Entertainment television relishes salacious current events, so much so that countless hours of fictional television are brazenly advertised as "ripped from the headlines."
That doesn't mean TV entertainment sees a responsibility to be fair. Quite the opposite. Oftentimes, drama and comedy writers shape events like clay to fit their own Hollywood prejudices.
These prejudices can accumulate into a toxic pattern. The year 2002 was a terrible year for the Catholic Church in the United States, and a year in which some church officials deserved everyone's harshest rebukes. While the overwhelming majority of Catholics -- and particularly their parish priests -- were not just innocent of abusive crimes, but strived to be good, the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights noticed that they were all still cannon fodder for dark dramatic scripts, nasty comedy plots and tasteless jokes.
This is more than broad religious bigotry. This is specific anti-Catholicism. The league reports that since September 11, 2001, no television dramas have painted Muslims with a broad brush as a religion full of terrorists and haters. But Catholics weren't that lucky -- they saw not only their priests mocked, but their beliefs mocked on TV shows last year.
The examples are too numerous. The CBS drama "Family Law" featured an episode with a priest who found he'd fathered a child before taking his vows. As the lawyers on the show debated whether the priest should now raise the child, Tony Danza's character suggested, "Maybe the kid would be better off without all that superstitious crap screwing her up."
The thankfully short-lived ABC series "The Job" premiered with a detective dressed as a priest and a stripper dressed as a nun. The "hot nun" was shown disrobing in front of a set of detectives, and then putting her foot in the crotch of both male and female detectives during an interrogation. The "priest" abused the confessional by squeezing information out of a thief who stole from the collection basket. A monsignor was then portrayed as caring more about the sanctity of his own reputation than of the confessional.
Imagine a prime-time ABC episode dedicated to a stripping rabbi or a dishonest imam. All one can do is imagine, because it would never -- could never -- happen. That
would be wrong.