Mona Eltahawy defends her article »« Mine is better!!

Donohue to citizens: stfu

I promised to pay more attention to Bill Donohue, so here goes. (It’s going to be irritating, doing this; the fingernails on a blackboard kind of irritating. The fact that he’s the only one who talks but he still finds it necessary to quote himself as if he were another person – that’s going to be very irritating.) He says Catholics can do whatever they want to so shut up.

Catholic League president Bill Donohue comments on the right of Catholic institutions to determine their own prerogatives:

If a racist Catholic were disinvited from speaking at the commencement exercises of a Catholic college, the only relevant issue would be why the invitation was extended in the first place. But when a pro-abortion, pro-gay marriage Catholic, Victoria Kennedy (the widow of Sen. Edward Kennedy), was disinvited from giving the commencement address at Anna Maria College, the issue was not why she was invited in the first place—it was the decision to disinvite her. That’s because many liberal Catholics are angered by racism and tolerant of abortion. Worse is the spectacle of non-Catholics like Faithful America petitioning the public to get Worcester Bishop Robert McManus (who properly intervened in this matter) to allow Mrs. Kennedy to speak.

You see what I mean about irritating. How would you like it if I said at the top of every post, “Butterflies and Wheels blogger Ophelia Benson comments on [whatever it may be]“? Whom would I fool if I did that? No one. Yo, Bill, you can skip that part – we know it’s you talking, we know there’s not a third party telling us it’s you – just say what you have to say and sign your name to it, that’s all. No need for the fake introduction by a pretend ghost.

So, what he said – check out that “Worse is” – he’s saying that it’s bad that many liberal Catholics are angered by racism and tolerant of abortion. He’s saying Catholics should be tolerant of racism and angered by abortion.

Then he’s saying that what Catholic bishops do is none of our business. Yes it is. They interfere with government. They violate their tax-exempt status by telling parishioners how to vote. They all but wrote parts of the health care bill. What they do is very much our business.

Comments

  1. Midnight Rambler says

    I promised to pay more attention to Bill Donohue

    Really? I’m trying to pay less attention to this jackass.

  2. says

    So, what he said – check out that “Worse is” – he’s saying that it’s bad that many liberal Catholics are angered by racism and tolerant of abortion. He’s saying Catholics should be tolerant of racism and angered by abortion.

    Ugh, you’re making me stoop to the level of defending Bill Donohue. I don’t feel good about this, but…

    You’re misreading the sentiment that Donohue is getting at. A more charitable reading is that he’s saying that it’s bad that liberal Catholics would be angered by racism and not by abortion. In other words, he thinks that racism and abortion are both bad and should be thus opposed at least equally.

    Of course, the rest of your criticism holds, so carry on.

  3. says

    TCC – well yes that is a more charitable reading, but it’s not what he said, at least not obviously. The logic is a simple reversal. If I said “Donohue is crazy, he hates chocolate and likes cod liver oil,” it would be odd to think I meant he ought to hate both chocolate and cod liver oil. If he meant what you say he meant surely he would have said “many liberal Catholics are angered by racism but not by abortion.”

    I think he said what I said he said. He may have said it without thinking about it carefully, but I think it’s what he meant – “those stupid liberals make such a big deal about racism but murdering little babies is just fine.”

    I can’t be sure of that, but then you can’t be sure of your reading, either.

  4. Godlesspanther says

    I doubt that I have the skill level to pull it off, but somebody really needs to make an animation YTvid of Bill Donohue singing The Pope Song — and make sure that he knows about it.

  5. says

    Ophelia, I’m not disagreeing that the wording is odd (I think “but” would have been the better conjunction to use). It’s just that if our two options are (1) Donohue did not take care to articulate his point clearly enough or (2) Donohue is actually saying that racism is good and abortion is bad, I think (1) is very clearly the more parsimonious choice. Also, it’s too easy to ascribe the worst possible traits to Donohue because of how odious a person he already is. You don’t need to invent new character flaws when the ones that are already evident and unequivocal will suffice.

  6. ckitching says

    “the Catholic Church is there to provide a heady antidote to today’s mindless ideas of freedom.”

    - Christian Coalition Conference a Success. Catalyst October 1995. p. 15.
    This little quote from the previous article ought to be all we need to know about this man.

  7. says

    TCC, why would we have only two options? Why don’t we have the option I offered, for instance? I’m not inventing anything; I’m reading what he wrote. Maybe he wrote carelessly, but I’m not a mind-reader (and neither are you, because there is no such thing). I don’t think I’m under any obligation to ignore what he actually wrote in favor of what he did not write because it would be less repellent. You seem to think it’s obvious that he didn’t mean what he wrote, but I don’t think that’s obvious at all.

