John Allen, senior correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter, routinely uses the phrase “Taliban Catholicism” to describe “an exaggerated allergy to anything that smacks of secularism, liberalization, or corruption by modernity — an angry form of the faith that knows only how to excoriate and condemn.” Allen says it’s become part of the “standard stump speech” that he delivers to various groups, such as the students and faculty at the University of Dallas (which he visited last year).
In defending the characterization, Allen explains that he intended it as the opposite of George Weigel’s use of “Catholicism Lite” to describe secularized Catholics. But the obvious flaw in this comparison is that there is no group of hard-line Catholics who have formed a worldwide terrorist network to kill innocent people.
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Official reports of alleged Taliban atrocities include the killing of eight boys who laughed at soldiers, the burning alive of an entire family, and the killing of 100 Afghans whose bodies were hung from lamp posts as a warning to possible defectors. When members of the Taliban captured Afghanistan’s capital city of Kabul in 1996, they castrated the country’s president and tortured and killed his brother. Genocidal slaughter, murder, torture, kidnapping, and mutilation are typical Taliban tactics used to enforce their version of Muslim orthodoxy.
Allen’s comparison of certain Catholics to the Taliban is outrageous, and he ought to know better. No matter how finely he tries to draw the distinction, the phrase will continue to be used as shorthand for conservative Catholics who are trying to hold the line against secular hegemony.
Odious comparisons seem to proliferate these days when media spokesmen for the Left attempt to describe the Tea Party, Glenn Beck, Michele Bachmann, Sarah Palin, and religious conservatives in politics. Oddly, Muslims seem to have become the favored example, replacing Nazis as the damning comparison of choice. (Because everyone is afraid of Muslims, right?)
While Allen compares conservative Catholics to the Taliban, Chris Matthews has lately compared the Tea Party with the Muslim Brotherhood. Discussing the demonstrations in Egypt, Matthews asked GOP strategist John Feehery: “So the Muslim Brotherhood has a parallel role here with the tea party. They’re the ones who keep you honest and decide whether you’ve stayed too long. Whether you’ve got a ‘sell by’ date looming.”
The Jesuit-educated Matthews is, obviously, thinking by analogy here — but the analogy fails when you press even lightly, comparing the manner in which the Tea Party attempts to keep the GOP “honest” and the stated goals and methods of the Muslim Brotherhood. A recent translation of a 1995 book by the fifth leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mustafa Mashhur, who headed the Muslim Brotherhood from 1996 to 2002, tells members of the Muslim Brotherhood that in their effort to reestablish the Islamic Caliphate:
It should be known that jihad and preparation towards jihad are not only for the purpose of fending off assaults and attacks of Allah’s enemies from Muslims, but are also for the purpose of realizing the great task of establishing an Islamic state and strengthening the religion and spreading it around the world.
Comparisons with Islamic extremists and terrorists are not only odious, they also trivialize the genuine threat these groups pose to human life and freedom in the Middle East and around the world.
There was some buzz recently among Catholic bloggers on the political Left when Pope Benedict XVI called for Catholic journalists to adopt a “Christian style presence.” Though the Holy Father named no names, some immediately assumed his words were directed at Catholics like me. Indeed, I am singled out by name on one site: “Deal Hudson, the former Catholic outreach coordinator for President George W. Bush, routinely lashes out on his InsideCatholic.com and other venues at ‘fake Catholics.’”
Yes, I have called Catholics United and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good “fake” Catholic organizations, because they exist for the sole purpose of supporting a Democratic Party agenda to the exclusion of the Church’s teaching about life and marriage. “Fake” is a pretty tough term, but I didn’t compare them to religious groups who torture, murder, and mutilate innocent people. Which comparison wins the trophy for incivility?
The Left spends so much time talking to themselves, they become convinced that their own oft-repeated opinions constitute responsible journalism. Evidently, many of the faculty and students at the University of Dallas were willing to let Allen get away with the Taliban Catholicism comparison, but one faculty member described the phrase as “profoundly offensive,” adding that young Catholics should not be dismissed as fanatics simply because they seek “fidelity and clarity.”
“There are no suicide bombers in the Catholic church,” she went on, “but we have had an epidemic of Catholicism Lite for the last 30 years.”