Is anti-Catholicism on the rise?
As of the writing of this column, 43 Catholic organizations, including Franciscan University and Ave Maria University -- two schools that stopped offering health coverage because of the reforms included in the president's health care plan -- have filed lawsuits against the Obama administration for infringing on their religious freedom. Even the University of Notre Dame, a school that bestowed an honorary degree on the president in 2009, has joined its Catholic brethren in their fight.
Similar to the media's decision to not report on the half-million or so protesters who attended the March for Life rally this past January, outlets like ABC, NBC, and CBS -- all of whom spent hours on end drooling over comments made by a 30-year-old law student -- have largely ignored what has become the largest legal defense of religious liberty in American history.
"Evidence of big media's bias against religion is beyond dispute," writes Cal Thomas, a Catholic commentator. Noting the countless number of attacks on Mitt Romney's Mormonism, Thomas concludes that "any faith attached to a conservative agenda is to be ridiculed, stereotyped and misrepresented [by the media]. Islam is a notable exception."
Case in point: political commentator and comedian Jon Stewart, host of Comedy Central's The Daily Show, recently skewered the Catholic Church when he showed a picture of the Virgin Mary between the legs of a nude woman. It's not the first time he's done something offensive, and it certainly won't be the last. But according to the Catholic League, a nonprofit organization who is demanding an apology for the stunt, Mr. Stewart has a long history of slamming Catholicism in particular. In the past, he has compared the pope to the grand wizard of the KKK, questioned whether or not Mary and Joseph had oral sex, and claimed that a Norwegian gunman who killed over 70 innocent people was simply living out his Christian faith.
Not everyone is offended by such words, though. Sandi Villarreal, associate web editor for the left-leaning Christian website Sojourners, thinks Christians should simply turn the other cheek when others mock the Church. I don't disagree with her sentiments entirely; religious Americans should be lighthearted about certain issues. But there is a difference between self-deprecation and allowing oneself to be persecuted. When Catholics let others make fun of what they believe on a regular basis, they act as enablers and become complicit in the culture's acceptance of values antithetical to the ones preached by Jesus Christ.
Not long ago, ABC decided to air a program originally entitled Good Christian Bitches. Though the show changed its name and was canceled due to low ratings, it proved Cal Thomas's point about the media's double standard when it comes to religion. Could you imagine a sitcom entitled Angry Muslim Clerics or Cheap Jewish Rabbis? Such programs would be offensive, especially to members of the Islamic and Jewish faiths. The media, however, trashes the teachings of the 1.2-billion-member Catholic Church on a daily basis.
Studies show that even in the sports world, those who stand up for their faith are essentially blacklisted. The outward expression of Tim Tebow's beliefs made him a primary target for Saturday Night Live. Manny Pacquiao, after coming out against President Obama's decision to support same-sex unions, was labeled a "bigoted boxer" for defending the "Church's cruel, undue dictates" on sites owned by ESPN and Yahoo. A similar thing happened to Nebraska's assistant football coach Ron Brown. Jen Floyd Engel, a columnist for Fox Sports, perhaps emboldened by the president's endorsement of same-sex unions, lashed out at him for expressing his views on homosexuality.
It's not that people shouldn't be able to voice disagreement over certain issues. After all, it would be great to see Rep. James Clyburn and Princeton Professor Robert P. George debate whether or not gay "marriage" is a civil right. But when Nick Kristof of The New York Times calls Pope Benedict "crazy," and when the media applauds Joe Biden for dissenting from the Catholic Church on same-sex marriage, one can't help but notice the overwhelming amount of animosity directed towards those who uphold the teachings of the Church.
Standing up for ideas that are unpopular can be difficult, but according to Victor Davis Hanson, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, being "cool" allows one to do things inside a bubble, free from the political criticism faced by the rest of us. Those who are perceived as cool -- President Obama, George Clooney, Occupy Wall Street, the Kennedys, and Apple -- are rarely disparaged, says Hanson, even though they may misspeak about Polish death camps, earn enough money to put them in the rarified air of the 1%, pollute the environment, abuse women, or spend millions of dollars influencing elected officials. The eternally uncool, on the other hand -- the bumbling George Bush, the racist Tea Party, the dimwitted Sarah Palin, the sexist Catholic Church, and greedy Big Oil -- have to wallow in the scrutiny of the national media when they say something inaccurate or lobby the government. "Cool," Hanson believes, "is now America's holy grail." It "allows the elite and the rich not just to pursue and enjoy nice things, but to damn others who do the same."
The Catholic Church, with its teachings on marriage, contraception, sex, and gender roles, would appear to be the ultimate "uncool" institution. It preaches humility instead of boastfulness, obedience to a higher power instead of to oneself, prayer and community service instead of material success, and patience instead of immediate gratification. But being unpopular doesn't mean you need to change your message. Jesus, after all, wasn't welcome everywhere he went. Catholics should remind themselves of this and recall that even if a bird sings in the woods and no one is around to hear it, someone will eventually pay attention to it so long as the noise it makes keeps getting louder.
Stephen Kokx is an adjunct professor of political science and a columnist at RenewAmerica.com. Follow him on twitter @StephenKokx.