Friday, June 22, 2012

Is the New York Times Openly Hostile to the Roman Catholic Church?

On March 9, 2012, the New York Times published a full-page advertisement in which the Freedom From Religion Foundation exhorted Catholics to quit their Church and ridiculed Catholic doctrine on contraceptives.

On June 9, 2012, the New York Times published an essay by Maureen Dowd, a New York Times columnist, in which she described the Vatican's efforts to reign in a group of dissident nuns as a "thuggish crusade."

On June 18, 2012, Bill Keller, former executive editor of the New York Times, wrote an essay that appeared on the Times' op ed page, urging disaffected Catholics to leave the Catholic Church and putting in a good word for a schismatic sect that performs same-sex marriages.  Keller compared Pope Benedict XVI and Bill Donohue of the Catholic League to rottweilers.

Do you believe the New York Times would ever print an op ed essay or an advertisement urging people to leave the Muslim faith, the Hindu religion, Mormonism,or any other religious tradition other than Catholicism?  Can you even imagine a Times columnist arguing that people should leave the Muslim religion because of the way some Muslims treat women? Can you envision Times writers exhorting people to leave the Mormon tradition because of its traditional views on human sexuality?

No, of course you can't.  No, the Times writers reserve their undisguised disdain for one religious tradition only--the Roman Catholic Church.

Throughout American history, Catholics have endured recurring periods of persecution, which sometimes descended into violence. The attack on the Charlestown convent in 1834, the Philadelphia Bible riots of 1844, and the Klan revival of the early 1920s--all were dark episodes in American history in which anti-Catholic prejudice expressed itself in violence.

I do not compare the New York Times writers' recent criticism of the Catholic Church to these evils of the past. But I believe the Times writers' public disdain for the Roman Catholic Church may have a pernicious influence on Americans already predisposed to be prejudiced toward Catholics. If a respected publication like the Times can express itself so negatively about Catholicism or its leaders, some people may believe, then it must be acceptable for others to articulate their hostility toward Catholics.

In short, the Times writers' recent attacks on our Church should be worrisome to all Catholics. Using every means of reasonable persuasion, we must insist that the Times give Catholics the same respect that it shows for every other religious tradition on earth. Anti-Catholicism is an ugly phenomenon. And although it may start with catty essays in a respected newspaper, it could accelerate into something much more dangerous.


Dowd, Maureen (2012, June 5). Is pleasure a sin? New York Times. Available at

Freedom From Religion Foundation. (2012, March 9). It's Time to Consider Quitting the Catholic Church. New York Times, p. A10.

Keller, Bill. (2012, June 18). The Rottweiler's Rottweiler. New York Times, p. A21.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Bill Keller of New York Times Compares Pope Benedict and Bill Donohue to Rottweilers

A few months ago, the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) purchased a full-page advertisement in the New York Times, which attacked the Catholic Church and urged Catholics to leave it. FFRF could have saved its money. The New York Times--through several of its columnists--attacks the Catholic Church regularly. FFRF did not need to buy an advertisement.
Bill Keller
Photo Credit: NY Times

And this brings me to Bill Keller's essay in yesterday's New York Times. Titled "The Rottweiler's Rottweiler,"  Mr. Keller basically compared Pope Benedict XVI and Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, to attack dogs.

Like the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Keller urged Catholics to leave their Church. "Much as I wish I could encourage the discontented, the Catholics of open minds and open hearts, to stay put and fight the good fight, this is a lost cause," Keller wrote. "Summon your fortitude and just go."

"Go where?" Keller asked rhetorically.  Keller had a few kind words for a schismatic group in New York, which has a female pastor and conducts same-sex marriages.  Keller wrote that he would "leave it to the theologians to debate whether these defectors or the Vatican have the stronger claim to being the authentic heirs of St. Peter."

A few brief comments. First, it is unjust and mean spirited to compare Pope Benedict and Bill Donohue to rottweilers because they vigorously defend the Catholic faith. How would Mr. Keller like to be called a rottweiler because he defends his principles and convictions?

Second, Keller made reference to the Catholic Church's sexual abuse scandal. All Catholics know that the priest pedophile scandal is one of the most shameful chapters in our Church's history.

But this disgraceful episode does not negate the truth of the Catholic faith. Nor does it nullify our heritage. The lives and martyrdoms of such saints as St. Maximilian Kolbe, St. Thomas More, and the Ugandan Martyrs are in no way diminished by the Church's recent sexual abuse scandal.

Finally, Mr. Keller seems to think that many Catholics find the Church out of step with their consciences and that some nuns stay in the Church out of fear. He could not be more mistaken. Of course, there will always be a few discontented Catholics, people who share Mr. Keller's sour views about the Church.  But our churches are full and overflowing with all kinds of people--immigrants, converts, single adults, poor people, middle-class families, children and youth--who attend Mass regularly and are strengthened and invigorated by their Catholic faith.

