Continuing in my role as RJN’s press secretary, readers might be interested in this write-up on the Anti-Catholicism panel. The New York Times “City Room” blog reports:
Experts say that anti-Catholic sentiment — much of it originating in, or as a response to, immigrants in New York — remains an enduring force in American culture.
That was the consensus of a panel assembled at the Museum of the City of New York on Tuesday night to consider the question, “Is Anti-Catholicism Dead?”
The panel is part of the exhibition, “Catholics in New York, 1808 to 1946,” which runs through Dec. 31.
Like the exhibition, the 90-minute discussion — moderated by Paul Baumann, editor of Commonweal magazine, a Catholic biweekly opinion journal — was heavy on history, but the speakers also raised questions of contemporary significance.
The Rev. Richard John Neuhaus — a leading conservative intellectual, a former Lutheran pastor and the editor of the leading Catholic journal First Things — offered a surprising view on the question.
“To be a Catholic is not to be refused positions of influence in our society,” he said. “Indeed, one of the most acceptable things is to be a bad Catholic, and in the view of many people, the only good Catholic is a bad Catholic.”
Father Neuhaus dismissed the notion that anti-immigrant sentiment was related to anti-Catholicism, since many Latino immigrants to the United States are Catholic. (But he did note that the church, which has been strongly pro-immigrant, could be seen as having a vested interest in the immigration debate, since immigrants are a major source of members.)
He added that anti-Catholicism was as likely to come from the left — sometimes from commentators who believe that a “threatening theological insurgency is engineered and directed by Catholics,” with evangelical Protestants merely as the movement’s “foot soldiers.”
It was only during the question-and-answer session that the church’s child sexual-abuse scandal came up. Mr. Steinfels said the scandal put fundamental issues about “sexuality, celibacy and the priesthood” before the public, while Father Neuhaus received applause when he said that Catholic bishops should have responded early in the scandal by acknowledging the extent of the scandal and begging for forgiveness.