The New Yorker, the magazine of urbane Americans, proves once again that anti-Catholicism still lurks in U.S. society. This time it’s in an article by the playwright Paul Rudnick, who seems to get his kicks by bashing religion. It is bizarre that someone who uses his literary skills to decry prejudice and stereotyping of gays opts to indulge his own prejudice against another group, Catholics. Catholics in the United States have had to fight such ignorance for more than 200 years (It came over with the Pilgrims). Rudnick’s recent rap on Catholics comes in snide remarks about religious sisters in “Fun With Nuns,” in the July 20 issue of the New Yorker.
Apparently the editors, who even are heralding the essay on the New Yorker Web site, don’t find any problem with Rudnick’s gratuitous slam: “Nuns can be dictatorial, sexually repressed, and scary—and therefore entertaining.” Nor did they bother to edit out a remark about which nuns should be “f…able.” A comment on a discussion at Disney about “Catholic teaching on vows of silence, poverty, and chastity” suggests editors at the New Yorker ignore inaccuracy as well as prejudice and poor taste.
Historian Arthur Schlesinger Sr. once noted that anti-Catholicism "the deepest-held bias in the history of the American people." Anti-Catholicism also has been called the “anti-Semitism of the liberal.” It seems on the rise now, perhaps because when a society feels troubled, as U.S. society does in the throes of the current economic crisis, prejudices arise. Feeling out of control, people grasp for security but making their world small, creating a mental enclave where they shut out everything they do not like, or understand, and/or fear.
Last week, the USA Today Faith & Reason blog was rampant with anti-Catholic comments in response to Pope Benedict XVI’s ground-breaking encyclical on the economy “Caritas in Veritate” (“Charity in truth”). Because the blog has a “Report Abuse” button and a staffer who monitors comments for such things as obscenity, name-calling and hate speech, some of the initial offensive remarks are gone. Yet more than a week later, mindless souls hiding behind the blog’s anonymity can still be read asking if you spell pope with “one or two ‘o’s,” advising the pope to do something that’s unprintable here and ought to be unprintable in a family newspaper’s blog, remarking that “someone needs to give the pope his meds” and opining that “the pope is disgusting and sickening,” adding for good measure, “Catholic is DISGUSTING.” Even more slurs and canards to be found on the Website, including “I guess the Vatican is finally going public with its plot to control the world.”
Maybe it is because anonymity emboldens cowards that blog postings on religion evoke rabid rantings. USA Today might want to consider its responsibility in publishing such tripe on the Web, though it is to be commended for not carrying the remarks in newsprint. They wouldn’t go down well with orange juice, toast and coffee at most hotels.
At least USA Today can be blamed only for not keeping up with its obligation to watch what bloggers post. The New Yorker, on the other hand, despite its history of fine literary criticism, intentionally runs Rudnick’s comments and even boasts of them on its Web site. It’s neither wise nor witty and makes the New Yorker a cartoon of a magazine.