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By John Gehring
Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good
Just in time for Halloween, Bill Donohue of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights is once again spooked about all those “radical secularists” lurking ominously behind ever corner. In case you didn’t notice, these godless heathens are “waging war” against American culture and plotting to “smash the last vestiges of Christianity in America.” So argues the irrepressible cultural warrior in a recent On Faith commentary and in his new book, “Secular Sabatoge: How Liberals Are Destroying Religion and Culture in America.”
You have to hand it to the guy. Donohue makes righteous indignation and throwing rhetorical bombs into an art form. He is about as subtle as a fist in your face. If you are looking for reasoned and sensible analysis turn on PBS, Donohue seems to snarl. His latest depiction of cultural doom probably elicits a yawn from most religious Americans who are not obsessed with the bogeymen of multiculturalism, secularism, homosexuality and Hollywood hedonism that Donohue rails against with a bullying style.
Everyday in our churches, mosques and synagogues people of faith gather humbly to pray for wisdom, compassion and justice. We give public expression to this faith by comforting the sick, welcoming the strangers among us and seeking peace in a world torn by violence. We lobby Congress to pass health-care reform, fix a broken immigration system and address global climate change as profound moral issues. Even on difficult issues, we reject culture-war showdowns by encouraging pro-choice and pro-life elected officials to find common ground and reduce abortions by increasing support for pregnant women, expanding adoption opportunities and preventing unintended pregnancies.
It’s a shame, if unsurprising, that the media regularly turns to Donohue for a “Catholic view” on issues. While Donohue’s bluster makes for sensational television, he rarely raises his voice to speak about issues at the heart of Catholic social teaching. While the U.S. Catholic bishops’ 2008 election-year statement on political responsibility emphasized a consistent ethic of life tradition that recognizes torture, unjust war, the death penalty, genocide, racism and poverty as “direct assaults on innocent human life,” Donohue is uncharacteristically mute on these points. Abortion is not the only “life issue” for Catholics. As Auxiliary Bishop Gabino Zavala of Los Angeles told Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne, Jr. last year: “We are not a one-issue Church…but that’s not what always comes out.”
We live in an age where the shrillest voices often drown out sober debate and thoughtful insights. Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh watch their ratings soar with every outrageous remark. Bill Donohue gets invited on TV because he bellows and bloviates with the best of them. While some enjoy the antics, most of us are tired of the noise machine. Faith and reason are not enemies, but together can help illuminate our path through the dark forests of fear, ignorance and injustice. Sometimes we just need to turn down the volume and tune out the shouters to find our way.
John Gehring is the Media Director and Senior Writer for Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good.