MSNBC, Hell’s Bible, and their treatment of anything or anyone truly Catholic.

What could go wrong?

From The Catholic League:


Catholic League president Bill Donohue discusses how MSNBC outdid the New York Times’ recent attack on Catholicism:

Last month, New York Times editor Bill Keller gave a raving review of the new book by John Julius Norwich, Absolute Monarchs: A History of the Papacy. Citing several factual errors, I said at the time, “It’s hard to know who is dumber”—the author or the reviewer. They now have competition with the folks at MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

On today’s “Morning Joe,” Norwich was introduced as “a renowned historian.” Even Keller got Norwich’s credentials right when he said the author is “no scholar.” By the way, another one of Norwich’s fans is professor Tony Lewis, and he recently wrote in the Providence Journal-Bulletin that Norwich describes himself as “an agnostic Protestant who is no scholar.” Looks like only the “Morning Joe” savants think otherwise.

Norwich said this morning that most popes were “very, very mediocre people,” which is precisely the kind of remark we would expect from a very, very mediocre non-scholar. Joe Scarborough seemed shocked to learn that absolute power can corrupt even popes; perhaps this Baptist would be equally shocked to learn that popes go to confession. Norwich, of course, focused his attention on the Borgia pope, Alexander VI, which is like discussing American presidents by focusing on Bill Clinton. John Heilemann, in search of more dirt, obligingly asked Norwich to name the “all-time worst pope.” No one asked who was the best.

Over the weekend, Keller outdid even himself when he said that Catholic teaching on the Eucharist was analogous to believing in aliens. “I grew up believing that a priest could turn a bread wafer into the actual flesh of Christ,” he wrote. Now he elects to believe that the New York Times editorial staff is capable of turning fiction into fact, e.g., the weird belief that two men can actually get married.

Contact: MSNBC executive producer Alex Korson: Also contact:

Contact our director of communications about Donohue’s remarks:
Jeff Field
Phone: 212-371-3191

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Biased Media Coverage, Our Catholic Identity, The Last Acceptable Prejudice, Throwing a Nutty and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Athelstan says:

    I suppose I don’t mind Norwich being interviews on Morning Joe. I *do* mind there not being a expert counterpoint on with him.

    “Norwich, of course, focused his attention on the Borgia pope, Alexander VI, which is like discussing American presidents by focusing on Bill Clinton.” In fairness, most American presidents have been mediocrities as well, especially in the 19th century. And we have had…some less than optimal popes. Not nearly as many as Norwich thinks, but they are there (especially in the 10th and 15th centuries, periods that were not producing much in the way of good secular leadership, either). But it’s surely not quite fair to suggest that Alexander VI is anything like representative.

    Norwich is a prolific popular historian. His popular histories of Byzantium are actually not at all bad. But, in contrast to his obvious sympathies for the Byzantines, he clearly has some severe blind spots when it comes to the Papacy. And his new book reflects them, badly.

  2. teaguytom says:

    Bill Keller is the stereotypical fallen away Catholic . Everyone knows one of these people. They are poorly catechized and ignorant of what the Church actually taught when they were kids. They leave the Church in adulthood and join either the agnostics or some evangelical community. Then they spend their careers whining to non-Catholic how they were beaten with rulers and oppressed by medieval wannabee clergy. Norwich is nothing but a lapsed protestant who hates the temporal rule of the Papacy. He shares much in common with the post Vatican II modernists who fear the triregnum and papal power. Keller would find good company with someone like Norwich. They are “free” from the magical wafers and cruel monarchial rule of the Vicar of Christ (rolls eyes.) Really, I would love to email them saying “we’ll pray for you too, thanks for giving us publicity.” Then include a photo of St Pius X wearing the triregnum in the throne. The spittle will be flying from their mouths.

  3. Mundabor says:

    In German, “Keller” means “basement”.
    It truly say it all, I think.


  4. benedetta says:

    Disinformer versus Propagandist wars. Or skirmish. Topping one another with anti-Catholic styled nonsense. Cool. Better than WWF I guess.

  5. Parasum says:

    “Norwich said this morning that most popes were “very, very mediocre people,” which is precisely the kind of remark we would expect from a very, very mediocre non-scholar.”

    That kind of silliness won’t harm Norwich – it reflects very poorly on his critic. Better to be a Pope without much character (e.g. Lando – who he ?), than to be a Pope of positively bad character (insert name of choice). Unstinting & unending praise of Popes makes for very bad history; or rather, ideologically-slanted propaganda.

    “In fairness, most American presidents have been mediocrities as well, especially in the 19th century.” A point memorably made in an episode of “The Simpsons”:

    from 3:46 to 4:26

  6. Charles E Flynn says:

    Suggested reading for those who would like to know more about good and bad popes, from a scholar:
    Saints and Sinners: A History of the Popes; Third Edition (Yale Nota Bene) [Paperback].

    A good description of this book is to be found at the Website of the Folio Society. Search for “Duffy”.

  7. frjim4321 says:

    If a person doesn’t want to watch ideologically-driven fake news channels they shouldn’t watch MSNBC or Fox News. As for Donohue, I doubt that anyone in my parish even knows who he is.

