ST. LOUIS (ChurchMilitant.com) - A University of Missouri-St. Louis (UMSL) student is complaining that a campus magazine singles out Catholics for satire.
Brain Stew is published by students in the Pierre Laclede Honors College, a program designed to give accomplished undergraduates a more focused university experience. Published continuously for more than two decades, Brain Stew's mission is to provide honors students "a forum for uncensored free thought, commentary, and creativity."
A UMSL student (who has asked to remain anonymous) notified Church Militant after Brain Stew published two consecutive issues (Issue 2, 2019–20 and Issue 3, 2019–20) with text and images satirizing Catholicism. The student reviewed back issues of the publication and saw that the two issues in question were not isolated incidents.
The publication satirized only Catholicism, not Judaism, Islam or Buddhism.
"I understand the role of satire in public discourse, but this goes beyond satire," said the student. "It is targeting Catholicism. Brain Stew is not an equal opportunity satirical magazine, like France's Charlie Hebdo, which successfully offended everyone."
"By singling out one, specific religion, it appears Brain Stew has an agenda," the individual noted.
Issue 2 of 2019–20 included a story by Myra Horn proposing "Tabitha the Roller Blading Nun" as the Honors College's new mascot. The story included a close-up shot of a stereotypical crazed-looking nun wielding a wooden ruler. Tabitha is allowed to excommunicate "whoever she pleases;" and if she hears a professor teaching something she doesn't like, she "will begin to screech like a religious raptor."
That story seems benign compared to a photo spread in the same issue in which Associate Dean and Faculty Advisor Dan Gerth is participating with "Monica and Jen" (who appear to be students) in satanic rituals.
Gerth is photographed in an eerily lit setting, wearing a long robe and looming over a woman lying on an altar-like table with a goat's head and pentagram banner as a backdrop.
Another photograph showed a satanist eating from a large spoon and was captioned: "Mmm ... delicious Monica blood. Nom nom nom nom nom nom nom nom nom."
A review of past issues of Brain Stew shows that Gerth is likely the publication's most photographed subject. It was Issue 3's cover, with Gerth's head photoshopped onto an image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, that led the UMSL student to complain to media.
When members of St. Louis' Serra Club were shown the image, they responded with shock.
"As a Catholic and a Missouri taxpayer, I am both angered and saddened by this publication," said Dr. Helen Gelhot, who is both a Serra Club member and president of CREDO of the Catholic Laity.
Mockery of Catholicism at UMSL is particularly troubling since the Honors College is housed in what was once the Daughters of Charity's Marillac Provincial House. The building was sold to UMSL and vacated by the nuns in 2002, and is considered the most beautiful building on campus.
Gerth's credentials include an undergraduate degree from St. Louis University and a master's degree from the University of Missouri. He taught high school in St. Louis and Kansas City before he was hired to teach UMSL's honors students. The publication's lack of sensitivity towards the Catholic religion may be surprising, as the Honors College's new dean, Ed Munn Sanchez, was assistant dean for academic affairs and diversity at the University of South Carolina Honors College before moving to St. Louis to lead UMSL's honors program.
When Sanchez was approached with the student's concerns, he refused to take a meeting. When Church Militant contacted him for comment, he only referred Church Militant to the university's media relations department — which also would not discuss the matter.
Dana Beteet Daniels, senior human resources consultant who investigates acts of discrimination at UMSL, met with Church Militant in November to discuss the matter, but has not yet opened an investigation. Citing free speech protection for the publication, UMSL is reluctant to act.
Church Militant also reached out to staff at UMSL's Newman Center, who passed the concerns along to Fr. Nicholas Winker, Newman Center director and pastor of nearby St. Ann Catholic Church. Winker approached UMSL administration with concerns but was rebuffed.
On Jan. 25, UMSL's Honors College will hold its 10th annual fundraising event — at St. Ann Catholic Church.
Contact information for UMSL:
Main Office: (314) 516-5371
Development: (314) 516-4109