One of the most entertaining characters on the current American Catholic scene is William A. Donohue, who heads the semiparanoid organization named The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Liberties.
Nature has endowed Mr. Donohue with a very sensitive nose, capable of sniffing anti-Catholicism on every tainted breeze. If some movie or TV program has a plot line that may be construed as anti-Catholic, you can be sure Donohue will promptly issue a press release anathematizing the offender.
The trouble with the Donohue nose, however, is that it fails to distinguish between two radically different phenomena that may both be given the "anti-Catholicism" label.
On the one hand there is discriminatory anti-Catholicism. This is the kind that tries to keep Catholics out of good jobs, schools, apartment buildings, social clubs, etc. Once upon a time this was quite common in the United States, though it seems rare nowadays.
On the other hand there is philosophical anti-Catholicism. This is the kind that considers the Catholic church to be the teacher of false doctrine and morality—and not only false but dangerously so.
Once upon a time this was widespread among Protestants mindful of their Reformation heritage, who considered Catholicism a perverted form of Christianity, presided over by a...