He may be the Second Coming to many San Franciscans – but one local Catholic priest wants a popular prayer candle with President Obama’s picture on it pulled from a local gift shop, saying it “mocks Jesus” and “depicts our beloved saints in a not so saintly way.”
The Rev. Tony La Torre of St. Philip the Apostle Church, in ever-hip Noe Valley, is so riled up that he’s calling for a boycott of the neighborhood’s Just For Fun card and novelty shop, which has been selling the $15 candles at a fast clip.
The candles feature the president’s halo-adorned head plastered onto the crucifix-clutching body of St. Martin de Porres, the Peruvian-born friar regarded as one of the first black saints in the Americas.
“I am appalled that in such a family-oriented neighborhood, any retailer would be so bigoted and so hateful (as) to carry such merchandise just to ‘make a buck,’ ” La Torre declared recently in the parish newsletter.
Store owners Robert Ramsey and David Eiland say they’ve sold more than 700 candles since putting them on display over the Christmas holiday.
And while the candles are a big hit, Ramsey says they’re not much different from the line of gag gifts they’ve been selling without complaint at the store on upper 24th Street for the past 22 years.
Yeah they put them right next to the prayer rugs picturing Obama as Mohammed – oh wait they don’t have that.
But to La Torre, the candles featured in a big window display were “the final straw” for a store “that feels the need to mock and ridicule the Catholic/Christian faith.”
It’s not first time “anti-Catholic, anti-Christian” attitudes, as La Torre calls them, have been decried in the city.
A couple of years back, Archbishop George Niederauer said he had been duped into giving communion to a couple of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence – cross-dressing, prankster “nuns” – prompting outrage from religious conservatives across the country.
The candle commotion might have passed quickly, except that La Torre also described the store’s owners as Jewish (they’re not) and urged parishioners not only to boycott the store but to “be sure to poke your head in … and tell them why.”
The San Francisco Archdiocese weighed in, contacting the priest to express its concern over his “Jewish” reference. La Torre has since retracted the reference, saying he only meant that the owners – if Jewish, as he says he was led to believe – “should know what it feels like to be mocked and ridiculed.”
That certainly didn’t help matters and wasn’t germane to the matter at hand even if true.
The owners ignored La Torre’s offer to meet with them to discuss his concerns, but did post a copy of the priest’s newsletter in their store window – right next to the king-size, 2-foot-tall version of the Obama candle that had set him off.
So far, the only effect of the controversy seems to be free advertising and a demand for even more candles.
“Tomorrow, I got 72 more coming,” Ramsey said.
That is always part of the prudential decision to boycott since it can give free advertising and in this case drive sales. Too bad it was mostly the local pastor seemed to be upset by these candles. This is really and act desecration by sacrilege whenever something sacred including sacramental is used for an unworthy purpose. This is more than just a political novelty, but a mocking of the Catholic faith – something that seems to be a constant theme in San Francisco.