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Practise What You Preach

For a man who wants to talk so badly, Bill Donahue sure does have his narrow-slitted helmet tightly fitted. In a request sent two months ago, both The Catholic League and the National Secular Society were asked to come together for a series of moderated questions. The request came from the authoritative resource HisDarkMaterials.org and the subject of discussion would be whether the film version of The Golden Compass would be too anti-religious or not anti-religious enough, with the discussion controlled by the classical tradition of allowing both sides freedom to express while giving judges (readers) information to decide upon for themselves. As expressed in the email, this would not be a session of attack on either party. The National Secular Society never responded, but Donahue did and left a bad taste in our mouths: could it have been venom?

The media face of The Catholic League, its president William Donahue, has been in arms for months over The Golden Compass, a film adaptation of British author Philip Pullman's award-winning novel from the His Dark Materials trilogy which has sold over fifteen million copies worldwide and been translated into thirty-nine languages; but this is only the common introduction brief for the book and film. Donahue's more "Agenda-ed" version reads: "the movie is based on a book that was written to promote atheism and undermine the basis of Christianity," an exhaustingly heavy agenda for a book which widely finds itself sold in the children's section of book stores.

What disturbs us most isn't a difference of opinions, but the juvenile sticks-and-stones game at work. Labelling the "rank hypocrisy" of movie-funders, Donahue seems to forget that in pointing one finger, four point back.

In responding to a comment by The Golden Compass Screenwriter/Director Chris Weitz, Donahue dismisses him, "Why would I worry about a screenwriter?" Citing his own published books, professorship, and Ph.D ., Donahue implies that both Weitz and Pullman are cowardly for not facing him and his accusations, but as he told us, "There is no need to debate." Donahue does, after all, seem fonder of hot-headed preachy media appearances.

If Donahue's qualifications outrank him from acknowledging the mere screenwriter (and director), we're wondering at what point his caste system allows discourse with Philip Pullman? Pullman also wrote numerous books, many receiving numerous awards, and one of which won the "Carnegie of Carnegie's" - an award for the most outstanding book in children's and young adult's literature in the last eighty years. This same book recently made it's way to film as a big-screen adaptation by New Line Cinema under Screenwriter and Director Chris Weitz. Pullman, too, was a professor until he retired to become a full-time writer. Although Pullman may not be able to sign his email's "Ph.D.," he could add "CBE" if he so desired. Recognized in his home city of Oxford with the Freedom of Oxford Award this year, and a member of the review board of the National Theatre in London, Pullman was also a recipient of the Commander of the British Empire honor. Donahue's Catholic League isn't even officially recognized by the religion it so sensationally defends.

At HisDarkMaterials.org, we "rapid fans" hell-bent on a time when "venom will be spit at our [The Catholic] religion" now understand that there never was a chance for decent discourse with Bill Donahue. He seems to desire verbal abuses over actual discussion. It is unfortunate though that Donahue's war-mongering steed has "rank hypocrisy" to face at the top. In short, if your high horse brays, it's time to step down.

We'll agree this far with Donahue though, "It's hard to have intellectual respect for such people."

Comments (14) — Add Yours

Pullman actually said it best when he noted that The Catholic League seems to exist primarily to promote its president.

# Posted by Green Man on 1:00, 11 December 2007

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I come from a country that has been a bulwark of Christianity for three centuries, and I have personally fought in a religious war incited, in part, by the Catholic church.

I think Philip Pullman is one of the great writers of our time, though. And I also find Mr. Donahue shameful in every way a human being can be shameful.

I’m quite certain the harpies won’t like his stories one bit. One bit.

# Posted by Seretur on 1:39, 11 December 2007

Hey i’m a christian and I hope people don’t think the veiws of this imbecile are an indicator to what all christians think his veiws are childish and stupid and groups like that who are the loudest are usually minorities and as a final note for all those who look at this article to criticise the book/movie its author/director realise this please IT IS FICTION IT IS NOT REAL SHOW SOME DIGNITY

# Posted by raifeSolarus on 1:45, 11 December 2007

“There is no debate”? I can’t believe the cowardice of this guy, hiding safely in his book-stacked office/media room, chunking out press releases and video messages with out-of-context quotes from Philip Pullman. Apparently any debate he can’t control and play on his grounds, is no debate.

Worst thing is he thinks he’s a better and more intelligent man than Chris Weitz, simply because of his Ph.D title. Does he know Weitz studied English Literature at Cambridge?

# Posted by Marijn on 10:43, 11 December 2007

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Though it is extremely sad the Catholic League refuses any argument or debate, this so-called “news” item hardly seems to do anything but close that debate even further.

I find it sad that the authority of HDM.org is now used in the same bashing that prohibited the discussion in the first place.

Though you have taken initial attempt towards discussion, the fact this minor drawback results in a complete closure towards the Catholic League can hardly be something to cheer for…

# Posted by Samwise on 11:47, 11 December 2007

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Samwise, if you can’t see how retarded the Catholic League is being, then I think you missed the point of this news item. HDM.Org was trying to engage the Catholic League in a debate, and their president William Donahue decided that there’s nothing to debate because his organization’s OPINION is the only thing that matters, and if you don’t agree with it, you’re cowardly. He’s also an arrogant a-hole who thinks that if you don’t have the qualifications he does, you don’t matter. What a moronic wanker. You’d think that, as a ‘Christian’ organization, the Catholic League would remember one of the basic tenets of Christianity: TOLERANCE. Atheist or not, Pullman has a point - intended or not - in attacking religious institutions or groups whose leaders have forgotten what it truly means to be a Christian (which is the Magisterium in a nutshell).

# Posted by Daemon_Hunter on 16:21, 11 December 2007

Oh dear. The Catholic League does seem to be in urgent need of getting out more. If the Papacy itself isn’t objecting, where does Donahue get off in declaring the evil of the book? If he was pope or even a bishop at least he’d have SOME legitamacy. As it is…

# Posted by Pilgrim on 16:24, 11 December 2007

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He doesn’t think they’re important, yet he thinks they’re cowardly for not speaking. Well if he’s not going to give a moment’s thought to what they say because they’re so beneath him, then why would they bother speaking? The only thing I’d bother saying would be to tell him to shove his PhD where the sun don’t shine.

# Posted by fbi_woman on 17:50, 11 December 2007

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I believe my comment is misinterpreted in a sense, not only by you, but by others I’ve talked to about this as well.

I have noted that the fact that the Catholic League spams it’s comments around, but when asked is not available for debate. This I find that very sad, because it deprives us of any hindsight into Donahue’s motivations, of which you guys quite logically conclude that he might not have any valuable motivations.

Whether or not he has is not what I want to talk about. Donahue’s opinion, his motivation, nor his alleged retardiness is what I was concerned about in my post.
I merely noted the fact this item is spiced with sarcasm and bashing of his person, which, according to me, weakens the statement HDM.org is trying to make here.

# Posted by Samwise on 18:13, 11 December 2007

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Donahue is an example of someone who thinks he is big enough to defend God or speak for God.  Arrogance kicks in and takes a hold.  It was very apparent that the guy would not debate, he rants and raves and believes that as long as she shouts the loudest then it is OK.  God doesn’t need defenders.  Why on earth is there a Catholic League, isn’t there a Pope to oversee all things Catholic?

# Posted by fever on 23:49, 11 December 2007

You are wrong Daemon in your statements. Samwise speaks wisely about the situation although I believe it is pointless. Daemon speaks of tolerance as a tenant of religion but what we say and what is done are different things entirely. Western religion is not tolerance at all, it is a war of ideology. It is no surprise that the war continues as best it can with the change of times. Religion needs fanatics to carry it along to do those things that the moderates will not and know not to do. The pope can not rant about atheism in media. It would be petty and demeaning to the religion and power he holds. Fanaticism is a way to show aggression while maintaining peace as a whole.

# Posted by stokes on 9:04, 16 January 2008

I see the whole thing as a hypocritical gesture to attract attention. The story, despite being a great work of fiction, is an completely unveiled attack on the Catholic Church and Christianity in general. There are no reasonable grounds for debate on that score, so what is the point of calling for one? Just because I love the stories doesn’t mean I’m willing to be blinded to the obvious attacks therein.

Any response by the Catholic Church would be a waste of time, and simply fuel more attacks. Indeed this article seems to be self-serving, and I’m sorry to see how quickly people have jumped in to beat this long dead horse.

Once again hatred has won, and both sides lose because they have succumbed to their base nature. Of course these words will not be considered seriously. Nevermind.

# Posted by ArtaxDarkmane on 21:16, 27 May 2008

Phillip Pullman has displayed the church in the most accurate way ever in HDM.Quite a lot of the current tension in today’s world comes from religion in general,including Islam and Christianity. Donahue is a cowardly hypocrite who hides behind his wall of words. Of course, the director and screenwriters are only some of the most integral parts of movie production.

# Posted by Shadowparticles888 on 11:55, 22 August 2008

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I am not a Catholic, but I have been lucky enough to experience, what I believe, to be it’s true nature.  Anyone who walks in to a Catholic church, having never done so before, will immediately notice something -  the silent holiness of it which seems to say: “This place exists for God.  He is one who arbitrates His creation.  We do not claim the power to pass judgement.  That right is to Him, and Him only.”

As far as I am concerned, this man has completely forgotten what his religion is about.

# Posted by Trillian on 5:56, 1 October 2008

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