The reaction of Catholic leaders to Larry Doyle’s recent satiric piece at HuffPo, “The Jesus-Eating Cult of Rick Santorum,” has been exactly the wrong reaction. We have taken offense, demanded apologies of Arianna Huffington, and asked that we please not be exposed through satire to the virulently-anti Catholic opinions of the Church’s opponents. Doyle’s piece, like the shows for which he has written, “Beavis and Butthead,” and “The Simpsons,” was crude. There’s no doubt about that.
He led off:
“It’s time to take a good hard look at Rick Santorum’s faith.
Orthodox. Faithful. Free.
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Many of you will be shocked to learn what our possible future president believes, who he answers to, the bloody jihads his so-called church has carried on for centuries, and its current role as the tactical arm of the North American Man-Boy Love Association.”
So, the Crusades are chalked up as “bloody jihads” and the current hierarchy as promoters of pedophilia.
He goes on to say:
“Unlike Christians, Santorum and his fellow Roman Catholics participate in a barbaric ritual dating back two millennia, a “mass” in which a black-robed cleric casts a spell over some bread and wine, transfiguring it into the actual living flesh and blood of their Christ. Followers then line up to eat the Jesus meat and drink his holy blood in a cannibalistic reverie not often seen outside Cinemax.”
Larry Doyle is a bright guy, and part of the satire here alludes to historical slurs against Roman Catholicism (and in fact, all Christians, when all Christians belonged to one Church prior to the schism with Orthodoxy.) The magical spell of common parlance, “hocus pocus,” derives from the words of consecration in the Latin Mass, “hoc est enim corpus”–this is my very body. During the age of persecution under the ancient Romans, Christians were accused of being “cannibals” for believing they were partaking of the real body and blood of their Lord in the Eucharist. Larry Doyle, an Irish Catholic by heritage and a former altar boy, knows where he comes from and therefore how to strike at the heart of the tradition. His piece puts a new spin on accusations that have been around since the time of Nero.
Should we be shocked and appalled by this? Hardly, it only means that today’s Catholics are getting back to being authentic Christians in an increasingly pagan society. “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad,” says the Lord (Matt 5:11-12a). Jesus does not say, Kindly ask them to mind their manners and treat the faith as too precious for open discussion.
In a subsequent posting Doyle mocked the pro forma apology being required of him, and frankly, I don’t blame him. He said what he said because he hates Catholicism for standing in the way of a secular agenda. I’d much rather have frank and honest hatred exposed for what is it than Orwellian expressions of “respect” for religion that are really just a smoke screen for the tyrannical imposition of secular values.
When we ask for apologies from such people, we are asking that faith enjoy a privileged status where it’s largely treated as out-of-bounds for frank criticism, and therefore, in fact, irrelevant to public issues.
If we want to reintroduce the Christian vocabulary into the conversation, then we are going to have to let criticisms, even vicious attacks, flow freely. Do I really need to point out that Doyle’s commentary–and anything else like it–does more to expose the vile nature of anti-Catholic prejudice and its prevalence in our society than anything Bill Donohue and The Catholic League could possible do? (For the record, I admire Donohue and The Catholic League’s work tremendously.)
It’s time to grow up and mix it up, rhetorically. The best satire–much better than Doyle’s, in fact–has always come out of Christianity, because satire as a form depends on a consistent moral viewpoint. See Jonathan Swift and the wonderful work in the last decades of the twentieth century of Walker Percy. The first a devout Anglican priest and the latter a devout Catholic.
Larry, you are wrong, and if you’d like to talk about it, we’re ready. That’s all that needs saying. Put away the calls for apologies and group pressure tactics in favor of censorship. As Catholics we are here, we are relevant, and we are totally unafraid of debate or crude and self-refuting jokes.