MEDIA DISSENT: Is the Catholic League Homophobic?
The League Is Silent on Defamation of New York's Archbishop Egan
Philip Nobile is the editor of Judgment at the Smithsonian, which
printed the banned Smithsonian script on the 50th anniversary
of the Bombs of August in 1995.
The most ferocious media watchdog in the business is William Donohue, the president and commander-in-chief of the New York-based Catholic League For Religious and Civil Rights. Donohue defends his faith with a pugnacity unseen since the Third Crusade. Whether attacking Vanity Fair for excerpting Hitler's Pope or passing out vomit bags in front of the Brooklyn Museum of Art to protest the "Sensation" exhibit, he is more Roman than the curia.
"Smooth in manner, but firm on the issue" is his motto.
Anti-Catholicism, real or imagined, is his beat. Mention the Church's arcane laws against masturbation, and he responds with a reference to Orthodox Jews who "cut a hole in the sheet and have sex." That's smooth. Suggest that Christian theology needs work, and he replies, "If you don't like the Catholic Church's teaching on sex, rape or genocide, then don't join the damn Church." That's firm.
Donohue is also a busy warrior. On any given day, he may dash off a letter to Fox about "The Simpsons," or blast the United States Holocaust Museum for linking the Church's traditional anti-Semitism to the Shoah, or come to the aid of a chaste Air Force officer who refused orders to serve alone in a missile silo with a tempting female soldier.
Despite the freaky Catholic stuff, I have always admired Donohue for his pluck. He may be a polemical ear-biter, but I have never known him to duck a fight for his beloved Church -- until now. Inexplicably, the two-fisted soldier of Christ has washed his hands of a nationally broadcast defamation of Edward Egan, Archbishop of New York. Extremely sensitive to ridicule of Catholic figures (don't get him started on the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence), Donohue would normally pounce on a portrayal of the Archbishop as a bigoted, dirty-old-man whose shtick included cracks about fellatio, pedophilia, prostitution, and homosexuals. But not this time. After reading the transcript of a September 22nd Egan parody on "Imus in the Morning" -- written and performed by producer Bernard McGuirk -- Donohue did not blow his stack. Instead, uncharacteristically, he went limp and silent, letting his Archbishop twist in a vat of sleazy sex.
Perhaps the messenger was the problem. The transcript came from Andy Humm, a writer and longtime gay agitator. Although the ex-Catholic Humm is no friend of the Church, he figured that Donohue might join him in some fashion to denounce McGuirk's parody. After all, the Church was now officially a Friendly Acquaintance of Dorothy. Despite the Vatican's go-to-hell attitude toward homosexual practice, the new Catechism says that gays "must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided." Because the parody trashed both the Archbishop and, in the Archbishop's voice, the gay brethren, Humm hoped to find common ground with the Catholic League.
What was so awful about the parody? (Click here for the full text.) If you were Donohue, you might offended initially by McGuirk's get-up -- an inverted Federal Express envelope on the head mimicking the Archbishop's miter. And then the deluge of vulgar lines:
BISHOP EGAN: Nobody has the right to make fun of a man who broke eight ribs, broke a collar bone, collapsed a lung, busted up an arm and a bone popped through his skin, ah, bejeesus will you look at this, I'm getting a boner, will you look at this for God's sake? [Laughter.] Down, boy, down.
IMUS: Bishop Egan, this is uncalled for.
BISHOP EGAN: Let me just say now that you're back in New York, Imus in the Morn', safely here, let's make sure of one thing, you don't fall off when you mouth Chuck McCord back in the newsroom, bejeesus. [Laughter.] ... Let me say this, Imus-in-the-Morn'. It's great to see NBC's Olympics ratings goin' down faster than a De-troit crack ho, I tell you that. Surely it warms the cockles of me heart to see NBC's Dick Ebersol do a Greg Louganis off the terrace of his Sydney highrise hotel while his Asian hooker looks on screamin' and sobbin' hysterically, Imus in the Morn'. ... Ever watch the tight wee little girls in gymnastics and think impure thoughts?
BISHOP EGAN: Legs and heinies flyin' all over the place, bejeesus. [Laughter.] What is the answer now?
IMUS: I said no.
BISHOP EGAN: So it's only when the wee muscular little fellas in the men's gymnastics you get a little tingly over, Imus in the Morn', is that it?
But far more offensive to Humm's ear was McGuirk's homophobic doggerel: "So the hell with the I-Man/Wrinkled up old fag/ We'll soon drink champagne/When he wears a toe-tag."
What should have been an easy call for Donohue -- he had nothing to lose by showing solidarity with Humm -- became a shutout. Choosing the Bad Samaritan route, he did not return Humm's call. Nor would he speak to me, though I heard from his lieutenant, Patrick Scully. "The parody does not rise to level where the Catholic League would go after it," said Scully. "It was unfortunate, but we have to prioritize."
"You mean it's not worth a phone call?" I asked.
"Don't put words in my mouth," he replied.
"Well, is it worth a phone call?" I asked.
"I said it doesn't rise to the level where the League would go after it," he snapped.
And the Archbishop, where does he stand? How does he feel about being turned into roast act and homophobic stooge by Imus? I sent the transcript to Egan's spokesman, Joseph Zwilling. Four weeks later, Swilling called to say that the Archbishop had read the parody and would have no comment. Zwilling reminded me that Egan's predecessor, John O'Connor, had likewise kept quiet about McGuirk's parodies of him, which had the same anti-gay content.
What is behind this un-Christlike conduct? The Catholic League is wily enough and the archdiocese of New York powerful enough to pressure Imus into dropping the bigoted parodies. Egan could do it with a single fax cc'ed to a few high places. If McGuirk wrote "jewboy" or "Sambo" into the Archbishop's script, that fax would be sent quicker than you can say Immaculate Conception. But "fag" seems to be different. If anti-Catholicism is the anti-Semitism of the intellectuals, then homophobia lingers as the anti-Semitism of Catholics.
SUBTEXT: McGuirk performed his second Egan parody on October 20th with the same anti-gay slant:
EGAN: What do vaginas, penises, gays, lesbians, baseball and wrestling with little boys all have in common? ... You drugged-up old faggot [unintelligible], bejesus. ... By the way, you want to hear pussy talk? Then turn into "Imus in the Morn." Bejesus, God forgive me. ... Melissa Etheridge ... divorcing lesbians with children ... continuing to keep their bushes separate. ... Isn't this just lovely, Imus in the Morn'? There's that new gay cable channel coming out, no pun intended, bejesus. I kid you not, of all the nauseating things, an all gay channel. Soon your kids will be able to tune into Channel 69, the Dickelodeon Channel, be treated on their big screen TV to the sight of a big hairy ass, bejesus.
Published: Oct 25 2000