Press Box

Don’t Hate Andrew Sullivan Because He’s Catholic

In today’s New York Times Magazine, columnist Andrew Sullivan decries the “double standard” of politicians who ostracize anti-Semitic bigots such as Louis Farrakhan but excuse the anti-Catholic bigotry of Bob Jones University (see “The New Double Standard“).  

Summoning the class to the blackboard, Sullivan taps the pointer on quotations from Bob Jones Jr. and Louis Farrakhan as a first step in proving his ambitious theory that “the bigotry of Bob Jones is morally indistinguishable from that of the Nation of Islam.” First up is Bob Jones Jr., who has called the Catholic Church “satanic counterfeit, an ecclesiastic tyranny over the souls of men, not to bring them to salvation but to hold them bound in sin and to hurl them into eternal damnation. It is the old harlot of the Book of the Revelation–‘the Mother of Harlots.’ ” Sullivan’s pointer then drops to a passage from Louis Farrakhan, who four years ago called American Jews “wicked deceivers of the American people. You have sucked their blood. You are not real Jews, those of you that are not real Jews. You are the synagogue of Satan. …”

Plenty of grist here for a column about comparative religious intolerance and the cowardice of politicians, but is this a fight Sullivan really wants to take all the way to Round 10? If anti-Catholic bigotry exists in America, it might have something to do with the Catholic Church’s past conduct. Just this weekend, His Holiness John Paul II conceded as much when he finally got around to apologizing to the world for 2000 years of Catholic wickedness. He apologized for the forced conversions, for the murderous Crusades, and for the Inquisition. But tap-dancing away from accountability more beautifully than Farrakhan, the pope absolved the Catholic Church of blame because it is “holy and immaculate.” The mistakes were made by the “sons and daughters” of the church. Heretics burned at the stake, including many Protestants? Sorry, the church says with its deniablity-shields up full force, those events were organized by the staff.

It’s one thing for modern Catholics such as Sullivan to defend themselves against their attackers, but quite another for them to pretend that the hostilities between the Catholic Church and fundamentalists and Jews and Muslims evolved out of a vacuum. For many, the memory of Catholic assaults is still green. As Lee Hockstader reports in today’s Washington Post, until the mid-1960s the standard Catholic liturgy included prayer for the “perfidious Jews.” You don’t suppose that’s where Farrakhan learned his anti-Semitism, do you?