Can you mock a religion in public and slough it off as "just a joke?" Writer Larry Doyle thinks so.
On February 24th, the Huffington Post published a piece on its Comedy page entitled "The Jesus-Eating Cult of Rick Santorum." The author of the post is Larry Doyle, a writer with credits on such serious TV dramas as The Simpsons, Beavis & Butt-Head, and Looney Tunes.
Mr. Doyle initially promoted the post on his Twitter feed this way.
I'm guessing that tweet did not drive enough traffic to the site, so Doyle followed up with another tweet, using a more offensive and incendiary headline.
That tweet lit a fire and traffic has been buzzing to HuffPo and his story.
I have read the post (and Doyle's non-apology apology). My initial response was one of non-surprise. We so often see people trashing/mocking someone or something after they have broken away from that person or thing, do not understand it, or are afraid that it is gaining influence in their world. Perhaps all three conditions exist here.
So what's so offensive?
The headline for starters.
"The Jesus-Eating Cult of Rick Santorum" -- In just a few words, a leading candidate for the GOP presidential slot is being called a cannibal and a cult member.
Doyle then launches into his brutal attacks on Catholics. He describes the faith as a "so-called church" and also refers to it as the "tactical arm of the North American Man-Boy Love Association" (NAMBLA).
But he then takes a curious detour: he makes certain that the reader knows that his "wisdom" on the topic comes from experience. So wise is he, though, that he was clever enough to free himself from Catholicism:
As a former member of same sect (an Irish-Catholic, the worst kind), I have read the texts, participated in the rites, and even seen behind the curtain, as it were, as a one-time altar boy, so help me. I managed to escape, but then, Santorum is in much deeper than I ever was.
Doyle says clearly that he is a "former member" and yet, once criticism started piling up on his Twitter feed, he quickly reverted to the old excuse of saying, "but I'm one of YOU... that makes it okay for me to attack:"
He did say that he is a "former member" and "managed to escape," didn't he? So which is it? Is he Catholic or not?
Let's get back to the initial post and more of the offensive slurs.
Doyle claims that he has discovered a "possible connection between the Roman Catholic Church pedophile program and NAMBLA, which I discovered after conducting some research on the internet."
That's quite an unsubstantiated statement. A possible connection? Nothing is specified. No sources, no story links, no dates. Just a smear associating the Catholic Church with one of the most offensive groups known to man.
He also calls Pope Benedict XVI "a former Nazi." (That's a slam popular with the Left, as witnessed by a Blaze item published last October when Susan Sarandon said something similar. We showed the accusation is disingenuous.)
Doyle wraps his humor piece with the following:
Need I remind you that only once in our great history has a Roman Catholic been elected president, and how tragically it ended?
Nothing says funny like the assassination of a President. Bad taste aside, what's the suggestion there?
Understandably, Catholics and people of faith have responded to Doyle's post (including Irish-Catholics who do not consider themselves to be "the worst kind"). Many are demanding an apology from HuffPo honcho Arianna Huffington. The list of offended faithful includes Bill Donohue of the Catholic League:
These people may be threatened by Catholicism, but what gives them the chills are babies. And they really flip over couples like the Santorums and the Palins who don’t abort their disabled children.
Mr. Donohue's response drew fire from Larry Doyle in his "apology." He dismissed Donohue by referring to the well-respected president of the Catholic League as, "the official fake spokesman for the Church through his League of Extraordinary Catholics or whatever it's called..."
Following the wave of demands for an apology, four days after posting his attack on Santorum and Catholics this headline appeared on the site:
In other words, Doyle was not apologizing. And he was clear about it from the start: "Actually, I'm not sorry at all, but I suppose an explanation is in order."
He tried to calm the waters, explaining:
My criticism took the form of a ridiculously over-the-top broadside against Roman Catholicism, a demonstration of the type of vicious religious ignorance and intolerance I too often see coming from too many so-called Christians, especially Santorum.
Larry Doyle is at least accurate in his characterization of his work as a "type of vicious religious ignorance and intolerance..." I just can't seem to find any examples of Rick Santorum being vicious, ignorant or intolerant when it comes to the faith of others. Santorum is a practicing Catholic who wants to be able to follow his faith as his Church sees fit.
"Larry Doyle's recent anti-Catholic screed in the Huffington Post, 'The Jesus-Eating Cult of Rick Santorum,' is bigoted and unacceptable, and a perfect example of 'flame-throwing, name-calling, and simplistic attack dog rhetoric,'" a group of conservative leaders said in a letter to Arianna Huffington.
"His column should be taken off your site, and you should issue an apology for ever publishing such trash."
"Bigots like Doyle think they can hurl the most contemptible insults towards Catholics ('Jesus eaters') and when called out, claim it was just a joke. What cowardice. What a double standard," the letter says later.
"If such an article was written concerning the Islamic or Jewish faith, the public outcry would be overwhelming, and rightly so. But anti-Catholicism is the last acceptable form of bigotry, and The Huffington Post is taking advantage of that bigotry for all it's worth."
The letter is signed by Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List and Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, among others.
What do you think? Is this a comedy writer just trying to be over-the-top, or did he cross a line? And are conservative leaders right to demand an actual apology?