Gotta Pay Your Dues?

by Jimmy Akin

in Law

Religion Today is reporting:

Union Told Me to Pay Dues or Change Religion, Teacher Says

Told by a union official to pay forced dues or "change religions," a teacher in southern Ohio is challenging a state law that allows only those public employees who belong to certain denominations the right to claim religious objection to paying union dues. CNSNews.com reports that Carol Katter, a mathematics and language arts instructor in the St. Marys district, filed a federal complaint in the U.S. District Court in Columbus this week over an Ohio law that prevents the lifelong Catholic from diverting her dues from a union she refuses to fund because it supports abortion on demand. The current law states: "Any public employee who is a member of and adheres to established and traditional tenets or teachings of a bona fide religion or religious body which has historically held conscientious objections to joining or financially supporting an employee organization and which is exempt from taxation under the provisions of the Internal Revenue Code shall not be required to join or financially support any employee organization as a condition of employment." The teacher said she had been "shocked" to learn her dues had to go to the OEA [Ohio Education Association, an affiliate of the National Education Association]. However, she later learned that members of only two religions (Seventh-Day Adventist or a Mennonite) receive the charity exception.

CHT to the reader who e-mailed!

MORE HERE.

EXCERPTS:

While discussing the situation with an OEA official, Katter "pretty much pleaded with the lady," saying: "I can’t do this. It’s against my belief and my conscience. Isn’t there anything I can do to just give the money to charity?"

The teacher’s request was turned down "basically because I could not come up with proof that my individual church — not the Catholic faith, but my individual church — had a record of anyone having successfully fought a union," she said. "In my little parish church, no one’s ever done this, and that’s what threw it out."

Katter said the union attorney told her she had two choices – pay her dues or "change religions."

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, union officials may not force any employee to financially support a union if doing so violates the employee’s sincerely held religious beliefs, Gleason said.

To avoid conflict between an employee’s faith and a requirement to pay fees to a union he or she believes to be immoral, the law requires union officials to accommodate the employee – most often by designating a mutually acceptable charity to accept the funds.

[VP of the National Right to Work Foundation Stefan] Gleason added that SERB officials cannot claim ignorance in Katter’s situation. He noted that the state government was involved in a case last year that led a federal judge to issue a decree affirming that all public-sector employees with religious objections to union affiliation could not be forced to pay dues to such organizations.

The ruling was made in a foundation-assisted lawsuit regarding union contracts for state workers. Ohio Environmental Protection Agency employee Glen Greenwood, a Presbyterian, had objected to paying union dues because he believed the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association supported abortion and same-sex marriage.

"I’m hoping that this case will set a precedent so anybody from any religion who has these feelings will not be pressured into compromising their convictions," [Katter] said. "I can’t not do this."

A few thoughts on this story:

First, I’m not a fan of compulsory union membership. I support the right of laborers to organize, but I also support the right of laborers to not organize. Forcing labor to organize distorts the economics of the labor market just as much as prohibiting them from organizing. In principle, they’re the same. When business owners wish to use the law to prohibit their workers from organizing, it’s an attempt by business owners to eliminatekeep individual workers from banding together and exercizing their clout in aggregate. When labor unions wish to use the law to prohibit workers from not joinging the union, it’s an attempt to prevent individual laborers from competing with the union. In both cases, one party (business owners in one case and labor unions in the other) is trying to use the law to eliminate competition for their interests in the labor market.

To see the selfishness of this more clearly, turn the situation around so that it deals with business/consumer relations instead of management/labor relations: Suppose that a business wanted to use the law to prevent customers from organizing a boycott–preventing customers from organizing and using their purchasing power as clout in getting the goods and services it wants. That’s the equivalent of business owners preventing unions from existing. Similarly, suppose that a business wants to use the law to prevent other, competing businesses from springing up; in other words, it wants a monopoly on who will be allowed to provide a particular good or service. That’s the equivalent of labor unions being able to legally mandate membership, so that if you want to provide a particular service (labor), you have to do it only through the monopoly of the union.

In each of these cases, it’s one group trying to use the law to protect its power/money from free competition in the marketplace.

Second, I hope Katter is successful in her action. The idea that you have to be a member of an individual local church that has a history of conscientious objection to union membership is nutty, and I expect that to fall by the wayside.

I’d also like to see her succeed in her quest to strike a blow for religious freedom in general. If she’s not able to get a right-to-work law in her area (which would be preferred), then at least people of all religions should be able to exercise the option of donating their union dues to charity if they can document that their religion would support consientious objection in this case.

Third, I do not think it would be difficult for Katter to establish this in the case of her own Catholic faith. Not only are there existing conscientious objector passages connected with abortion in official Church documents, but I suspect that the Vatican would be quite willing to issue a finding supporting conscientious objection in this case.

A while back they did issue a finding supporting the rights of parents to have their children exempted from mandatory innoculations drawn from immorally-cultivated stem cell lines, and if the request were put to them in the right way, I suspect that they would be most willing to issue a document supporting the right of people to conscientious object when they are being required by law to pay money to unions that promote or support abortion.

Fourth, I’m a little nonplussed about the claim (mentioned in the second link, above) that the Ohio law creates an establishment of religion and thus violates the First Amendment. While I recognize that it creates a more favorable environment to some religions than others, that’s just not what "establishment" means. Ohio hasn’t set up an Official Church of Ohio (which it would have been entitled to do under the Constitution as originally written and interpreted).

Still, we’re dealing with a clear injustice here, and I suspect that Katter will succeed.

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{ 56 comments }

Kasia January 30, 2007 at 7:40 am

Thanks for posting on this. I’m curious to see how it turns out, as when I first hired in full time at my university I was given two options: join the union and pay dues, or decline to join the union and still pay dues. I figured if I was paying the same either way, I might as well have the benefits of membership (i.e. my father can golf at the UAW course in northern Michigan).
That said, I’m now very curious to see what my union dues are supporting. Think it’s time to do some research.

Cajun Nick January 30, 2007 at 8:20 am

I recently left my job as a teachers’ union representative precisely over this issue.
In Louisiana, I worked for the NEA affiliate, the Louisiana Association of Educators. Our state is a Right-to-Work state, so nobody can be forced to pay union dues; they must be convinced it is in their interest to join one.
I had known about the NEA’s non-position/position on abortion, gay rights, and other liberal issues. The NEA regularly supports these issues and candidates who support these issues.
The NEA and LAE end up supporting these candidates, they say, because these same candidates also stand with the union on educations issues. The two issues just so happen to overlap.
However, even as I worked for the state union for nearly 5 years, I always understood that any money that went to these causes came from voluntary PAC contributions. Therefore, I saw my soliciting union membership as being remote to the support for abortion rights. I didn’t ask people to make PAC contributions; they did so if they choose to do so.
About a year ago, I discovered that actual member dues were being spent on liberal causes (there is a Wall Street Journal article that I read; unfortunately I can’t link to it.)
Granted, the amounts were miniscule compared to the overall NEA budget. Nevertheless, this was no longer voluntary. Needless to say, it disturbed me. I prayed about whether or not I should stay employed.
God provided. I was looking for confirmation about the story (knowing that the WSJ takes a dimmer view of unions than I take). Lo! and behold! I was assigned the duty of being the personal escort of the NEA President, Reg Weaver, all day as he toured South Louisiana to see hurricane damage.
It was going to be just Reg and me – no managers or bosses to get in my way of asking the questions I needed to ask. I found out that the story was indeed true. That settled it. Now the only question was: what would I do?
God provides. Despite a pretty antagonistic relationship that I had developed with the school districts of South Lousiana, I was actually hired back to teach – in my hometown; at my old high school; where I had previously taught; within walking distance from home; even though a (slim) majority of school board members and the superintendent REALLY don’t like me because of my union work.
I’m sorry this post rambled a little; but I just wanted to provide a testimony to all of you who begin to wonder whether or not God hears and answers our prayers. God provides. Just put your faith in Him that His will be don.

