I’m not a big fan of making fun of nuns. No. In fact I detest stereotypes of nuns. Granted, some folks play with the image of nuns in order to have a little Catholic fun and stoke the nostalgic fires. But many, many of these images of nuns are at best cheap shots and at worst degrading and offensive stereotypes.

So today we’ve got an ad by Equinox Fitness Club that ran in Boston magazine. Read about the ad below. Be sure to go to the Channel 5 link and then click on the video in which two Paulist Sisters are interviewed.

Naked Man Ad Riles Hub Catholics (source: Boston Channel 5)
Fitness Company Says Human Body Is Art

January 30, 2008

Boston Nun AdBOSTON — A fitness club ad running in Boston magazine that depicts nuns sketching a naked man has triggered protests among some members of the Bay State’s Catholic community.

The ad for the Equinox Fitness Club is running in this month’s issue and some Catholic organizations blasted the photo saying it was offensive.

C.J. Doyle of the Catholic Action League of Massachusetts said the ad shows contempt for the Catholic religion.

“It says a great deal about this perverse obsession in both the fashion industry and the advertising industry of exploiting and mocking and sexualizing Catholic religious imagery,” Doyle said.

The fitness company responded with a written statement saying, “Our ad campaigns are based on personal motivation and fantasy and throughout history the body has been considered a form of art.”

The Daughters Of Saint Paul said they are taking the high road and not worrying about the ad.

“It is crass, but there are a lot of crass things that I don’t pay attention to. I don’t need to,” said Sister Martha Moss.

“We work in the media all the time and we know that these things come and go and the best thing is to let them go,” said Sister Kathryn Hermes.

The company only has one gym in Boston.

I’ve got a number of thoughts running through my head on this one. First, I want to say that indeed the human body is a form of art. Why should the naked body be shocking? And why would the naked body be shocking to a nun? Hello, we are human and we are able to treasure the human body naked or otherwise. It is quite possible for people, including nuns, to encounter the naked human body in a appreciative, non-romantic, non-lustful, non-”fantasy” way. Have you ever seen Sister Wendy? She’s the art historian that comments on art. She’s done some amazing work with classic paintings that depict the naked body. Watching her explain the paintings and seeing her evident love of art is an amazing thing.

OK, now that that’s been said, I want to say that this ad has nothing to do with appreciating the human body or the human person. While I agree wholeheartedly with the Paulist Sisters who are taking the high road, I’ve got to take one little detour off that road to say that the ad is just bad. Bad taste. Bad spirit. Even bad advertising. ”Work out at our gym so you can get a killer body which will attract nuns.” Is that really the message you want to send, Equinox? Is it worth disrespecting an entire group of women, the Roman Catholic Church, and all decent minded people? Come on. You can do better than that. I don’t question your line about the human body being a form of art.  Would that you would have treated the nuns with as much respect as you treated the naked body of the man.