In the wake of Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to the United States, many American Catholics continue to be inspired by his words and actions.
Even non-Catholics seemed to truly welcome the Pontiff’s visit and his message of hope. However, the warm welcome was sullied by crass commentary offered by a handful of television personalities, including CNN’s Lou Dobbs and HBO’s Bill Maher. Mr. Maher, long known for his anti-religious vitriol and anti-Catholic rants, labeled the leader of the Catholic Church a “Nazi” and a leader of cult of pedophiles. Mr. Dobbs, angry over the Holy Father’s comments on immigration, absurdly suggested that Benedict was “insulting” the United States by mixing politics and religion.
We know that uninformed journalists serve little purpose other than to expose their own ignorance and sometimes their own prejudices. Such was the case for Mr. Dobbs as his outrageous attacks upon the Holy Father’s visit were neither informative nor informed. Rather, they suggest he needs remedial lessons in the teachings of the Catholic faith. It is sad that such ill-informed commentaries upon religion, especially the Catholic religion, are passed as insightful analysis by news companies seeking ratings and advertising dollars. Mr. Dobbs, who apparently has some valuable insights into the economics of the United States, demonstrated little knowledge and even less class in his callous and crass commentaries on Pope Benedict XVI.
Mr. Maher’s latest rant cannot be excused as a joke gone wrong, as it was truly a mean- spirited attack upon the person of the Holy Father. Catholics have every right to be outraged by Mr. Maher’s angry attack upon Pope Benedict XVI. who he described as a former Nazi and the leader of child sex-abusing cult. Such rants about other religious or ethnic groups would not go by unnoticed or excused. It is never acceptable to attack any group, whether they are Jewish, Mormon, African-American, Native-American and it is equally not acceptable when it is Catholics!
Yet anti-Catholic prejudice seems to produce little outrage in the media or among civic and religious leaders in our nation. When Don Imus used offensive racial slurs about the Rutgers University women’s basketball team, he was duly fired for his remarks and rightly condemned by many in the media and leading religious and civic figures across the nation. Mr. Maher’s attack upon Pope Benedict is an attack upon all Catholics and should be called for what it truly is: bigotry and hate speech.
Where are the denouncements from the entertainment community for the offensive attack by Mr. Maher? Where are the calls for apologies for his crude attack upon Pope Benedict by leaders of other faith communities? Bill Maher’s outrageous and offensive attack upon the Church has met with a deafening silence from those who were so quick to denounce Don Imus’ episode of prejudice and bigotry. Could it be that, as the noted historian Arthur Schlesinger suggested some years ago, anti-Catholicism is the “last acceptable prejudice” in our land? We shall wait and see. In the meantime, we suggest that Catholics turn off Mr. Maher’s tasteless attacks by canceling subscriptions to HBO and notifying local cable companies that Catholics won’t stand for prejudice and bigotry against anyone!