JohnD January 30, 2007 at 11:18 am

Your religion makes NO difference! This website (under Religious Objectors) has lots of great info that makes it easy to craft a “Religious Objector” letter by cutting and pasting from the Catechism regarding the sanctity of human life (#2258-2262; 2268-2279)and coercion (#1782):
http://www.stratofuture.com/
The National Right to Life is a good non-religious, non-union, tax-exempt charity that you can send money to instead of paying union dues.
I just wish this whole dance wasn’t needed in the first place. Freedom of association includes freedom of disassociation.
Thank you Jimmy for covering this!

Kevin Jones January 30, 2007 at 11:48 am

“Not only are there existing conscientious objector passages connected with abortion in official Church documents, but I suspect that the Vatican would be quite willing to issue a finding supporting conscientious objection in this case.”
Why clog up the curia with even more responsibilities? Can’t a simple letter from this person’s pastor bishop be enough?

Esau January 30, 2007 at 11:53 am

Why clog up the curia with even more responsibilities? Can’t a simple letter from this person’s pastor bishop be enough?
I very much admire the considerate nature of these remarks.

Kasia January 30, 2007 at 12:02 pm

What an amazing story, Nick. Thanks for posting it!

MissJean January 30, 2007 at 12:11 pm

I’m a public school teacher and pay dues to the MEA (Michigan Education Association). My eyes got really big when I read Cajun Nick’s commentary. I never give money to PAC, and the only reason I started contributing to United Way in our area is because they showed that they only support pro-Life causes in the area.

Mike Petrik January 30, 2007 at 1:08 pm

Re United Way,
Apologies for this diversion, but a couple points:
First, Miss Jean’s post is very instructive insomuch as it implicitly acknowledges the fact that all United Ways are local, and their investment/allocation policies and strategies differ. For example, for every local United Way that chose to de-fund the Boy Scouts a few years ago for their alleged homophobic policies there are dozens which stood fast against such demands.
Second, even among United Ways that fund local Planned Parenthood agencies some allow you to direct your donation away from such programs. While such an option can be financial chicanery given the fungability of money, it need not be. Atlanta’s United Way, for example, implements this option in a way that actually does honor the donor’s intention.
As Miss Jean did, check before you decide to donate; and check before you decide to not donate.

Brian January 30, 2007 at 1:57 pm

Can you imagine if this were ANY other religion. There would be massive protests and the entire world would be coming done on this union thug. But since it’s Catholic well they can be discriminated against. I hope that not only does she win but the state fires this clown for violating her rights.

Brian2 January 30, 2007 at 2:04 pm

Just wanted to note that underlined Brian isn’t the same as the withholding-his-email Brian who’s commenting at around the same time to other posts.

Jeb Protestant January 30, 2007 at 2:17 pm

Brian,
I think evangelical protestants are the most discriminted against group in the world.

Esau January 30, 2007 at 2:21 pm

I think evangelical protestants are the most discriminted against group in the world.
Jeb Protestant:
Oh really, is that the reason why one of the foremost prejudices rampant in the United States is Anti-Catholicism!

Anonymous January 30, 2007 at 2:24 pm

Kasia,
I am glad to share the story. I have dropped my membership, of course. However, everyone at the high school where I work know me as “Mr. Union”, and I often get question about employee rights. It certainly made their eyes open at the beginning of the year when I told them that I couldn’t help them, AND I couldn’t recommend that they join the union.
MissJean,
The article that was brought to my attention appeared, I think, in the Jan. 3 issue of the Wall Street Journal. It actually was an editorial, and it was titled “Teacher’s Pet”.
The editorial got many things wrong, claiming that the NEA spent more than $65M on liberal groups. As I dug deeper, I realized that actually, 98% of the $65M went straight to state and local affiliates for education programs and member services – for example, NEA rebates back to state affiliates (like LAE) money to pay for UniServ staff (like I was).
However, of the remaining 2%, the NEA did give money to many groups, including liberal groups like GLAAD (the Gay and Lesbian Alliance) – $5,000; Human Rights Campaign (pro-homosexual rights) – $15,000; and AIDS Walk Washington – $5,000; to name a few. The NEA also opened up its headquarters for pro-choice demonstrators, allowing use of the union’s facilities and providing refreshments for marchers.
According to President Weaver, typically, these groups write to ask the NEA to purchase entire tables at a general fundraising event. The NEA does so because these groups promise to “go to bat” for public education issues at appropriate times.
As I said before, chump change compared to the overall NEA budget. Nevertheless, I didn’t want any of my money going to these groups, if I could help it. And I could help it – I quit employement and dropped membership.

Cajun Nick January 30, 2007 at 2:25 pm

The anonymous post was me. Sorry.

Curious January 30, 2007 at 2:25 pm

Greetings Mike Petrik,
I reside in the San Fran bay area, where our United Ways do attack Boy Scouts and support noxious causes. Given the fungibility of money, and UW’s troubled history regarding fraud in the past, I refuse to put a penny (or even a mite) into the United Way. There are lots of Catholic Charities to support, plus Catholic Answers!

