The Catholic League has released a summary of its efforts to defend the rights and reputation of the Catholic Church throughout 2010, particularly against what the league's president perceives as a cultural bias against the Church and its beliefs.
“There is obviously a double standard – something we have pointed out over and over again,” said Catholic League President Bill Donohue. On Feb. 28, the organization released its “Annual Report on Anti-Catholicism” for 2010.
“Assaults on Catholicism, if not Catholics, are running at a fever pitch,” Donohue stated in his summary of the report. “It is our job to confront those responsible. We do so by putting the media spotlight on them, protesting in the streets, and alerting our membership base.”
During 2010, Donohue and the league called attention to a number of controversial incidents, saying they showed an inconsistency between the treatment of Catholics' beliefs and sensibilities, and those of other groups.
Donohue expressed a particular disappointment with the New York Times' attempts to blame Pope Benedict XVI for clergy abuse incidents to which he had little or no connection.
“We were provoked into action,” he recalled, “following several weeks of stories in the New York Times that attempted to blame Pope Benedict XVI for the sexual abuse scandal.” He described many of the stories as “unfair in their accusations,” and riddled with “invidious innuendos” about the Church and the priesthood.
“What bothered us immensely,” Donohue pointed out, “was that no other institution, secular or religious, was put under the microscope about cases of alleged wrongdoing that took place over a half-century ago.”
Donohue was also frustrated by the attitude shown toward Jesus himself, among some artists whose work received government support.
He recalled that the Catholic League was “busy in the fall drawing attention to the scurrilous 'artwork' of Stanford professor Enrique Chagoya that was on displayed at the Loveland Museum in Loveland, Colorado.”
Opponents of the exhibit, which took place at a publicly-funded gallery, said that a piece by Chagoya portrayed Jesus engaged in a sex act. A Montana woman eventually destroyed the work after smashing its display case with a crowbar.
Later in the year, the Catholic League's efforts served to put a more peaceful end to another disputed art exhibit, at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. Their complaints led to the removal of a video by the late David Wojnarowicz, which used images of ants crawling over a crucified figure of Christ to portray the suffering of AIDS patients.
Donohue believed the piece was a public insult against Christ, and did not deserve to receive the endorsement of a publicly-funded gallery.
“Our position is quite simple,” he reaffirmed in the 2010 review. “If it is wrong for the government to fund religious expression, it should be equally wrong for the government to fund anti-religious expression.”
For Donohue, however, this principle of fairness still leaves room for faith in public life.
Near the end of 2010, the Catholic League “did something never done before – we sent, free of charge, a beautiful manger scene to every governor, asking that it be placed in a suitable public place.”
“We paid for it, because we didn't want to give anyone an excuse not to display a creche on public property at Christmastime,” Donohue explained. Many governors agreed to the proposal – “thus triggering another round of hate mail from the so-called 'freethinkers.'”
“Anyone who seeks to have an impact on the culture is bound to be controversial,” Donohue reflected. “Judging from the reactions that were garnered in 2010, it is safe to say we made our mark.”