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
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.
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.