Esau January 30, 2007 at 2:28 pm

The Last Acceptable Prejudice?
By James Martin
The advertisement for a student-loan company features a picture of a nun in a veil with the legend “If you’re a nun, then you’re probably not a student.” The movie “Jeffrey” includes a trash-talking priest sexually propositioning a man in a church sacristy. One can readily venture into novelty stores and buy a “Boxing Nun” handpuppet or, if that’s out of stock, perhaps a “Nunzilla” windup doll. “Late-Nite Catechism,” a play that features a sadistic sister in the classroom, has become a favorite of local theaters across the country. Since last fall nine Catholic churches in Brooklyn, N.Y., have been vandalized; statues have been decapitated and defaced. In some instances hate mail was sent as well. The playwright Tony Kushner, writing in The Nation, calls the pope a “a homicidal liar” who “endorses murder.” During one Holy Week The New Yorker displays a picture of the crucifixion on its cover; but in place of the corpus, a traditional Catholic icon, appears the Easter Bunny. On PBS’s “Newshour With Jim Lehrer” a commentator discussing mandatory DNA testing for criminals identifies the following groups as “at risk” for criminal behavior: “teenagers, homeless people, Catholic priests.” A Catholic priest highly recommended by a bi-partisan committee that spent “literally hundreds of hours” in their search for a chaplain for the U. S. House of Representatives is rejected with no adequate explanation. And the leaders of Bob Jones University, where Gov. George W. Bush appeared during his presidential campaign, call Pope John Paul II the “Anti-Christ,” and the Catholic Church “satanic” and the “Mother of Harlots.”
Examples of anti-Catholicism in the United States are surprisingly easy to find. Moreover, Catholics themselves seem to be increasingly aware of the specter of anti-Catholic bias. In the past, a largely immigrant church would have quietly borne the sting of prejudice, but today American Catholics seem less willing to tolerate slander and malicious behavior. In addition, the question of anti-Catholic bias has recently been brought to the fore by the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights. Emboldened by its public-relations successes, with attacks on television shows like “Nothing Sacred,” Broadway offerings like “Corpus Christi” and last year’s exhibit “Sensation” at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, this organization has made anti-Catholicism a hot political issue.
But this raises a critical question: How prevalent is anti-Catholicism in American culture? Is it, as some have termed it, “the last acceptable prejudice?” Is it as serious an issue as racism or anti-Semitism or homophobia? Or are rising complaints about anti-Catholic bias simply an unfortunate overstatement, another manifestation of the current “victim culture,” in which every interest group is quick to claim victimhood?
In short, is anti-Catholicism a real problem in the United States?
Historical Roots
It is, of course, impossible to summarize 400 years of history in a few paragraphs. But even a brief overview serves to expose the thread of anti-Catholic bias that runs through American history and to explain why the eminent historian Arthur Schlesinger Sr. called anti-Catholicism “the deepest-held bias in the history of the American people.”
To understand the roots of American anti-Catholicism one needs to go back to the Reformation, whose ideas about Rome and the papacy traveled to the New World with the earliest settlers. These settlers were, of course, predominantly Protestant. For better or worse, a large part of American culture is a legacy of Great Britain, and an enormous part of its religious culture a legacy of the English Reformation. Monsignor John Tracy Ellis, in his landmark book American Catholicism, first published in 1956, wrote bluntly that a “universal anti-Catholic bias was brought to Jamestown in 1607 and vigorously cultivated in all the thirteen colonies from Massachusetts to Georgia.” Proscriptions against Catholics were included in colonial charters and laws, and, as Monsignor Ellis noted wryly, nothing could bring together warring Anglican ministers and Puritan divines faster than their common hatred of the church of Rome. Such antipathy continued throughout the 18th century. Indeed, the virtual penal status of the Catholics in the colonies made even the appointment of bishops unthinkable in the early years of the Republic.
In 1834, lurid tales of sexual slavery and infanticide in convents prompted the burning of an Ursuline convent in Charlestown, Mass., setting off nearly two decades of violence against Catholics. The resulting anti-Catholic riots (which included the burning of churches), were largely centered in the major urban centers of the country and led to the creation of the nativist Know-Nothing Party in 1854, whose platform included a straightforward condemnation of the Catholic Church.
By 1850 Catholics had become the country’s largest single religious denomination. And between 1860 and 1890 the population of Catholics in the United States tripled through immigration; by the end of the decade it would reach seven million. This influx, largely Irish, which would eventually bring increased political power for the Catholic Church and a greater cultural presence, led at the same time to a growing fear of the Catholic “menace.” The American Protective Association, for example, formed in Iowa in 1887, sponsored popular countrywide tours of supposed ex-priests and “escaped” nuns, who concocted horrific tales of mistreatment and abuse.
By the beginning of the 20th century fully one-sixth of the population of the United States was Catholic. Nevertheless, the powerful influence of groups like the Ku Klux Klan and other nativist organizations were typical of still-potent anti-Catholic sentiments. In 1928 the presidential candidacy of Al Smith was greeted with a fresh wave of anti-Catholic hysteria that contributed to his defeat. (It was widely rumored at the time that with the election of Mr. Smith the pope would take up residence in the White House and Protestants would find themselves stripped of their citizenship.)
As Charles R. Morris noted in his recent book American Catholic, the real mainstreaming of the church did not occur until the 1950’s and 1960’s, when educated Catholics—sons and daughters of immigrants—were finally assimilated into the larger culture. Still, John F. Kennedy, in his 1960 presidential run, was confronted with old anti-Catholic biases, and was eventually compelled to address explicitly concerns of his supposed “allegiance” to the pope. (Many Protestant leaders, such as Norman Vincent Peale, publicly opposed the candidacy because of Kennedy’s religion.) And after the election, survey research by political scientists found that Kennedy had indeed lost votes because of his religion. The old prejudices had lessened but not disappeared.
Contemporary Prejudices
But why today? In a “multicultural” society shouldn’t anti-Catholicism be a dead issue? After all, Catholics have been successfully integrated into a social order that places an enormous emphasis on tolerance. Moreover, the great strides made in dialogue among the Christian denominations should make the kind of rhetoric used in the past outmoded if not politically incorrect.
But besides the lingering influence of our colonial past, and the fact that many Americans disagree with the Catholic hierarchy on political matters, there are a number of other reasons for anti-Catholic sentiments. Most of these reasons are not overtly theological. (However, as the recent flap at Bob Jones University demonstrated, strong theological opposition to the church still exists among small groups of Baptists and evangelicals in the South.) Rather, these sentiments stem mainly from the inherent tensions between the nature of the church and the nature of the United States.
First, in any democracy there is a natural distrust of organizations run along hierarchical lines, as the Catholic Church surely is. The church’s model of governance can strike many as almost “anti-American.” (Many Americans, for example, view the church’s ban on women’s ordination largely in terms of democratic principles, or “rights” and “representation.”)
Second, the church’s emphasis on community, as well as what St. Ignatius Loyola famously called “thinking with the church,” is often seen as at odds with the American ideal of rugged individualism. This attitude manifests itself whenever the institutional church is criticized but personal faith is celebrated. This is also the philosophy represented in such movies as “Dogma” and “Stigmata.” The implicit message is that while organized religion is bad, “spirituality” (especially in a highly personalized form) is good. Similarly, in a pluralistic society the church’s emphasis on the one, eternal truth can strike some as difficult to comprehend.
Third, in a rational, post-Enlightenment society the church’s emphasis on the transcendent seems at best old-fashioned, and at worst dangerously superstitious. The church teaches a transcendent God, embraces mystery, seeks to explain the nature of grace, and believes in the sacramental presence of God. The rational response: How can an intelligent person believe in such things?
Fourth, in a culture obsessed by the new—whether in technology, entertainment, lifestyle or ideas—the church reaches back into ancient practices and beliefs. This creates another obvious tension.
Fifth, especially for intellectuals in a postmodern world, where the notions of “truth” and “texts” are suspect, the church proclaims its belief in eternal truths and—as if to make matters worse—truths that can be found by meditating on texts.
Sixth, the church’s tendency to regulate belief, according to the rules of canon law and practices of the magisterium, often strikes many Americans—especially journalists and writers—as “censorship.” As Avery Dulles, S.J., has noted (Am., 10/1/94), this sentiment provides journalists with a built-in bias against the teachings of popes and bishops and organizations like the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Anti-Catholic bias in the United States is therefore something more than simply a historical legacy. It is the result of inherent tensions between aspects of the Roman Catholic worldview and a democratic, post-Enlightenment, postmodern American culture. And while all religions labor under this postmodern critique, Catholicism has been singled out as a highly visible, seemingly powerful and—therefore—consistently tempting target.
The Political Arena
Anti-Catholicism today is arguably less a political matter (manifesting itself in political venues and overt political action) and more a cultural one (expressing itself in various cultural arenas, most notably entertainment and advertising.)
This is not to deny its still-potent power in the political world. The recent furor over the rejection of a Catholic priest as chaplain in the U. S. House of Representatives is a case in point. Similarly, when church spokespersons offer commentary, for example on abortion, they are frequently dismissed as simply “parroting” Rome’s line. In a 1995 interview with America (7/1), the U. S. bishop’s spokesperson for pro-life issues neatly summed up this line of thought: “The Catholic part of you has disabled the thinking part of you,” said Helen Alvaré.
The media also have a tendency to reduce the church’s positions to a single issue. In 1993, during the national health care reform debate, the U.S. bishops issued a thoughtful letter calling for universal coverage, strongly criticizing a “two-tiered” system that favored care for the rich over the poor, and opposing abortion. The media, however, focused only on abortion—the one area where the bishops were out of step with liberal Democrats. Still, this may simply represent myopic reporting, not anti-Catholicism.
The anti-Catholicism that one might deduce from observing the political world may stem less from deeply rooted prejudices than from disagreements with positions set forth by the hierarchy. In other words, not everyone who disagrees with the church is biased or malicious. So what may initially appear as antipathy toward the church may simply be political rhetoric that has exceeded the boundaries of civility. Occasionally, however, such disagreements can lead to genuine antipathy toward the church and constitute a real prejudice—just as strong disagreements with the political agenda of gays and blacks are sometimes expressed in gay bashing and racism. And when such rhetoric does cross the line, complaints of “anti-Catholicism” may be justified.
Indeed, it is groups that are most opposed to the church’s stance in the political arena that most often lapse into prejudices and stereotypes in their public rhetoric. The pro-choice organization Catholics for a Free Choice, for example, can be counted on to disagree with the church on almost any topic. Similarly, many vocal members of the gay community, who have found themselves—not surprisingly—at odds with a magisterium that labels them “objectively disordered” are often virulent in their criticism. In an article in The New York Times Magazine (9/26/99), Andrew Sullivan recounted how, in the 1980’s, the “mainly gay” activist group Act Up desecrated Communion hosts at a Mass in St. Patrick’s Cathedral. “Some of the most anti-Catholic bigots in America are gay,” Mr. Sullivan opined.
