On Monday I blogged on Anti-Christian Bigotry in a California School District. I also mentioned the recent Supreme Court victory allowing a Cross to stand in a War Memorial Park on Federal land in California. It has now come to pass that someone who did not like the decision destroyed the Cross which has stood there since the 1930s.
It was recently called to my attention that a member of President Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, Harry Knox has been outspoken opponent of the Catholic Church for many years. This piqued my attention and so I dug a little further. My brief research yielded some of the following facts:
In a March 2009 Statement Knox declared that Pope Benedict XVI is “hurting people in the name of Jesus” by not condoning condom distribution as the solution to AIDS in Africa. “The pope’s rejection of scientifically proven prevention methods is forcing Catholics in Africa to choose between their faith and the health of their entire community. Jesus was about helping the marginalized and downtrodden, not harming them further” he said.
He has recently reaffirmed these views
Knox who is a member of the “Human Rights Campaign” an organization working that advocates on behalf of some in the gay, lesbian, bisexual and “transgender” communities also publicly decried a decision last year of a Catholic Pastor in Wyoming to refuse communion to an openly lesbian couple. Knox said, “In this holy Lenten season, it is immoral and insulting to Jesus to use the body and blood of Christ the reconciler as a weapon to silence free speech and demean the love of a committed, legally married couple. The Human Rights Campaign grieves with the couple, Leah Vader and Lynne Huskinson, over this act of spiritual and emotional violence perpetrated against them.”
Knox was also critical, along with others of the Vatican’s opposition to a UN initiative to decriminalize homosexual activity. The 2008 HRC Statement signed by Knox reads in part: As faith leaders we were shocked by Vatican opposition to this proposed initiative. By refusing to sign a basic statement opposing inhumane treatment of LGBT people, the Vatican is sending a message that violence and human rights abuses against LGBT people are acceptable. Most Catholics, and indeed most Catholic teachings, tell us that all people are entitled to live with basic human dignity without the threat of violence.
There are other statements by Knox and his group that are also strongly critical of the Pope and the a Vatican along similar lines.
It is surely unfortunate that President Obama has such an outspoken critic of the the Pope and the Vatican on his Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. His presence seems divisive, at least from the perspective of Catholics, faithful to Church teaching. His opposition to the teachings and policies of the Catholic Church is vigorous and at times specifically directed at the Pope. In a recent Press Conference Congressman John Boehner was asked if he thought Harry Knox should resign from the President’s commission. He answered quite clearly “yes” and went on the refer to Knox as an anti-Catholic Bigot. The St Michael Society has begun to circulate a petition calling for his removal the President’s Council.
So, here is the question I have for you: Is Harry Knox an anti-Catholic bigot? He surely has strong differences of opinion with the Catholic Church in general and the Pope in particular. He has not hesitated to state these in the strongest possible terms even going so far as to accuse the Pope of “hurting people in the name of Jesus.” He is vigorous, wrong-headed and also absurd in his use of Scripture. His tactics are sadly typical of many who advocate on behalf of some in the Gay community. Namely, use lots of bullying and/or provocative language, venom, anger etc. But again I ask, does all this amount to him being an anti-Catholic bigot?
I ask this question respectfully and with a concern. I think anti-Catholic bigotry does exist. But my concern is that we not over use the phrase “anti-Catholic bigot.” So many others today over use words like racist, homophobic, hate speech, reactionary, bigot etc. I am often called or accused of some of these things in the very comments of this blog. I think we would do well to be very careful to avoid adopting a similar practice of possibly over using the category “Anti-Catholic Bigot.” There are those who vigorously disagree with the teachings and practices and policies of the Catholic Church but does that alone make them an anti-Catholic Bigot? I guess if that were the case many if not most Protestants would qualify for the term! I think we have to allow for the fact that people can respectfully and even strongly disagree with us without being a bigot necessarily.
So here are a few questions I would like to ponder with you?
What are some of the benchmarks of true anti-Catholic Bigotry?
How is anti-Catholic bigotry different from simple opposition to the practices, beliefs, and policies of our Church.
Are there certain phrases or actions that immediately make you suspect anti-Catholic Bigotry? What are they?
Is there something in particular the Harry Knox has said that is for you, over the top and puts him in the category “anti-Catholic bigot” ?
Even if he isn’t a bigot should he still step aside?
