For example, both ABC's "The Practice" and CBS's "Without a Trace" had adulterous-priest plotlines. CBS's "Cold Case" featured an abusive convent where one of the nuns bore a child out of wedlock. In CBS's "Judging Amy," a minister beat a boy with a whip, and on a later episode, a Catholic priest underwent a sex-change operation.
The Catholic Church was singled out for abuse by Tinseltown this past year. Even on NBC's "Last Comic Standing," the reality show and comedian contest, several "Catholic" comics mocked the Pope and the church. Tammy Pescatello joked, "It's a good time to be Catholic 'cause we're grading on a curve. As long as you're not touching pee pees you got a get-out-of-hell-free card. That poor Pope. If he could stand up, he'd stab those priests with his hat, don't you think?"
Unsurprisingly, the shows on the Pax network, which Bud Paxson founded to stand apart from the others with a more reverent schedule, were more than 90 percent positive in their religion treatments, and a small number were mixed or neutral, without a single negative exchange on religious issues. Among the more traditional networks, CBS (the "Joan of Arcadia" network) led with the most positive religion portrayals, with 38.3 percent.
On the other end was NBC, which could only manage to have 4.8 percent of its religious moments turn out positive. NBC had a shocking ratio of 9.5 negative treatments for every positive one.
NBC spokeswoman Shannon Jacobs tried to argue that "It is never our intention to appear, nor do we accept the notion that we are, anti-religious." Unfortunately for her, the Associated Press story quoting her also noted a clip from NBC's "Will & Grace" featuring a character quipping, "let's go by that historic church and turn it into a gay bar." It is impossible for NBC to convince very many people that this scene was not mocking religion. Perhaps when NBC states it "reflects the diversity of their audience," it means giving credibility to those who would insult religion.
Religion continues to serve as a critical element in the lives of most Americans. Hollywood must be challenged to examine its conscience. Ironically, the more often entertainment programs reflect the values and beliefs of Americans, the more it would help Hollywood's most sacred idea -- the bottom line.