Still, in the political sphere it is difficult to gauge whether criticism of the church represents an honest critique or is indicative of prejudice. Here, therefore, one should use the words “anti-Catholic” sparingly if at all. Where anti-Catholic tendencies seem to be stronger—or at least more obvious—is in the fields of entertainment and advertising.
Advertising and Entertainment
It is difficult to know where to begin a discussion of anti-Catholicism in advertising, so ingrained is it in the industry. Perhaps two quick examples will suffice. Last year Details magazine featured an advertisement for Diesel jeans showing a quintet of buxom nuns, hands folded primly, wearing Diesel jeans while, in the background, a polychromed statue of the Blessed Mother peers down at them from on high. And in an advertisement for Grateful Palate, a food and wine wholesaler, a nun named Sister Mary Lemon Curd is featured (in full habit) with the following quote: “I love Grateful Palate products, especially Burton & Co. curds…. Sometimes I just rub it all over my…oops. Never mind…. I’d rather eat curd than anything else, except the holy sacrament.”
What is the purpose of this kind of advertising? The answer is contained in the very goal of advertising—that is, to sell, to make money. Anything that sells the product—anything—is useful. So, for example, if Diesel jeans wants to convince people that their products are daring or fashionable, their ads must convey this impression of daring. It doesn’t matter that sending up Catholic symbols is a hackneyed device; for certain consumers who decide to buy jeans on the basis of a magazine ad, a tired attack can still elicit the desired frisson of shock. And since there is almost nothing advertisers can do to shock anymore (sex? been there; nudity? done that) advertisers are desperately looking for new sacred cows to gore.
The entertainment industry, however, is of two minds about the Catholic Church. On the one hand, film and television producers seem to find Catholicism irresistible. There are a number of reasons for this. First, more than any other Christian denomination, the Catholic Church is supremely visual, and therefore attractive to producers and directors concerned with the visual image. Vestments, monstrances, statues, crucifixes-to say nothing of the symbols of the sacraments-are all things that more “wordoriented” Christian denominations have foregone. The Catholic Church, therefore, lends itself perfectly to the visual media of film and television. You can be sure that any movie about the Second Coming or Satan or demonic possession or, for that matter, any sort of irruption ofthe transcendent into everyday life, will choose the Catholic Church as its venue. (See, for example, “End of Days,” “Dogma” or “Stigmata.”)
Second, the Catholic Church is still seen as profoundly “other” in modern culture and is therefore an object of continuing fascination. As already noted, it is ancient in a culture that celebrates the new, professes truths in a postmodern culture that looks skeptically on any claim to truth and speaks of mystery in a rational, postEnlightenment world. It is therefore the perfect context for scriptwriters searching for the “conflict” required in any story.
Yet, paradoxically, the entertainment industry is where one finds the most obvious contempt for the Catholic Church. It is as if producers, directors, playwrights and filmmakers feel obliged to establish their intellectual bona fides by trumpeting their differences with the institution that holds them in such thrall. Chief among the laugh-getting scenes in the trailer for last year’s lowbrow movie “Superstar,” about a Catholic schoolgirl, is a scene where a nun gets kicked in the face during a kickline. The 1995 movie “Jeffrey,” as mentioned, featured a scene in a sacristy where the priest gropes a male parishioner. When the parishioner expresses surprise, the priest exclaims, “Maybe you didn’t hear me. I’m a Catbolic priest! Historically, that falls between being a florist and a chorus boy.” The movie “Stigmata” featured a plot line implying that the corrupt Catholic Church is sitting on a secret Gospel. And last year’s offering by the director Kevin Smith, the theology-obsessed “Dogma,” displays its occasional anti-Catholic jibes as badges of intellectualism: Nuns are addled, cardinals nutty, the Mass irrelevant and so on.
But it is television that has proven the most fertile ground for anti-Catholic writing. Priests, when they appear on television shows, usually appear as pedophiles or idiots, and are rarely seen to be doing their jobs. (When was the last time, for example, that you saw a hospital chaplain on “E.R.”?) On Fox-TV’s “Ally McBeal,” a show which also featured a sexually active nun, the show’s writer David Kelley (who also gave viewers a foot-fetishist priest in “Picket Fences”) featured a Protestant minister who is being prosecuted for having an affair with a church worker. “I realize that doesn’t make me an altar boy,” he says to one of the lawyers. “If you were an altar boy,” the lawyer responds, “you’d be with a priest.”
Of course, the purpose of television entertainment is not to inform but to increase network revenues; so it is misguided to expect sitcoms to be documentaries. “Ally McBeal,” after all, is not “Frontline.” And-as in advertisingwith few taboo subjects left, TV producers and writers are desperate for anything that will titillate, shock or amuse. So the Catholic Church is a particularly tempting target. We are at once in the mainstream (and therefore familiar enough to the average viewer) and out of the mainstream (and therefore am object of some suspicion and contempt). But the maliciousness of the humor can be startling, focusing as it does on the Catholic Church.
The Catholic League
The group that has had the most to do recently with bringing the question of anti-Catholicism to the fore is the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, a previously quiescent organization founded in 1975 by Virgil Blum, S J. It is a lay organization with no official ties to the Catholic Church. However, the location of its current offices in the New York Archdiocesan chancery building suggests it has at least the tacit approval of the archdiocese.
Under the leadership of Mr. William Donohue, a sociologist by trade and now a frequent commentator in the media, the Catholic League has experienced a series of stunning public relations successes, organizing protests over such entertainment offerings as “Nothing Sacred,” “Priest,” “Dogma” and “Corpus Christi.” Arid they are obviously doing well financially: In October 1999 they purchased a full-page advertisement (at $35,000) in The New York Times denouncing Vanity Fair magazine for its alleged anti-Catholic slant.
By focusing attention on instances of anti-Catholic bias, the Catholic League serves an important function. Many of its critiques have been timely, accurate and on target. And the league’s methods of publicizing its grievances have been successful in raising awareness of the issues surrounding antiCatholic bias. It is doubtful, for example, that the recent controversies over the Congressional chaplain and Bob Jones University would have received much media attention without the efforts of the Catholic League. But some important questions remain about its methods, questions about how the church operates in a particular culture, in this case the media culture.
In order to gain media attention today, one must be two things: first and loud. Indeed, the person or organization that is first to comment on a particular topic instantly becomes the resource for every succeeding news story on that topic. Unfortunately, being first frequently means that there is inadequate time for reflection on the issue. Even more unfortunately, the Catholic League, in its rush to issue press releases, sometimes doesn’t take the time to study or even to see what it is condemning. Its critique of “Dogma,” issued weeks before the show opened, included condemnations of lines of dialogue that did not appear in the final print. So while being first may be an effective way to increase one’s chances of attracting media attention, there is a danger that the Catholic League reinforces the stereotype that the Catholic Church is at best unreflective and at worst unfairly biased and paranoid. And in the long run, this may do more damage to the church’s reputation than a short-lived movie or play.
Similarly, the media today favor the loudest, that is, those best able to furnish controversy and argument. So rather than a measured, considerate and nuanced response to issues, many denunciations issued by the Catholic League are phrased in overheated and strident terms. (This was Particularly the case with the recent exhibit “Sensation,” which featured a painting entitled “Blessed Virgin Mary” decorated with elephant dung and cutouts of pornographic photos.) The problem with this approach is twofold. First, more moderate and conciliatory voices are perforce passed over in favor of the more controversial ones. Second, the church may be seen, by association, as strident and reactionary.
When asked to respond to these critiques, the president of the Catholic League pointed to results. “Have we been loud and confrontational? Yes,” said Mr. Donohue in an interview with America. “But when I took over this organization I was absolutely determined to get results and get them fast. So I was tough, but got the results: Anti-Catholicism is now an issue. Maybe down the road, when things are up and running, I’ll change my style. But for now I am adamant about making anti-Catholicism an issue.”
The Catholic League’s insistence on claiming that other groups would not tolerate such prejudice is also a two-edged sword. On the one hand, it helps to focus needed attention on issues that might otherwise be ignored. The method of imagining how other groups would respond in a similar situation is a helpful mental exercise that can clarify the issues. Imagine, for example, the reaction that might greet a play called “Late-Nite Hebrew School,” and you get the idea.
On the other hand, anti-Catholicism is clearly not as virulent or violent as the prejudice directed against blacks, Jews and gays. One does not find many Catholics facing difficulties in this country in obtaining jobs and promotions because of who they are, as do many blacks. Nor, like Matthew Shepard, the gay Wyoming teenager, are American Catholics today tortured, pistol-whipped and killed because of who they are. Attempts to claim parity with such groups leads inevitably to a misunderstanding of persecution, as well as to embarrassing public statements. In 1997 one archbishop publicly compared the critiques leveled against the church in “Nothing Sacred” to the persecution of Jews in the Holocaust. This is solipsism at its worst and most dangerous.
So while the Catholic League provides a useful service by focusing attention on a real problem, its sometimes illconsidered methods may ultimately prove damaging to the church at large.
Reason and Charity
Anti-Catholicism exists. As the Catholic League’s annual reportably testifies, it manifests itself in a number of spheres in the culture, most notably in entertainment and advertising. Commentators who deny its presence ignore the historical record and perhaps succumb to a sort of creeping secularism that sees all aspects of the church as inherently risible.
On the other hand, anti-Catholicism in the United States is simply not the scourge it once was, nor is it today as virulent as anti-Semitism, homophobia or racism. Ignoring this fact only leads to misunderstandings. In a New York Times (11/2/99) article on the Catholic League, one of its benefactors remarked, “There aren’t attacks on Jews.” Really? What country does this person live in?
So what is called for? Overall, the best way for the church to respond to real or perceived anti-Catholicism is with an approach of reason and charity. It should be a stance based on an understanding of the history of anti-Catholic bias as well as the history of deeper-seated prejudices held against other groups. It must also be an approach that gives other persons or groups the benefit of the doubt, and is exceedingly careful in labeling others as “anti-Catholic” or as purveyors of “blasphemy.” A response to anti-Catholicism needs to be measured, tolerant and considerate, and must be a response that reflects well on the church. It cannot be an approach of invective and suspicion, of overheated pronouncements and wholesale condemnations-all tactics that poorly reflect the charism of the church. It must be, in short, an approach of reason and charity: the approach of the thoughtful Christian and hopeful American Catholic.

