Catholics outraged over German cartoon

Priest caricature a commentary on recent sex abuse scandal

COLOGNE, Germany -- A German cartoon mocking the Catholic Church has sparked holy outrage among believers here who say it incites hatred against the Pope and the Catholic faith.

The caricature, published in the Good Friday edition of satire magazine Titanic, shows a priest apparently having oral sex with a crucifix of Jesus on the cross.

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The crucifix cartoon is a barbed commentary on recent revelations that 250 people in Germany were sexual abused at Church-run schools in the past decades. The scandal has shaken the German Church. A recent poll said Germans' trust in the Catholic Church had fallen to 17% from 29% in late January and approval ratings for Pope Benedict have dropped from 38% to 24%.

The German Press Council reported that some 100 formal complaints have been filed since the magazine came out, a level of protest not seen since 2006, when German newspaper Die Welt reprinted the infamous Danish Mohammed cartoons.

Two criminal complaints have also been filed against the cartoonist and the editors of Titanic, claiming the picture slanders their religion. The state prosecutors office in Frankfurt, where Titanic is based, said it would decide next week whether to begin an investigation against the magazine.

"We were shocked -- shocked! -- By the reaction to the cartoon," Titanic editor-in-chief Leo Fischer told THR, his tongue firmly in cheek. "It shows a priest cleaning the crucifix. ... I find it strange that Catholics immediately think of sex when they see it."

Fischer added that since the German Catholic Church had not formally complained about the cartoon, he assumed they shared his views on the matter.

A spokesman for the German Catholic Church could not be reached for comment Friday.