Losing her religion?

I realize that the following commentary veers close to being a cheap shot.

Truly, I understand that the theological musings of an actress such as Anne Hathaway may not deserve in-depth coverage. It may be ridiculous to even hint that reporters might want to probe her recent commentary on her departure from the Roman Catholic Church and her brief liturgical dance with Anglicanism.

But, honestly, I am trying to make sense of the following two gossip items in the mainstream press. Let’s start with USA Today:

Anne Hathaway, who was among the stars hitting the red carpet in Hollywood … for the premiere of Valentine’s Day, says in the new British GQ that her family left the Catholic Church over its intolerant views on homosexuality.

Anne grew up wanting to become a nun but shunned Catholicism when she learned her older brother, Michael, was gay.

“The whole family converted to Episcopalianism after my elder brother came out,” she tells the magazine. “Why should I support an organization that has a limited view of my beloved brother?”

But the Episcopal church plan didn’t really work out for her either. “So I’m … nothing,” she said. “I’m a work in progress.”

OK, it’s completely logical — in my opinion — for Hathaway and members of her family to leave the Church of Rome if they sincerely oppose its ancient teachings on human sexuality. You could say that they were acting on their convictions. Dare I suggest that some political leaders in the United States (in several different flocks) might consider that course of action?

But what is going on in that final paragraph?

Let’s try the blunt take on this in the New York Daily News:

Anne Hathaway left the Catholic Church after her brother opened up about being gay. “The whole family converted to Episcopalianism after my elder brother came out,” says the actress. “Why should I support an organization that has a limited view of my beloved brother?” So what religion is Anne now? “I’m nothing,” she admits. “F- it, I’m forming. I’m a work in progress.”

Now, other than the gratuitous F-word, Hathaway’s statement that she is “forming” and a “work in progress” sounds like an excellent piece of copy for one of those witty posters from the old Episcopal Ad Project (please click here) or similar efforts to seek newcomers for other liberal flocks.

So what might Hathaway have said that would cause a reporter to paraphrase her as saying that becoming an Anglican didn’t “work out” for her? Has she rejected faith altogether? Is the Episcopal Church too strict for her?

What’s up? Inquiring minds want to know. Or do we?

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • Arthur

    Yes – she’s given it all away I would say.

    That is presumably because homophobia affects most denominations

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    That is an opinion about Hathaway.

    Do you think — this was the subject of the post — that this subject is worthy of press coverage?

    You are saying that Hathaway must have said that the Episcopal Church is not liberal enough on homosexuality.

    Really?

  • Chris Bolinger

    No, Ms. Hathaway’s esteemed and well-informed opinions on the Roman Catholic Church and the Episcopal Church are not worthy of press coverage, even on an incredibly slow news day, as this must have been.

  • Padraic

    The journalists should have followed up with questions about why she left the Episcopalian church. If her qualms with the Catholic faith were over sexual teachings, I can’t believe that a journalist wouldn’t go further with her rejection of the Episcopalian church. However, when it comes down to it, does this story really deserve ink, or is it simply something that the journalist agrees with and wishes to promote?

    As an aside which is not journalistic in nature, that picture of her with a finger on the trigger makes me shudder as a responsible gun owner.

  • Arthur

    I think this story does deserve coverage. Anne Hathaway is a public figure. Much was made of Tony Blair changing TO the Roman Catholic Church, what is wrong with reporting the departure of Anne Hathaway.

    Besides which, sexuality matters in the Roman Catholic Church are of great public concern – especially in the US and Ireland in recent times. Apparently the lid is being lifted in Germany now as well.

  • Padraic

    Arthur-

    Making allusions to sexual abuse is not only entirely off-topic, but inappropriate. I don’t want to know how painful it is to make mental contortions of that magnitude.

  • http://www.perpetuaofcarthage.blogspot.com Perpetua

    Or could it be that she equates being an Episcopalian with being nothing — that there is no there there?

  • dalea

    I think this would be appropriate journalism in gossip and entertainment venues but really not anywhere else. While she is a well known public figure, it is not for her religious views that she is famous. This is sort of an aside comment, similar to interviews where actors give their views on politics, world peace, adoptions etc. It adds some dimension to the public persona but not much else.

    The comment looks like an opening to a heart rendering segment with Oprah. Is Oprah journalism?

