The editor of the archdiocesan newspaper of Minneapolis-St. Paul says Catholics shouldn’t believe that anti-Catholicism is uncommon among the general public. The best way to fight anti-Catholicism is to be a good, faithful Catholic, he advised.
Reader comments on newspaper articles, he says, shows the prejudice is “just below the surface.”
Joe Towalski, editor of The Catholic Spirit, noted in an October 8 column separate anti-Catholic incidents, such as a professor’s publicity-generating desecration of the Eucharist and the recent staging of a play titled “The Pope and the Witch” which he said displayed “mean-spirited prejudice.”
“You might believe that these were isolated incidents, that such mean-spiritedness is limited to a few people who harbor perverse notions about intellectual freedom, that anti-Catholicism isn’t common among the general public,” Towalski added.
“Sadly, however, if you believe that, you would be wrong.”
The editor cited reader comments to two newspaper articles, one from the Minneapolis Star Tribune and one from The Catholic Spirit. He charged that these comments reveal an anti-Catholicism that “lurks just below the surface of respectable society and that occasionally pokes through.”
One Star Tribune story about the archdiocese’s pastoral planning process generated “troubling” comments, Towalski reported.
One reader charged that the Church “supports and shelters” illegal immigrants to support its operating budget. Another expressed confusion that any single woman would attend a Catholic church, saying they must “love the abuse.” Other commenters blamed the Catholic Church for being corrupt, power hungry, intolerant and evil.
“Some were too offensive to even be excerpted here,” the editor said.
Granting that the comments are from only a few people who are cloaked by anonymity, he said it is not hard to imagine that more people share the same views but are less willing to state them publicly.
“No one is saying the Church is above critique and criticism. It’s a holy institution, but it’s also a human institution that participates in public life on many levels and affects the lives of many Catholics and non-Catholics by its actions and teachings. We should expect many aspects of the church to be debated and assessed.”
However, Towalski condemned the “falsities, vitriol and contempt” directed at religion in general and Catholicism in particular.
He suggested that Catholics begin to respond with prayer, drawing their strength and support from pastors and fellow parishioners. Catholics’ actions also leave an impression, so they must do “everything possible” to ensure a good impression and to change some hearts and minds.
“Sometimes we have to confront prejudice and bigotry head on and communicate that it is unacceptable,” Towalski’s column concluded. “As a church, we don’t deserve special treatment from the rest of society, but we do deserve the same degree of civility and respect that people rightly expect to receive from us.”