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."