Slack jawed, Hounddog, and Mr. Donohue (not) at the movies

If there's one thing OC Weekly has in plentiful supply, it's Catholics of varying stripes– devout, cafeteria, lapsed, vigorously lapsed, potential anti-pope– with colorful and occasionally bizarre stories from their contacts with Holy Mother Church and its numerous franchises and subsidiaries. From nuns on a swimming pool-slide (an image from Steve Lowery's youth) to a priest who insisted that the Virgin Mary once stole his wallet while he was in a public restroom (a very devout fellow I knew. Don't worry, the Virgin didn't do it for the money. She picked his pocket for a higher purpose, or so he claimed.) I doubt there's much from the world of professional Catholicism that could cause jaws to slacken in wonder among Weeklyites– but I think I may have found something.

William “Bill” Donohue is a familiar figure to anyone who keeps track of people who make their living by being outraged. He's the president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights (usually reduced to the Catholic League in journalistic shorthand), a rightwing outfit with enough foam at the mouth to make Father Coughlin proud. He's a fixture on cable TV news, since he can be counted on to regularly say something barking mad. Previous highpoint: appearing on MSNBC in December 2004, Donohue barked,

Hollywood is controlled by secular Jews who hate Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular. It's not a secret, okay? And I'm not afraid to say it. … Hollywood likes anal sex.

Currently, Donohue is still outraged about Hollywood and sex– though this time nothing anal (except Donohue) is involved. The movie Hounddog premiered at the Sundance Film Festival this week, attracting much attention because of a rape scene involving 12 year old Dakota Fanning. According to the Associated Press,

The disturbing scene lasts a few minutes but is not graphic. There is no nudity, the scene is very darkly lit and only Fanning's face and hand are shown.

Not good enough for our Mr. Donohue.

Even before the first screening of “Hounddog” at the Sundance Film Festival this week, a Christian film critic, citing Fanning's age, decried the movie as child abuse, and Roman Catholic activist Bill Donohue called for a federal investigation.

It should come as no surprise that the 12 year old Fanning is turning out to be much more mature than the gray haired Donohue.

“It's not really happening,” Fanning said of a rape. “It's a movie, and it's called acting. I'm not going through anything. Cody and Isabelle aren't going through anything, their characters are.

“And for me, when it's done it's done,” she said. “I don't even think about it anymore.”

Naturally, Donohue hasn't seen the movie he's calling for the Feds to investigate. The AP, no doubt for reasons of taste, skipped Donohue's justification for not bothering to see what he's condemning. Fortunately Variety, I learned via the Defamer, is not bound by good taste. Variety quotes Donohue as saying:

“If someone tells me that there's a statue of Martin Luther King with an erection receiving oral sex, I don't need to see it.”

And that's when my jaw went slack.

Just how mephitic a swamp of rightwing bigotry and twisted sexual frustration does someone's mind have to be for him to come up with that image?

To be fair, maybe Donohue, however misled by feverish thoughts of anti-Semitism and anal sex, was onto something in his 2004 rant. If he's the character who gets wheeled out to represent to the Catholic point-of-view on cable news shows, then maybe the cable TV is run by people who hate “Catholicism in particular” and want to give it a bad name.

(Nah, it's simpler than that: Cable TV news is, for the most part, just the Jerry Springer show with wire service feeds.)

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