The dictionary defines prejudice as premature judgment: making a decision before becoming aware of the relevant facts of a case or event. Some forms of prejudice are fading; racism being the primary and obvious example. The backlash against prejudice is so intense it has spurred its opposite, the call toward tolerance.
But for one sector, prejudice remains intact. It is perfectly acceptable to spew intolerance against Christians in general and Catholics in particular. But the bonanza of prejudice is reserved for Catholic priests.
In our sex-drenched society, the idea of a single man taking an oath of lifelong celibacy sounds sacrificial to the point of freakish. The world says abstinence is impossible, and pledging abstinence is ridiculous. So when the crisis over child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church erupted, it didn't matter that a tiny minority of unfaithful priests (and their supervisors) had betrayed the faithful. Hollywood and other champions of unbridled lust broke out the prejudice, smearing all Catholic priests as stunted at best, and predatory at worst.
Many assume priests are miserable in their celibacy. That's dead wrong. A Los Angeles Times survey completed in the midst of abuse scandals in 2002 found that 93 percent of more than 1,800 priests surveyed said that they'd become priests if they had to choose their careers again. Only two percent said that they would probably leave the priesthood. In general, priests are more likely to find happiness in their life's work than doctors, lawyers, teachers and even married Protestant clergy.
The tidal wave of outrage inside and outside the Catholic world is long past its peak, but Hollywood keeps whipping on priests as sexually retarded. Two examples emerged within four days of each other recently.
On the Feb. 12 edition of the NBC sitcom "30 Rock," the gags were flying when the show's capitalist-pig character, Jack Donaghy (played by Alec Baldwin), was dragged to Mass on Valentine's Day by his devout Latina girlfriend (Salma Hayek).The lowlight was his trip to the confessional. Before the priest, he refused any opportunity to express remorse for his comically flagrant sins, even as he listed them for several minutes. When he described to the priest the glorious earthly delights of romancing a woman, the priest had enough, charging out of the confessional, a very frustrated and unhappy man. "Harvard didn't prepare me for this!" he lamented.