"The Catholic League", mighty champion of ....gay bashing and anti-semitism ?
Bruce Wilson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sun Jun 25, 2006 at 03:57:39 PM EST
Hate speech is typically the first line of attack employed by bullies, but bullies become emboldened when eliminationalist rhetoric is tolerated, and that societal acceptance can lead to far worse things. I've previously covered hate speech - see Enough Hate Spech To Stun An Ox, and Hatecrime.org has an extensive collection of hate speech targeting homosexuals. Suprisingly - or not - at least one individual whose statements are featured in that archive ( and also in collections of antisemitic rhetoric )  is also leader of a prominent Christian right group that claims to fight against anti-Catholic bias and discrimination who has also made statements on MSNBC ( as chronicled by Media Matters ), demonizing homosexuals and Jews. Does The Catholic League exist to serve the interests of Catholics, and Catholic religious freedom, or does it exist as a platform from which to project bigoted, conspiricist, and antisemitic rhetoric, and - as talk To Action contributor Frank Cocozzelli charges, to defend "hierarchy and dogma" ?

Along with its other tried and true wedge and masthead issue  - the campaign to restrict reproductive and abortion rights, the US ( and often worldwide ) Christian right movement has been built in part on the scare tactics of public rhetoric attacking and vilifying homosexuals. The Christian right's ongoing political campaign - against gay civil rights and same sex marriage, and especially in the accompanying rhetorical onslaught - has certain historical resonance with  the persecution of homosexuals in the 1933 to 1945 period in Nazi Germany....

That parallel gains force, also, given recent scholarship demonstrating not just complicity but also enthusiastic participation, by German religious leaders and theologians during Hitler's rise to power and establishment of the 3rd Reich. Recently, prominent leaders in American Judaism have publicly acknowledged the parallels:

(AP) Nov. 19, 2005.  The leader of the largest branch of American Judaism blasted conservative religious activists in a speech today, calling them "zealots" who claim a "monopoly on God" while promoting anti-gay policies akin to Adolf Hitler's.

'We cannot forget that when Hitler came to power in 1933 one of the first things that he did was ban gay organizations,' Rabbi Eric Yoffie said. Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the liberal Union for Reform Judaism, said "religious right" leaders believe "unless you attend my church, accept my God and study my sacred text you cannot be a moral person."

"What could be more bigoted than to claim that you have a monopoly on God?" Yoffie told a friendly audience of about 5,000 in his keynote address during the movement's national assembly in Houston, which runs through Sunday.

Yoffie used particularly strong language to condemn conservative attitudes toward homosexuals.....

"We cannot forget that when Hitler came to power in 1933 one of the first things that he did was ban gay organizations," Yoffie said. "Yes, we can disagree about gay marriage. But there is no excuse for hateful rhetoric that fuels the hellfires of anti-gay bigotry."

[ from the website for the 2005 documentary by Stephen D. Martin, Theologians Under Hitler [ review of documentary, by Ethics Daily ] In the days after World War II, a convenient story was told of church leaders and ordinary Christians that defied the Nazis from the beginning.

Recent research has uncovered a very different story.   Rather than resisting, the greater part of the German church saw Hitler's rise in 1933 as an act of God's blessing, a new chapter in the story of God among the German people.

This film, based upon groundbreaking research, introduces the viewer to three of the greatest Christian scholars of the twentieth century: Paul Althaus, Emanuel Hirsch, and Gerhard Kittel, men who were also outspoken supporters of Hitler and the Nazi party.

In 1933 Althaus spoke of Hitler's rise as "a gift and miracle of God." Hirsch saw 1933 as a "sunrise of divine goodness."   And Kittel, the editor of the standard reference work on the Jewish background of the New Testament, began working for the Nazis to find a "moral" rationale for the destruction of European Jewry.

The complicity and often enthusiastic support -  of both Protestant and Catholic religious leaders( see: photo archive )  and also by some of the leading Christian theologians of the 20th Century during Hitler's rise to power - has been amply documented

...in 1935, the Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honour was passed. This amended the existing Paragraph 175 of the Reich Penal Code:

An unnatural sex act committed between persons of male sex or by humans with animals is punishable by imprisonment; the loss of civil rights might also be imposed.

However, whereas previously the only punishable offence had been anal intercourse, the new Paragraph 175a ushered in 10 new possible 'acts' between men as crimes worthy of punishment, including kissing, embracing and having homosexual fantasies. [ see: Nazi Persecution Of Homosexuals 1933-1945 from The United States Holocaust Museum

Continued efforts by the American Christian right ( and beyond US shores, on a worldwide level - see Talk To Action contributor Matt Thompson's Orthodox Anglicans' Akinola: 'Five Years in Jail if You are Gay in Nigeria' ) to limit same sex civil rights have been characterized by Bob Moser, writing for The Southern Poverty law Center, as "Holy War" : Holy War: The religious crusade against gays has been building for 30 years. Now the movement is reaching truly biblical proportions and in the recent 20th Century history past, there is disturbing precedent for such efforts.

