoons

I thought my cartoon of the Pope was going to be spiked. Surprisingly, the cartoon got the chuckle I always love to hear from my boss and it was welcomed without question or any raised eyebrows. One of my tamest cartoons of the last Pope marking his death was unceremoniously cut by the same editor who worried my whimsical take of him riding the Pope Mobile to heaven was too flippant.

I'd like to think the recent controversy involving those Danish cartoons of the prophet Mohammed helped to remind editors what's acceptable on the editorial page and what's not. That those among us mortals who hold public positions and make decisions affecting so many must be made accountable for their actions. Perhaps members of the general public became better aware that satire directed towards people like the Pope must be tolerated in the democratic world.

I was very pleased that I received no irate phone calls over this cartoon, and that the tone of the letters to the editor concerning the cartoon was not about the audacity of depicting his holiness in a cartoon, but in defence of the Pope's call to stop electric guitar music being played during Mass. Here's one example of an email from someone who was quite frank where his opinion lay:

Update: A couple of letters in response to Pope Benedict's decree to ban modern music involving electric guitars from mass have been printed in the Spec since I drew on the issue last week. I can safely say the discussion is a direct result of my cartoon since the story never actually got printed in the paper. It was news reported in the National Post which was a reprint of a story which originated in the Daily Telegraph. I've added them to the comments link below:

Posted at 11:21 pm by Graeme_MacKay

Joseph Leo
July 5, 2006   09:45 AM PDT
I find it absolutely ridiculous that Pope Benedict XVI has banned electric guitars in the church and, even more ridiculous, that the letter writer suggests rock music and rock festivals are some type of cult worship.

As a Catholic (not a Christian ), I was taught spirituality at my small Catholic school in east Hamilton in the late 1970s. I remember a remarkable teacher who encouraged us to formulate our own beliefs and never take for truth what we ourselves did not believe in, regardless what anyone says. She played songs from the soundtrack of Jesus Christ Superstar and we enjoyed listening to the electric guitars while being enlightened by the story of Jesus.

In the past 15 years, the Catholic Church has been pushing closer to an U.S. evangelical style of religion, where literal interpretations and blind faith are fundamental in controlling the thinking and beliefs of their members. This is the oldest form of brainwashing.

As a Catholic, I would encourage all other Catholics to buy a guitar, learn to play and let the music enlighten you. Never stop searching for your personal spirituality.
Noah Fralick, Dundas
July 5, 2006   09:47 AM PDT
The letter writer's point revolves around a view of pop music that is archaic in its naÕvete. While I'm not challenging the Pope's decision to ban electric guitars and modern music in church (though this is probably one of the few remaining ways in which the Church might have retrofitted, albeit superficially, its outdated image), I do think it's crucial to expose the fear of difference and fear of expression which underlies much of the writer's argument.

Implicit in the letter is a sense of fear which treats a rigid conception of "faith" as the only way of achieving worthwhile personal freedom.

Far from being "empty freedom", the philosophies and ideas which have become associated with rock 'n' roll (and most of its variations) are ones which call for the cultivation of "the individual" in all its complexities and potentialities.

It contains within it the existential message that we alone -- and not through some dogmatic creed -- must find what is meaningful for us.

To say that a concert, through a person's involvement in a crowd, is somehow denigrating to the "self" is absurd.

It was the greatness of a church's architecture, the cult of personality which surrounded its leaders, and the emotional experience of being involved in something which extended beyond oneself that allowed the Church to retain its power and influence for so long. Historically, one can see that many aspects of Christian worship are aimed precisely at the sort of "phenomenon of the masses" to which the writer is referring.

Does the Pope not also retain a sort of "star status" and elemental praise when he preaches to "his" cultish minions?
Steve Parton, Dundas
July 5, 2006   09:58 AM PDT
This letter praised Pope Benedict's condemnation of guitars and drums within Catholic Church services. Fortunately, most people have progressed beyond the values imposed until, and during, the 1950s.

I am a professional musician and music educator, and I often perform classical music at my church, St. Paul's United in Dundas. Our minister is well aware of the importance of appealing to the younger generation. As such, I am often invited to also perform Christian rock songs on my electric guitar during the service.

The lyrical content of the songs I sing is no different than that which is found in the hymn books -- thematically speaking -- and indeed, sometimes the songs include drums. The result is that the youth (i.e. those under age 65 or so) have yet another reason to attend church.

The writer described rock and pop music in a way that I have never heard in my 25 years as a musician:

It is apparently "industrially produced ... it assumes a cultic character ... in opposition to Christian worship ...

"There is little chance for the sober inebriation to take place ... empty freedom through pop music ... "

How poetic.

How farcical.

The writer would be wise to leave the music analogies to the musicians.

Please note that Pope Benedict's predecessor was also aware of the importance of appealing to the younger generation.

Pope John Paul welcomed rock music during the 2002 World Youth Day in Toronto.

I know this because I was commissioned to arrange a piece of music to be performed at said festival.

The song? My Sweet Lord by George Harrison.
Matthew's Blog
July 7, 2006   09:22 AM PDT
As if on cue, the anti-Catholic crowd has perked up this week over Pope Benedict's call for the Church to return to more traditional music. Among the crowd who took this opportunity to further demonstrate their petty superiority complexes was Graeme Mackay who drew a rather unflattering picture of a man us Catholics consider to be quite holy (the Pope is directly in communication with the Holy Spirit in our views). I'll note that Mackay wasn't so big about his freedom of speech in January when he had a perfect opportunity to draw Mohammed; I guess we know who holds his leash. Mackay's cartoon demonstrates a few other things about such people though:

First, such people are often the bearers of grudges against the Church, most probably because they were raised in our ill-equipped, overly-politically correct "Catholic" school system. Such people consider themselves fully educated on the ways of Catholicism because they scoffed their ways through a few Masses in high school (I was there guys too, I heard you!). In reality, one could argue that a completely neutral outsider knows more about the faith since they're not constantly filtering everything they hear about us Catholics through a cynicism filter, whose width is thicker than Jack Layton's 'stache.

This leads me to my second point: Mackay obviously doesn't know what drives a Catholic Mass. The notion that rock 'n' roll is the universal language that binds us was proven wrong long ago when sites like this one came around. Personally, I'm very happy to see the suck rock that has been infused with vague Christian messages go the way of dodo. I find the whole genre irritating, distracting and destructive when it comes to Church; you will meet those occasional people (some youth but some adults too who are trying to act "hip") at church who are there who are obsessed with the music, its presentation and its entertainment value. The saddest example was when a church I was visiting had a band (couldn't call it a choir, sorry) that tried to pull off a solo near the end of Communion; all I'll say is that it was disastrous and had a lot of people in the pews turning their heads in uncomfortable confusion. If I want to see a concert, I'll go to tomorrow, when I'm going to see Saga in Hamilton. It's about the appropriate time and place; Mass is about Christ, not hitting that chord!

Mackay appears to also be ignorant on why youth are at Mass to begin with. I don't think the Church will be losing thousands and thousands because electric guitars won't be allowed anymore. If that is the defining factor of one's spiritual life, perhaps it's best if they're not attending anymore anyway. I wouldn't expect someone like Mackay, who's religious indifference caused him to draw a disgraceful cartoon with Stockwell Day in the same boat as the KKK in 2000 , to understand spirituality, but please, leave it alone in your work if you're so inclined to leave it alone in your life!

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