Why we need the Catholic League

It almost seems to be an unspoken rule that Christians, and Catholics in particular, are not supposed to respond to criticism, insults, and slights towards their faith with anything more than a smile. Certainly we shouldn’t actually say anything.  For some reason, this is not expected of our other religious neighbors – Jews and Muslims – or of any other group, such as blacks or gays.

If you doubt this to be true just take a look at the reaction inspired by Catholic League president William Donohue’s now widely covered statement on an exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.

The exhibit, “Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture,” features a video that includes the image of  ants crawling all over  the body of Jesus on the cross. Dr. Donohue wrote a letter asking the members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committee to re-consider funding the Smithsonian; the federal government funds the Smithsonian Institution while exhibits are funded privately.

Dr. Donohue, for daring to articulate that this use of an image of the crucified Christ was offensive,  was denounced as a “blowhard,” “a self-appointed censor,” “right wing publicity mill,” a “bully,”  “American Taliban” and one who “immediately and opportunistically seized” on the occasion for some kind of self-promotion, among other things.

Apparently, Catholics shouldn’t take offense when our  sacred objects are depicted disrespectfully in the name of art. And we certainly shouldn’t let anyone know we are offended if we are.

Bill Donohue hardly needs me to defend him.  He’s well-able to do it himself, and has a lot of experience doing so.  But, he’s stood up for a lot of us before, and I am glad to express my encouragement for the work he does.  Some may take occasional issue with his style.  Fair enough, and he’s open to such criticism. Some might even discuss whether the image is offensive.  However, no one should doubt the high value and necessity of his efforts, or dismiss him in crude terms.  Even the recent high-volume critiques of his stand on this controversy exhibit nasty anti-catholic canards.  Keep at it, Bill!  We need you!

Our duty to defend our faith is grounded in the true understanding of freedom: the ability to do what we ought to do, not simply what we want to do. Popular opinion may demand that Catholics suffer in silence, or more, embrace an insult as a work of art, but that doesn’t mean that we should, no matter how many in public and private expect us to do so.  That is why I appreciate Dr. Donohue and the work done by The Catholic League.  I look forward to the day when the work done by the Catholic League is no longer necessary. Sadly, as recent events have proven once again, that day still seems far in the future.

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66 Responses to “Why we need the Catholic League”

  1. Brian Cook says:

    I’m with William K. Broker

  2. Duff Morton says:

    This coming Wednesday I will bury my grandmother. An artist and a fervent Catholic, she taught me my faith. I do not know what my grandmother, Tinker McCauley, would have thought of David Wojnarowicz’s video *A Fire In My Belly.* I do know that she would not have been afraid of it.

    Whether the video insults or elevates the symbol of the crucifix is hard to say. In fact, that tension is what makes the video worth watching. We might note, though, that the video insistently, even desperately, calls attention to two themes: the suffering human body, and Jesus as key example of that suffering. If that is not a Catholic message, it is at least a message to Catholics… to us.

    Although we might all disagree strongly on the video’s merits, I think it would be hard for any of us to deny that the crucifix mattered very much to David Wojnarowicz. Could we see the video’s imagery as his plea for Catholics to listen? To respond? And maybe, beyond Catholics, as a cry to Jesus Himself?

    If we do listen to the artwork and hear that plea, then it would seem sad and unjust for us to respond by demanding that it be silenced. David Wojanarowicz appears to have lived many years in silence — as, among other things, a man who fell victim to a disease that people shunned. Because of that disease he is not here today to have this conversation with us. *That* silence, his absence, adds a special irony to our chatter. We remedy the silence when we strive to reach across it to hear.

    My grandmother suffered in her body when she died. She might have approved or disapproved of the theological content of *A Fire in My Belly.* She would have known its message of suffering. That is a message we have to make ourselves hear.

  3. Daniel Kane says:

    Bill Donohue did not pay himself $400K, his 20+ member board of directors did. Donohue can not buy a postage stamp unless his board appropriates it.

    He is the single most effective and media savvy Catholic in the public square and his compensation, 1.5% of assets is largely in line with non-profit organizations. Rather than suggest that the Catholic League move assets into Catholic Education, it may be better to get some Catholic League leadership into Catholic Education so that they can contribute the same expertise and effectiveness to schools that they have to the Catholic League. Personally, I am not much of fan of Donohue, but there is no disputing his over the top talents and effectiveness – which fully justifies his salary.

  4. Brian Cook says:

    This will be the last time that I post on this thread. I am gravely concerned that Bill Donohue is acting like a living stereotype and reinforcing negative stereotypes of loyal Catholics. I am gravely concerned that Bill Donohue is contributing to an anti-Catholic backlash. I am gravely concerned people like Bill Donohue are steamrolling the Church’s credibility among young people.

    Ever since you’ve been elected archbishop, I have trusted that you will be a generous, understanding, kind pastor. I see none of those qualities in Donohue. That is why I ask, with the utmost respect and humility, that you reconsider your promotion of the Catholic League being run by Donohue.

