The Catholic League was founded in 1973 by Jesuit priest Virgil Blum. William Donohue assumed leadership in July 1993. Since then, the membership has grown from 27,000 to 200,000. According to Donohue, the League has “won the support of all of the U.S. Cardinals and many of the Bishops as well…We are here to defend the Church from the scurrilous assaults that have been mounted against it, and we definitely need the support of the hierarchy if we are to get the job done.” Thus it can be considered an arm of the Church. It supplements or replaces priest-controlled organizations of the past described by Blanshard and Seldes. The League apparently has a single mission: suppression of all mainstream criticism of the Roman Catholic Church.
There are many recognizable principles governing the behavior of the League. One is revealed in a vicious 1994 attack against the New London newspaper, The Day, for an editorial critical of the Catholic Church: “What is truly ‘beyond understanding’ is not the Catholic Church’s position, it is the fact that a secular newspaper has the audacity to stick it’s nose in where it doesn’t belong. It is nobody’s business what the Catholic Church does.”
Orilly? It’s the Catholic church’s business what everybody does but it’s nobody’s business what the Catholic church does? They’d like that, wouldn’t they. They can meddle as much as they want to while we have to leave them strictly alone.
And then people wonder why atheists sometimes get grumpy.
A second basic premise is the League’s commitment to canon 1369 of the Code of Canon Law: “A person is to be punished with a just penalty, who, at a public event or assembly, or in a published writing, or by otherwise using the means of social communication, utters blasphemy, or gravely harms public morals, or rails at or excites hatred of or contempt for religion or the Church.” Canon law is the law of the Catholic Church. All criticism of the pope or the Church is in violation of this law in one way or another. This chapter will make clear that the League follows this canon to the letter and demands that all others conform—or pay the price for their violation.
There it is again already – they want their “Canon” law to apply to all of us, but they don’t want our secular free speech and unhindered mockery to apply to them. Nope; no can do.
Donohue also justifies the League’s aggressive behavior by claiming that it is culturally unacceptable for nonCatholics to criticize the Catholic Church. “Perhaps the most cogent remark of the day,” he asserts, “came from the former Mayor of New York, Ed Koch, who politely remarked that his mother always advised him not to speak ill of other religions. It is a lesson that apparently few have learned….Non-Catholics would do well to follow the advice of Ed Koch’s mom and just give it a rest. Their crankiness is wearing thin.” This cultural norm is widely accepted in America, to the enormous benefit of the Vatican.
The Vatican and other theocratic organizations and individuals. Hence occasional grumpiness and inability to oblige.
One final element makes clear the objective of the Catholic League—protection of the papacy against all criticism. Writes Donohue, “It is the conviction of the Catholic League that an attack on the Church is an attack on Catholics.” He offers no rationale to support this theory. Obviously, millions of liberal American Catholics would disagree outright, for it is they who have been attacking the Church.
While at the same time supporting it and validating it. They would do better to abandon it. They would do better to remove the tacit support it gives by not leaving, so that the pope and his henchmen can see that reactionary dogma exacts a price. They could have fewer but better Catholics.
The suppression of all criticism of the Catholic Church and its hierarchy is the goal of the Catholic League. The visit of the pope to the U.S. in October 1995 was a major media event. Given all the gravely serious problems faced by the Church and the enormous amount of dissent by American Catholics, as well as the growing hostility from non-Catholics as a result of the Church’s interference in American policy making, one would expect wide coverage of these realities in the media during his visit. Instead, it was treated as a triumphant return.
The Catholic League believes that it played a major role in this great public relations success—and with good reason. In August 1994, it launched a campaign to intimidate the press in an astounding advance warning to media professionals preparing for the pope’s visit to New York in late October. A letter signed by Donohue announced a press conference to be held just prior to the pope’s visit that will present “10′s of thousands of petitions from active Catholics” that have been collected over the past year. The petition speaks for itself. What else but intimidation of the press is the intent of this campaign?
The November 1995 issue of the League’s journal, Catalyst, is headlined, “Media Treat Pope Fairly; Protesters Fail to Score.” Donohue writes, “By all accounts, the visit of Pope John Paul II to the United States was a smashing success. Media treatment of the papal visit was, with few exceptions, very fair. Protesters were few in number and without impact. From beginning to end, this papal visit proved to be the most triumphant of them all.” A month later he writes, “The relatively few cheap shots that were taken at the Pope by the media in October is testimony to a change in the culture.” And of course the desired “change in the culture” is the elimination of criticism of the pope and his hierarchy. The Catholic League is succeeding on a grand scale far beyond what all but a handful of Americans realize.
If that’s true it explains something that has puzzled me for years, which is precisely the reverential way the US media report on the pope and his doings. I didn’t know they’d been overtly bullied into it.