The American media, usually painstaking in their efforts to offend members of no racial, religious or gender category, consistently make one major exception-the Roman Catholic Church. So argues Jenkins, professor of history and religion at Penn State and a prolific author whose titles include Pedophiles and Priests and The New Christendom. Though anti-Catholicism arrived with the Pilgrims, only since the 1960s has it been aided by dissenters within the Catholic Church, primarily those who disagree with the church on sexual matters: birth control, feminism, abortion, homosexuality. Citing copious recent examples of anti-Catholicism in public protests, movies, television, publishing, the arts, the news media and academia, Jenkins concludes that offenses against Catholicism, unlike those against, say, Judaism or Islam, are rarely censored and never considered hate crimes. Similarly, historical offenses by Catholics are treated differently from those against Catholics: "If seizing Christian Syria and Palestine by the Muslim sword was acceptable in the seventh century, why was it so atrocious to try to reclaim them with the Christian lance 400 years later?" Jenkins, an Episcopalian, wants evenhanded treatment for all religions, whether through equal respect or equal openness to attack. Liberal Catholics may contend that vigorous dissent helps keep the hierarchy honest; others might argue that the largest American denomination does not need the protections afforded more vulnerable groups. For Jenkins, however, it's about fairness: "One does not make light of black heroes and martyrs, of AIDS or gay-bashing, yet when dealing with Catholics, no subject is off-limits."
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.