By Gudrun Schultz
  TORONTO, Canada, May 16, 2007 ( – The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation is coming under fire for a new show that depicts the Catholic Mass as a background for drug and gang-related activities, in what the Catholic Civil Rights League has called blasphemy of the sacred rituals of Catholicism.

  Titled The Altar Boy Gang, the show features a group of Montreal altar servers who use their role in the parish to cover up their involvement in the drug trade. Two 30-minute pilot episodes of the show were aired at nine p.m. on Friday.

  CBC’s program description at says the show is about “Teenage boys who use their “vocation” as altar boys to be bad.”

  The Communion host is shown as “munchable snack food, possible poker chips and a repository for drops of LSD,” the CCRL stated in press release May 15. “Drug-laced hosts are left in the confessional for pick-up.”

“The Holy Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation are sacraments of the Catholic Church, held sacred to Catholics throughout the world and respected in the spirit of religious freedom by almost all Canadians. It would appear, however, that those employed in the creation of this program do not share this sentiment,” the CCRL stated in a press release May 15.

  Filmed in Toronto, the show was produced by Sienna Films Productions IX Inc. with a $595,892 funding contribution by the Canadian Television Fund, according to the CTF website. The League pointed out that the CBC is funded by Canadian taxpayers, nearly half of whom are Catholic.

  Director Kelly Makin also directed 11 episodes of the homosexual-lifestyle comedy Queer as Folk. Canadian comedian Andy Jones is featured as the parish priest—Jones quit the comedy troupe CODCO in protest after CBC refused to air an episode about sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests in Newfoundland.

  The League intends to lodge a formal complaint today with the CBC over the program, the Ottawa Citizen reported earlier today.

  CBC spokesman Jeff Keay told the Ottawa Citizen yesterday that while The Altar Boy Gang will not become a regular CBC series, he did not agree that the plot of the pilot shows went too far.

“Part of trying to produce compelling programming is to not be afraid of images that someone could find disturbing and I think this, while some people could have found it offensive, it falls within the realm of reasonable,” Mr. Keay said. “We certainly intend no disrespect of the Catholic Church or any other religious organization.”

  Joanne McGarry, executive director of the CCRL, questioned the CBC’s commitment to respecting the religious sensitivities of Catholics in the decision to air the program.
“Within the past year, the CBC hired an independent Muslim Canadian consultant to ensure that religious sensitivities were respected in its program “Little Mosque on the Prairie”. It will be interesting to determine if opportunities were made available to observant Catholics to preview ‘The Altar Boy Gang’. If yes, upon whom did they rely? If not, why the double standard?” McGarry said.

“With this program, the CBC has moved into the area of blasphemy of sacred rituals. Can we expect similar treatment for other religious groups? Catholics should not have to pay for shows where their most sacred rituals and images are considered a starting point for dramatic license.”

  To express concerns:

  To the Canadian Television Fund:
  50 Wellington Street East
  4th Floor
  Toronto, Ontario
  M5E 1C8

  Phone: (416) 214 4400
  Toll Free: 1 877 975 0766
  Fax: (416) 214 4420
  [email protected] 

  To the CRTC click here:


To the CBC:

  Toll-free phone (Canada only): 1-866-306-4636

  Audience Relations,
  CBC, P.O. Box 500 Station A,
  Toronto, ON, Canada,
  M5W 1E6

  Web form: