Over the years I haven’t been able to find much to praise in the weekly publication of my home Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. The Catholic Spirit has been pretty awful. But… but… it seems things have turned around.
More and more often there are good pieces in the paper.
This week we find this, with my emphases.
Two examples show anti-Catholicism is alive and well
By Joe Towalski
Thursday, 08 October 2009
It’s sometimes said that anti-Catholicism is the last acceptable prejudice in the United States.
It certainly rears its ugly head from time to time in dramatic fashion, even here in the land of Minnesota nice. You might recall, for example, the University of Minnesota-Morris professor who wallowed in the publicity generated last year when he desecrated the Eucharist, and the mean-spirited prejudice inherent in the play “The Pope and the Witch” that was staged locally two years ago.
You might believe that these were isolated incidents, that such mean-spiritedness is limited to a few people who harbor perverse notions about intellectual freedom, that anti-Catholicism isn’t common among the general public.
Sadly, however, if you believe that, you would be wrong.
Lurking below the surface
Reader comments attached to two recent newspaper articles — one published by the StarTribune and the other by The Catholic Spirit — reveal an anti-Catholicism that lurks just below the surface of respectable society and that occasionally pokes through.
Late last month, the StarTribune published a story in print and online about the archdiocese’s current pastoral planning process. While the story was mostly fair and balanced, many of the online comments it generated were troubling.
One reader opined that the church “supports and shelters” illegal immigrants to help support its operating budget. Another said he was baffled why any single woman would attend a Catholic church, concluding that “they must love the abuse.” Others blamed the church for being corrupt, power hungry, intolerant and evil.
The comments were similar to the kind sent to The Catholic Spirit following the posting of an online review of the movie “The Invention of Lying.” The review from Catholic News Service gave the movie a rating of O (morally offensive) and called it “an all-out, sneering assault on the foundations of religious faith.”
One responder said the church is brainwashing people with its “venomous teachings.” Another said Catholicism “was created to get priest’s [sic] rich by charging people to repent their sins.” Other comments were more focused on Christianity in general rather than Catholicism in particular: “Religion breeds hate.” Some were too offensive to even be excerpted here.
How to respond
Certainly, it is important to keep these comments in perspective — in the big picture, they represent the views of only a few people who are cloaked by a certain degree of anonymity because they didn’t have to include their real names when they shared their views. But the very fact that these commenters remain mostly anonymous gives them more license to say what they really believe. It’s not hard to imagine more people out there with the same views, although less willing to share them publicly.
No one is saying the church is above critique and criticism. It’s a holy institution, but it’s also a human institution that participates in public life on many levels and affects the lives of many Catholics and non-Catholics by its actions and teachings. We should expect many aspects of the church to be debated and assessed.
What isn’t OK, however, are the falsities, vitriol and contempt that is often directed at religion in general and, too often, Catholicism in particular.
How do we respond? In short, like good Catholic Christians.
Prayer is always a good place to start, and we can draw a lot of strength and support from our pastors and fellow parishioners.
We have to let our actions and behaviors speak for themselves. What we do, what we say and how we say it leaves an impression. We need to do everything possible to ensure it’s a good one. Maybe we can change some hearts and minds in the process.
And, last but certainly not least, sometimes we have to confront prejudice and bigotry head on and communicate that it is unacceptable. As a church, we don’t deserve special treatment from the rest of society, but we do deserve the same degree of civility and respect that people rightly expect to receive from us.
Overcoming racial bigotry in the United States remains a work in progress, despite tremendous strides in tolerance. Even 55 years after Brown vs. Board of Education and the election of a black president, equality related to skin color will take more time. So will religious bigotry. The time to work at it is now.
WDTPRS kudos to the editor of The Catholic Spirit and the Archbishop who hired him!