Debate: Does Catholic merchandising trivialise the faith?

The famous Flashing Candle in honour of the Pope's visit to Britain

Glow-in-the-dark rosaries, alarm clocks shaped like Our Lady of Lourdes which sing Aves, T-shirts sporting saints and Madonna-shaped USB-sticks are but a few of the worst examples of Catholic-themed tat. We Catholics, it seems, have the best kitsch.

This week, the merchandise for Pope Benedict XVI’s visit went on sale. It ranges from the classical (a rosary featuring the Pope and saints) to the bizarre (a flickering electric plastic candle adorned with the papal tiara and crossed keys). The collection of items on sale includes a T-shirt emblazoned with the face of John Henry Newman and commemorative plates.

For some, these objects serve as souvenirs to pass on to future generations or devotional aids. For others, they are a light-hearted expressions of their faith.

But they are also seen as frivolous fripperies, embarrassing vestiges of a less enlightened time or tacky and almost blasphemous objects which distract from Christ’s message.

So, does Catholic merchandising trivialise the faith?