Not to steer the conversation too much, but I will say that my “anti-Catholic bigotry” alarms start going off under the following circumstances:
When Church teaching is deliberately or carelessly misrepresented for the purposes of stirring anger and resentment at the Catholic Church.
When Catholics who are trying to be faithful to Church teaching and/or the clergy who teach it are excoriated with name calling and attacks on their personal motivations. For example when we who articulate or uphold Catholic teaching or seek its reflection in culture and law are called hateful and bigoted, insensitive etc.
When Catholics are told that they have no right to enter the public square or to influence the public discussion on matters of culture or public policy. Or when it is said that Catholics (or other Christians) cannot have a place at the public policy table because their religious point of view is ipso facto excluded due to false and severe interpretations of the so-called “separation of Church and State” (A phrase that nowhere occurs in the US Constitution).
So you have my questions and I’d value your comments. The fundamental question is this: What is the line to be drawn between opposition to Catholic teaching or policy (which non-Catholics in our culture are entitled to have) and anti-Catholic bigotry? When is the line crossed? Did Harry Knox cross it?
Here’s a brief clip referenced above wherein Rep. John Boehner calls for the resignation of Harry Knox:
A friend asked me if I had seen a comment in the Washington Post’s On Faith section about the recent announcement by the Vatican of its Anglican Provision. The comment is by Richard Dawkins, the author of The God Delusion. The title of the commentary is “Give us your misogynists and bigots”. I’m sorry to say it only gets worse. It can be found here.
My friend asked if there was an official response to this blatant bigotry that seemed to pass through all of the editorial pens at the Washington Post and deemed suitable for its newspaper and Web forum. I don’t know of any official response, but I wondered how many people were concerned enough to question the Post’s decision to run the commentary.
My immediate reaction to something like this is to say, “look on the bright side, it shows that the Church still matters.” If someone, who has publicly professed his atheism, feels the need to take on the Church, it can only be because he thinks it has power.” However, I have to ask myself if this attitude is a bit of a cop-out. I think it is more accurate to say that I am typical of the Catholic who lets these things slide. Does this make me an accomplice in allowing anti-Catholic bias to flourish in a way that the media and the public would never accept (and rightly so) for Judaism or Islam? Look how justifiably careful the media is being in covering the shooting at Fort Hood. In looking over some of the comments in the On Faith section, there are the usual range of opinions that reflect ignorance or poor judgement or bias, but none that come close to the bigotry expressed in Mr. Dawkins’ column. I can’t imagine that the Post did not receive some hateful mail about the suspected shooter at Fort Hood and made choices about which to accept and not to accept.
Defending the Church
As Catholics we have to be better at standing up and saying that Catholic bigotry is not acceptable. We have a responsibility to defend the faith. Opposing bigotry seems to be a good example of when one is called to defend the faith. To be sure, the question of the Anglican Provision is an interesting one and opens many avenues for debate and discussion related to ecumenical dialogue, evangelization, and ecclesiology. No doubt, many people have quite strong opinions and they make for interesting conversation and thought. In the case of this commentary, it is a conversation non-starter because it has no fact or reasonable opinion to which one can respond.
The Courage of Martyrs
Karl Rahner, the great 20th century theologian, wrote as essay in 1981 called “The Christian of the Future.” He said that in a world that was becoming increasingly hostile to Judeo-Christian principles, Christians of the future would have to have the courage of the martyrs in giving public witness to their faith. For a church built on the witness of those killed for the faith, opposing this kind of bigotry does not seem to be too much for the Lord to ask of his followers.
Defense of the Faith as Evangelization
Some people don’t like the tone of “defending the faith” for fear that it sounds triumphalist, it need not be. We are also called to be evangelizers and to find ways to tell the story of Christianity and the church in a way that people see it is the most wonderful story of life and love. The church is first and foremost an instrument of God’s love to draw others to life and love.
