This morning I caught part of the Catholic League president Bill Donohue’s CNN interview with Chris Cuomo. Bill Donohue is always in sledgehammer mode, no doubt about it. I’ve often thought he would serve his cause better by being more nuanced. That said, it was really and truly amazing to see how terrible Cuomo behaved. Excerpt from the CNN website report:
CUOMO: First simple question, do you agree with the shift in focus that the pope is outlining.
DONOHUE: … The Catholic Church is not about homosexuality, abortion, the poor, or the environment. It’s about salvation. And people are tied up in these little micro issues on the left and the right, and we’ve lost the focus of what the Catholic Church should be about. It’s a change in tone, it’s a change in style, but is not a doctrinal change in substance. That also should be noted.
CUOMO: I feel like this may count as the pope’s first miracle. To hear you saying these things is going to be very shocking. Because it really sounds like you’re one of the people he’s sending this message to, to be fair, Mr. Donohue, isn’t it? I mean, you have bashed on these issues for years and years, most infamously recently saying that the church had a homosexual problem, not a pedophile problem. I mean really incendiary, flagrant, divisive stuff.
DONOHUE: Well you see, Chris, let me just say that — (CROSSTALK)
CUOMO: Are you saying you won’t do that anymore?
DONOHUE: Oh, no. I will always tell the truth. If 81 percent of the victims — (CROSSTALK)
CUOMO: That wasn’t the truth.
DONOHUE: If 81 percent of the victims are male and 100 percent of the victimizers are male, and if 78 percent of the victims are post- pubescent. The word in the English language is not pedophilia, it’s called homosexuality.CUOMO: No. It would be called — ephebophilia. That is when you attack people who are in their teens. (CROSSTALK)
DONOHUE: That’s not even a – that’s not a clinical term. That’s a made up term to make people feel good.
CUOMO: You know very well you cannot find a pedophile in any prison anywhere who will say that that they’re homosexual. It’s never been about homosexuality, it’s been about criminals and wrong acts. And this is your chance to say you won’t do it anymore. The pope is asking you to.(CROSSTALK)
DONOHUE: When men have sex with adolescent men, it’s called homosexuality. It is not pedophilia. John Jay College of Criminal Justice is not a conservative right wing organization. Less than 5 percent of the priests involved in molestation are pedophiles. I will never stop telling the truth, and the pope never said we should either. I’m against gay bashing. To say that because you’re gay you’re going to be a molester —
CUOMO: That is exactly what it sounds like.
DONOHUE: No, no, no. If most of the molesters are gay, that is true. It is not true that most gay priests are molesters. That is a gay- bashing comment. People have to make critical distinctions.
I have nothing against gay people any more than I do against straight people. I do have against molesters. Whether they’re straight or gay makes no difference to me, but I’m not going to lie about the figures. What I just said about the figures is absolutely true, it’s not negotiable.
CUOMO: Well, but that’s the problem. Isn’t it? Because —
CUOMO: — there are so many who would say not only is it negotiable, but it’s irrational, what you’re saying, because you have so many people –
DONOHUE: Explain it to John Jay then (INAUDIBLE). They just made it up, I guess. Do you think I made up those figures, Chris?
CUOMO: I think you’re parsing them. I think you’re cherry-picking them and I think that the most important part is your motivation. You just heard what the pope said.
DONOHUE: The pope didn’t say —
CUOMO: Why wouldn’t you try to move past the parsing rhetoric and try to be what your church is supposed to be about?
DONOHUE: This is a problem with the left. They’re trying to take what he says and then run with it like “The New York Times” said, the bishops are on the defensive because they’re concerned about abortion, contraception, homo — and gay rights or gay marriage.
No, no, no, the Obama administration is the one that is foisting this on the bishops. The bishops are reacting. They will continue — there’s nothing that Pope Francis has said that would give any relief to these people who are saying all of a sudden now the conservatives should shut up. We’re not going to shut up because we’re in constant compliance with the pope says.
CUOMO: He’s saying the word “Catholic” means “universal.”
DONOHUE: Yes, that’s right.
CUOMO: He says the rule of the religion is love.
DONOHUE: That’s right.
CUOMO: Not to cherry-pick statistics and blame homosexuals for being pedophiles.
DONOHUE: Who ever said that?
CUOMO: Look —
DONOHUE: Who – who said that homosexuals are pedophiles? Did I say that?
CUOMO: The suggestion is all of this was consensual because of the age of the victims.
DONOHUE: Consensual? When people get raped it’s not consensual. Look, as far as I’m concerned the Catholic Church didn’t handle this right. I would have put these guys in the slammer a long time ago. Instead, they just think they can reform them. They send them off to the psychiatrist. That’s plain stupidity.
CUOMO: There are few who will disagree with that. The way the church handled the situation is a large part of the stain on the church right now. It is the discussion of homosexuality and the blame of them as somehow predatory, that is what —
DONOHUE: I’ll say it again.
CUOMO: Your pope telling you not to say –
CUOMO: This is what your pope is telling you.
DONOHUE: Most of the molesting priests were gay, and most gay priests are not molesters.
DONOHUE: I think people who —
CUOMO: Stop there.
DONOHUE: But I’ve been — that’s all I’ve ever said!
CUOMO: Who says the molesters were gay?
DONOHUE: I’m telling you, if —
CUOMO: Who says the molesters were gay?
DONOHUW: They weren’t girls, and they weren’t —
CUOMO: Who says the molesters are gay?
DONOHUE: If a man has sex with a man, what do you call that?
CUOMO: He could be a deviant pedophile and a sick person. He could be a rapist.
DONOHUE: Not if the kid is 18, 17, 16 years of age. A rapist could be straight or gay, I’ll give you that much.
CUOMO: Being homosexual doesn’t make you predatory.
DONOHUE: You’re running away – look you’re trying to say that anybody who points out the obvious, that the Catholic Church had a homosexual scandal, therefore, you’re anti-gay. This is absurd.
CUOMO: Mr. Donohue, we both know that what is obvious here is that the pope is asking you not to focus on these things.
DONOHUE: He didn’t ask me to shut up about the truth.
I urge you to follow the link in the first graf and watch the entire interview. Cuomo’s journalism here was atrocious. But I think this episode gives us a sense of how the Pope’s interview is going to be used, both by the media and by many liberals, both within the Catholic church and outside of it: to suppress any narrative with which they disagree. Hey, the Pope told you to shut up about these things, didn’t he? Well, no, he didn’t. Bill Donohue is right. But the indignant Cuomo would rather Catholics like Bill Donohue shut up about these things, and now they are going to claim papal warrant for it. If you dissent from the liberal line, you are disobeying the pope, they will say. People who don’t want to hear what the Church has to say about these controversial issues will now feel they have license to ignore the Church and to work to silence others. Donohue has a lot more nuanced and fact-based stance on the Pope’s message than Chris Cuomo does, but Cuomo treated him like he was a blustering idiot. Notice especially that Cuomo, when unable to refute the facts Donohue brought up, went after him on his supposed motivation.
That’s not journalism. It has always been very hard for orthodox Catholics to get a fair hearing in the mainstream media. Now it will be impossible, I am certain.
UPDATE: Look, I will not let the comments thread turn into refighting the sex abuse scandal. I’m interested in what the absurd interview Cuomo subjected Donohue to tells us about how US culture, and the American media, and liberals, will receive and use the Pope’s message. Let’s focus on that. I’m not going to post comments that try to re-argue the abuse scandal and its roots.