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July 14, 2009

the corner: Anti-Catholicism at The New Yorker?

Topics: Entertainment, Faith, Political News and commentaries

Mike Potemra writes at the corner:

Too often in our culture, accusations of bigotry -- of being anti-Catholic, anti-black, anti-gay, what have you -- are themselves presented with so much hatred and venom that they raise the suspicion that the accuser himself is bigoted, harboring an unhealthy and disproportionate animus against his targets. Father James Martin of America magazine has done a blog post that provides an excellent example of how to raise the issue in a serious and charitable way. He discusses a New Yorker humor piece by Paul Rudnick:

Pondering a possible screenplay using nuns, Rudnick muses that they can be "dictatorial, sexually repressed and scary." A grumpy elderly nun at a convent gift store looks like a "bat" or a "long fossilized chimp." "'I hate this!' the chimp yipped," he writes about the elderly woman. . . . Rudnick admits that the prioress of Regina Laudis, which he visits to do a full two days' research, is "kind and helpful," but most of the article depicts the nuns -- scratch that, all nuns -- as at best cartoonish, at worst absurd.
And he quite reasonably asks:
It's a humor piece, but come on. Does anyone think that any other religious group or class would be subjected to the same treatment? Can you imagine someone writing, for example, "Rabbis can be dictatorial, sexually repressed and scary"? How about comparing a Muslim woman to a "bat" or a "chimp"? . . . No way.
Martin is careful not to demonize Rudnick, which makes his conclusion all the more persuasive:
Mr. Rudnick is a talented and funny writer. His books and screenplays are usually delightful. I'm sure he's a decent and caring guy, and I'm sure he meant no harm with his piece. But to mock, belittle and, let's face it, reduce to less than human a class of people for a derisive laugh -- no matter what your religious beliefs are or aren't -- should be named for what it is: bigotry.
(Disclosure: I have met Father Martin and think he's a charming and intelligent person. I have never met Paul Rudnick, but he was a Yale suitemate of a friend of mine, and I thought his movie Jeffrey was pretty funny.)
What Mike failed to call attention to in Father Martin's blog post was the first paragraph, which supports a premise that The New Yorker is likely more anti-Catholic than not, although Father Martin kindly does a work-around to refrain from saying so:

The New Yorker, as a rule, is not anti-Catholic.  I say this as a longtime reader and avid fan.  And I say it despite the fact that the magazine featured a painting of a crucified Easter bunny during Holy Week in 1995; despite the fact that last year the estimable literary critic James Woods wrote in an otherwise sensitive review of Marilynne Robinson's book Home that he found priests "at once fascinating and slightly repellent;" and despite the fact that the famously fact-checked magazine regularly gets some basic facts about the Catholic church wrong.
I don't know about how others read it, and I'm not one to argue with Father Martin, but in my mind that's a heck of a lot of anti-Catholic "despites" for a supposedly non-anti-Catholic magazine.

Posted by Abdul at July 14, 2009 6:16 AM

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