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Bill Donohue: (gay) adoption doesn't count

When Laurie Goodstein wrote in the New York Times about the Catholic Church's attempt to compel SNAP to release its records, she got "no comment" from the church's lawyers and personnel. So, like any journalist with a deadline, she turned to "William Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, a church advocacy group in New York," for his take:

Mr. Donohue said leading bishops he knew had resolved to fight back more aggressively against the group: The bishops have come together collectively. I cant give you the names, but theres a growing consensus on the part of the bishops that they had better toughen up and go out and buy some good lawyers to get tough. We dont need altar boys.He said bishops were also rethinking their approach of paying large settlements to groups of victims. The church has been too quick to write a check, and I think they've realized it would be a lot less expensive in the long run if we fought them one by one, Mr. Donohue said.

He can't give you the names, but man, if he could, you'd be so totally impressed, because Donohue is on the inside track! This was followed by a quote from USCCB spokesperson Sr. Mary Ann Walsh insisting that Donohue was wrong and "there is no national strategy." When I read that article, I thought, "Given how eager he is to use them to get attention for himself, perhaps the bishops will learn to be wary of embracing Donohue and lending him credibility as an 'advocate' for their cause." A week later, Archbishop Dolan wrote a post on his blog on the New York archdiocesan website linking to a "report" on the SNAP story by "Catholic League president William A. Donohue, Ph.D." (Italics his.) So much for that.

I mention all this because today, the resolutely crude political satire blog Wonkette took notice of a recent tweet from Donohue, from which blogger Rebecca Schoenkopf drew the joking conclusion that "Catholics Are Against Adoption Now." Attempting to defend Mitt Romney's wife from CNN commentator Hilary Rosen, who said something dumb about Ann Romney never having "worked a day in her life," the Catholic League responded:had to adopt

I'm pleased that Wonkette's Schoenkopf referred to Donohue as "head of the fringe rightwing group the Catholic League," rather than inflating his significance or influence (as he surely would prefer). But it's hard for me to protest when people like Goodstein go to Donohue for comment on the bishops' behalf, considering the pats on the back he keeps getting from people who actually are significant and influential -- like the president of the USCCB and archbishop of the diocese in which Donohue is based. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who surely ought to know better, gives Donohue friendly cover on a regular basis. "I am glad to express my encouragement for the work he does," Dolan wrote in 2010. "Keep at it, Bill! We need you!"

Bill Donohue does much of that work via Twitter. I hadn't seen the Catholic League's Twitter feed before today (my exposure to most of its output is via fax), but in that venue, Donohue devotes a great deal of his attention and time to promoting homophobia for its own sake. Some recent observations:lesbians!and:cuteAnd this came just before his tweet about Hilary Rosen:bikini wax(Psst: I think he means the gays.)

Is it for the sake of defending religious liberty that Donohue scours every edition of the New York Times for evidence that those awful homosexuals are at it again ("it" being, apparently, existing)? This ugly obsession -- expressed at times in relation to the Catholic Church and at other times simply as a hobby, but always under the banner of the "Catholic League" -- should be enough to keep any bishop from embracing Donohue and his "advocacy." Apparently it isn't. But surely the tweet Wonkette noticed today qualifies as a PR problem. Not for Donohue, of course, for whom any attention is good ("Glad to know Hilary's fans are in a state of apoplexy," he later tweeted, completely missing the point as usual: "You'd think she was outed by their hysterical reaction. Get over it and grow up"), but for the church he loves to claim to speak for. The man is so intent on attacking gays that he is now attacking adoptive parenting in general, just because it's something that gay people do. Is that really something Catholics "need"?

About the Author

Mollie Wilson O'Reilly is an editor at large and columnist at Commonweal.



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Donahue represents the worst elements of us who are Irish and Catholic. He dreams up his dribble in the land of stale beer and broken toilets.

Mollie, Criticizing a New York Times reporter for turning to Dr. Donohue for answers is strange, imho. Dr. Donohue is quoted frequently and at length by the Cardinal Archbishop of New York, as you point out, so why should Laurie Goodstein shun him?Imagining that a person operating under the aegis of a Prince of the Church is on the "fringe" makes no sense.Criticizing Dr. Donohue for expressing hatred for gays when his ecclesiastical patrons send money raised in their dioceses to other dioceses to fight gay marriage, etc., is strange, too.As for adoption, the Church's history of separating babies from their mothers because no men legitimized the children, concealing records from adult adoptees, including the saints' names they were given in the sacrament of baptism, etc., is shameful. Has Commonweal ever editorialized on those issues?

"We dont need altar boys.Well, that's a change for the better, isn't it?Thanks, Bill.

I can't believe he never heard of Adrienne Rich.

Well, Irene, she doesn't come up much in those macho Irish pubs...

I don't twitter, but seeing these crude insults in the name of the "Cathollic League" -- even as conservative or reactionary as it may be -- is still amazing. Anybody ever want to talk about reaction formation?

Follow the money

I'm saddened, but not surprised. Officials from the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis recently took a similar anti-adoption line at an assembly at a Catholic high school promoting the anti-marriage amendment. It is a natural if despicable line of defense to take when someone counters their marriage is for children line by pointing out that gay couples can adopt children. I'm curious what the response of the pro-life faction will be to the anti-gay faction's antics.

Donohue forgets that a large number of Catholic priests adopted children in the 70s 80s.

The Catholic League's Board of Directors would be less than thrilled to know this stuff is going out under the agency's letterhead.

