Catholic Group Says ABC Shows Pattern of Bias

Article excerpt

NEW YORK - A talk-show host ridicules the pope. A commentator bashes Mother Teresa during the broadcast of her funeral.

An investigative special on cults includes pictures of the Vatican. A situation comedy airing Easter Week features a boy obsessed with the bloodiness of the Crucifixion, while another boasts as its main character an avowed lesbian.

A heavily promoted dramatic series features a young priest questioning fundamental church teachings.

All ran on the same network - ABC - and all are part of a pattern of attacks on Catholics and their church by the Walt Disney Co.-owned network, says William A. Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights.

At a press conference here last week, Mr. Donohue singled out an episode earlier this month of "That's Life," an ABC sitcom, as "viciously anti-Catholic" and "relentless in its bigotry." The program was an "in-your-face attempt to stick it to the Catholic Church" by ridiculing key church tenets and rituals, including the Holy Eucharist, Mass, the sacrament of penance, prayer, and the use of holy water.

ABC said that the program had already been canceled when the last segment was broadcast. In a prepared statement, the network said: "It was never the intent of the network, the studio, or the production team to offend any religious denomination with the last episode." Robert Iger, president of ABC, Stuart Bloomberg, chairman of ABC Entertainment, and Jamie Tarses, president of ABC Entertainment, declined to comment.

It isn't the first time Disney and its entertainment empire have fallen afoul of religious groups. In June, the Southern Baptist Convention joined other Christian groups in a boycott of the company's movies, theme parks and other business ventures, with one Baptist leader condemning what he called Disney's "Christian-bashing, family-bashing, pro-homosexual agenda."

The plot of the "That's Life" episode cited by Mr. Donohue concerned a 10-year-old boy whose uncle takes him to Mass on Easter because his mother, hostile to Catholicism, does not approve. Citing the church's views on women, abortion and homosexuality, she says, "C'mon, the church is dying because anybody with a reasonable amount of intelligence has left."

At dinner, the child holds up a piece of bread, remarking on how "cool" it would be if he were actually eating a body. He says he also likes the church's big cross with Jesus hanging on it, bruised, bloody and gouged by thorns. "He's nailed up there with these spikes. Blood comes spurting out. Whack, whack, whack, whack," says the boy gleefully.

Other elements in the comedy show cited by the League included a reference to confession boxes as "spiritual toilets," a suggestion that priests are pedophiles, and a remark that everyone attending Christmas midnight Mass is drunk.

Mr. Donohue said he has sent out 1,200 copies of the offending episode to League supporters, non-Catholic religious leaders, members of Congress and the media. …