  • Peggy

    … I liked Anne Hathaway in the Princess Diaries and in Devil Wears Prada. It sounds like she might could been a minor when her family left Rome and joined the Episcopal Church. But the journalist didn’t ask. So, that may not have been her decision, though she clearly agrees with her parents that Rome’s views on homosexuality being deficient. Her current unaffiliated status is more her own decision I think, than the departure from Rome. Unaffiliated young adults, especially among celebrities, is not terribly surprising.

  • http://dailyatheist.blogspot.com Strp

    It’s sloppy journalism to not follow up on that question indeed.
    That she switched denominations because of doctrine, and then ended up without one does not necessarily make her Atheist in my eyes. It could be the start of it of course, but it sounds more like a case of “Sheilaism”.

  • MichaelV

    Yes, they are worthy of press coverage. Anne is the woman I am destened to marry, but beacuse we’ve never met this is the only way I can learn about the things that are important to her. :)

    Really, though: there is so much stupid celeb press out there. Even NPR tells me each morning what famous person’s birthday it is. I can’t buy my weekly pizza rolls (do we know if Anne can cook?) without being confronted with the latest Bradgalena updates. If reporters simply must chase these people around, they can do worse than to ask the occasional question about Things Of Ultimate Significance – particularly with subjects who are willing to talk about them. The downside, I guess, is that if you’ve only got a bumper sticker’s worth of space to print somthing, what you’re likely to end up with is a quip that may target one viewpoint negatively without any real way to do the issue justice. I suppose one could get up in the morning and think “hmm, I wonder if I can find a famous person who will say something bad about Methodists?”

    All that said, after getting home from seeing Get Smart at the theater (that would be June of 2008), I remember cruising Wikipedia and learning that Anne left Catholicism when her brother came out of the closet. So the only thing new about this news is, what, that Episcopalianism didn’t work out for some unknown reason?

  • Dan Crawford

    So what is it about Ms. Hathaway that compels inquiring minds to want to know her “religious affiliation”? Has she a reputation for deep thoughts expressed clearly and coherently? Or she just another Hollywood celebrity who fancies herself a philosopher able to expound on matters clearly beyond her competence? Do people buy GQ because they want insight?

  • http://crappychristian.com Mari

    Nah I buy GQ because it smells nice.
    Anyway according to the wisdom that is wikipedia the following: “Hathaway was raised a Catholic with what she considered “really strong values,” and has stated she wanted to be a nun during her childhood. However, at the age of fifteen, she decided not to become a nun after learning that her brother, Michael, was gay. Despite her Catholic upbringing, she felt that she could not be part of a religion that disapproved of her brother’s sexual orientation. She has stated that she is a non-denominational Christian because she has not “found the religion” for her.”

  • Martha

    I was going to ask how old she was when her family converted en masse, but Mari got there first with Wikipedia :-)

    Well, she’s not the only former Roman Catholic turned Episcopalian – the Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, was also raised RC until the age of eight when her parents changed denominations.

    Further comparisons between the two ladies I will not make, because I’m not getting into the middle of the Anglican Wars on this one ;-)

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    The way that the Catholic Church’s teachings that sexual relations are only moral inside marriage is frequently reported in the media as though it were some sort of Roman or Vatican creation.
    However all of the Churches that can trace their history back to apostolic times (Eastern Orthodoxy, Coptic, etc.) are just as adament on this teaching as far as I have read.
    In fact the Eastern European countries that are Orthodox are far more inhospitable to anything resembling Gay Rights than most “Catholic” countries.

  • robroy

    The headlines were that she rejected the Catholic church. I was not sure when her brother “came out” but it seems that it was some time well in the past. Her statement that the “entire family” converted to Episcopalianism sure makes it sound like the rejection of the RCC represents the oxymoronic “old news” and that the “new news” is that she has now personally rejected the Episcopal denomination as well. This apparently is confirmed by wikipedia.

    A spoiled, potty mouthed, Hollywood actress rejects traditional beliefs…that is a real shocker!

  • Tank

    Sure its newsworthy, as it not unusual to follow lifestyles of celebrities. Lots of people read and get their opinions from People magazine and supermarket tabloids. Hathaway’s opinion is as important as anyone else’s and clearly matches many others. Hathaway and her family’s dilemma are just like millions where rigid religious ideology conflicts with real families who don’t turn their backs on their own. Most of know God is not intolerant and doesn’t turn his back on his own.


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