The University of Minnesota’s theater department is staging a play called “The Pope and the Witch,” that includes defamatory portrayals of the Pope and blatantly anti-Catholic content. And that’s okay says the St. Paul Pioneer Press in its editorial. According to the editors, the play isn’t a threat to the Church. Well, of course it’s not a threat, but it’s offensive. We don’t think it will result in closing of churches, but it does result in continuing the lies and anger directed at the Church.
A play that portrays the mother of the editor of the Pioneer Press as a drug-addled whore is not a threat to her, but it should surely be offensive to her son.
Then, like defenders of a rapist, the editors claim that the Catholic Church brought such opprobrium and calumny down upon herself. They write, “Anti-Catholic sentiment (some of which the humans who run the church brought on themselves) is real.”
And their recommendation for how Catholics should respond is that we shouldn’t seek to shut down the play, but instead we should try to “reaffirm faith in the church, to affirm its ability to tolerate criticism, to stand strongly for the church’s best attributes.” Ah yes, and if a bigoted play were performed about blacks, Jews, or Muslims, would we tell those groups to keep a stiff upper lip and affirm the best about themselves? Of course not.
But those wily editors anticipated that rejoinder.
In its protest of the play, the Catholic League argues that we, as a newspaper or as a society, would never countenance similar free expression if it instead targeted, say, blacks, gays, Jews or Muslims.
The fact is, we as a society do countenance such expression, or, at the least, tolerate it. It happens all the time. Public response to it is influenced partly by public perception of power: He who has more is in a better position to take a punch. It’s that power that attracts artistic critique.
The reality is that they would never countenance such a thing. And because Catholics don’t riot at the drop of a hat, we’re told to suck it up and move on.
Such bravery. I wonder how brave they really are? Did the St. Paul Pioneer Press publish the Mohammed cartoons at the height of the protests in order to defend free expression? Would the University of Minnesota sponsor a play called “Mohammed and the Witch,” that portrayed Mohammed in an unflattering light? Anti-Catholicism is not brave or daring. It’s old and pedestrian. Cowards, the lot of them for striking someone who will not strike back.
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