Enter, stage right, William Donahue of The Catholic League: On the April 17th, 2006 edition of MSNBC's Scarborough Country, speaking out against The DaVinci Code, Bill Donahue said the following:

So, here, we have Christianity under attack. Intellectuals like to rap it. And then we're called whiners. Now, you just try to do this with blacks. Can you imagine if you had eight books that are bestsellers right now, saying that blacks are natural-born killers, or that gays are naturally born to be moral slugs, or that Jews are taking over the world? Could you imagine if somebody then said about blacks and Jews and gays were whiners because they were complaining about this intellectual assault? No.

William Donahue, it would seem, has rendered such questions very easy to imagine.

Meanwhile, as Media Matters For America summarizes its chronicle of controversial statements Donahue has made on MSNBC :

William A. Donohue, president of the conservative Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, has made 23 guest appearances on TV news programs in 2004. Donohue uses his appearances primarily to attack gays and progressives. He has referred to the "gay death style," remarked, "God forbid we'd run out of little gay kids," claimed that Senator John Kerry "never found an abortion he couldn't justify," and claimed that "Hollywood is controlled by secular Jews who hate Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular ... Hollywood likes anal sex."
 

Donahue is known for dishing out accusations of "anti-catholicism" but also seems comfortable emitting televised rhetoric many would characterize as hate speech and which - beyond its historical resonance with antisemitic and anti-gay rhetoric common in Germany during Nazi era - also resembles a milder, or coded version, of  conspiratorial, antisemitic, and/or Christian supremacist rhetoric and ideology typical of the Christian Identity movement. As Chip Berlet, Senior Analyst for The Public Eye ( and Talk To Action contributor ) writes, in CHRISTIAN IDENTITY, SURVIVALISM & THE POSSE COMITATUS : A New Face for Racism & Fascism:

Many Posse and Identity adherents believe Jews, Blacks, Communists, Homosexuals and race-traitors have seized control of the United States. They refer to Washington, D.C. as the Zionist Occupational Government (ZOG). They read the novel "The Turner Diaries" in which an underground white army leads a revolution against ZOG.....

Christian Identity borrows paranoid conspiratorial beliefs from reactionary groups such as the John Birch Society. Birchers claim that secret cabals run most world governments under orders from wealthy elites such as the Rockefeller family acting through groups such as the Trilateralist Commission, the Bilderberger banking conference, the Council on Foreign Relations, and officials of the Federal Reserve Bank.

From ultra-right Christian fundamentalists comes the idea of a secular humanist conspiracy involving liberal elites such as radical academics, teachers union leaders, journalists and network television programmers and gay men and lesbians who pave the way for leftists, socialists and communists. These are the core beliefs of persons such as Reed Irvine of Accuracy in Academia and Accuracy in Media, and Phyllis Schlafly of the Eagle Forum. Pat Robertson, leader of the Christian Coalition, recently wrote a book attacking president Bush's New World Order and echoing many paranoid conspiratorial charges of the reactionary and fascist right. Robertson also throws in a discussion of sinister networks of Masonic lodges and the shadowy Illuminati group. It is these reactionary forces that made TV appearances during the Republican convention.

White supremacists add to the bizare brew a list of racial enemies such as Jews, Blacks, Latinos, Asians, Indians, indeed all non-Aryans. The Posse Comitatus also sees as agents of the conspiracy all state and national elected politicians, and all law enforcement officials above level of county sheriff such as game wardens, Internal Revenue Service agents, federal marshalls, and the FBI.

Christian Identity wraps all the conspiracy theories together and adds the myth that white Christian Americans are God's Chosen People fighting a religious war against satanic forces. Identity combines the worst aspects of Hitlerian racial theories, the Spanish Inquisition and the Crusades.

Now, none of this is suprising to to those who track statements by leading figures on the American Christian right. But what is noteworthy is this:

William Donahue is the head of an organization that claims to fight for civil rights and religious liberty, and against Anti-Catholicism. In that capacity, and as a prominent pundit, has appeared over twenty times as a guest on a MSNBC network television show to emit such statements as the following:

( MSNBC transcript ) "Who really cares what Hollywood thinks?  All these hacks come out there.  Hollywood is controlled by secular Jews who hate Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular.  It`s not a secret, OK?  And I`m not afraid to say it.  That`s why they hate this movie.  It`s about Jesus Christ, and it`s about truth.  It`s about the messiah.

