• Courtesy of Jon Sall
  • Jon Sall

Our story begins in New York in the fall of 1992.

The Irish singer Sinead O’Connor, appearing on Saturday Night Live, had just torn up a picture of the pope. She was protesting the sexual abuse of children by priests.

In response, the Tribune‘s Jeff MacNelly drew an editorial cartoon of priests watching the show. Three are indignant; the fourth is thinking, “Wonder what she’s doing Friday night.” Chicago’s Joseph Cardinal Bernardin complained about that, asserting MacNelly’s cartoon “by innuendo, insults every good priest serving in the Archdiocese of Chicago.” The Tribune backed up MacNelly and Bernardin dropped the subject.

Sun-Times columnist Richard Roeper called O’Connor’s act “a moment of truly great television.” On getting a raft of complaints about Roeper’s column, the Sun-Times hit upon a way to both make amends and milk the moment. They would run a picture of a prominent Catholic tearing up a picture of O’Connor tearing up the picture of the pope. What a visual coup this would be!