Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 1, 2003
Anti-Catholicism receives carte blanche in U.S.
The New Anti-Catholicism: The Last Acceptable Prejudice, by Philip Jenkins, Oxford University Press, 2003. 216 pages.
Review by DEAN SARNECKI
If any other group was treated the same way, including Muslims following 9/11, Jews, or homosexuals, there would be an outpouring of disgust and calls for change.
Since the 1960s, these issues have been in the forefront of American culture and the Church's stand on these issues definitely conflicts with the societal norms. These conflicts between believers and non-believers and members within the Church lead to high profile cases where the media has tended to be much more sympathetic to "individual rights" verses the good of the community, most often backed by the Church.
Another factor that has tended to make this prejudice acceptable is the number of Catholics who publicly disagree with the Church's teachings. It is far more acceptable for a member within the group to critique Catholicism than someone who is an outsider, states Jenkins. If a priest, theologian or lay member of the Church protests the teachings or the institution, it opens the way for non-members and the media to simply report, usually very sympathetically, the dissenting view.
Jenkins presents many examples of this in the reporting of the sexual abuse crisis in Boston and throughout the U.S.
The portrayal of Catholicism by the media, both print and film (including television), is often allowed under the banner of being written or directed by Catholics. For example, the movie Dogma, written and directed by Kevin Smith, who claims to be a Catholic and regular at Mass at his unnamed parish, has been criticized for anti-Catholic sentiments.
The writings of Garry Wills are another example. As a member of the Church, he is entitled to criticize and his books Papal Deception and Why I am a Catholic attack the Church on many fronts.
Jenkins clearly does not attack or defend Catholic teachings but makes it clear that media treatment and societies attitude towards Catholicism is obviously unfair.
If any other group was treated the same way, including Muslims following 9/11, Jews, or homosexuals, there would be an outpouring of disgust and calls for change. However, it appears there is one last acceptable prejudice - Catholicism.
(Dean Sarnecki lives in Sherwood Park and teaches at Archbishop Jordan Catholic High School, Newman Theological College, and St. Joseph's College, University of Alberta.)
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