Ohio State vs. Notre Dame’s ‘damn Catholics’

Earlier this week, I saw someone tweet something about how the Republican Party “should never write off any block of voters. It’s horrible politics and it causes great damage.” I retweeted it with the note “Except Methodists.”

For some reason, I’ve long thought it funny to pretend I have something against Methodists.

When I first read the story about the president of The Ohio State University — Gordon Gee is his name — making derogatory remarks about Catholics, I thought it was more a story about religious humor. What do you think? The Associated Press got the story after a public records request:

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The president of Ohio State University said Notre Dame was never invited to join the Big Ten because the university’s priests are not good partners, joking that “those damn Catholics” can’t be trusted, according to a recording of a meeting he attended late last year…

The university called the statements inappropriate and said Gee is undergoing a “remediation plan” because of the remarks…

“The comments I made were just plain wrong, and in no way do they reflect what the university stands for,” he said. “They were a poor attempt at humor and entirely inappropriate.”

The story then quotes a Notre Dame spokesman saying the university particularly didn’t like the comments regarding “Father Joyce.” Four paragraphs later, we learn what those remarks were, which is kind of an interesting way to order a story. More on the comments:

Gee, who has taken heat previously for uncouth remarks, told members of the council that he negotiated with Notre Dame officials during his first term at Ohio State, which began more than two decades ago.

“The fathers are holy on Sunday, and they’re holy hell on the rest of the week,” Gee said to laughter at the Dec. 5 meeting attended by athletic director Gene Smith and several other athletic department members, along with professors and students.

“You just can’t trust those damn Catholics on a Thursday or a Friday, and so, literally, I can say that,” said Gee, a Mormon.

What do you think about adding “a Mormon” in there at that moment?

I’d forgotten he was Mormon, but it’s hard for me to remember anything about him other than his pot-smoking wife. But is it relevant information? And, assuming it is, is that the right way to present it?

The story did a great job, I think, of showing that the comments were understood as being of a humorous nature:

Gee was introduced by athletic council then-chairman Charlie Wilson, and Gee’s name and introduction are included in written minutes of the meeting. Gee’s comments drew laughter, at times loud, occasionally nervous, but no rebukes, according to the audio.

And the story is chock full of information about Gee and his habit of making comments that get him in trouble. But the big thing I wondered about was whether the humorous remarks masked anything about the underlying sentiment.

I mean, was it entirely a joke? Was there discomfort of any kind with Notre Dame? Or, put another way, what was the real reason why Notre Dame wasn’t invited to join the Big Ten? Did religion have anything to do with it? If so, how?

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