If Mr. Keller believes that "The Rottweiler's Rottweiler" and similar commentaries will persuade Catholics to abandon their Church in large numbers, he is wrong. Catholics have endured hecklers, heresies, schismatic sects, and mortal enemies for 2000 years; and we outlasted all our foes.  We will certainly not be shaken by Mr. Keller's carping essay in the New York Times.


Freedom from Religion Foundation. (2012, March 9). It's Time to Consider Quitting the Catholic Church. New York Times, p. A10.

Keller, B. (2012, June 18). The Rottweiler's Rottweiler. New York Times, p. A21.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Maureen Dowd Attacks the Catholic Church Again, Accusing Vatican of a "Thuggish Crusade"

Maureen Dowd
Photo credit: NY Times
In the June 5th issue of the New York Times, Maureen Dowd attacked the Catholic Church once again, accusing the Vatican of conducting a "thuggish crusade to push U.S. nuns--and all Catholic women--back into moldy subservience."  Dowd disapproves of the Vatican's decision to censor a book by Sister Margaret Farley that deviates from Catholic doctrine on human sexuality.

Three observations:

First, to paraphrase Samuel Johnson, anti-Catholicism is the last refuge of the postmodern elite. The New York Times and its columnists would not dare criticize the Muslim faith, Mormonism, Hinduism, or even the Methodists as shrilly as they snarl at Catholics week after week. But, in these times, it is perfectly safe to sneer at Catholics.

Second, it is disingenuous--to say the least--for Dowd to criticize the Vatican for doing what it ought to be doing--making sure Catholic theologians write and teach in harmony with Catholic doctrine. No one would accuse the New York Times of thuggishness if it censored a reporter for plagiarism. Everyone would understand that the Times was simply maintaining the integrity of its organization.  Why then is the Vatican accused of "thuggish behavior" when it censors--with remarkable restraint--the unorthodox writings of a Catholic theologian?

Third, Dowd's latest tirade is another reminder of the price our Church has paid for the pedophilia scandal, which Dowd repeatedly throws in our face as evidence of the Church's hypocrisy. Perhaps this season of anti-Catholic vitriol is a penance for our Church leaders' shameful cover-up of child abuse by pedophile priests. So I suppose Catholics should bear this cross of scorn with humility; we have much to atone for in the way we handled the sexual abuse scandals.


Dowd, M. (2012, June 5). Is pleasure a sin? New York Times. Available at

Thursday, June 7, 2012

For Greater Glory--A Must See Movie for Catholics

   For Greater Glory, a movie about the Cristero War that erupted in Mexico during the mid-1920s, is a must-see movie for Catholics.  The movie tells the story of the Catholic rebellion against the anti-Catholic persecutions unleashed by Plutarco Elias Calles (played by Ruben Blades), who was president of Mexico from 1924 to 1928. 
   Not everyone likes the movie. Wesley Morris, writing in the Boston Globe, called the movie "a total embarrassment."  
   I agree with Morris's suggestion that the film is too long.  (Morris described the movie as an "epic run-on sentence").  At 2 hours and twenty minutes, For Greater Glory would have benefited from some editing. Nevertheless, For Greater Glory is an accurate portrayal of a dark period in Mexican history that Catholics should know about. 
Blessed José Luis Sánchez del Río
   I think movie goers will appreciate the movie more if they know going in that many of the events portrayed on the screen really happened. José Luis Sánchez del Río, for example, played by José  Mauricio Kuri, was a teenage Cristero soldier who was captured by the Federales and executed on February 10, 1928. His cinematic death may seem overplayed and melodramatic, but the real-life  del Río, like the movie character, was tortured before his execution and made to watch another prisoner being hanged. His captors told him that he could save his life if he would only utter the words, "Death to Christ the King," but he refused. Del Rio's dying words--in real life and the movie--were "Viva Cristo Rey!" Pope Benedict XVI beatified del Rio in 2005.
   Likewise, the Mexican attorney Anacleto González Flores, portrayed in the movie by Eduardo Verastegui, was a leading figure in the Cristero revolt. Flores was executed by the Calles regime on April 27, 1927 and canonized by Pope Benedict in 2005.
Blessed Anacleto González Flores
   American Catholics may believe that anti-Catholic persecutions like those that occurred during the Cristero War could never happen in the United States. And I hope they are right. Nevertheless, the federal government recently imposed an odious health-insurance mandate on Catholic institutions, and the New York Times published a full-page advertisement urging people to leave the Catholic church. Maureen Dowd, a New York Times columnist, has attacked our Church repeatedly in recent months. In her most recent column, Dowed accused the Vatican of "thuggish" behavior.
   The day may come when it will take courage to be an American Catholic. Let us pray for the courage of Blessed José Luis Sánchez del Río and Blessed Anacleto González Flores should the day come when we are called to suffer for our faith.