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.

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