Penn and Teller’s ”Vatican” episode missing: Self-censorship?
It seems a safe guess that I’m not alone around here in being a fan of Penn & Teller’s TV series Bullshit, which over the past few years have taken on and exposed various charlatans and fads in the fields of religion, new age, ”alternative” medicine and other subjects ripe for a good skeptical dressing down. Guests have included Christopher Hitchens and P&T’s magician colleague, The Amazing James Randi. (I have been somewhat less enamored of the more recent seasons where the duo seem to have put less emphasis on truth-seeking and more on opinionating, espousing their libertarian political views.)
One of their more interesting recent Bullshit shows was ”The Vatican”, the last episode in Season 7 and originally aired in August 2009. The episode discussed, among other things, the Church’s stand on condoms and Ratzinger’s cover-ups of sex abuse.
For some reason, the show’s producer Showtime, and/or Penn & Teller themselves, have now apparently decided to omit this episode from history. There is no mention of the episode at all in the ”complete” listings on the show’s official homepage. Moreover, the episode is not included in the recent DVD release of Season 7, even though the DVD cover states ”Complete Season” (and, ironically enough in the circumstance, depicts Penn holding a sign saying ”The Right To Free Speech”).
I have not been able to find any word from P&T or Showtime on the reasons for the omission, or any news articles relating to the matter. A google searched only turned out message board comments from outraged fans.
One would assume that if Penn & Teller truly cared about their work, not to mention their reputation, they would have put their foot down — or, if contractually unable to save the episode, at least issued some statement to the show’s fans. There is speculation on the various message board that Showtime and P&T have been pressurized or bribed by the Catholic Church to this act of censorship, perhaps with one of those sneaky clauses requiring them to keep quiet about it. Of course, this is merely unsubstantiated speculation, but it shouldn’t be that hard for Showtime/P&T to refute it.
Meanwhile, the episode is still up on youtube, and is highly recommended for anybody who hasn’t seen it yet: