>Re-Post: Archbishop Dolan on Anti-Catholicism

>Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York recently posted the following article on his blog, after The New York Times chose not to run it as an Op-Ed. With news of blasphemy continuing to haunt the headlines like a never-ending leftist cliche, kudos to His Excellency for raising his voice in protest. It is a pity that we do not have more bishops like this.



October 29, 2009

The following article was submitted in a slightly shorter form to the New York Times as an op-ed article. The Times declined to publish it. I thought you might be interested in reading it.

By Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan
Archbishop of New York

October is the month we relish the highpoint of our national pastime, especially when one of our own New York teams is in the World Series!

Sadly, America has another national pastime, this one not pleasant at all: anti-catholicism.

It is not hyperbole to call prejudice against the Catholic Church a national pastime. Scholars such as Arthur Schlesinger Sr. referred to it as “the deepest bias in the history of the American people,” while John Higham described it as “the most luxuriant, tenacious tradition of paranoiac agitation in American history.” “The anti-semitism of the left,” is how Paul Viereck reads it, and Professor Philip Jenkins sub-titles his book on the topic “the last acceptable prejudice.”

If you want recent evidence of this unfairness against the Catholic Church, look no further than a few of these following examples of occurrences over the last couple weeks:

* On October 14, in the pages of the New York Times, reporter Paul Vitello exposed the sad extent of child sexual abuse in Brooklyn’s Orthodox Jewish community. According to the article, there were forty cases of such abuse in this tiny community last year alone. Yet the Times did not demand what it has called for incessantly when addressing the same kind of abuse by a tiny minority of priests: release of names of abusers, rollback of statute of limitations, external investigations, release of all records, and total transparency. Instead, an attorney is quoted urging law enforcement officials to recognize “religious sensitivities,” and no criticism was offered of the DA’s office for allowing Orthodox rabbis to settle these cases “internally.” Given the Catholic Church’s own recent horrible experience, I am hardly in any position to criticize our Orthodox Jewish neighbors, and have no wish to do so . . . but I can criticize this kind of “selective outrage.”

Of course, this selective outrage probably should not surprise us at all, as we have seen many other examples of the phenomenon in recent years when it comes to the issue of sexual abuse. To cite but two: In 2004, Professor Carol Shakeshaft documented the wide-spread problem of sexual abuse of minors in our nation’s public schools (the study can be found here). In 2007, the Associated Press issued a series of investigative reports that also showed the numerous examples of sexual abuse by educators against public school students. Both the Shakeshaft study and the AP reports were essentially ignored, as papers such as the New York Times only seem to have priests in their crosshairs.

* On October 16, Laurie Goodstein of the Times offered a front page, above-the-fold story on the sad episode of a Franciscan priest who had fathered a child. Even taking into account that the relationship with the mother was consensual and between two adults, and that the Franciscans have attempted to deal justly with the errant priest’s responsibilities to his son, this action is still sinful, scandalous, and indefensible. However, one still has to wonder why a quarter-century old story of a sin by a priest is now suddenly more pressing and newsworthy than the war in Afghanistan, health care, and starvation–genocide in Sudan. No other cleric from religions other than Catholic ever seems to merit such attention.

* Five days later, October 21, the Times gave its major headline to the decision by the Vatican to welcome Anglicans who had requested union with Rome. Fair enough. Unfair, though, was the article’s observation that the Holy See lured and bid for the Anglicans. Of course, the reality is simply that for years thousands of Anglicans have been asking Rome to be accepted into the Catholic Church with a special sensitivity for their own tradition. As Cardinal Walter Kasper, the Vatican’s chief ecumenist, observed, “We are not fishing in the Anglican pond.” Not enough for the Times; for them, this was another case of the conniving Vatican luring and bidding unsuspecting, good people, greedily capitalizing on the current internal tensions in Anglicanism.

* Finally, the most combustible example of all came Sunday with an intemperate and scurrilous piece by Maureen Dowd on the opinion pages of the Times. In a diatribe that rightly never would have passed muster with the editors had it so criticized an Islamic, Jewish, or African-American religious issue, she digs deep into the nativist handbook to use every anti-Catholic caricature possible, from the Inquisition to the Holocaust, condoms, obsession with sex, pedophile priests, and oppression of women, all the while slashing Pope Benedict XVI for his shoes, his forced conscription — along with every other German teenage boy — into the German army, his outreach to former Catholics, and his recent welcome to Anglicans.

True enough, the matter that triggered her spasm — the current visitation of women religious by Vatican representatives — is well-worth discussing, and hardly exempt from legitimate questioning. But her prejudice, while maybe appropriate for the Know-Nothing newspaper of the 1850’s, the Menace, has no place in a major publication today.

I do not mean to suggest that anti-catholicism is confined to the pages New York Times. Unfortunately, abundant examples can be found in many different venues. I will not even begin to try and list the many cases of anti-catholicism in the so-called entertainment media, as they are so prevalent they sometimes seem almost routine and obligatory. Elsewhere, last week, Representative Patrick Kennedy made some incredibly inaccurate and uncalled-for remarks concerning the Catholic bishops, as mentioned in this blog on Monday. Also, the New York State Legislature has levied a special payroll tax to help the Metropolitan Transportation Authority fund its deficit. This legislation calls for the public schools to be reimbursed the cost of the tax; Catholic schools, and other private schools, will not receive the reimbursement, costing each of the schools thousands – in some cases tens of thousands – of dollars, money that the parents and schools can hardly afford. (Nor can the archdiocese, which already underwrites the schools by $30 million annually.) Is it not an issue of basic fairness for ALL school-children and their parents to be treated equally?

The Catholic Church is not above criticism. We Catholics do a fair amount of it ourselves. We welcome and expect it. All we ask is that such critique be fair, rational, and accurate, what we would expect for anybody. The suspicion and bias against the Church is a national pastime that should be “rained out” for good.

I guess my own background in American history should caution me not to hold my breath.

Then again, yesterday was the Feast of Saint Jude, the patron saint of impossible causes.

>Candy Corn, BBQ and Sarah

>My neighborhood of Georgetown is a marvelous place to live throughout the year, but particularly during the autumn. The variety of buildings dating from the 18th to the 21st centuries give it architectural diversity, with interesting variations on every block, all superimposed upon a largely Georgian-era, English country town grid. When taken in combination with the large number of mature trees and gardens throughout the village, this time of year is a photographer or flâneur’s delight as front steps are decorated with pumpkins and piles of multi-colored leaves begin to accumulate along the brick and cobblestone paths. And most residents of D.C. know that Halloween on M Street is Georgetown’s slightly tamer and chillier version of Mardi Gras in New Orleans.

However for a truly chilling Halloween, the place to be this October 31st is Canton, North Carolina, where the Amazing Grace Baptist Church will be setting a bonfire to burn non-King James translations of the Bible, as well as books on spirituality by authors such as Blessed Mother Theresa of Calcutta, Pope Benedict XVI, and The Rev. Billy Graham. According to Marc Gizzard, pastor of the church, the King James translation is the only true translation of the Bible, and all other translations are “satanic”. “I believe the King James version is God’s preserved, inspired, inerrant, infallible word of God… for English-speaking people,” he declares. So he and his congregation intend to, for lack of a better description and apparently without considering the ironic implications of such an event, give Satan a burnt offering on Halloween during their church barbecue.

A movement to say that a 17th century translation of the Bible is the “infallible” Word of God, rather than the text written by the prophets and evangelists, is illogical. On an experiential level, the King James version has had to be corrected at least 20 times since its original printing due to some whopping errors, such as the case of the infamous “Wicked Bible”, where the word “not” was omitted from “Thou shalt not commit adultery”, or the “Camel Bible” where Rebecca and her “damsels” was translated as Rebecca and her “camels”. From a purely semantic standpoint however, I was pleased to see that Karl Keating agreed with my initial head-scratching: I am not sure than an inanimate object can be “infallible”, since a book does not ACT – to be fallible or infallible requires some degree of decision-making capability.

However aside from this type of discussion – and a discussion about the inerrancy of the Bible should be a discussion rather than a publicity stunt – the key point is something I have been considering since yesterday, when The American Papist wrote a piece critical of comedienne Sarah Silverman’s nonsense about selling off the Vatican to feed the poor, a matter which in fact we discussed briefly last evening at an enjoyable local venue. Does a YouTube video or a book burning, both of which are essentially blasphemy, require extensive public refutation? I have always found blasphemy to be rather a pathetic sin, since we tiny bags of bones and fluids can’t exactly injure God in any way. The real sin of blasphemy is that of causing scandal to others, and perhaps for that reason a detailed refutation is indeed necessary at times; the problem with this, I fear, is one of invincible ignorance.

In any case, since more skilled writers and commentators than I, dear reader, will weigh in on these subjects, I leave it to them to make the reasoned arguments in refutation of book burning or auctioning off the Sistine Chapel. I would suggest that those particularly disturbed by either Mr. Grizzard or Ms. Silverman take advantage of the resources available to understand why their arguments are incorrect. For my part, I am looking forward to candy corn, coming up with a costume, and enjoying the fact that Halloween falls on a Saturday this year.

>When Art Attacks

>Sometimes when coming up with source material for this blog, I read an article sent by a friend, or a news item in the paper, and think, “Now that is absolutely awful…I should definitely write about it.” At other times, I feel the item is simply too vile a subject with which to dirty my hands. When we get down to brass tacks, this is an editorial judgment call I have to make: oftentimes this writer finds himself sitting on the fence regarding whether to draw attention to a matter or simply to allow it to fester unacknowledged in the cesspool from which it sprung.

