Tag Archives: anti-Catholic

When Catholics, Irish (or any other immigrant group) were ‘real Americans’ greatest fear

May 18, 2011

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Along with the oppressed immigrant angle, I really liked the history Peter Quinn’s captured of the anti-Catholicism the Irish faced in “Looking for Jimmy: A Search for Irish America.”
Here’s a line to remember from this work of non-fiction: “If I thought less of my saliva, I’d expectorate in your face.”
It’s a quote from the author’s father, who was a member of Congress. A Republican heard Quinn’s Democrat father quote Shakespeare and remarked that he was “unusually cultured for an Irishman.”

And then there was the description of a Quinn’s grandfather by an aunt: “He’ll be the last man out of Purgatory, if, God willing, he was lucky enough to get in.”

The connection I made is that the immigrant experience of the Irish translates pretty well for other ethnic groups who came to this country. It’s American history at gut level.

I was impressed with the quality of research Quinn did. His connecting historical fact with fictional writing on those facts is an interesting tool. It reinforced for me the concept that in some ways fiction can tell history better than non-fiction.

As an active Catholic — one who works for a Catholic diocesan newspaper — and as a “hypenated-American” although non-Irish — I connected with Quinn’s understanding of the cultural value of Catholicism.

I’ll need to think a bit more about this, but my first thought is that he crossed the line when he included his opinions about a celibate clergy, for example. Not that that opinion shouldn’t have been expressed — I’m not saying that at all — but it seemed as though that subject matter belonged in a whole other book, not one about the Irish-American immigrant experience.

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Catholics ought to be up in arms about anti-Catholic ‘humor’ on National Public Radio

December 19, 2010

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“This American Life” is one of the very best radio programs in the country, but the past week the producers of the show from Chicago’s public radio outlet let down a good portion of their audience by allowing a “comedian” to make fun of Catholics and the practice of their faith.

I frankly couldn’t believe what was coming out of my car radio as I drove from store to store doing Christmas shopping. I’m posting the link here because I think others need to know what this is all about:  http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/422/comedians-of-christmas-comedy-special. It’s Act Three: The Little Altar Boy” by Mike Birbiglia that triggered my calling Minnesota Public Radio to express my indignation that it would allow such bias on its station.

I kept asking myself, doesn’t anyone at “This American Life” have the brains — or the sensitivity — to know how offensive Birbiglia’s piece was to Catholics? 

I expect so much better from public radio. I expect public radio will be the standardbearer against prejudice of all kinds. And then it allowed someone to use its very valuable, “public” air time to make fun of the faith and the religious practices of millions? Intellectually, how does that make sense? I wondered, was the crew laughing along with Mr. Birbiglia, or did anyone in authority anywhere along the way ask themselves, “Are Catholics going to find this not only distasteful but an attack on their beliefs?” They should have.

 As soon as Birbiglia uttered the words, “Christ has lied …,” the little bell should have gone off in the heads of someone, if not at “This American Life,” if not at WBEZ, then certainly at MPR. If someone in any of those public radio offices had the ethics that I equate with public radio they would have pulled the plug on Birbiglia’s mic or on the syndicated feed and apologized to the 70 million Catholics in this country.

 Frankly, Birbiglia’s stuff wasn’t even funny. The jokes by the third graders that were aired early in that show were better than the childish garbage Mr. Birbiglia presented as humor. It’s really too bad he didn’t have the creativity of the third graders.

 Here’s to hoping everyone at public radio rises above the anti-religion, anti-Catholic gutter in the future. If you agree, why not let them know. — Bob Zyskowski

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How Protestants — and Nixon — tried to keep JFK out of the White House

April 29, 2009

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“The Making of a Catholic President:
Kennedy vs. Nixon 1960″
by Shaun A. Casey

Protestants and Republicans failed, but they did their damnedest to try to keep a Catholic from becoming president of the United States.

This incredibly detailed account proves — with the hard evidence of preserved letters and memoirs — that under the guise of fighting to preserve the principle of separation of church and state, large Protestant denominations and influential Protestant leaders teamed with the Republican Party and its nominee in the 1960 election — Richard M. Nixon — to feed anti-Catholic prejudice among the large Protestant voting majority.

Famous names like the Rev. Billy Graham and Norman Vincent Peale are uncovered as joining in, nay, leading the charge, in order to keep the Catholic Kennedy from the White House.

Casey’s research shows how Protestant ministers and church leaders used their pulpits and their printing presses to blatantly state that no Catholic could ever be trusted to uphold the U.S. Constitution as president.

