LOS ANGELES "The Simpsons" just got a blessing from the Vatican.
The official Vatican newspaper has declared that beer-swilling, doughnut-loving Homer Simpson and son Bart are Catholics -- and what's more, it says that parents should not be afraid to let their children watch "the adventures of the little guys in yellow."
"Few people know it, and he does everything to hide it. But it's true: Homer J. Simpson is Catholic", the Osservatore Romano newspaper said in an article on Sunday headlined "Homer and Bart are Catholics."
The newspaper cited a study by a Jesuit priest of a 2005 episode of the show called "The Father, the Son and the Holy Guest Star". That study concludes that "The Simpsons" is "among the few TV programs for kids in which Christian faith, religion and questions about God are recurrent themes."
The Simpsons pray before meals, and "in its own way, believes in the beyond," the newspaper quoted the Jesuit study as saying.
It's the second time the animated U.S. TV series, which is broadcast in 90 countries, has been praised by the Vatican.
But executive producer Al Jean told Entertainment Weekly on Monday he was in "shock and awe" at the latest assertion, adding that the Simpsons attend the "Presbylutheran" First Church of Springfield.
"We've pretty clearly shown that Homer is not Catholic," Jean said. "I really don't think he could go without eating meat on Fridays -- for even an hour."
In December 2009, the Osservatore Romano described the show as "tender and irreverent, scandalous and ironic, boisterous and profound, philosophical and sometimes even theological, nutty synthesis of pop culture and of the lukewarm and nihilistic American middle class."
"The Simpsons", which introduced the catch-phrase "D'oh", is the longest-running prime-time TV series in the United States and is now in its 22nd season.
(Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)