    It may be relevant that I have considerable experience as a copy editor, which does involve second-guessing what people write. Often it really is obvious that someone meant X but wrote Y. I once had a philosopher email me to report a mistake he’d just spotted in an article he’d written, hoping it wasn’t too late to correct it. It was too late, the mag was at the printer’s, but I’d already spotted and corrected it. You’d be amazed how often even philosophers omit or add a crucial “not” that makes them say the opposite of what they meant to say. So I do know how to read for the intended meaning.

    This example just doesn’t have that kind of “that’s obviously not what he meant to say.”

  8. 'Tis Himself says

    Donahue is a conservative as well as a Catholic. His book Secular Sabotage: How Liberals Are Destroying Religion and Culture in America is an anti-liberal rant rather than a pro-Catholic screed. I suspect the only reason he does the Catholic League instead of being a Rush Limbaugh wannabee is the conservative pundit market is over saturated.

  9. says

    TCC, why would we have only two options? Why don’t we have the option I offered, for instance? I’m not inventing anything; I’m reading what he wrote. Maybe he wrote carelessly, but I’m not a mind-reader (and neither are you, because there is no such thing). I don’t think I’m under any obligation to ignore what he actually wrote in favor of what he did not write because it would be less repellent. You seem to think it’s obvious that he didn’t mean what he wrote, but I don’t think that’s obvious at all.

    The option you offered is there: it’s (2). And yes, you are obligated not to assume the worst in any given statement, unless you like constructing straw men or (more generally) arguing dishonestly. (I’m assuming you don’t.)

    It may be relevant that I have considerable experience as a copy editor, which does involve second-guessing what people write.

    And I have considerable experience doing the same, as a writing instructor, and I also think I’m generally pretty good at figuring out what people mean when they don’t articulate it well. Here, I absolutely disagree with you: it is fairly obvious that Donohue didn’t intend to imply that racism is good.

    More to the point, though, is that you’re making a strong claim (Donohue is advocating or condoning racism) that requires strong evidence. This is absolutely not strong evidence: as I stated before, it is far more parsimonious to assume that Donohue was not advocating or condoning racism but instead inadvertently implied it through poor use of language rather than concluding that he really did mean to advocate or condone racism (especially since your claim does require mind reading, but giving the benefit of the doubt doesn’t). Your evidence? A single conjunction.

    Because the evidence is so weak, you have the responsibility as a skeptic to abstain from making the statement. This isn’t difficult, and it was a side point in the first place; I’m pretty surprised to see you doubling down.

  10. says

    I’m not “assuming the worst”; I’m reading what he wrote.

    I absolutely disagree with you too; I think it is fairly obvious that Donohue said (whatever he may have intended) that liberal Catholics should reverse the equation “racism very bad, abortion to be tolerated.”

    I’m not making a strong claim. I’m not saying he intended to imply that racism is good. I am saying he implied that liberal Catholics should see racism as way less bad than abortion.

    It’s not “parsimonious” to assume he said something he didn’t say instead of something he did say.

    The evidence is not weak; he said what he said.

    I’m not “doubling down”; you’re accusing me of things.

  11. says

    Ah yes, because I’m “assuming” what Donohue said, but you’re just reading it.

    I’m not making a strong claim. I’m not saying he intended to imply that racism is good. I am saying he implied that liberal Catholics should see racism as way less bad than abortion.

    You can say that the statement might have implied such a thing, but to say that Donohue made such an implication is essentially to suggest intent. If you don’t think that Donohue intended to make such an implication, then I’m not sure we still have a disagreement, but you did make such a suggestion:

    You seem to think it’s obvious that he didn’t mean what he wrote, but I don’t think that’s obvious at all.

    So if your conclusion is simply that the statement’s wording lends itself to such an interpretation, then I concur with your judgment but not with any other further implication about Donohue that could potentially be drawn.

    I’m not “doubling down”; you’re accusing me of things.

    I only did it after a plain reading of your own words. Do you not like people accusing you of objectionable things based on the words you write?

  12. says

    I used the word “assume” because you did.

    I don’t know what he intended. My guess is that he felt exasperation at what he takes to be the lack of balance in anger-at-racism v tolerance-of-abortion, and implied that the terms should be reversed without fully realizing he’d done so. A Mel Gibson moment, as it were. My guess is that he said more than he meant to, in the heat of the moment.

    Do you not like people accusing you of objectionable things based on the words you write?

    That’s cute. You do realize that if Donohue were commenting here and explaining what he meant, that would make a difference, yes? He’s not commenting here. I don’t think your reading is any better than mine; on the contrary, I think it assumes what is not in evidence.

    I’ve argued with people about this principle of charity thing before, and I’ve said maybe I just don’t get it, but I think it’s a crappy idea to ignore what is actually said or written in favor of a “nicer” version of what was actually said or written, unless what was said or written is really obviously just a mistake. That’s because I think when something bad is said, we need to be able to say “that’s a bad thing to say.” If somebody says women are all lying whores, I don’t want people saying “well Somebody didn’t mean that, Somebody meant some women can be a little difficult at times.”

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