bill912 January 30, 2007 at 2:33 pm

Esau, please! Rule 3. Remember what Shakespeare (I think it was Shakespeare) wrote: “Brevity is the soul of wit.”

Jeb Protestant January 30, 2007 at 2:42 pm

Esau,
Yes, I think evangelicals are the one group that Catholics, jews, and secularists are equally in favor of attacking.
My Catholic co-workers constantly attack evangelicals for their alleged bigotry and intolerance.
Even the Vatican joined in the fun –
“The fundamentalist approach is dangerous, for it is attractive to people who look to the Bible for ready answers to the problems of life. It can deceive these people, offering them interpretations that are pious but illusory, instead of telling them that the Bible does not necessarily contain an immediate answer to each and every problem. Without saying as much in so many words, fundamentalism actually invites people to a kind of intellectual suicide. It injects into life a false certitude, for it unwittingly confuses the divine substance of the biblical message with what are in fact its human limitations.”
“Fundamentalism likewise tends to adopt very narrow points of view. It accepts the literal reality of an ancient, out-of-date cosmology simply because it is found expressed in the Bible; this blocks any dialogue with a broader way of seeing the relationship between culture and faith. Its relying upon a non-critical reading of certain texts of the Bible serves to reinforce political ideas and social attitudes that are marked by prejudices—racism, for example—quite contrary to the Christian Gospel.”
http://www.ewtn.com/library/CURIA/PBCINTER.HTM

Esau January 30, 2007 at 2:48 pm

Esau, please! Rule 3. Remember what Shakespeare (I think it was Shakespeare) wrote: “Brevity is the soul of wit.”
Apologies. Could you get it removed?
That was too much.

Esau January 30, 2007 at 2:50 pm

Jeb Protestant:
That is a bold-faced lie.
Place this matter in front of any public.
Have somebody make fun of evangelicals, and I bet you’ll have somebody protesting against it.
Have somebody make fun of Catholics, and there’ll be hundreds of folks that would join in the mockery!

Esau January 30, 2007 at 2:55 pm

How many individuals, groups, websites, television programs, movies out there are actually anti-Catholic???
Unlike the article I cited had suggested, anti-Catholicism is the one prejudice that most folks tend to view as acceptable and, in most cases, justified.
I rarely see evangelicals portrayed in such a negatively light (and, in fact, quite the contrary; for the most part, as God-fearing folks) as compared with Catholics who are frequently seen as followers of the Anti-Christ.

JohnH January 30, 2007 at 3:10 pm

Jeb Protestant. Your Vatican quote is a thought-out theological statement, which is much different than what is being discussed here as far as making fun of a group.

Esau January 30, 2007 at 3:20 pm

Jeb Protestant:
Prove it to yourself –
Perform a search on the Net and try and find how many websites out there are anti-Evangelicals.
After so doing, perform a search on the Net on websites that are anti-Catholic and you will (it’s not even a question of trying) find hundreds upon hundreds of Anti-Catholic propaganda out there which many, regardless of denomination, creed or race, espouse.
Compare the results of the two searches and you will, in fact, discover that there is exponentially a considerable magnitude of anti-Catholicism out there as compared to your claim of anti-Evangelicalism.