The Gallery of Modern Art (“GoMA”) in Glasgow, Scotland, is currently exhibiting a show entitled “Made in God’s Image”, and what a spectacle it is. Truthfully, this is one of those occasions when I thought twice before drawing my readers’ attention to a controversial matter. However, I am reminded of a conversation I had earlier this week with someone whose writing I respect, in which I pointed out that rarely is anything gained by sweeping the dirt under the carpet.

GoMA describes the purpose of the show in detail, as one can read here, though this bit in particular is revelatory:

While some of the works may be controversial from the more traditional and right-leaning positions, the exhibition challenges the assumption that one cannot lead a fully spiritual life while identifying as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered and/or Intersexed.

Obvious theological errors on the part of the exhibition’s organizers are not of interest to me. So let us put aside for the purpose of this post the museum’s clear error in asserting that the Church, at least the Catholic Church, assumes that one cannot lead a fully spiritual life while having same-sex or other attractions. I would direct their attention to an important directive letter to the bishops from then-Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, which was published in 1986 in this regard.

It is the definition of “fully spiritual”, on the part of this show’s organizers, that is questionable. One of the “fully spiritual” aspects of this show is an opportunity for visitors, as The Telegraph (tongue-in-cheek) puts it, to “adorn” the Holy Bible with “comments”. Some of these comments are rather coarse, as one might expect. The website provides details of other “fully spiritual” parts of the show.

In truth, this is not so much an art exhibition as it is a sort of moral relativist auto-da-fe. Those whose views are put forward in this show are angry, and they are taking out their anger in a public way. Venting anger, be it at God, a religious institution, or society in general, is their way of drawing attention to their cause, whatever one may think of that cause.

Some among my readers will recall the infamous Royal Academy “Sensation” exhibition, which traveled to America a few years back, and featured, inter alia, an horrifically defaced image of the Blessed Mother. That piece comes from a long line of anti-Christian art, whether it be the Alexamanos graffito in Rome from 200 A.D., or the infamous photograph of a crucifix submerged in urine from twenty years ago. In truth, I must admit that my first and, dare I say so, understandable reaction to such pieces is indignation and anger.

And yet…

Christ Himself reminds His followers, that we should expect no better treatment from the world than He Himself received:

If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you. Remember the word I spoke to you, ‘No slave is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. And they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know the one who sent me.

(Gospel of St. John, 15:18-21)

Shows such as this latest travesty are reminders, which Christians are very much in need of, that we are at odds with the world. Some of us may be fortunate to live in societies in which our faith is tolerated. However we do not need to go very far, whether in the present age or even in the recent past, to find examples from China to Russia, the United States to Mexico, in which Christians found themselves persecuted for their beliefs – sometimes by non-believers but also, at times, unfortunately, by other Christians.

The proper response, it would seem to me, is first of all not to attend an event where we know for certain that scandal and blasphemy will be taking place, unless we are particularly well-formed and well-armed spiritually against such nonsense. Blasphemy is ultimately one of the silliest of crimes which man can commit against God, for it attempts to reduce the Infinite to the manageable, something which no human being can do. One simply cannot “hurt” God by scribbling some high school bathroom stall writing on a copy of the Scriptures, any more than one can succeed in drinking the entire ocean in a single gulp. Scandal hurts the individual, and can potentially turn someone away from Christ; this is the real potential long-term damage of such events.

It is also proper, particularly since this is a taxpayer-funded institution, for the public to register their displeasure with this show not only with the museum and its benefactors, but also with local and national government officials and the media, should John or Jane Public feel compelled to do so. A well-worded, reasoned response, rather than the histrionics demonstrated by the participants in this spectacle, will go a long way. There is no need to make onesself into a screaming harpie over the products of second-rate art school iconoclasm.

And finally, after making these efforts, as all of us would do well to remember, these people should be remembered in prayer by the faithful. We can decry and condemn their putting on sideshow monstrosities such as this, but we cannot forget that they are human beings who are, in fact, made in the image and likeness of God – even if their understanding of what that means is cloudy. All of us have our own crosses to bear, and must work out our own salvation through God’s Grace. We are free and indeed obligated to point out the obstruction in our brother’s eye, be it splinter or plank, but we must remember that life, however long we are granted it, provides us with enormous opportunities to find our way to God: Mary Magdalene (whose Feast Day we celebrated this week) and Augustine of Hippo became great saints of the Church, but most definitely did not start out that way. Salvation is possible for any of us, and we must be very grateful that this is the case.

St. Mary Magdalen – Georges de la Tour