Someone named Brian, with whom I frequently disagree over on the First Thoughts blog on First Things, proposed this explanation for the kinds of things we see from Bill Donohue: "The Catholic League exists merely to say outrageous things to fundraise for the Democrats, as far as I can tell."

Irene, I can't imagine why you would think Dr. Donohue would have heard of Adrienne Rich, or why his Board would "be less than thrilled" with his comments. I think the prominent Catholics who freely choose to direct this group are delighted with their leader's every move. (As are the bishops.) Click "About Us" to see who's on the Board: The headlines are interesting. See, e.g., Dr. Donohue's views on The Three Stooges and on the Holocaust.More: OBAMA ENLISTS ACLU TO WAR ON CATHOLICS HELPING WOMEN BY KILLING THEIR KIDS RELIGIOUS LIBERTY AND THE GAY GENE

Irene -- "Catholic Leagues Board of Directors would be less than thrilled" Donohue is hardly operating alone and unappreciated. Mollie linked to the 2010 encomium on Dolan's blog entitled "Why we need the Catholic League". Strangely, Dolan first noted in it denunciations of Donahue by others like blowhard, a self-appointed censor, right wing publicity mill, a bully,and American Taliban. The Catholic League has a Board of 13 Directors and a Board of 26 Advisors to help its President with direction and advice. He is satisfying some perceived needs.

Mollie, thanks for shining a light on these horrible tweets. Cardinal Dolan, please dissociate yourself from the Catholic League and William Donohue.

When does it become apparent to people that comments by Bill Donohue (and his USCCB Cronnies) are very close to becoming "Verbal Hate Crimes"?

I'm sure the Board agrees and fully supports the Catholic League's various positions on issues, but the comments Donohue tweeted are just adolescent and unprofessional. For Catholic League sympathizers who try and make the case that the organization's positions aren't homophobic- well, these tweets pretty much kill that argument. That's why I would think the Board would (or should) have a problem with their Executive Director making these awful, childish comments on the agency twitter account. Cardinal Dolan's blog is often applauding the Catholic League. It kind of ticks me off because it's on our archdiocesan website. I think the Cardinal should use a personal site, not a website belonging to the Archdiocese for that kind of stuff.

Rusty Pate's comment on Donahue is spot on. As we used to say in NY, a true BIC.Unfortunately, he's good buddies with the Cradinal and the "follow the money" comment here has some relevance.What's really germane is that the "muscular Catholicism" of the Cardinal continues to be seen as anti victim anti-gay (as well ias its own shortcomings in fighting for "religious liberty.")I'll bet you a few quid the Cardinal doesn't dissociate from Donahue and that speaks porly to the Church at NY and beyond!

In his fine book FIGHTING FOR LIFE: CONTEST, SEXUALITY, AND CONSCIOUSNESS (1981; paperback 2011), the late Walter J. Ong, S.J. (1912-2003), of Saint Louis University writes perceptively about how boys and men need to work to establish a specifically masculine sense of identity.From Bill Donohues various comments, quoted above, I would say that he is going through an identity crisis that is, his specifically masculine sense of identity is being challenged in many ways and he is not adapting well to the challenges.No doubt many white men in the U.S. are going through a comparable identity crisis, a crisis to their specifically masculine sense of identity.But Donohue is a Roman Catholic, so his masculine identity crisis is tied up with his cultural conditioning in American Catholic culture with its distinctly Catholic variant of male patriarchy and male dominance.For those of you who are not familiar with Ongs book, I should mention that it is the published version of Ongs 1979 Messenger Lectures at Cornell University.On the occasion of Walter Ong's 80th birthday, David S. Toolan, S.J., published an article in COMMONWEAL in which he discussed Ong's book: "The Male Agony: According to Walter J. Ong" in COMMONWEAL, volume 119, number 20 (November 20, 1992): pages 13-18. (Ong was born November 30, 1912.)

One of the keys to the Catholic League's success is its unerring instinct for putting its finger on the important and enduring cultural issues of our time. To wit: "The Three Stooges Condemned by Catholic League President Bill Donohue"

Bill Donohue seems to have something personal against lesbians.I have an unrelated question--is Mr. Donohue married?

Joe McF --Wickipedia says NYT says divorced.

"Wickipedia says NYT says divorced'. Just Cranky I guess ... next

Thomas Farrell, Donohue has no identity crisis. He's found his identity, as a professional victim. And considering it pays so well, around $300,000 per year in salary and expenses, that's a gig that will have to be pried from his cold dead hands.

Angela Stockton: I appreciate your wit. But you've simply re-stated in your own term my basic point about his identity crisis.

From the Adrienne Rich poem Natural Resources ...."My heart is moved by all I cannot save:so much has been destroyedI have to cast my lot with thosewho age after age, perversely,with no extraordinary power,reconstitute the world."

Re Headline: The Three Stooges Condemned by Catholic League President Bill DonohueOne of the ways in which I think Bill Donohue does such damage to the Catholic League, if not Catholics in general, is the way he takes umbrage at issues both weighty and petty. Adoption by gay couples raises any number of moral and legal questions that sincere people might disagree on. Moreover, some film portrayals of nuns deserve to be examined closely for veracity ("The Magdalene Laundries," for example).But getting worked up about the portrayal of nuns in a witless comedy based on a witless comic trio strikes me as a good way to get people to dismiss you as a witless crank.

So Donohue is taking on the Three Stooges, those witless goofballs who talk silly and bash people about? Made for each other.

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