Mike Petrik January 30, 2007 at 3:40 pm

Curious,
I don’t blame you at all. It is important for folks to understand, however, that each United Way is a separate organization making separate decisions. We should make sure not to support the ones that make bad decisions (e.g., those you describe) and support those that make good ones (there are many).

David B. January 30, 2007 at 5:07 pm

There are anti-fundamentalist people, and there are anti-Catholic people. Sometimes those people are one and the same.
Likewise, there are anti-fundamentalist Catholics, and there are anti-Catholic fundamentalists. phew.

bill912 January 30, 2007 at 5:11 pm

And there are anti-Catholic Catholics. Can’t say whether there are anti-fundamentalist fundamentalists. (“A man’s got to know his limitations.”)

David B. January 30, 2007 at 5:17 pm

Good one, Bill!

Esau January 30, 2007 at 5:32 pm

David B.:
I don’t doubt the existence of anti-Fundamentalists, but that there is a considerably number of anti-Catholics and a greater magnitude of anti-Catholic sentiment out there in comparison.
And isn’t it a fact that Evangelicals are a strong force in the United States (Catholics are a minority), as evidenced by Bush’s re-election to office which was made possible by the Evangelical vote?
http://people-press.org/commentary/display.php3?AnalysisID=103
Moreover, the general opinion of our seperated brethren would seem united in their hatred of Rome and the Catholic Church. It stems, of course, from that ancient hatred that finds its source from the Days of the Reformation and the deplorable history of the Church in those days.
Further, there are several peoples, not only various Christian denominations, but non-Christians as well who genuinely despise and, therefore, stand against the Catholic Church.
Above all, a commonly accepted secular prejudice is, in fact, anti-Catholicism.

bill912 January 30, 2007 at 5:42 pm

The “general opinion”? No. The opinion of a small minority of our seperated brethren. Loud sometimes, but small.

My Cat's Name Is Lily January 30, 2007 at 6:15 pm

Jeb Protestant:
Ahem!! Laddy, as one Evangelical Protestant speaking to another Evangelical Protestant–
Put a sock in it, yean; ye dinnae know whereof ye speak.
I spend a considerable amount of my time around Catholics, & hear some of the vitriol tossed their way. It’s not pretty.
It is my own personal opinion that the secular world loathes & despises anybody, Catholic or Protestant, who takes serving Jesus Christ seriously.

Chris January 30, 2007 at 6:38 pm

A while back they did issue a finding supporting the rights of parents to have their children exempted from mandatory innoculations drawn from immorally-cultivated stem cell lines
Could someone tell me where to find this document? Little Caroline hasn’t had all her shots…

Esau January 30, 2007 at 7:08 pm

The “general opinion”? No. The opinion of a small minority of our seperated brethren. Loud sometimes, but small.
bill912:
Based on several of the testimonies from converts on the Journey Home program as well as many Protestant churches I visited in my younger days, the majority appear quite anti-Catholic.
Although, I’ve got to admit, when you come from their perspective, I don’t blame them for their opinion if you consider the fact that they believe sincerely that what they’re doing is right, want to convert folks from what they consider an apostate church and, for the most part, desire to serve the Lord.

Esau January 30, 2007 at 7:12 pm

It is my own personal opinion that the secular world loathes & despises anybody, Catholic or Protestant, who takes serving Jesus Christ seriously.
My Cat’s Name Is Lily:
Truer words were never said, my sistah!

StubbleSpark January 30, 2007 at 9:37 pm

Essau, please.
I have done the research as well and anybody who knows anything about English and American history knows about the function of anti-Catholicism in the promotion of the secularist agenda (demonizing religions mean you must demonize THE religion).
But I have since then I have come to the point (and you may not agree with me) that in this day and age playing the victim (even when you ARE the victim) is a dangerous trap.
Let me tell you how I have come to see the world:
The Protestantization of northern Christendom unleashed the monster of relativism into Western philosophy. Five hundred years later, we have come to the point where most people have such a darkened and relativistic worldview that the formally foundational concept of objective truth is either hotly contested or disparaged outright.
This, in turn, leads us to the position where objective right and wrong (rational moral concepts) have been replaced by empathy (a purely emotional and arbitrary concept). Now, in order to claim the moral high ground in our society, all you need to do is plea your case in terms of pitiableness instead of rightness.
When you meet your enemy on his terms, you have fallen into a trap. Sure it may have some sort of effect in the interim but ultimately, the same capricious social forces that earned you the upper hand one day will end up beating you down the next.
Raising the level of discourse will also raise the level of consciousness of your opponent and will ultimately work for the benefit of all.
Trust me, there will come a day when the very same groups that limit freedom of speech with their “special treatment” laws will themselves become the victims of their own shortsightedness. When that happens, they will be completely helpless without resorting to an appeal to a Higher Authority that is inherent in the belief in objective good and evil.

StubbleSpark January 30, 2007 at 10:05 pm

Jeb,
One can only wonder why you come here at all. It certainly is not to win souls, because you are such a troll and trolls are universally considered unpleasant creatures.
My guess is that the Protestant blogs lack the entertainment and relevance of the Catholic blogs. My local TV channels include at least four dedicated evangelical Christian channels and on the anniversary of Roe, not a single word was uttered concerning abortion. EWTN, on the other hand, dedicated several days of programming to the event.
Concerning your disparaging quote from the Vatican regarding fundamentalism I have decided to give you the benefit of a doubt out of Christian charity for a fellow brother and believe your claim that the quote is authentic and means what it says.
But I have to disagree with your implication that the term “fundamentalism” means “Protestant evangelical Christian fundamentalism”. Many groups suffer from fundamentalism: Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, even Catholicism (mostly Traditionalists).
There really is no reason to assume that the fundamentalism in question is YOUR fundamentalism anymore than to assume it is the fundamentalism of some other Christian denomination. To assume the fundamentalism in question is your particular denominational philosophy presumes a degree of ecclesial unity and universality that are rejected as tenants in your faith.
Of course the fundamentalism could also be Catholic fundamentalism. Seeing as this is a Catholic body and the vast majority of her writings have nothing to do with things non-Catholic.
The most likely answer, however is that the fundamentalism in question is the fundamentalist spirit in a very general sense where it would mean an unChristian attitude of unkindness and uncharitableness motivated by a dominant Pharisaical and legalistic interpretive philosophy towards Scripture as well as faithlessness in the Holy Spirit.
However proud of that you may want to be.
I for one am glad the Church speaks out against it.

Kasia January 31, 2007 at 6:52 am

Building off of StubbleSpark’s comment to Esau, I’ve been wondering lately – isn’t it a better witness, in the face of discrimination, to simply stand firm and accept it, rather than to protest?
I’m not talking about something like abortion, where there is imminent harm to innocents, but cases of anti-Catholic or anti-Christian prejudice. Because really, isn’t it our willingness to suffer for what we know is true that bears witness to Christ?
Maybe I’m way off base, but I’d like to hear people’s thoughts on that – it’s been bugging me for a while now.

Tim J. January 31, 2007 at 7:48 am

Kasia-
IMO, Personal prejudice should always be met with patience and love, but institutional prejudice needs to be exposed and fought, if only for the sake of others.
We can gently correct the ignorance of individuals, but unjust institutions sometimes require us to be more assertive.

