Dolling up bigotry as satire
As many in St. Blog's have heard, last week Canada's largest leftwing newspaper, The Toronto Star, ran a column the anti-Catholic venom of which sparked a wide negative reaction (in and out of the Church) across the blogosphere.
The bulk of the screed, by the angry and confused Joey Slinger, is worth quoting:
With this Vatican, all's fair in faith and war
So the Pope is thinking about excommunicating our Prime Minister, is he? In the religion game, that's called hardball.
We're told he hasn't made up his mind. We're told he's taking advice from his bishops. They're an open-minded, in-tune-with-public-sentiment bunch of guys. They may not think it's such a wonderful thing to do if they happen to have been sitting around smoking a lot of dope.
And maybe it's just an idea the Pope is kicking around. Sort of the way George W. Bush kicked around the idea of invading Iraq.
Still, the Iraqis recognized a subtle message when they heard one. That was about weapons of mass destruction, wasn't it? With Paul Martin it's about leading a government that approved gay marriages. Where are those darned WMDs? That became the big Iraq question. Nobody has to even bother asking where gay marriages are. They're out there.
We can't turn around without getting a mouthfull of confetti as gays, their troths plighted, come bounding out of wedding ceremonies. Picture this: the Right Honourable Paul Martin, Prime Minister of Canada, stands at the altar rail.
The priest shakes his head and points a sanctimonious finger toward the exit. "No communion for you," says the priest. Jerry Seinfeld could've named the judgmental character in his shows "the Soup Pope."
For the record, Rev. John Walsh of Montreal's St. Jean de Brébeuf Church, which Martin attends, says he won't refuse him communion. "I think that we must look at the situation and say, `Are we respecting a person's conscience?'" Walsh said. Brave words. And foolhardy in today's rigid religious climate.
Dear Father Walsh, can you spell "defrocked"?
Can anybody think of one of the other five Roman Catholic prime ministers we've had going back to Trudeau who wouldn't, in today's circumstances, have obeyed the Parliamentary majority and the majority will of the country?
The same applies to abortion, which maybe the Pope and his legions will decide to go after Martin for if gay marriage doesn't do the trick. It was because of John Kerry's pro-choice record that influential American bishops, with the vigorous encouragement of the man who's now Benedict XVI, threatened to deny him communion during the U.S. election, inflaming enough conservative parishioners to deny him the presidency.
So if the Pope wants to play hardball, fine. We can play hardball too. How about he can excommunicate our Prime Minister and we can get rid of the tax exemption on Catholic church property? What a windfall that would be. Millions. Millions upon millions. Mega-millions if we make it retroactive back to, say, 1848 when St. Michael's opened its doors.
They'd have to start selling their real estate. Failing that, we'd have to seize it and auction it off. It's happened before. It was a fairly popular medieval screw-you gesture.
I hope this won't be mistaken for some kind of threat. It's just that if the Pope feels inclined to give us something to think about, we might as well give him something to think about.
All's fair in faith and war. But isn't it strange that the further we move ahead into the 21st century, the further the Vatican moves backward into the 12th?
About which, I complained:
Dear Editor: It's amazing that this brand of puerile rage is supposed to be humourous. I couldn't care less if Joey Slinger wants to create interest in himself and his sad column, but would you have printed such a vile attack if the object of his hate were directed against Jews or Muslims or a homosexual group?
His ridiculous errors of fact are too numerous and not worth correcting. Suffice it to say that that famous Canadian multicultural respect seems to end at the door of Catholicism. This Canadian is embarrassed at The Star's poor judgment in passively promoting intolerance. Outrageous.
Patrick D. Coffin
Los Angeles, CA
The editor wrote back what looks like a form letter:
Dear Patrick D. Coffin,
I'm sorry that you found Mr. Slinger's column to be offensive. Columnists are given wide latitude to express controversial opinions. Mr. Slinger was not inciting hatred and persecution against Roman Catholics, he was being critical of church leaders. He is a satirist and used an aggressive tone to mimic the aggressive tone that he believes the Pope is taking on this matter. When someone takes a strong position on a religious matter, many people will disagree. I would defend your right to disagree with Mr. Slinger as strongly as I would defend his right to express his opinion.
The Toronto Star
To which I wrote back:
Dear Ms. Burnside:
I'm sad to say I wasn't surprised to read your reply, nor to find that you missed my central point which is that The Star would never, ever, run such a piece of "satire" if the subject matter were Muslims, Jews, a gay-friendly church, or let's say a tribe of First Nations. And you are factually incorrect in saying he was merely "criticizing church leaders."
Come, come. His hate-filled rant had less noble ambitions and you know it. Characterizing Pope Benedict XVI, a gentle and scholarly soul, as "aggressive" and eager to "play hardball" as he "kicks around the idea of excommunicating Paul Martin" (likening this to George W. Bush's thinking about invading Iraq) betrays a glittering ignorance of the Pope's person and role. Contrary to your claim, the Holy Father's "tone" regarding pro-abortion Catholic politicians -- if anything -- has been quite the opposite of aggressive.
Perhaps, like Mr. Slinger you suffer tone deafness. I'd like to think not. The point is, no one has the right to receive Jesus Christ in the holy Eucharist, which is a sublime gift entailing certain conditions, like, uh, believing what the Catholic Church does on grave matters. Agree or disagree with the doctrine on abortion or homosexual marriage, but these are grave matters.
And how about the allusion to Seinfeld's Soup Nazi? Hardy har. I'd like to see the coward (I reached but could not find a better word) describe any Toronto rabbi or Imam in these very witty terms.
Finally, Slinger's dream of tax exemption for the Catholic Church can hardly be taken as a "threat" since he is, despite evident longings, only a newspaper columnist. But what fuels his revenge fantasy of an exemption-free Church is bigotry, pure and simple.
But for The Toronto Star, some opinions are more politically safe than others.
- Patrick Coffin
When will they ever learn?