A model posing as the Virgin Mary on the cover of the Mexican edition of Playboy magazine led the U.S. headquarters to recently issue a formal apology.
The offensive Dec. 1 edition, which was published only days before a major Mexican festival dedicated to the mother of Jesus, shows model Maria Florencia Onori standing in front of a stained glass window with only a white cloth to cover her head and select parts of her body.
The cover line reads: "We Adore You, Maria" or "We Adore You, Mary" in Spanish.
In a statement on Friday, Chicago-based Playboy Enterprises Inc said the Mexican edition of the magazine is published by a licensee, and the company did not approve nor endorse the cover.
"While Playboy Mexico never meant for the cover or images to offend anyone, we recognize that it has created offense, and we as well as Playboy Mexico offer our sincerest apologies," the company stated.
Raul Sayrols, publisher of Playboy Mexico, meanwhile claimed the image "is not and never was intended to portray the Virgin of Guadalupe or any other religious figure."
"The intent was to reflect a Renaissance-like mood on the cover," he expressed in a statement.
In response, Fr. Jonathan Morris, an American Roman Catholic priest and vice-rector of the Legionaries of Christ seminary in Rome, slammed the Playboy statement as a "non-apology apology."
"[W]hat does it say about a company and its executives when they are willing to communicate a lie so big and bold that even they know it will fool no one?" he posed Monday in his Fox News blog.
But Morris also said there would be little use in loudly crying "sacrilegious," "crude," "demeaning," or "foul" over the controversial cover shot.
"After all, those adjectives are all applicable to the magazine itself," he stated.
According to reports, Playboy Mexico printed 100,000 copies of the issue, which hit the stands seven days before the Feast of the Immaculate Conception and eleven days before the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
The Virgin Mary is venerated by Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox as well as some Anglican, Lutheran, and Methodist Christians.