Anti-Catholicism in Entertainment
Father Martin is the author of several books, the latest of which is called "The Jesuit Guide to Almost Everything." His bestselling memoir "My Life with the Saints" was named one of the "Best Books of 2006" by Publishers Weekly. He also wrote "A Jesuit Off-Broadway: Center Stage with Jesus, Judas and Life's Big Questions," which was named one of Publishers Weekly's "Best Books of 2007."
Question: Why do you believe we have an anti-Catholicism problem in the entertainment industry?
James Martin: On the one hand are people who say that anti-Catholicism is just as bad and anti-Semitism or homophobia or racism. It’s not clearly. It’s not as virile and not as prevalent. On the other hand are people that say it doesn’t exist at all, but it does basically. I think a lot of portrayals of nuns and priests on TV and in the movies are stereotypical. You know post sex abuse crisis frequently when you see a priest show up on a TV cop show you know he is usually a pedophile. Nuns are usually portrayed as like ninnies basically or stupid. I mean I would say here are women who kind of built the Catholic healthcare system in the United States and ran universities and but when they come on TV they’re portrayed as being idiots basically, so there are some subtle anti-Catholicism in that. I think you know you hear people taking potshots at priests for being celibate or being pedophiles or being insane or whatever, so I think there is a lot of stuff that slides by you know on TV and in the movies that would never be allowed to happen with other groups. You know if you portrayed a rabbi or an Imam like that people would rightfully complain, but in a way I think because we live in a largely Protestant culture I think because of the sex abuse crisis and I think because of you know some suspicion about the Vatican and Catholic theology in a sense, anti-Catholicism is more acceptable. In fact, one person once called it the last acceptable prejudice, so it’s there, but I think we need to keep in sort of a context exactly what that means. It’s not a virile as some other stereotypes are, but it is present.
Question: Has it gotten better or worse over the past decade?
James Martin: I think it has gotten worse because of the sex abuse crisis. I think things are said about priests and celibacy which are stereotypes, so you take a very small population of priests who have committed these crimes then you magnify it and you say well that applies to all priests and you know I read stuff in mainstream newspapers and on TV and you hear jokes and things like that. As priest myself who keeps his vows, it’s offensive. And I often say to people: would you say this about rabbis? Would you say this about Imams? The answer is no, but somehow people think because of the sex abuse crisis it’s okay to stereotype all Catholics. All Catholics are like this, all Bishops are like this, all priests are like this-- which would never fly for any other religious group, so I just think it’s basically unfair.
Recorded on March 26, 2010
Anti-Catholicism is not as bad as some other prejudices are in our culture, but it is present.
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