I used to be a big fan of the Catholic League.
When I was a naive and bookish homeschooler, I read their journal Catalyst. I admired their work in defending Catholics from defamation and mockery. I assumed they must be right about how downtrodden we are. I had never been out in the big bad world where Catholics suffered so much hardship and taunting, but I presumed it did exist. I even wrote a term paper on anti-Catholic bias in the media for my extremely conservative correspondence school, using a stack of Catalyst issues as my primary sources. I hadn’t seen most of the television shows I used as examples; I hadn’t been to the museums that apparently relished hosting anti-Catholic art. I wrote about these things as I’d been taught, never having experienced them, taking it on faith. I got an A.
During that time I was an awkward and unattractive teen, with scarring acne and a double chin. I went to conservative political protests and prayed the Rosary aloud for this or that cause; when I did this, counter-protesters would scream intensely nasty things about my looks from time to time. So, I presumed from having read about it that Catholics were persecuted, and I knew from experience that Democrats objectify and make fun of ugly women when they’re angry.
I’ve certainly changed a lot since then. I am still a Catholic, obviously, though I’m Eastern Rite now. I no longer study lessons from that correspondence school, and I don’t intend to use them to teach my daughter. I still think that there’s a fair amount of anti-Catholic bias in some media sources, but we’re far from the worst represented by a long shot. We have it easy compared to Muslims, for example. I don’t tend to read Catalyst any more. I don’t even know if they still print a paper journal or if it’s all online these days.
My study of, and striving to be faithful to, Catholic social teaching, has led me to some odd places, neither fully right nor fully left but definitely not a Republican. I am probably what the Catholic League thinks of as “left wing,” especially now that “right-wing” means supporting TV’s Donald Trump.
My pimples gave way to worry lines, and I’m still not very pretty.
I haven’t given the Catholic League more than a moment’s thought for quite some time– until two days ago, of course. That was when all of my friends were talking about the Catholic League. Yesterday morning, their twitter account published this tweet:
Journal of Public Economics says right wing people are better looking than left wing people. Anecdote: Compare the gals on Fox to MSNBC.
At first, I honestly thought their account had been hacked. I went and looked up and down the twitter feed for anything else like this. There was very little to do with actually protecting the religious freedom of Catholics, but there was quite a bit of presumption that being Catholic had something to do with supporting the Republican party and more than a smattering of general meanness. I’d say that that tweet was a particularly nasty example rather than a bizarre exception.
I went to the Catholic League website, to see when they stopped defending Catholics and became random bellicose farts. I read the boast on the front page of their website, which said that “since 1974, the Catholic League has defended the right of Catholics to participate in American public life without defamation or discrimination.” A fine boast indeed. Next to the boast was a photo of Bill Donohue, their president. I can’t show you the photo here on the blog, because it’s not public domain, but it and many other photos of Bill Donohue are available on a google search. Take a look.
You know what? If the only information I had about the right and left wing was reading yesterday’s tweet from the Catholic League, then judging by looks I’d naturally assume that Bill Donohue was a pinko commie somewhere to the left of Ben and Jerry. He looks like a boiled ham with glasses. We could be twins, but my hair is nicer.
Does that hurt your feelings, Bill?
Well, now you know how I feel.
I’m grateful I was raised to be a sheltered and naive conservative Republican, because I got to see exactly what Democrats are like when they’re angry and insulting toward somebody they despise. I have no illusions that they are uniformly nice and non-0bjectifying to women. And since I’ve had plenty of opportunity to explore how Republicans like Bill Donohue treat women, I don’t have illusions about you guys either. I’m already aware that you’re jerks. There are grumpy, insulting, bellicose farts on all sides of the political spectrum, in every socioeconomic group and, yes, in every religion as well. Christ did not come to the righteous, but to sinners, and that means me and you, the grumpy and bellicose boiled hams calling each other names.
But here’s the thing. When you put “Catholic” in the name of your organization, and claim you are fighting to defend the rights of Catholics, people will presume that what you’re publishing is somehow Catholic. They might not be right about that– after all, when I review movies I’m giving my own personal opinion; the Pope might have hated Doctor Strange and loved High Rise. But still, I try to mind my p’s and q’s because I write for “Patheos Catholic” and some poor soul might run across my blog and presume that Mary Pezzulo is teaching about Catholicism rather than simply writing from a Catholic perspective.
Naive homeschooled girls are going to pick up publications written by an organization called “Catholic League” and presume they’re giving a truthful account of what the world is like. Non-Catholics are going to glance at your Twitter feed and presume that something calling itself “Catholic League” is a league promoting Catholicism.
And they’re going to see what looks like the Bride of Christ, terrible as an army with banners, calling women “gals” and classifying them according to how sexy they are.
We all need to do better than that.
Sorry I called you a boiled ham, Bill. Now, do you have something you want to say to the rest of us?
(image via Pixabay)