Esau January 31, 2007 at 9:24 am

StubbleSpark:
I respect what you have to say. However, if you looked at the article I posted, you would see (which is one of the reasons I posted that particular article) that, among other things, its author also addresses the very element you are detailing in your post.
However, unlike groups of fundamentalists, I must contend that the Catholic Church is something greatly abhorred by the secular world since, in its eyes, it finds it but a medieval vestige of the past that should have gone extinct a long time ago as in the way of the dinosaurs. Many in the secular world are of the opinion that a backward and corrupt institution such as the Catholic Church is the very thing that impedes the scientific progress and technological advancement of modern society with all its antiquated practices and beliefs and that it is nothing more than a relic of the past that seeks to impose its rule and power as it had done so in the past.
This, among others, is the prominent reason why it is so hated by the secular world.

Esau January 31, 2007 at 9:39 am

David B.:
Kindly take notice of my above post.
You neglected to take into account one of the most striking reasons why the Catholic Church, itself, is singularly despised by the world.

Esau January 31, 2007 at 9:56 am

I’ve been wondering lately – isn’t it a better witness, in the face of discrimination, to simply stand firm and accept it, rather than to protest?
Kasia:
That is one of the reasons I pasted the specific article in my above post.
The author was very fair in its treatment on the subject of anti-Catholicism by stating (among other things):
Overall, the best way for the church to respond to real or perceived anti-Catholicism is with an approach of reason and charity. It should be a stance based on an understanding of the history of anti-Catholic bias as well as the history of deeper-seated prejudices held against other groups. It must also be an approach that gives other persons or groups the benefit of the doubt, and is exceedingly careful in labeling others as “anti-Catholic” or as purveyors of “blasphemy.” A response to anti-Catholicism needs to be measured, tolerant and considerate, and must be a response that reflects well on the church. It cannot be an approach of invective and suspicion, of overheated pronouncements and wholesale condemnations-all tactics that poorly reflect the charism of the church. It must be, in short, an approach of reason and charity: the approach of the thoughtful Christian and hopeful American Catholic.

Sailorette/Foxfier January 31, 2007 at 10:07 am

When turning the other cheek, you need to keep in mind what you’re “saying” to them. Are you saying “I will not strike you, because I believe it is wrong”? Are you saying “you’re right, hit me, I deserve it”? Are you saying “My belief is so weak that I will not even defend it”? Are you saying “I totally agree, man.”

David B. January 31, 2007 at 10:11 am

“Kindly take notice of my above post. You neglected to take into account one of the most striking reasons why the Catholic Church, itself, is singularly despised by the world.”
I didn’t deny that. I don’t know how you got that out of my post.

Esau January 31, 2007 at 10:30 am

When turning the other cheek, you need to keep in mind what you’re “saying” to them. Are you saying “I will not strike you, because I believe it is wrong”? Are you saying “you’re right, hit me, I deserve it”? Are you saying “My belief is so weak that I will not even defend it”? Are you saying “I totally agree, man.”
Sailorette:
Great post there!
To use Tim Staple’s term, I think that there may be those folks (certainly, not Kasia, of course, as she brings up a valid point from her perspective) who just “cop out” on the Catholic Church by not standing and defending what they believe in.
This is what’s been happening in certain parts of the world and why more and more Catholics are being converted to other religions due to the passive nature of many fellow Catholics.
Scott Hahn addresses this in many of his talks (yes, I got “hahn-itized”, as some would put it) and acknowledges the prevalence of this sort of passive behaviour amongst Catholics and he does not ignore the anti-Catholicism that’s prevalent in our society.
Certainly, it has to be taken in context (as the author of the article I cited puts magnificently in his treatment of the topic on anti-Catholicism) but as Scott Hahn would say, we shouldn’t be a “doormat” and allow folks to step all over us and what we believe in.

Kasia January 31, 2007 at 11:33 am

Thanks for the responses, Esau/Sailorette/TimJ! It’s something for me to mull over as we come up toward Lent and my impending Scrutinies. :-)

Esau January 31, 2007 at 11:43 am

God bless you, Kasia, and, as they say, “Keep Up the Faith”!

David B. January 31, 2007 at 2:33 pm

Esau,
How did I neglect to take into account “the most striking reasons why the Catholic Church, itself, is singularly despised by the world”?
I didn’t even say anything about how the Catholic Church is *generally* dispised.

Esau January 31, 2007 at 2:57 pm

David B.:
It seemed that you were equating the degree to which fundamentalists are condemned as being equal to that of Catholics.
Admittedly, any condemnation of either one is deplorable; however, there is greater prevalence of and much more force behind anti-Catholicism because not only of the ancient prejudice that finds its roots in the Reformation but, much more significantly, because of the modern world view that secular society itself takes of the Catholic Church as being a relic of the past that hinders the very advancement, development and well-being of human society in general.

David B. January 31, 2007 at 5:08 pm

“It seemed that you were equating the degree to which fundamentalists are condemned as being equal to that of Catholics.”
I can understand how you’d draw that conclusion. However, I’ll be the first to say that, throughout history, there has been more hatred displayed against Catholicism than against any other religion. Ever.(turkish attacks against Catholic nations, the ‘Reformation’, and the French Revolution, to name a few obvious examples.
I posted my comments because it seemed that some people were proposing that there was either great anti-catholicism throughout history, or the was great anti-fundamentalism throughout history. I was merely pointing out that there have been terrible actions perpetrated against boths groups.

Esau January 31, 2007 at 5:15 pm

No prob, David B. You’re usually ;^) a man of common sense which is why I was momentarily taken aback by what seemed to be the insinuation.

David B. January 31, 2007 at 5:22 pm

likewise, my friend. ;<)

StubbleSpark January 31, 2007 at 7:49 pm

Essau,
I think you misunderstand my post entirely. I do NOT disagree with your notions about anti-Catholicism. I agree with that whole-heartedly, and, if you were ever inclined to do so, a search of both JA’s blog and the forums at Catholic Answers you would find that I have frequently said exactly what you are saying on this post.
I have read Anti-Catholicism the Last Acceptable Prejudice, as well as Keating’s Fundamentalism and Catholicism — which is chock full of detailed descriptions of apologetic anti-Catholicism.
But I have also had the joy of owning other books like How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization and Shadowplay (a book about the Catholic Shakespeare). Not to mention such seminal tomes like the Summa.
My point is this: it does not make a difference to point out what you are trying to point out. Specifically, it does not make a difference when the pointing is done to people who harbor such resentment for the True Church.
When you try to point out the prejudices that people hold, the vast majority of them will take it as a personal attack (because it is) and will immediately close themselves off from your approach.
Ad hominum, even if the assertion is correct, is a flawed approach to discourse. And you as a Catholic should know this.
If you are as vocal in your beliefs as me, by now you have probably been in a situation where you sincerely share Church teaching and are called “homophobe” by a homosexual, “misogynist” by a pro-choicer, or “anti-Mormon” by a Mormon — or very possibly something even worse.
You may have noticed how the exchange stops in tracks right at that moment. This is because:
1) Now the topic has been diverted to an apologetic where you try to prove you are not a bigot instead of discussing the more worthy idea (ie, the sanctity of human life).
2) When the person you are talking to makes this charge, they have done so usually out of desperation (they do not want to admit the indefensibility of their ideas) or pure emotion (you said something that just set them off). The upshot either way is you have to deal with a very frentic person who has already made the choice to not listen to you.
The exchange ends. No progress is made. And both sides are red-faced with fear, anger, and/or embarrassment.
It simply does not work.
So why do it?
Here is an idea: never level charges of bigotry against a bigot or any other person.
To be continued …

StubbleSpark January 31, 2007 at 8:18 pm

There is another reason why you should not level charges of prejudice against the person with whom you are speaking and that is this:
It is a flat-out lie to play the victim.
We are Catholics and the Church is the source for pretty much everything that is good and beautiful about Western civilization.
From hospitals to schools, from law to science, from inalienable human rights to literature, from art to agriculture, from exploration to philosophy (this list is by no means comprehensive). It all pretty much comes from one place.
The Church is the foundation of thriving and advancing civilization on earth. Any non-Catholic civilization has had to first learn these techniques from her before joining the ranks of structured, stable, and growing nationhood.
This faith is 6 centuries older than the English language (at least).
The greatest writers are almost all exclusively Catholic.
The first time the Judeo-Christian God was worshipped in the New World was at a Catholic mass.
Long point short: as Catholics we come from a position of moral, intellectual and historical superiority. It is disingenuous to play the victim.
The trick is think of yourself as a 2000-year old Tolkein-ish elf. With humility.