The anti-Catholic bias came out via the preaching sermons that attacked JFK, airing radio and television programs that did the same, running lengthy articles against Kennedy in Protestant magazines like Christian Century and Christianity and Crisis, and printing and distributing hundreds of thousands of pamphlets in an attempt to sway the election Nixon’s way. Leading the chorus of anti-Catholicism was the Republican National Committee.

Nixon involvement uncovered
If only the American public had known about the duplicitous ways of Richard Nixon during the 1960 presidential campaign, the country may never have heard of a bungled burglary at the Watergate complex because Nixon’s credibility would never have allowed him to even run for the presidency later, no less be elected or approve of criminal activity to try to win re-election.

While publicly vowing not to raise the issue of a candidate’s faith, Nixon surreptitiously had former Missouri congressman O.K. Armstrong working the anti-Catholic bias angle across the country with Protestant church leaders and especially the anti-Catholic group Protestants and Other Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Armstrong recruited organizations like Citizens for Religious Freedom, the National Association of Evangelicals, the Assemblies of God and the National Council of Churches to use speeches and printed material to show how a Catholic president would undermine the country.

Armstrong worked under the guidance of Albert Hermann of the Republican National Committee, who was the organizer of anti-Catholic forces for Nixon.
Bias clouded issues
Casey points out that the issues of the day in 1960 were public funding for Catholic schools, the appointment of a U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, a supposed threat to separation of church and state, and especially the fear that the Vatican would direct a Catholic president in how to govern the country. What comes through the historical evidence is first the fear by Protestant elites that the United States would no longer be a “Protestant nation,” and second that both Protestants and Republican leaders feared Catholic voting power.

Interestingly, President Dwight Eisenhower had won the majority of Catholics in both the 1952 and 1956 elections.

In going after the anti-Catholic vote, Nixon took up a suggestion from Rev. Billy Graham, who wrote in a letter to the then vice president, “when the chips are down I think the religious issue would be very strong and might conceivable work in your behalf.” Graham in fact shared his mailing list with the anti-Kennedy efforts.

Nixon, however, had a problem of his own: Civil rights. In order to gain Protestant votes, he had to win a large percentage of conservative white southern voters, so he could not be seen as progressive on race and have any chance at the southern vote. In hindsight, that foretold the Republicans’ “Southern Strategy” that took electoral voters from the formerly Democratic “Solid South” camp for election after election in the later part of the 20th Century.
Kennedy and his faith
“The Making of a Catholic President” shows how the Kennedy camp came to realize the serious threat that JFK faced from anti-Catholic bigotry and how he and his strategists determined to confront the issue directly.

Kennedy sought out and listened to Protestant leaders and then addressed their fears.

Over and over during the primaries and the general election campaign JFK voiced his opposition to tax dollars for Catholic education, his opposition to an ambassador to the Vatican, and his commitment to the constitution of the country over the dogma of his faith.

He entered the West Virgina primary, winning the votes of that overwhelmingly Protestant populace, then into the lions’ den of the Houston Ministerial Association, where he gave a speech and answered questions from that hostile Protestant audience.

That event may be the most often recalled remarks by Kennedy about the impact of his religion on his actions in office.

“Whenever an issue may come before me as President . . . I will make my decision . . . in accordance with what my conscience tells me to be in the national interest, and without regard to outside religious pressure or dictates. And no power or threat of punishment could cause me to decide otherwise.”

Kennedy’s statement echoed a quote that appeared in a Look magazine feature on him Feb. 16, 1959: “Whatever one’s religion in his private life may be, for the officeholder, nothing takes precedence over his oath to uphold the Constitution in all parts — including the First Amendment and the strict separation of church and state.”

At the time, Kennedy was chided by writers in Catholic magazines like the Jesuit’s America and lay-run Commonweal “for yielding too much ground to the Protestant worriers,” as
author Casey put it.

What is more interesting, and which deserves similar book-length treatment, are thoughts Casey brings up in his epilogue.

For further reflection
JFK carried 83% of the Catholic vote in 1960, 34% of the white Protestant vote, and 50% of the regular-attending black churchgoers, but won the electoral votes of hugely Protestant Texas, perhaps in part thanks to running mate Lyndon Johnson.

But Casey asks: “What was the nature of Kennedy’s Catholicism?”

The answer according to one priest who knew him well was that he was a conventional Catholic of his day who understood the structures and traditions that were the church of 1950s Boston.(That priest was a certain Father John Wright, a confidant of then-Senator Kennedy who offered extremely valuable advice about how to handle the issue of his faith. The priest later became the Bishop of Pittsburgh and a John Cardinal Wright.)

