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: