Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Politically Correct Prejudice

Don Sterling, the 80 year-old owner of an NBA basketball team, only had to make a private racial remark to his young girlfriend and the punishment was swift and severe. The National Basketball Association (NBA) banned him for life and the league will try to force him to sell the team worth almost a billion dollars.

 Immediately after the attack on the American embassy in Benghazi, the Obama administration, including then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, blamed it on an inflammatory anti-Moslem video posted by some man in California. Even though the Administration knew the video was not the cause of the terror attack, it still threw the poor guy in jail.

However, anti-Catholicism is the oldest and still most pervasive prejudice in America. In the 1920s the three Ks in KuKluxKlan stood for Jews, Blacks, and Catholics (Kikes, Koons, Katholics). Today, the first two are treated as if they were endangered species but it is still open season on Catholics. The popularity of a film like “Philomena” confirms the theory that anti-Catholicism is practically the only prejudice that political correctness allows and even encourages.

The film is based very loosely on the story of a young woman who has a child out of wedlock in Ireland in the 1950s. In the film her baby is taken from her and then “sold” to the highest bidder, an American couple, for adoption. The film then goes on to recount the attempt of Philomena to find her lost child by traveling to America years later. Despite the very flattering reviews, it would appear that the film is a pack of lies. Philomena, along with two sisters, was placed in the orphanage by her father on the death of their mother. Later, when she became pregnant, her baby was not taken from her but put up for adoption. The baby was not sold to the highest bidder as the film claims. The American couple made a donation to the orphanage but the nuns never charged for adoptions. Moreover, Philomena never went to America to find her son. She only traveled to America last year to promote the film either for fame or fortune.

Catholic nuns and priests have been fair game in the entertainment industry for years. G. K. Chesterton was perhaps the greatest Christian apologist of the early twentieth century. Even before he converted to Catholicism after the First World War, books like “Orthodoxy” and “The Everlasting Man” had established him as the determined proponent of the common sense of Christianity, and the equally determined opponent of all the crazy notions of his own time. It was he who coined the phrase, “when men cease to believe in God, they will believe in anything.”

In addition to his religious, literary, and political writings Chesterton also turned his great talents to poetry and detective fiction. His Fr. Brown became one of the first in a long line of well-know fictional detectives. Fr. Brown was an unlikely sleuth. He was a quiet, well-educated Catholic priest who would never be taken for a crime solver. Chesterton’s point, however, was that though Fr. Brown looked innocent and un-worldly, his knowledge of human nature, gained largely in the confession box, enabled him to see what the professionals could not.

This year my wife and I have been watching a BBC series based loosely on Chesterton’s priest detective. It is a good watch although this Fr. Brown is a far cry from Chesterton’s original creation.*  However, the other day we watched an episode that Chesterton would never have imagined, and that sadly represented a particular modern bias.

This episode involved two murders in a convent of nuns. Briefly, a young attractive novice drops dead of cyanide poisoning at the ceremony where she is to take her vows. Then, an unlikeable old nun is also found poisoned. The old nun was portrayed, in what has become stereotypical fashion, as an incredibly, intolerant martinet. Not only does she force novices to lie prostrate on the ground before her, but she also is disobedient and insubordinate to her own mother superior whom she regards with thinly disguised contempt.

It is this stereotype that films like Philomena thrive on. Of course, the attack on the nuns at the Irish orphanage is part of an attack on Catholicism in Ireland as well as an attack on the Catholic Church itself. The penalty for such prejudice was an Academy Award nomination for Philomena and its star, Judi Dench.

Over 60 years ago I graduated from a Catholic elementary school staffed by nuns of the Dominican order. Although they seemed terribly old to me at the time, I later discovered that most of them were young and still taking college courses.  I guess that there were some rotten apples in the barrel but I never met one. Only years later did I discover that despite their youth and inexperience they managed classrooms of more than 50 students with grace, dignity and order. My classmates and I came from immigrant families that did not value education very highly. The nuns were our first glimpse of a larger world. I also came to realize that these nuns had given their lives for us. I believe that the same must have been true of most of the Irish nuns who took orphans under their care and found good homes for them.


* An earlier British Fr. Brown series starring Kenneth More gives a depiction of the priest much truer to Chesterton's original.

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