Catholic League's William Donohue's Rage Against the Jews
Bill Berkowitz printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Wed Jun 27, 2012 at 11:59:18 AM EST
Let's start with the now immortal words of former United States Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who during a February 2002 press briefing tried to explain the absence of evidence linking the government of Iraq with the supply of weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups: "[T]here are known knowns; there are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns; that is to say there are things that, we now know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns - there are things we do not know, we don't know."

Here are some things "we know that we know" about William Donohue: he has been president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights for nearly twenty years; he's quick to accuse anyone criticizing the Catholic hierarchy as being a Catholic-basher; he relishes publicity -- always ready for his Fox News Channel close-up; he's a stalwart defender of all things Catholic; he's gruff and likes to throw his weight around; he's mean-spirited and prone to making outrageous comments; he's a serial gay-basher; he has been a staunch apologist for priestly child abuse, claiming it was the result of having homosexual priests; and, he has a predilection for dumping on Jews.

One of our "known unknowns?" Why does Donohue feel he can dump on Jews with impunity?

Donohue slams Rabbi Waskow

Last week, BuzzFeed had an interesting little story about Donohue. BuzzFeed's story revolved around a "private email" he sent to Philadelphia Rabbi Arthur Waskow.

According to BuzzFeed, Waskow, a progressive political activist, author, and a Rabbi associated with the Jewish Renewal movement, "had criticized the Vatican and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in a Huffington Post op-ed for `attacking the religious freedom of millions of American women and the religious freedom of American nuns' over contraception."

In response to Waskow's piece, Donohue sent him an email calling the piece a "snide attack on the Catholic Church" that "exhibits appalling ignorance." Donohue ended his note with: "Moreover, since when is it the business of any religious leader to condemn the strictures of another religion? You are not only clueless about the situation concerning nuns, you have stuck your nose in where you don't belong."

How's that for launching a civil dialogue?

Donohue's email started a brief exchange, which ended by citing his friendship with former New York City Mayor Ed Koch, who, according to Donohue "once said that Jews had better not make enemies of their Catholic friends since they have so few of them. Think about that the next time you feel compelled to attack my religion. Donohue also included a postscript saying, `I do not have a long nose.'"

In a statement, Koch said that Donohue misquoted him: "My comments have always been about fostering good feelings between Jews and Catholics toward mutual understanding of our shared interests. However, I certainly do not believe that Jews, or Catholics, should be threatened for making critical remarks, nor should my name be used when doing so. While I do have a high regard for Bill [Donohue], his references to me and my remarks were inappropriate and different in substance and tone than what I said on an earlier occasion. My remarks did not and do not refer to the Rabbi's comments."

Donohue's long nose comment referred a line from Waskow's email that said "Would you also suggest I keep my long Jewish nose out of some Catholic priests' rape of Catholic children and some Catholic bishops' protection of those priests from the law, because I'm not a Catholic? Perhaps you would." (Donohue had told him "you have stuck your nose in where you don't belong.")

Donohue's Jewish Problem

BuzzFeed also reported that "Donahue also raised a recent child abuse scandal in Orthodox Jewish communities. `You need to do something about this epidemic right now,' he told Waskow, who is not Orthodox, suggesting that Jews follow the Catholic Church's reforms in dealing with clerical abuse."

In a subsequent interview with BuzzFeed, Donohue claimed that Waskow was "a man full of hate," and that his op-ed was "the kind of thing I'd expect from Bill Maher, not from a rabbi."

"Who the hell is he?" Donohue added. "I don't tell Jews what to do when they have people who are miscreants in their community."

Donohue has been down this rage-against-the-Jews road many time: In 2004, Donohue, a major admirer of Mel Gibson's movie "The Passion of the Christ," expressed his displeasure with the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for snubbing Gibson's film. In typical Donohue style, he said: "Mel Gibson releases the most significant blockbuster movie of the year, but it's not good enough to make the cut for a Golden Globe. That's because his film promotes Christianity, and the Hollywood crowd will have none of it. The only movies they like to make about Christianity these days are ones that demean it."

In December 2004, Donohue told fellow defender-of-the-faith, Pat Buchanan, who was subbing for host Joe Scarborough on MSNBC's "Scarborough Country," that the reason "The Passion" wouldn't get its just due is because "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."

As Media Matters For America pointed out, after Gibson was arrested in Malibu, Ca. on July 28, 2006 for driving under the influence and making a "series of anti-Semitic remarks," several conservative media figures, including Donohue, leaped to his defense. "There's a lot of people who have made comments which are bigoted who are not necessarily bigots," Donohue told Joe Scarborough. He added that he was "concerned now about piling on."

In the interview, Donohue drifted back to his Jews run Hollywood meme: "Hollywood has a real problem of anti-Catholicism. It's in the movie industry, all right? Do we need to go through this one more time? I'm so interested that the sensitivity mavens now are so concerned about anti-Semitism, as they should be. And they should have hammered Mel Gibson. But are we just going to leave this on the table, now that there's another problem in Hollywood? How about if they clean up their act toward Catholics?"

Of those who won't forgive Gibson, Donohue said: "Who gives a damn about those people?" Donohue then asked, "What kind of blood do they want out of this man?"

Interesting statement from a man whose career is based on draining the blood out of every incident he perceives as anti-Catholic?

Rabbi David Saperstein of the Religious Action Center, a prominent figure in the Jewish Reform movement, called Donohue's email exchange with Rabbi Waskow "disheartening": "Certainly, the importance of both the health care rights of women and the social justice passion of the Catholic nuns who serve on the front lines of our neediest citizens' struggles for economic justice deserve a more respectful response," Saperstein said.

Here's a slight variation of Rumsfeld's "unknown unknowns." We know it is inevitable, but we're just not sure when Donohue will launch his next broadside against Jews.

What a pernicious embarrassment to Catholicism.

by Frank Cocozzelli on Wed Jun 27, 2012 at 03:29:21 PM EST

I am a Catholic, and I really hate Bill Donohue's anti-Semitic remarks. Given institutional Catholicism's dismal history of anti-Semitism, Bill's remarks are adding fuel to an unnecessary fire.  Donohue has never learned to keep his mouth shut when he would be better advised to do so. Bill doesn't speak for me as a Catholic, but he represents a well-funded 1% contingent in the Catholic Church who wants to drive everyone else out who doesn't agree with him.

by khughes1963 on Thu Jun 28, 2012 at 04:04:52 PM EST

but I'm not Bill Maher either. I really get upset at bigots who get the spotlight just because they're spectacularly awful. There are lots of Protestants, too, and you could easily find some doozys on the left side of the political spectrum, but they just don't find their way to the bright lights very often, or I guess it's the other way around. Perhaps it's just like the love-it-or-hate-it act on "America's Got Talent" last night. The act consists of a "stunt man" who spectacularly gets hit in the groin in a variety of ways. How someone could really want to hear these hateful "believers" and "atheists" spout intolerance is like seeing people laugh at "Jackass"ery. God bless the progressive Catholics that are the future of the Church.

by arachne646 on Wed Jun 27, 2012 at 12:51:54 PM EST
You add nothing to the discussion when you try to fly above it all in order to feel superior to both.

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