Esau January 31, 2007 at 9:31 pm

StubbleSpark:
I believe some of the points you’ve made in your post are valid and may even serve as a guide to various folks out there, not only the amateur apologist. I appreciate it.
However, about what you said:
When you try to point out the prejudices that people hold, the vast majority of them will take it as a personal attack (because it is) and will immediately close themselves off from your approach. Ad hominum, even if the assertion is correct, is a flawed approach to discourse. And you as a Catholic should know this.
If you took a look at my posts to Jeb, you would see that I did no such thing. Instead, what I attempted to do was to demonstrate to Jeb that anti-Catholicism exists to a much greater and more significant degree than his claims of anti-fundamentalism/anti-evangelicalism.
In my posts to him, I posed the following (remarks reproduced below contains further elaboration):
1. Have somebody make fun of evangelicals, and I bet you’ll have somebody protesting against it.
Have somebody make fun of Catholics, and there’ll be hundreds of folks that would join in the mockery.
(In other words, anti-Catholicism is more of a universal prejudice versus Jeb’s claim that evangelical protestants are the most discriminted against group in the world.)
2. How many individuals, groups, websites, television programs, movies out there are actually anti-Catholic (in comparison to those that are actually anti-evangelical)???
Unlike the article I cited had suggested, anti-Catholicism is the one prejudice that most folks tend to view as acceptable and, in most cases, justified.
(Again, the reason being, as I’ve said before, is the fact that it is seen as an antiquated as well as corrupt institution.)
I rarely see evangelicals portrayed in such a negative light (and, in fact, quite the contrary; for the most part, evangelicals are portrayed as good God-fearing folks) as compared with Catholics who are frequently seen as followers of the Anti-Christ.
3. Prove it to yourself –
Perform a search on the Net and try and find how many websites out there are (actually) anti-Evangelical.
After so doing, perform a search on the Net on websites that are anti-Catholic and you will (it’s not even a question of trying) find hundreds upon hundreds of Anti-Catholic propaganda out there which many, regardless of denomination, creed or race, espouse.
Compare the results of the two searches and you will, in fact, discover that there is exponentially a considerable magnitude of anti-Catholicism out there as compared to your claim of anti-Evangelicalism.
About the other thing you mentioned:
If you are as vocal in your beliefs as me, by now you have probably been in a situation where you sincerely share Church teaching and are called “homophobe” by a homosexual, “misogynist” by a pro-choicer, or “anti-Mormon” by a Mormon — or very possibly something even worse.
Actually (and perhaps it’s due to God’s goodness and what’s mentioned in Acts 11:29) when personally speaking to such folks, I have often met with people who sincerely wanted to engage in dialogue rather than advance an ulterior agenda.

Esau February 1, 2007 at 9:15 am

StubbleSpark:
Further to what I said my above post (I didn’t realize you had another post up):
About what you said -
There is another reason why you should not level charges of prejudice against the person with whom you are speaking
As stated, this was NOT what took place; instead, I was challenging the assertion that evangelical protestants are the most discriminted against group in the world.
and that is this:
It is a flat-out lie to play the victim.
We are Catholics and the Church is the source for pretty much everything that is good and beautiful about Western civilization.

You wouldn’t know that from the Universities that I’ve attended and the textbooks I’ve read.
If there were any Catholic authors, scientists, etc; this fact had been diminished or omitted altogether.
Why do you think the book How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization was writtend in the first place?
Because of the fact that the contributions of the Catholic Church to Western Civilization have been minimized or altogether ignored.
In much of secular society, there is the negative view of the Catholic Church that principally dominates and that is that the Catholic Church has always been against progress, which is evidenced by its condemnation of Galileo and was largely responsible for the Dark Ages, which kept humanity from advancing for almost half a millennia.
Of course, we know that this happens to not be true at all.
The fact of the matter is that if you ignore anti-Catholicism and the very things that have resulted from it (such as historical revisionism), then what anti-Catholicism had sought to accomplish at the get-go has, indeed, become an overwhelming success.
Certainly, one should never play the victim card; but that does NOT mean that you shouldn’t stand up and defend what you believe in.
This also includes doing justice to the Church by illuminating the ignorance of society and undoing the effects of the revisionism that has gone on for quite awhile now (especially in academia) by accentuating (and making people realize) the postive contributions of the Catholic Church to the world and the many good that have resulted from it.
If you watched the EWTN Live interview with Thomas Woods, you would see that he, himself, had said that he wrote the book because many of the students at their university were unaware of the many contributions of the Catholic Church to Western Civilization.
Thus, to reverse the tides of anti-Catholicism, one must not simply dismiss it and its effects; one must address it and be diligent in defending the Catholic Church and in pointing out the Fullness of its Truth; both theologically as Christ’s Body of Believers as well as secularly as that which has, indeed, (in spite of the human failings of a certain of its members) has brought about good in the world and stands as a moral force.
Again, that is why I much enjoyed the article I posted since its author makes many good points all throughout as well as in his conclusion regarding exactly how to address and respond to anti-Catholicism:
Overall, the best way for the church to respond to real or perceived anti-Catholicism is with an approach of reason and charity. It should be a stance based on an understanding of the history of anti-Catholic bias as well as the history of deeper-seated prejudices held against other groups. It must also be an approach that gives other persons or groups the benefit of the doubt, and is exceedingly careful in labeling others as “anti-Catholic” or as purveyors of “blasphemy.” A response to anti-Catholicism needs to be measured, tolerant and considerate, and must be a response that reflects well on the church. It cannot be an approach of invective and suspicion, of overheated pronouncements and wholesale condemnations-all tactics that poorly reflect the charism of the church. It must be, in short, an approach of reason and charity: the approach of the thoughtful Christian and hopeful American Catholic.

Dennis February 2, 2007 at 1:16 pm

Back to the original issue: Catholic teachers paying compulsory dues to a union that supports Abortion. There were a couple of teachers here in BC (Canada, eh), the Wasilifsky’s, who went to the Labour Relations Board asking for an exemption from their union dues. The Board ultimately sided with them and they were able to retain their teaching positions and direct the equivalent of their union dues to an agreed-to charity. Concerned that a wave of Catholics would ask for the same exemption, the Board set up a fairly high standard of personal committment to the Pro-Life cause. I don’t know of any Union member who has since taken this opt-out, but I suspect the Unions may have scaled back their support (from financial to verbal) for Abortion.

Paul Hoffer February 4, 2007 at 8:12 pm

What is ironic about the State of Ohio’s position is that it takes the exact opposite position when it comes to obtaining a license to solemnize a marriage. Whereas the policy expressed here is one that discriminates against denominations, the State of Ohio requires a minister who moves to a different church to pastor get a new license and pay a fee each time they move unless they belong to a denomination that has a bishop as it head. I guess Ohio will take whatever position that will allow it to collect the most money.

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