  8. Joan A. says:


    Didn’t you mean to say they should not watch ANY television news channel? You can’t honestly tell me you think there’s a difference in terms of truth in watching CNN or FOX or NBC? These are entertainment shows merely. The only “real” news is available on very carefully selected internet sites.

  9. Legisperitus says:

    Instead of Norwich’s book or the one by Eamon Duffy (who castigates St. Pius X for his campaign against Modernism), I would recommend “Vicars of Christ: A History of the Popes” by Charles Coulombe. Apparently out of print now, but used copies are available.

  10. benedetta says:

    Probably Fox News is something akin to a necessary resignation that is quite predictable given the way msm compromised ethics especially when it came to American politics and advancing the agenda of a few elites in the 80s. Now we all have to live with it.

    Of course anti-Catholic underpinnings to “news” stories are not mere ideology. Or valid or legitimate politics for that matter.

    I think we would all be surprised at the folks who recognize who Donohue is in our own backyards. A lot of people might see him on EWTN appearances, those of course who still watch even if warned against it by their parish priest or official community monitor.

    It’s kind of pathetic too that some expect us, just for attempting to profess the faith, to necessarily be backed into one American ideological corner or another and stay there. It’s a myth that someone who thinks what Donohue is doing, in terms of anti-defamation against Catholics, therefore is addicted to Fox News and various other vicious stereotype. But I’m glad that that old canard is dying away. I never had much use for it, regardless of what someone chooses to believe or affiliate with. Then again if I had lived in the day I would not have supported McCarthy. Still Donohue performs a necessary task when the media can’t be trusted it seems with regard to even simply abstaining from sickening stereotypes that routinely give others the benefit of the doubt on. Pretty dysfunctional and unhealthy for a diverse democracy.

  11. cecelia tone says:

    Why does the New York Times have a Texas page?

  12. Son of Trypho says:

    I think the best response to casual references to Pope Alexander VI is to mention his distant direct relatives St Francis Borgia and Pope Innocent X who were complete contrasts to him.

  13. benedetta says:

    Perhaps challenging and raising awareness of anti-Catholic bigoted attacks and vicious stereotype these days is too great an undertaking for just one organization. It might be something to think about at local level too.

    Speaking of anti-Catholic stereotype and bigotry, it’s really is reflective of mediocrity and very low standards in general in scholarship when this sort of thing is traded in place of real intellectual endeavor. To be brutally honest there are places known for very high standards in scholarship and culture which are not Catholic, at all, and just do not engage in business on such low terms because it really compromises the work itself, the credibility, the reputation and further are not at all threatened by having committed Catholics tenured and published among very diverse viewpoints as intellectual rigor demands it. In a nutshell, resorting to anti-Catholic caricature at the expense of genuine scholarship is very lowbrow in terms of academic standard. Among nonsectarian, secular institutions of higher learning, the higher the standards, and the more competitive and diverse the student body, generally you encounter very little anti Catholic hostility, and intellectually people just don’t compromise themselves or their standards by pulling a bigot card, nor are they particularly threatened by the faith of diverse people necessitating attacking that faith as focus for agenda at expense of solid research and publication.

    Now in mainstream media and commercial publishing today, all things operating on the basis of sales and the market, it is well known that to boost sales they actually spin the anti-Catholic thing that much more. Which is why the market driven cultural byproducts really are not verifiable or reliable as far as offering truth, either reflective of grassroots needs and concerns, or truth as in, what we wish to be led by.

  14. pjthom81 says:

    I’ve also read Norwich’s books on Byzantium and was struck by their sympathies for the subject.

    I think we may have a Church of England problem here. Norwich is, last I checked, a member of the House of Lords, and the Established Church had looked, not without cause, to Byzantium’s schism with Rome as a precedent for the separation of the Anglicans. (Suffice it to say that it was the Emperor’s uncle, Bardas, who had the marital problems that led him to attempt to appoint a Patriarch who saw things his way. Sound familiar?) This would also explain Norwich’s attack on the Pope’s as basically, dictators…a point of rhetoric that is noted for its commonality since the Anglican separation.

  15. benedetta says:

    phthom81, Maybe what you said could be helpfully included in a blurb on the dust jacket, by way of explanation…

    At any rate it has not been my experience that everyone who is a member of the Church of England, or further Eastern Orthodox, regards Popes as, “basically, dictators”. Obviously there is a way to do history without demeaning whole groups of religious adherents, now, present, future.

    Of course your rationale couldn’t also satisfactorily explain the cheap shot at the Eucharist does it.

  16. Supertradmum says:

    Persecution stage three…this will only get worse, as the media is in the hands of the mediocre and prejudiced.

  17. pjthom81 says:

    Oh I hasten to say that I can not think of anyone now in the Church of England that would refer to the Popes as dictators. In order to find that I need to read through the historical record. These things tend to live on in the culture though. Basically, Norwich is not being creative. He’s borrowing, basically, the Whig view of history.

    Now the shot against the Eucharist was from Keller not Norwich if I read the above correctly.

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