  5. Brian Cook says:

    P.S. I wish you a blessed Christmas.

  6. MichaelM says:

    I think you miss the point of Catholic unhappiness with the tactics of Donohue. When you don’t like something, do you ask “the members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committee to re-consider funding the Smithsonian” or do you perhaps protest the specific exhibit?

    If I disagree with one of your sermons, should I urge people to shutter St. Patrick’s Cathedral?

    Donohue is divorced. Is he a model Catholic?

    No, he is a self-appointed blowhard paying himself a big salary and embarrassing many good Catholics.

    You’re now head of NCCB/USCC. As an ex-employee of that institution, I urge you to retract your endorsement of Donohue’s misguided efforts.

  7. Andrew Piacente says:

    If this string of posts doesn’t prove to Archbishop Dolan how bad it is out here nothing will. This is what I have been talking about. The divisions after 50 years of ambiguity are devastating. The Archbishop does not believe things are as bad as some of us have portrayed. Well read these posts – it’s worse than even I imagined.

    Very recently the Bishops took a stand on the “Dream Act” concerning immigration while staying silent about “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.” The silence was deafening.

    John Paul II, The Great said “Be not afraid.” He is being ignored.

    The Church in the West is dying Your Excellency. And our shepherds are fiddling while we are burning.

  8. Tony Adams says:

    Dear Archbishop Timothy,
    I am among those who are dismayed by your bonding with Mr. Donohue. I was shocked to read your words “We need you!” in reference to him. Why do you need someone who is media savvy and belligerent when you already have the powerful words and winning message of Jesus Christ? Isn’t His voice speaking through the Gospels enough?

    To whom shall we turn? Mr. Donohue and the rather hateful Catholic League? Please. It’s not too late to review your stance on this one.

  9. Barbara Peters says:

    I would like to add my voice to the chorus of posts expressing disappointment in the Archbishop’s support of William Donahue. I find Mr. Donohue to be angry and mean spirited. He is one of the last people I would choose to represent the Body of Christ. Respectfully Archbishop I request that you prayerfully revisit your position with respect tot he Catholic League and Mr. Donohue.

  10. Billy Atwell says:

    God Bless the Catholic League. They’re a huge benefit for the Church in America.

  11. John Gillis says:

    Thank you, Bill Donahue, for being a bonny fighter for the faith!

  12. George Conk says:

    Archbishop Dolan –

    My stomach knotted when I read your praise of the Catholic League. It is a shallow phony issue manufacturing publicity generating machine which strains to find :anti-Catholic” sentiment and insults. The recent Smithsonian nonsense is only the latest embarrassment.

    The Church and those who seek to support it should be practicing humility rather than building soap boxes on which to stand to shout hyperbolic alarms.

    – George Conk

  13. Sarah says:

    Since it seems that more of the silent are speaking up these days, I will speak up along with those who do not like the divisive atmosphere surrounding the Church. I feel that the negativity is drowning out the messages of love and compassion. I go to Mass as a refuge to learn the teachings of God, not to find out what the latest political agendas are. In the news, it is disappointing to find Christians promoting hatred, intolerance and self-righteousness as if they are without sin. The Church should not be quick to glorify divisive people to defend it since that person reflects the essence of the Church to the world which includes its congregation. If the Church wants a more positive reputation, then the Church needs to focus more on spreading positive messages and advocating more harmonious representatives. I pray that people will act in peace and live in peace.

  14. Ken Duncan says:

    Keep up the good work Bill, and thanks for being there in the trenches for all faithful Catholics.
    Archbishop Dolan, I’m liking you better and better. Good job! As you are well aware, the more flak and hate mail you get, the more perfectly you’re doing the Lord’s will. Thanks!

  15. Mark Bablitz says:

    I cannnot believe all of the foolish comments condemning Bill Donahue. The man has dedicated his life to standing up for what is Good, True and Beautiful… and he has done it with wisdom and excellence beyond that of many “gatekeeper” religious. Thank you Archbishop for supporting those who will not sit quietly while evil flourishes.
    Peace and Good

  16. Nathan says:

    Archbishop Dolan,

    Obviously Catholics should not be expected to ignore insults to that which they consider sacred. I don’t think many people will disagree with either you or Bill Donohue on that point. However, you come perilously close to implying that a failure to respect Bill Donohue is a failure to respect Catholicism in general. This is dangerous. Bill Donohue absolutely is a blowhard, a bully, and a right-wing publicity mill. He is getting rich by perverting the life and message of Jesus Christ as found in Sacred Scripture and handed down through the tradition of the Catholic Church. I’m sorry to say it, but by jumping on the Catholic League bandwagon you bring your own leadership into question. This is not an issue of whether a crucifix covered with ants ought to automatically be considered insulting (though that conversation is probably worth having). It’s a question of whether the American Catholic Church, and you as the new leader of the USCCB, have bigger fish to fry. Much bigger fish. Whales, even. Look around, archbishop, and see that Bill Donohue is a much greater example of the problem than he is of the solution.