Players take on the role of a pixelated pontiff, who bears a distinct resemblance to ex-Pope Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI. The Pope leaps to high balconies to retrieve altar boys, then delivers them to shifty-eyed cardinals who disappear with the youngsters into darkened Vatican rooms. To complicate things, the Pope must avoid or attack roving reporters with cameras and microphones, bent on exposing the scandal. If a reporter catches the pontiff with a boy in tow, it’s game over for the Catholic Church.
The game’s social commentary, placing the Pope in the role of top-secret pimp for child molesters, is hard to ignore. It’s easy to see why some Catholics find it offensive. (No word yet on why the outcry should be larger in Spain than in other Catholic communities.)
Spanish group MasLibres, which calls itself a “social initiative in favour of religious freedom,” has called for the game to be removed from the Spanish platform that carries it. Spokesperson Miguel Vidal complains that the game mocks both abuse victims and Catholics generally:
Reducing to caricature the drama of child sexual abuse, and then profiting from it, offends the victims and their families. This trend of hurting the Church and Catholics must have a limit. Unfortunately, on some web pages that are currently hosting the game, it has become the most popular with its readers.
Commenters disagree about whether the game trivializes child rape or fairly satirizes the Catholic hierarchy’s failure to respond to endemic abuse. Others ask why other religions’ unsavoury histories with child abuse haven’t been depicted in online games. (Muhammad’s marriage to a child bride is a popular topic.) Some call it an example of anti-Catholic bias, but plenty think the Church deserves the criticism.
Perhaps the most offensive part of the game, however, is the “Game Over” screen, which depicts the Pope character hovering above Rome, sporting wings and a halo.
Depicting the Pope as a pimp procuring underage victims for prelates may offend some Catholics… but the idea that a man who has overseen a systematic conspiracy to conceal widespread sexual abuse of children could be rewarded after death is an idea that should offend everybody.
In other words, it’s not the game that’s offensive.
It’s the fact that the game is based on things the Catholic Church has actually done.