Anti-Catholic Canard: Catholic League Accuses Church Critics Of Bias And Bigotry

According to the Catholic League, just about any attempt to enforce the separation of church and state is an example of anti-Catholicism.

Have you ever found yourself in disagreement with the political positions of the Catholic bishops? If so, you’re anti-Catholic.

Has it ever occurred to you that the church hierarchy didn’t handle the pedophilia scandal very well, and have you voiced that opinion? You’re anti-Catholic.

Do you get upset when priests and bishops violate federal law by endorsing candidates from the pulpit? That’s anti-Catholic too.

I learned these things after examining a new publication from the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights titled 2012 Report on Anti-Catholicism. Someone from the Catholic League was thoughtful enough to send it to me. I found its contents enlightening.

According to the League, “This comprehensive report documents incidents of anti-Catholicism that emerged last year from many different segments of society: activist organizations; the arts; business and the workplace; education; government; and the media.”

Not quite. In reality, it looks like a gaggle of interns was set loose on Google News with a list of keywords. The report is more accurately described as an incoherent hodgepodge of news items from 2012 that annoyed William A. Donohue, the League’s president.

Many of the items listed have nothing to do with Catholicism. (One example: The report goes on at length about the controversy over the anti-gay views of Dan Cathy, owner of Chick-fil-A restaurants. Cathy is a Southern Baptist.)

I suppose the Catholic League sent me the report because Americans United is mentioned in it more than once. What did we do in 2012 that was “anti-Catholic”? Well, we dared to assert that the bishops have no right under the First Amendment to restrict Americans’ access to birth control.

We asked the Internal Revenue Service to investigate a Catholic church in New York City that ran an item in its bulletin endorsing Mitt Romney for president as well as a bishop in Peoria who exhorted congregants not to vote for Barack Obama, comparing him to Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin. For expecting that federal law be followed, AU was labeled anti-Catholic.

According to this report, just about any attempt to enforce the separation of church and state is an example of anti-Catholicism. It contains numerous accounts of organizations like Americans United, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the American Civil Liberties Union and others asking government officials to stop displaying sectarian symbols on public land or opening meetings with sectarian prayers. In many cases, the symbols and prayer used were not Catholic. No matter. According to the Catholic League, that’s still anti-Catholic.

Here are some other things that the report says are anti-Catholic:

* New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd is anti-Catholic because she wrote, “Even as Republicans try to wrestle women into chastity belts, the Vatican is trying to muzzle American nuns.”

* Salon.com is anti-Catholic because one of its editors, Joan Walsh, asserted that the Catholic bishops often behave like an “unregistered arm of the GOP.”

* Philadelphia officials are anti-Catholic because they put Msgr. William Lynn on trial for covering up the sexual abuse of children by priests. (Lynn, who was found guilty on one count of child endangerment, was sentenced to three to six years in prison.)

* An editorial cartoonist, Signe Wilkinson, is anti-Catholic because she drew a cartoon criticizing the bishops’ stand on access to birth control and asserting that even Catholic women don’t support it.

Here is my favorite example of anti-Catholicism from the report: Some thieves broke into a Catholic church in Hoboken, N.J., and stole copper pipes. Theft of copper has been a problem around the country because it has a high resale value on the secondary market. Such thievery is deplorable, but my guess is that the crooks who hit the church were interested in making a few bucks, not striking a blow against the Vatican.

(Unfortunately, the 2012 report is not online – although the League is happy to sell you a copy for $10 – but you can see examples from previous years here.)

With a definition this broad, can anyone escape the brush of anti-Catholicism? No – and that’s exactly what Donohue, wants. Under his definition, millions of Americans (including many Catholics) who don’t agree with the bishops on issues like legal abortion, LGBT rights, access to contraceptives and even the church’s handling of child-abuse allegations are anti-Catholic.

It’s really just an attempt to play the victim and intimidate anyone who is critical of the church hierarchy’s political views or their attempts to require all of us to live under their dogma. Will it work? Nope.

Your martyr complex is tiresome, Bill. How about a little truth in advertising? I’d recommend a new title for the 2013 report: A Long List of Things That Really Bothered William Donohue Last Year.