The New Yorker Magazine recently published a hateful essay by playwright Paul Rudnick. I will not reproduce the venom here. However I would like to post excerpts from the Untied States Conference of Bishops Website. You can view the whole article Here: USCCB Full Article
Here are excerpts of that article followed by a few of my own comments:
The New Yorker, the magazine of urbane Americans, proves once again that anti-Catholicism still lurks in U.S. society. This time it’s in an article by the playwright Paul Rudnick, who seems to get his kicks by bashing religion. It is bizarre that someone who uses his literary skills to decry prejudice and stereotyping of gays opts to indulge his own prejudice against another group, Catholics….Rudnick’s recent rap on Catholics comes in snide remarks about religious sisters in “Fun With Nuns,” in the July 20 issue of the New Yorker. …Apparently the editors, who even are heralding the essay on the New Yorker Web site, don’t find any problem with Rudnick’s gratuitous slam: “Nuns can be dictatorial, sexually repressed, and scary—and therefore entertaining.” Nor did they bother to edit out a remark about which nuns should be “f…able.” ….
Historian Arthur Schlesinger Sr. once noted that anti-Catholicism is “the deepest-held bias in the history of the American people.” Anti-Catholicism also has been called the “anti-Semitism of the liberal.” It seems on the rise now….
Last week, the USA Today Faith & Reason blog was rampant with anti-Catholic comments in response to Pope Benedict XVI’s ground-breaking encyclical on the economy “Caritas in Veritate” (“Charity in truth”). Because the blog has a “Report Abuse” button…. some of the initial offensive remarks are gone. Yet more than a week later, [comments] can still be read asking if you spell pope with “one or two ‘o’s,” advising the pope to do something that’s unprintable here and ought to be unprintable in a family newspaper’s blog, remarking that “someone needs to give the pope his meds” and opining that “the pope is disgusting and sickening,” adding for good measure, “Catholic is DISGUSTING.” Even more slurs and canards to be found on the Website, including “I guess the Vatican is finally going public with its plot to control the world.”At least USA Today can be blamed only for not keeping up with its obligation to watch what bloggers post. The New Yorker, on the other hand, despite its history of fine literary criticism, intentionally runs Rudnick’s comments and even boasts of them on its Web site.
So there it is, the ugly face of bigotry. But I ask you, would anyone dare to speak this way about a Jews, Muslims, African Americans, Latinos, et. al.? Do you see the double standard? Most of this ugly and hateful speech gets a pass in the media and entertainment world. Part of it is that we Catholics aren’t the type to take to the streets in protest.
But in an odd sort of way I want to say that I am glad to belong to a Church that is so hated by the world. It means we stand for something and are not simply going to compromise and be silent as the world chooses to go morally insane. And the world hates us for this. Did not Jesus promise hatred and persecution: If the world hates you know that it hated me before you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own, but I have called you out of the world and so the world hates you. No pupil is greater than his teacher, If they have hated me they will hate you too. (John 15:18-20) And Jesus also warns us, “Woe to you if all people speak well of you, for it was in this way that they treated the false prophets. (Luke 6:26). So in a way I am glad to be in good company, with Jesus. If we were a compromising, equivocating Church the world would welcome us. As it is they hate us and I suspect they are so angry because deep down inside they know we are right.
Despite my paradoxical peace in the face this hatred I DO want to finish by what I consider to be a necessary rebuke: Shame on you Paul Rudnick for speaking of our religious sisters as you did. Shame on you for your scurrilous and hypocritical attack. And shame on all those who wrote hate-filled things about our Holy Father and our Holy Faith at USA Today Blog. Shame on all of you and remember, God is watching.
Here is a video that gives the full context of John 15 and the Scripture quotes I listed above.
One of the last unprotected classes in the world is believing Christians. There is much lament rightly expressed over discrimination against other religious, ethnic and various protected groups but it is usually open seasons on Christians with a special hatred reserved for the Catholic Church. It is “alright” to use ugly stereotypes and hateful imagery regarding Christians. Unsympathetic simplifications of our doctrine are common as are ugly labels such as “reactionary, hateful, homophobic, intolerant, backward and rigid.” The President recently insisted that the name of Jesus be covered over at Georgetown while he spoke there no one cried foul (even at Georgetown! 🙁 ). No one would ever dare suggest that holy symbols be covered over at a mosque or synagogue. But it is open season on Christians. Perhaps it is because we seldom speak out against things such as this.
A rather interesting development along these lines took place at the World Conference on Racism. A Russian Orthodox Delegate to the conference actually suggested that there may be such a thing as hatred against Christians. He chided the other delegates for saying nothing about what he termed “Christianophobia” while at the same time denouncing many other forms of hatred. It seems a long overdue observation and thanks are due to this courageous delegate. More about this story at Gloria TV: