In 1922, a gang of Ku Klux Klansmen kidnapped a Catholic priest in the rural Texas Hill Country, intending to whip, beat and terrorize him. Fortunately, the priest's servant slipped away undetected while the abduction was taking place and sounded the alarm.
Catholic farmers, mostly Germans, got in their cars and gave chase. As I heard the story, the cavalcade of rescuers got longer and longer as more Catholic farmers joined in the pursuit, chasing the cowardly Klan in their 1920s jalopies. Eventually, the Klansmen became so frightened that they pushed the priest out of a moving car and made their escape.
I love this story, which is true, because it is a reminder to all Catholics that we have an obligation to fight back when our faith is attacked. That is why I try to respond in this blog ever time a New York Times writer vilifies the Catholic Church.
Times op ed essayist Frank Bruni is the worst offender. Month after month, Bruni spews his anti-Catholic prejudice in the Times. In fact, he has attacked the Catholic Church so often that his columns have become repetitive and boring.
Indeed, most of Bruni's venomous essays against Catholicism follow a template that contains these elements:
1) First, Bruni attacks some element of Catholic doctrine--usually a Catholic teaching on sexual morality.
2) Second, Bruni usually contains some flattering remarks about Pope Francis. Apparently, Bruni thinks he can persuade the Pope to change Catholic doctrine by buttering him up.
3) Third, Bruni's essays often hints that the Church's stance on sexual morality is driving lay Catholics out of the Church.
4)Fourth, Bruni often rounds up a cranky Catholic dissident to provide a quote that buttresses Bruni's criticisms of our Church.
I envision a large rolodex on Bruni's desk that contains the names and phone numbers of dissident Catholics who apparently stand by, ever ready to provide just the right barb to support Bruni's blather. Bruni's most recent column has a quote from James Martin, an alleged Jesuit, and Lisa Sowle Cahill, a theology professor at Boston College, reputedly a Catholic institution.
Catholics have been the victims of bigotry since the Pilgrims set foot on Plymouth Rock, but we have always fought back. After the Philadelphia Bible Riots, for example, when anti-Catholic Nativists burned several Philadelphia Catholic churches, Bishop Hughes of New York told the New York City officials that Irish Catholics would basically destroy the city if even one Catholic church was damaged.
And during the early twentieth century, the Knights of Columbus prosecuted anti-Catholic bigots for criminal libel. As late as the 1950s, a South Texas Protestant preacher was arrested for defaming the Knights of Columbus. Those were the days!
So let us protest and respond every time someone attacks our Church in the press. It is wearisome to rebut Bruni's op ed attacks in the Times, but we cannot let the Times writers assault our faith month after month and year after year without registering some protest.
Over the centuries, the most frightening reigns of terror began with mild criticism that eventually swelled into violence. It is deeply disturbing that the Times has allowed Frank Bruni to attack the Catholic faith on a regular basis over a period of years. Shame on the Times and shame on the postmodern culture that nurtures such a deep hostility to the Roman Catholic Church.
Bruni, Frank. The Church's Gay Obsession. New York Times, October 5, 2014, Sunday Review Section, p. 3.