The Last Rhetorical Refuge of an Intellectual Scoundrel

June 2016

Pulitzer Prize-winner Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. once called anti-Catholicism “the deepest bias in the history of the American people.” True, most Catholics today are basically indistinguishable from other Americans in their habits and beliefs, but if you think that this renowned Harvard historian was speaking about some bygone era in American history, then you haven’t been keeping abreast of current events.

It means you haven’t tuned in to ABC on Tuesday nights, where you can watch The Real O’Neals, a new primetime sitcom about an Irish Catholic family that harbors dark secrets: the police-officer father (no, no stereotypes here) is contemplating divorce; the oldest son has an eating disorder; the youngest daughter is a grafter and losing her faith; and the middle child is gay and just waiting for the right time to come out of the closet. The show’s executive producer is Dan Savage, a syndicated sex columnist and a “married” homosexual provocateur, whom Bill Donohue of the Catholic League has called a “foul-mouthed, raging anti-Catholic bigot.” An anti-Catholic bigot executive producing a show about Catholics? Yes, and it hardly seems surprising.

Still not convinced that anti-Catholicism is alive and well in America? Just ask the Little Sisters of the Poor, who are fighting the federal government’s attempt to restrict their right to live according to the demands of the Catholic faith. They’ve taken their case all the way to the Supreme Court, which has heard arguments in their lawsuit against the Obama administration’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate that all employers must provide insurance coverage for “contraceptive services.” Although the HHS mandate exempts churches automatically under the “religious employers” category, the Little Sisters did not receive an automatic exemption. A U.S. presidential administration forcing its favored brand of immorality on a small band of religious sisters? Yes, and we expect this to be the first of many such battles to come.

Anti-Catholicism remains part of the fabric of American life, and it’s woven into some of our most powerful cultural institutions: the studios of Hollywood and the offices of Washington, D.C. But this is as it should be. If the Church isn’t facing some form of discrimination and disdain, then she’s not fulfilling her role as a sign of contradiction to the world.

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New Oxford Notes: June 2016

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