National Catholic Register


U.S. Notes & Quotes

BY Jim Cosgrove

May 17-23, 1998 Issue | Posted 5/5/99 at 1:00 PM


Chicago Priest v. Jerry Springer

Chicago's Father Michael Pfleger has won an important victory against TV sex and violence, as found on his local Fox TV's notorious Jerry Springer Show. But Springer won't admit it.

The south Chicago priest met with the show's producer and distributor to complain about the show's “nudity, the degradation of women,” and obscenity — according to a May 2 Associated Press report — and to explain the boycott he had organized against advertisers.

Father Pfleger, known previously for his willingness to take on anyone he saw as abusing his African-American Chicago community, picketed the local NBC affiliate when it carried the show, and received credit when they dropped it. When Fox picked it up in April, the priest merely took his protests to the new location.

Now, after meeting with Father Pfleger, Studios USA, the show's producer, released a statement vowing to “eliminate all physical violence from the series.”

Jerry Springer denies that any such agreement has been made, making his comments on Howard Stern's morning radio show — itself an often-cited example of prurient entertainment.

“I don't know why they issued that statement,” Springer said. “That's absurd…. I don't want to tone it down.”

Father Pfleger speculated that Springer might be looking for a way to leave the show for good without having to condemn it — by forcing his producers to cancel it.

“He knows that his show without the fights is a whole different show,” Father Pfleger said, according to the report. “I don't know if he knows what to do without the fights.”

Faithfully Yours, William F. Buckley

In a May 3 letter to the Los Angeles Times, William F. Buckley defended his faith and his autobiographical book Nearer, My God, saying the paper's review of the book was “a freestyle display of the reviewer's complaints against Christianity.”

Buckley responded to several points, including:

l Christians unreflective? Quoting the reviewer, Martin Gardner saying that Buckley had “made little effort to think through the implications of [my] beliefs,” Buckley answered, “… if I have not thought through these implications — or the beliefs from which they derive — then neither has any Christian … [and] the consequences are absolutely enormous. You should consider giving over an entire issue of The Los Angeles Times to dramatize Gardner's concerns.”

l New Doctrines? He quoted Gardner writing about Catholics, “They … believe that God continually reveals … new doctrines.” Buckley responds: “What is Gardner talking about? Catholics … believe that Revelation ended with the death of the last apostle. So what ‘new’ truth is he talking about? When did a pope announce a ‘new’ doctrine?” The Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of the Blessed Mother “were reaffirmations of very old doctrines.”

l Ultra-Orthodox? Buckley says that Gardner labels him “ultra-orthodox.” He answers, “What's the big deal about a Catholic supporting Catholicism, whose tenets are defined by the Magisterium? Even if the reviewer could come up with 100 names of men and women who call themselves Catholics but don't believe in Catholic dogma, what is the point in the exercise…? Would a book arguing the validity of the United States Constitution merit a half-acre of a reviewer's space to point exultantly to people who do not believe in the Constitution?”

The Los Angeles Times repeats the attacks against the Church in a response by Gardner, who adds, “… I admire true believers like Buckley and Chesterton more than I do … [Catholics] who, after abandoning all the unique doctrines of their faith, lack the courage to walk out of their Church.”

Play about Christ is ‘Tired and Tiresome’

A new, homosexually suggestive play about Christ and the apostles is not just bad morality, bad theology, and bad history. It is also bad art, said an editorial in the New York Post.

Shocking audiences not only slights traditional morality — it also undercuts modern playwrights' misguided attempts to push their own moral arguments, said the May 1st column.

“Tony Award-winner Terence McNally has written some charming, and sometimes moving, gay-themed plays. Now he has penned one called Corpus Christi - which, production insiders told The Post, portrays a Jesus Christ who is not just gay, but actually sleeps with the Apostles.

“Presumably McNally's creative well has run dry. Because, even as a ‘60s-style attempt to shock, this is a pretty tired — and tiresome — stunt.” While the play should offend everyone, it will particularly offend Catholics whose sensibilities the theater deems ‘utterly unworthy of consideration,” said the editorial.

The play also represents a double standard. “What if some Broadway rebel produced a play that showed homosexuals, or gay icons, in an unflattering light?… [W]e'd be subjected to endless sermons about ‘offensiveness' and ‘bigotry,’” said the article.

The Post concluded by drawing a parallel with Oscar Wilde, the literary hero of many homosexual activists.

“Wilde died a practicing Catholic…. His own stylish humor would have been impossible without a culture that valued reticence in sexual matters. If he were alive today, Wilde too likely would see the Corpus Christi idea as crass, vulgar, and offensive.”