Even is one disavows some of the alleged moral failings that have come to light about JFK in the years since his assassination, considering the current climate of pressure on Catholic candidates from some of the American hierarchy and other corners of the church, one has to wonder if today JFK would be able to pull 83% of the Catholic vote, or if the fact that we now have had a Catholic president would take the cachet off electing a Catholic for Catholic voters.

Still more to think about
Casey’s epilogue offers cause for reflection for other, more important issues for today’s Catholic.

In pointing out how JFK sought understanding from Protestants, not endorsement, Casey says:

“As religion has increasingly become connected to the political divide in this country, it has reinforced a gulf among faith communities such that members of the religious Right and the religious Left routinely demonize one another and, in doing so, ape the worst aspects of American political culture.”

He adds two more thoughts:

First, the political independence of faith communities is good for both the faith communities and the nation. Second, endorsements of politicians by faith communities are usually misguided.

“The Making of a Catholic President” should be read by every Catholic — and every Protestant — eligible to vote. — bz
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‘The Shack’: Interesting novel/catechism turns hateful

September 29, 2008

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‘The Shack,’

by Wm. Paul Young

Wm. Paul Young had me for 178 pages.

Through 178 pages the author of this New York Times bestseller offered a creative approach to teaching readers about all kinds of elements of Christian faith.

In the paperback version of this “catechism-as-dramatic-novel/fantasy,” the first 178 pages are a painless way to be forced to think about our — yours and mine — relationship with God.

Through a hurting father’s meeting with the triune God, the first 178 pages of “The Shack” present convincing explanations about the concept of free will, unconditional love, good and evil, human frailties, the Trinity and more.

For 178 pages Young, the child of missionary parents, makes us reflect about our image and understanding of God, reinforcing the idea that God is always with us, always loves us, even as we stumble and fall.

Then comes page 179.

Religion one of ‘trinity of terrors’?

That’s where Young’s Jesus starts a diatribe against organized religion, using the kind of language Catholics used to see only in the hate pamphlets that carried drawings of the pope as the devil — horns and tail included.

The character of Jesus who inhabits Young’s fanciful “shack” says he’s “not too big on religion,” and lumps religion in with politics and economics in a way most Christians would describe as, well, unchristian.

Religion, politics and economics, this Jesus claims, “are the man-created trinity of terrors that ravages the earth and deceives those I care about. What mental turmoil and anxiety does any human face that is not related to one of those three?”

But there’s more.

Young’s Jesus says, “Put simply, these terrors are tools that many use to prop up their illusions of security and control. People are afraid of uncertainty, afraid of the future. These institutions, these structures and ideologies, are all a vain effort to create some sense of certainty and security where there isn’t any. It’s all false!”

But wait, there’s more.

Two pages later it is all the world’s systems that are the problem. Jesus of “The Shack” says,

“Institutions, systems, ideologies, and all the vain, futile efforts of humanity that go with them are everywhere, and interaction with all of it is unavoidable. But I can give you freedom to overcome any system of power in which you find yourself, be it religious, economic, social, or political. You will grow in the freedom to be inside or outside all kinds of systems and to move freely between and among them. Together, you and I can be in it and not of it.”

So, none of what humanity — created in the image and likeness of God — has developed through the centuries does any good? It’s “well-intentioned” but evil? Hard to believe. And, if you’re like me, those last couple of sentences in the quote above sound similar to the Catholic Church’s advice that its members are to be counter cultural, in the world but not of it, part of society but not caught up in its less noble pursuits. But you don’t hear Young’s Jesus acknowledging that.

Now who’s being judgmental?

Perhaps the attack on organized religion wouldn’t come off as so hypocritical if it hadn’t come after a whole chapter in which Mackenzie — the book’s main character — goes through an agonizing trial that teaches him not to be judgmental.

Far be it for any Catholic to ignore the failings of our church — its members and its leaders — throughout history and even to the present day. But any author does readers an enormous disservice by ignoring the positive motives, positive actions and positive results that organized religions have brought to the world throughout history and continue to bring today.

Our churches — of many denominations — deserve credit for upholding moral standards that easily go by the wayside in a laissez-faire society.

The Catholic Church in particular has earned the admiration of many for creating the concept of higher education.

People — organized through their church affiliations — feed the hungry, care for the sick, shelter the homeless — in a better way when they do so in organized ways.

The list could go on. Sadly, Wm. Paul Young has chosen to ignore the good and instead judge others in a way he tells his readers not to.

Sad, too, is that it took 179 pages for him to show his true colors. — bz
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