Hollywood likes anal sex.  They like to see the public square without nativity scenes.  I like families.  I like children.  They like abortions.  I believe in traditional values and restraint.  They believe in libertinism.  We have nothing in common.  But you know what?  The culture war has been ongoing for a long time.  Their side has lost. [ note : on this particularly unpleasant incident, also see Bill Berkowitz's Bill Donohue's Jewish Problem ]

No, Donahue did not cite "The Protocols of The Elders Of Zion" - but  allegations of "Jewish conspiracies" against Christianity have a long and reprehensible history that long predated the Holocaust, and a credulous citation of the "Protocols" - as fact - shows up in third place in a Google search on the term "Protocols". Given the way Google produces search results, by popularity ( # of links pointing to a page with any given search term ) this would indicate that Jewish conspiracy myths have not died out and possibly are gaining more cultural prominence.

Meanwhile, one would imagine Mr. Donahue might rightly be a bit more concerned with attempts to forcibly convert Catholics to Protestant Christianity, or by the refusal - on the part of US state funded agencies - to deny adoption services to catholic couples. Bill Donahue's "Catholic League" seems to have a nose for the more prurient aspects of antireligious expressions his organization labels as hate speech, but the League  seems bizarrely unconcerned with run-of-the-mill varieties of anticatholicism:  preliminary results of a simple Google search reveal that the "Catholic League" seems to be less than fully engaged with the sort of  blatant discrimination against Catholics represented by the denial of adoption services to Catholic couples seeking to start the sort of "traditional" families the League advocates : instead, the Catholic League appears to be intent on one major related issue - preventing same sex couples from adopting children.

As Media Matters For America describes, Catholic League head Bill Donahue seems most concerned not with defending Catholic rights but with restricting the rights - of gays:

William A. Donohue, president of the conservative Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, has made 23 guest appearances on TV news programs in 2004. Donohue uses his appearances primarily to attack gays and progressives. He has referred to the "gay death style," remarked, "God forbid we'd run out of little gay kids," claimed that Senator John Kerry "never found an abortion he couldn't justify," and claimed that "Hollywood is controlled by secular Jews who hate Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular ... Hollywood likes anal sex."

How does the Catholic League describe its mission ? Well, Donahue's organization, in its FAQ, does not mince words:

The Catholic League is the nation's largest Catholic civil rights organization. Founded in 1973 by the late Father Virgil C. Blum, S.J., the Catholic League defends the right of Catholics - lay and clergy alike - to participate in American public life without defamation or discrimination.

Motivated by the letter and the spirit of the First Amendment, the Catholic League works to safeguard both the religious freedom rights and the free speech rights of Catholics whenever and wherever they are threatened....

...today's brand of anti-Catholicism is more virulent and more pervasive than ever before in American history. While it is true that Catholics as individuals have made progress in securing their rights, the degree of hostility exhibited against the Catholic Church is appalling. Quite simply, Catholic bashing has become a staple of American society. [ emphasis mine ]

Oh No, Mr. Bill! It's hate Speech! Run Away!

Now, the reality of Anti-catholicism and anti-papism in American is indeed well established. But, does the Catholic League really exist to fight against such anti-religious hatred and bias ?

As Talk To Action contributor Frank Cocozzelli writes, in installment five of his ongoing series on the Catholic Right:

By most objective standards, the League actually spends little time on defending the rights of ordinary Catholic individuals. Their definition of protecting Catholic civil and religious rights is increasingly limited to defending hierarchy and dogma: a self-evident fact that plays out in the Church's pedophilia scandal.  [ emphasis mine ]

Will the Catholic League, or Donahue take a principled stand on hate speech that falls outside of its appointed ideological franchise ? Coccozzelli - in the sixth installment of his series - asks the question :

The new video game  Left Behind: Eternal Forces contains some of the most vile anti-religious, anti-Catholic bigotry marketed as entertainment for young adults.

Yet, neither William Donohue nor his Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights has uttered anything even remotely resembling a protest.

William Donohue and his organization, The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, claim to speak against acts of anti-Catholic bigotry. But apparently his desire to speak out against injustice has its limits.  

One would think that the Catholic League would be extremely upset about a video game that is set in post-Rapture New York City, where Roman Catholics are among those "left behind," described as non-believers and must choose to either become born again Christians or perish at gunpoint....

Related stories : see the following Talk To Action topic categories

Militant Religious Militarism

Hate Speech

Gay Rights

Reproductive Rights

Demonizing Secularism

Commercialized Religion ( for "that video game" )

On American Judaism and the Christian Right :

Evangelicals and U.S. foreign policy by Esther Kaplan

Christian Zionism all juiced up by Esther Kaplan

Anti-Semitism and the Christmas warriors by Michelle Goldberg  12/06/2005

Nice homeland you've got there, shame if something happened to it by Michelle Goldberg  11/30/2005

Attack dogs by Esther Kaplan  11/28/2005

The End of Apologies? by Esther Kaplan  11/20/2005

 



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