The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights uses media manipulation and exaggerated claims of anti-Catholicism to advance a far-right political agenda, according to a new study of the group.
The 25-page report says the organization “uses intimidation, bullying and distortion to suppress critics of the Catholic church, the Vatican, and the church’s many controversial policies. It is an ally of the radical religious right, helping to promote its anti-reproductive rights, anti-gay rights, pro-censorship agenda….”
The report was issued by Catholics for Choice, a progressive organization that advocates for reproductive rights.
“The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights: Neither Religious nor Civil,” traces the history of the League, pointing to its founding by the Rev. Virgil C. Blum, a Jesuit priest and professor of political science at Marquette University, after 1973’s Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion.
Blum died in 1990, and the organization languished for a few years until William A. Donohue was hired to run it in 1993. Donohue, a former Heritage Foundation staff member, was best known for his attacks on the American Civil Liberties Union. Well connected with the Catholic right, Donohue worked to revitalize the organization and recruited prominent Catholic conservatives to serve on its boards.
Under Donohue, the League has become best known for protesting examples of art, film and television programs that it believes malign the Catholic Church.
The report notes that Donohue is a frequent guest in the media, where he often relies on bluster and tries to steamroll his opponents. It quotes Mark Silk, director of Trinity College’s Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life, who said of Donohue, “He’s a thug. He reverts to bullying because he thinks that’s what his job entails.”
Donohue also compiles a list of alleged incidents of anti-Catholicism. The new report takes issue with this, noting that many of the examples are merely instances of people and organizations opposing things like vouchers for religious schools and privileges extended to the church.
Donohue’s lists, the CFC report asserts, “detail exaggerated and imagined incidents of anti-Catholicism, as well as legitimate criticisms of the church and hierarchy spun as anti-Catholicism, in an attempt to suggest that anti-Catholic activity is a pervasive problem.”
Concludes the Catholics for Choice report, “American Catholics support pluralism, diversity and the freedom to criticize important and powerful institutions such as the Catholic hierarchy. Most American Catholics realize that the days of outright anti-Catholic bigotry are long gone and are willing to allow their religion and church to be fairly critiqued in art, politics and the media. When people listen to the Catholic League, they are listening to a radical voice from the far right with an agenda that is not in keeping with the values of American Catholics.”
Copies of the report can be read at: http://www.catholicsforchoice.org/pubs/documents/CatholicLeague.pdf