The New Anti-Catholicism: The Last Acceptable Prejudice

The New Anti-Catholicism: The Last Acceptable Prejudice

by Philip Jenkins

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Anti-Catholicism has a long history in America. And as Philip Jenkins argues in The New Anti-Catholicism, this virulent strain of hatred--once thought dead--is alive and well in our nation, but few people seem to notice, or care. A statement that is seen as racist, misogynistic, anti-Semitic, or homophobic can haunt a speaker for years, writes Jenkins, but it… See more details below


Anti-Catholicism has a long history in America. And as Philip Jenkins argues in The New Anti-Catholicism, this virulent strain of hatred--once thought dead--is alive and well in our nation, but few people seem to notice, or care. A statement that is seen as racist, misogynistic, anti-Semitic, or homophobic can haunt a speaker for years, writes Jenkins, but it is still possible to make hostile and vituperative public statements about Roman Catholicism without fear of serious repercussions. Jenkins shines a light on anti-Catholic sentiment in American society and illuminates its causes, looking closely at gay and feminist anti-Catholicism, anti-Catholic rhetoric and imagery in the media, and the anti-Catholicism of the academic world. For newspapers and newsmagazines, for television news and in movies, for major book publishers, the Catholic Church has come to provide a grossly stereotyped public villain. Catholic opinions, doctrines, and individual leaders are frequently the butt of harsh satire. Indeed, the notion that the church is a deadly enemy of women, the idea of Catholic misogyny, is commonly accepted in the news media and in popular culture, says Jenkins. And the recent pedophile priest scandal, he shows, has revived many ancient anti-Catholic stereotypes. It was said that with the election of John F. Kennedy, anti-Catholicism in America was dead. This provocative new book corrects that illusion, drawing attention to this important issue.

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Editorial Reviews

The Washington Post
Jenkins argues that a pronounced double standard takes hold when principally liberal-minded critics attack the church and Catholic beliefs. Scurrilous protests, such as the desecration of the Eucharist in New York's Saint Patrick's Cathedral by ACT-UP or the grotesque mockery of Catholic belief employed in Christopher Durang's "Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All to You," have few parallels among other religious or ethnic groups. Jenkins scores points by showing how objections raised by Catholics to insensitive depictions of the church or Catholics are written off as attempts to censor or as the reactions of yahoos. Movies and art insulting to black or Jewish sensibilities are viewed as more serious problems. — Paul Baumann
Publishers Weekly
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." (Apr. 20) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
The author of the acclaimed The Next Christendom: The Coming of the Global Christianity, Jenkins (history and religious studies, Pennsylvania State Univ.) here offers a thought-provoking and balanced analysis of prejudice against Catholics. Once a Catholic but now an Episcopalian, Jenkins thoroughly relates the historical foundation of anti-Catholicism in American culture with salient, illustrative events and scholarly insight. Having no vested interest in defending the Roman Catholic Church, he delicately confronts popular and even socially acceptable views that denigrate this segment of society, dissecting issues like the church's hatred with stunning new insight. The entire pedophile crisis associated with today's priesthood takes on a unique perspective in this important book. Honest, passionate, and convincing, it will cause the reader to reconsider basic assumptions. Some 30 pages of notes and bibliography add heft to this serious work. Highly recommended for all academic and public libraries.-John-Leonard Berg, Univ. of Wisconsin Lib., Platteville Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher

"A fascinating tale, exploring the depths of the consciousness of this country--diverse forces that weave together the history of the civilization that we share.... His prose is energetic, assertive and blessed with a crystalline coherence. Packed with historic detail and intricate referential material, it is nonetheless crisp and easy to read. This is a book of powerfully convincing fairness, of impressive scholarship and of extraordinary courage--Jenkins strips naked some of the most cherished hypocrisies of American ideologues from one extreme of the spectrum to the other."--Michael Pakenham, Baltimore Sun

"A provocative brief on some of the uglier prejudices lurking behind today's Catholic controversies.... Alerts readers to the forgotten history and persistence of anti-Catholic biases in American politics and culture."--Paul Baumann, The Washington Post

"A spirited account of how deep, pervasive, and multifaceted is the elite culture's animus toward the Catholic Church."--First Things

"A thought-provoking and balanced analysis of prejudice against Catholics.... Honest, passionate, and convincing, it will cause the reader to reconsider basic assumptions."--Library Journal

"Eye-opening and complacency shaking.... Jenkins examines liberal anti-Catholicism in chapters on whether 'The Church Hates Women' and 'The Church Kills Gays'; the treatment of Catholics and the church by news media, in the movies, and on TV; the current 'pedophile priest' crisis; and dissident Catholic historians' critique of Pope Pius XII's relations with the Third Reich."--Booklist (starred review)

"A serious look at the why anti-Catholicism is the 'last acceptable prejudice' in the United States--why opinion leaders of every sort of casually slam the Catholic Church when they wouldn't dream of slamming any other church or institution."--Our Sunday Visitor

"A long overdue dissection of the most protean prejudice in American history, The New Anti-Catholicism should challenge the complacent who imagine anti-Catholic bias to be confined to the nation's fever swamps. It should also (although it probably won't) cause a serious examination of conscience on the political left, where anti-Catholic canards are now epidemic. Emphatically not a book for Catholics only, The New Anti-Catholicism should be required reading in every newsroom in the country." --George Weigel, author of Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II, The Truth of Catholicism: Ten Controversies Explored, and The Courage to Be Catholic: Crisis, Reform, and the Future of the Church

"This is an astonishing book. Most of us get used to the contempt heaped upon the Catholic church by nice, liberal people (as if such contempt were only to be expected), so we stop thinking of it as the gross deformity of soul it is. Jenkins, once a Catholic but no longer, quietly amasses evidence about more types of prejudice and bigotry against Catholics than most of us are conscious of. He is particularly good at diagnosing 'the black legends' about Catholicism which everybody 'knows' are true-the Crusades, the Inquisition, 'silence' regarding the Holocaust-and the inner agitation of 'anti-Catholic Catholics,' who have internalized the world's contempt. A serious, original, provocative study." --Michael Novak, author of On Two Wings: Humble Faith and Common Sense at the American Founding

"There are few scholars in the nation better equipped to address the subject of anti-Catholicism than Philip Jenkins. That he has succeeded is indisputable. The New Anti-Catholicism is thorough, erudite, and convincing. I highly recommend it." --William A. Donohue, President, Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights

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