TV producer-writer David E. Kelley liked the Catholic scandal grist so much that he thrived on it with two episodes of ABC's "The Practice" and another couple of episodes of Fox's "Boston Public." While clerical sexual abuse is never right, neither is sex between teachers and students, or between teachers and students' parents, but those have been regular plotlines on "Boston Public," with a lot less moral condemnation from Kelley.
HBO's "Sex in the City" is thankfully on its last legs, or to be more precise, its characters are in their last few beds. Last summer, the series featured this anti-Catholic poison in one plot: the boyfriend of red-headed single mom Miranda insists on baptizing the child to reassure his Irish Catholic mother, who's stereotypically depicted as not only afflicted by rigid religious prejudices, but also as marinated in alcohol. Miranda, as one of the show's so-hip female leads, demanded there be no mention of Christianity in the sacrament. This makes no sense, but this is Hollywood, where the ridiculous is allowed. The central character of the show then joked that Miranda was surprised the priest was so flexible, but "the truth is, in these troubled times, the Catholic Church is like a desperate 36-year-old single woman, willing to settle for anything it can get." It's sad that HBO is so desperate to punch Catholics in the teeth for a lame giggle.
Faithful Catholics took blows below the belt from standup comedians, too. On CBS, David Letterman jokingly compared Catholics to the Mafia: "The Gambino crime family will probably fall apart. That will make the largest crime organization in the city ... the Catholic Church!" On NBC, Jay Leno joked about a Notre Dame football victory: "I guess going to a Catholic school as a young boy, you really learn how to run fast."
In a separate category of meanness was the unmissed Bill Maher, who was still blasting away in 2002 on ABC's "Politically Incorrect." Days before the show was canceled, Maher was blunt: "I have hated the Church way before anyone else. I have been pounding religion for nine years on this show." Three days later, he suggested the Church should just "drop the pretense and just go gay ... It's high time you gay Catholics stood up and announced to the world, "We're here, we're queer, get Eucharist.'"
Students learn in history class that America in the 19th century was rife with anti-Catholic bigotry. It's time they're told it's still alive and kicking in the 21st century. Just turn on the TV.