Excellent editorial in the Catholic Spirit

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!

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Fr. Z KUDOS, The Drill. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Seraphic Spouse says:

    Very wise and well-written! And, as I am still licking my wounds after reading reams of anti-Catholic hate in the wake of Bishop Lahey’s scandal, consoling.

  2. Scott W. says:

    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.

    Agreed. It also good to keep in mind the Online Disinhibition Effect or, to put it in Catholic language, some people have an ethernet jack that plugs directly into their concupiscence. So, as hard as it seems, always be pleasant but persistent and let the insults roll off your back.

  3. Paulus says:

    I don’t know about other newspapers, but the comment sections in the San Diego Union-Tribune of any article about Catholicism, Pope Benedict, Bishop Brom, priests in general, the Diocese of San Diego, etc. are vile cesspools. Wading through that mess is not for the faint of heart.

  4. Sedgwick says:

    Father, I daresay things have improved at this paper because +Harry Plynn is no longer in charge. Here in Cincy, we are awaiting the same outcome after 12/31, when +Pilarczyk steps down.

  5. Jacob says:

    One comment included in the editorial:

    One reader opined that the church “supports and shelters” illegal immigrants to help support its operating budget.

    The comment being referred to here by the author of the editorial may have been phrased a different way than given in the editorial, but from how it is stated above, I don’t see why it would be included in an editorial on anti-Catholic bigotry.

    I’ve read that same argument in different places and it was being made by faithful Catholics.

    It’s disheartening when such an argument is turned into one of bigotry when both sides have valid points.

  6. MargaretMN says:

    I think that the argument in the op ed is not really all that helpful. Yes, bigotry has always been with us but I think today’s bigotry is a bit different than the no-nothing 19th century bigotry. In the past, Catholics faced bigotry and discrimination from all classes of society. Today’s bigotry is nearly exclusively an elitist phenomena, emanating from college professors and book authors and pounded home by the mainstream media. And it’s not by and large an anti-immigrant bigotry based on economic fears, it’s a pro-statist bigotry where the Church is in competition with the state and holds back “progress.” A problem here is that liberal Catholics are often willing dupes for the statist crowd.

    Then there is the point that Jacob makes where critics of unpopular church policies (which impact more than just Catholics) are being accused of bigotry. Kind of a weak shield.

  7. chorst01 says:

    I’m afraid the editorial writer fails to recognize the depth of the problem. Throughout the United States we are engaged in a cultural war. Wars, the real, the legal and the cultural, are not won by the timid. Boldness is needed. If you want to combat anti-Catholicism join the Catholic League for Civil and Religious Rights. Founded by the late Rev. Virgil C. Blum, S.J., while he taught at Marquette University, the League is now led by Bill Donahue, a tireless and vigorous advocate. Take a look a depth of the problem by joining the Catholic League, or at least by visiting their website – – http://www.catholicleague.org.

    Carl H. Horst
    Chula Vista, CA/Wausau, WI

  8. Subvet says:

    The bigotry is there and it permeates all levels of society. Up till a few years ago I regularly attended AA meetings (and will again if I feel the need). One constant theme when the topic of religion/spirituality came up was the hypocrisy of all churches in general and the Catholic Church in particular. Since the whole premise of AA is the practice of sobriety via a spiritual awakening, the topic comes up quite a lot. If you’re a practicing Catholic better wear your rhino hide underwear to meetings, you’ll need it.

    Not surprisingly it’s often the lapsed Catholics who are the most virulent, the term “recovering Catholic” is common.

    But FWIW, quite often the most outspoken critics are the first to go back out and get drunk. Who’d a thunk it?

  9. TomG says:

    Not a problem if you disable comments or require registraion as Fr. Z. does. Truly, an idea whose time has come! And anyway: won’t those guys have more fun at Daily Kos or Keith Olbermann’s blog?

  10. Agnes says:

    About single women in the Church – “They must love the abuse.”
    How’s that for making strides in gender equality?

    I agree – about the only thing to do is let the garbage roll off our backs and try to raise the bar on the level of discussion. Truth in charity.

  11. JoAnna says:

    A good article. I often struggle with remaining charitable while confronting anti-Catholicism.

    (BTW, Fr. Z, the Archdiocese of Mpls-St. Paul is my home diocese too! I went through RCIA and was confirmed at the Basilica of St. Mary.)

  12. JayneK says:

    MargaretMN writes: “Today’s bigotry is nearly exclusively an elitist phenomena, emanating from college professors and book authors and pounded home by the mainstream media.”
    There is a recent book _God Is: My Search for Faith in a Secular World_ by David Adams Richards that deals with this phenomenon a fair bit. It actually ended up playing a positive role in the author coming to faith. He recognized the pettiness and conformity among so-called free thinkers and that led him to be more open to what they were mocking.

  13. Jayna says:

    “it’s a pro-statist bigotry where the Church is in competition with the state and holds back ‘progress.'”

    Actually, this form of bigotry has been prevalent since the European liberal revolutions in the 1840’s. Pius IX and especially Leo XIII wrote extensively on the matter, which was ratcheted up in the US in the wake of the Civil War.

    I experienced a fair dose of it myself somewhat recently on Facebook. You know what intelligence level you’re dealing with, though, when more than one person compares Christ to a zombie. Idiocy and ignorance knows no bounds. People are totally fine with freedom of speech and belief, except for Christianity (and Catholicism in particular).

  14. MargaretMN says:

    I agree, Jayna. I didn’t mean to suggest that elitist Catholic bigotry was new, only that working class/lower class anti-catholic bigotry is no longer as prevalent. I may be wrong on that, if what Subvet’s experience is more the case but I still think the bigotry of bitter ex-catholics is different than the bigotry of klansmen. Presumably the bitter ex-catholics are not for running their relatives out of town or stringing them up. And the anti-immigrant folks are motivated by economics or even racism but I doubt they ID the immigrants as catholic, they are merely immigrants. Catholic Charities in the twin cities assists all immigrants whether they are Catholic or not. (We have significant Hmong and Somali populations which don’t tend to be Catholic). So that beef is more about policy than religious ID. As with the charge of racism and criticism of Barack Obama, not every criticism lodged at a religious organization is anti religious bigotry.

  15. rwprof says:

    I am sorry to say that I see a fair amount of anti-Catholic sentiment on Orthodox forums. I think, however, that (at least as long as we’re talking about the US) this is largely an instantiation of the internet rudeness phenomenon, since I do not encounter it from people in real life. When it bleeds over onto Eastern Catholics, it is no longer tolerated, however (OC.Net, as far as I know the largest Orthodox forum on the web, explicitly forbids the use of “Uniate,” partly because it’s insulting, and partly because there are always Eastern Catholics on an Orthodox forum (and vice versa).

  16. Jayna says:

    Down here in the South, we have a lot of hispanic immigrants who are predominantly Catholic (which is why the Archdiocese of Atlanta is growing at such an astounding rate), so there is a sense of that enmity toward the Church over harboring illegal immigrants. My parish in particular has a huge hispanic population (we do three Spanish Masses a week) and it is generally accepted that there are illegal immigrants within that population. But my pastor (as well as our hispanic priest) has said more than once that law enforcement officials would never be allowed on the church grounds to enforce those laws, a statement which I believe he had to back up with action a few months ago.

  17. MarkJ says:

    Resist the Devil and he will flee from you.

    Practice radical personal holiness, be active and joyful in boldly defending and promoting the Faith, and pray fervently at all times and in all places, especially for those blinded to the Truth.

    And don’t get discouraged by persecution. We know who wins this in the end.

    Ora pro nobis, Sancta Dei Genitrix.

Comments are closed.