On Feb. 13 at the library of Congress, Chicago Cardinal Francis George asked some very pointed questions in his talk “What Kind of Democracy Leads to Secularization?” “The secular must provide legitimate ground for religion” in society, Cardinal George said. “When the secular is legitimized without freedom of religion, persecution of religion becomes inevitable.” His remarks came at a time when the news is full of stories about bias against religious people. We present a few of them here.
The biggest story in anti-religious bias in February was the flap over the the anti-Catholic bloggers that John Edwards hired — and who later quit. In a piece published Feb. 15 in FrontPage Magazine, Kristen Fyfe examined the media response to the two bloggers, whose anti-Catholic references are too vulgar and vitriolic to print . Fyfe is senior writer at the Media Research Center’s Culture and Media Institute.
She cited the Washington Post, New York Times and Associated Press and found that all three avoided citing Catholic League president Bill Donohue’s arguments about the bloggers.
Donohue wrote: “Had anyone on his [Edwards] staff used the ‘N-word,’ he or she would have been fired immediately. But his goal is to loot the pockets of the Soros/Hollywood gang, and they — like him — aren’t offended by anti-Catholicism. Indeed, they thrive on it.
“When Mel Gibson got drunk and made anti-Semitic remarks, he paid a price for doing so. When Michael Richards got angry and made racist remarks, he paid a price for doing so. When Isaiah Washington got ticked off and made anti-gay remarks, he paid a price for doing so.”
Wrote Fyfe: “Each of the celebrity rants cited above received substantial coverage by the media. But there is a double standard for bigotry and hatred aimed at Christians. Reporting such comparisons would mean giving voice to the conservative viewpoint and balance to the story.
“Had [blogger Amanda] Marcotte substituted Mohammed, Allah or Islam where she bashes the Pope, God, or the Catholic Church, she would have been vilified in the mainstream media. But because the object of her attacks is Christianity, the liberal media don’t feel the need to report the full story.”
Not everyone in the mainstream media ignored the story of media bias against Catholics. Greg Kandra, who shares a blog with Katie Couric at CBS and has had a long career in television journalism, was one.
“The episode has drawn attention to an issue that strikes close to my own life,” wrote Kandra. “It involves a particularly insidious form of bigotry, and the nagging suspicion that there is one remaining permissible prejudice in America. It is anti-Catholicism.”
“I certainly would not have imagined that a serious candidate for president would have kept on his payroll people who write things so blatantly, outrageously hateful towards a particular religion. … I don’t know if Edwards is a bigot. I suspect not. I suspect he’s probably just a product of his age, and that he suffers from what moral theologians would call invincible ignorance.
“In other words, he’s just too ignorant to know better. And he’s just doing what so many others have done, and continue to do: tolerating the last acceptable prejudice.”
Kandra also reveals one reason for his sensitivity on the topic: He is training to be a permanent deacon.
Gary Panetta of the Peoria Journal Star noticed anti-Catholic bias in fine arts circles.
“Queer studies, feminist theory, post-structuralism — anything goes in contemporary art circles,” he wrote. “Anything, that is, except religion.
“When religion does come up, it is a subject for irony, skepticism or ambiguity. Sincere expressions of religious faith almost are entirely absent in the modern fine arts world.”
He cited a new book by James Elkins called The Strange Place of Religion in Contemporary Art. “If a work is anti-religious or critical of religion — and that usually means Catholicism, by the way — then it’s acceptable in galleries,” said Elkins, who teaches at the Art Institute of Chicago. “The work which is openly representing a major religion is relatively unlikely to be accepted in a mainstream gallery or museum if it’s contemporary art.”
Asks Panetta: “How did this happen? Why is art that expresses sincere religious belief such a marginal part of the art world?”
He cites modernism and post-modernism’s anti-traditionalism.
“The result is that ‘sincerity’ of any kind — especially straightforward presentations of religious faith of the traditional or nontraditional kinds — appear out of sync with the main trends in visual art. In this environment, an artist who wants to make sincerely religious art will simply appear sentimental or anachronistic.”
He noted that Elkins is trying to heal the breach, and will address it April 17 at the Chicago Art Institute.
British headlines are in a rage asking: Why does the Church refuse to assist in the adoption of children by homosexual couples? But another kind of story has also been cropping up in the press there. They are the stories of heterosexual couples who ask: Why does the United Kingdom refuse to allow religious couples to adopt?
One of the most poignant was a late January essay in the Telegraph by a Catholic who wrote under a pseudonym.
“Long before the current row over whether Church-based adoption agencies should be allowed to set their own rules about accepting homosexual couples on to their books, my husband and I felt the cold breath of discrimination,” she wrote. “We were found wanting because we were Christians and because we hold strong views about the importance of children having both a father and a mother.
“Research endorses this model as best for children but our ‘idealism about family life,’ as the social workers called it, prevented us being able to provide a needy child with a loving home. If you are single or gay, it seems, it would be far easier to adopt.”
She and her husband are in their 40s and got married in 1992. The author described the questions that social workers asked them: “Would we want a child placed with us to accompany us to church? Would we put pressure on a child who didn’t want to go?”
But what was the clincher against them was the question of homosexuality.
“We were quite open in our belief that a child needs a male and a female role model,” the rejected adoptive mother wrote. “I said that a girl finds it easier to talk to another woman about periods and sex, for example, while a boy finds it easier to talk to his father. The social workers were keen to know how we would react if a child announced that he or she was gay. We said that we believe that the same ground rules apply whether you are gay or heterosexual: that sex before marriage is wrong. We don’t believe in same-sex ‘marriages,’ but if a child told us he or she was gay, we would still love that child, even if we didn’t agree with the lifestyle they chose.”
The Associated Press on Feb. 10 told the story of a Jewish scholar who is the unlikely victim of anti-Catholic bias. He is Ariel Toaff, son of Elio Toaff, a chief rabbi of Rome.
Toaff’s book is being criticized because it “delves into the charge that Jews added the blood of Christian children to wine and unleavened bread for Passover — allegations that resulted in torture, show trials and executions, periodically devastating Europe’s Jewish communities over the years.”
Toaff teaches medieval and Renaissance history at Bar-Ilan University outside Tel Aviv, Israel. The “blood libel” stories about Jews have been staples of anti-Semitic literature for centuries.
But Toaff “cites confessions from Jews accused of ritual murder to expose what he claims was a body of anti-Christian literature, prayers and rites among the communities of central Europe.”
Said the report: “In interviews with the Italian media and in parts of his book, Toaff has suggested that some ritual murders might have really taken place, committed by Ashkenazi Jews seeking revenge for a slew of massacres, forced conversions and persecutions suffered by German Jewry from the First Crusade of 1096 onwards.”
But Toaff also cites the overreaction of some communities who targeted all Jews and struck back disproportionately. Catholic and Jewish scholars have denounced Toaff’s work, saying it relies on confessions that were coerced under torture.