So, in a bit of a news flash (at least for me), I find myself for the first time in my life agreeing with the Catholic League's Bill Donohue. In case you don't know anything about Donohue, he apparently spends much of his free time looking for evidence of anti-Christian (and, more specifically, anti-Catholic) bias, and then issuing press releases which are monuments of quivering outrage to the imagined slight to Holy Mother Church.

Now, I am not Catholic, nor am I anti-Catholic. I am comfortable with the liturgy of Word and Table, and while I don't pray to saints, like a lot of mainline Christians I am 'OK' with a lot of traditions that are not necessarily enshrined in the scriptures. On the other hand, I think the followers of St. Peter have accumulated some theological curiousities over the years, and (being an outfit of human beings) have made their share of mistakes. Donohue and others of his ilk seem unwilling to acknowledge this in any meaningful fashion, unwilling to hold the church apparatus accountable for its shortcomings, for example the widespread abuse of minors in Ireland.

In general, when I see something of Donohue's, I encounter a man who has the vapors over some minor cultural thing, who labors mightily to inveigh against the toothpick of perceived anti-Catholic bias, but seems blind to the log of church-shielded misconduct in his own eye. It's hard to take him seriously.

However, regarding Nicki Minaj's attempt at a simulated, Catholic-style exorcism as part of a Grammy number, Donohue says this: “Whether Minaj is possessed is surely an open question, but what is not in doubt is the irresponsibility of The Recording Academy....Never would they allow an artist to insult Judaism or Islam.”

You know, he's not wrong about that. If Minaj had mocked the Prophet, it would've triggered episodes of violence by Islamic fundamentalists around the world, and been condemned by non-Muslims as intolerant. If Minaj had taken an ax to a Star of David, it would've been widely condemned by an entertainment industry that is blessed with significant numbers of intelligent, influential and observant Jews. I guess the good news is that most Catholics are less willing to take offense than the likes of Bill Donohue.

Me? I operate on the principle that an artist should be given latitude to express themselves, but where were the adults in the room when this clueless teenager, a minor with her whole career in front of her, decided to vulgarize herself as a mini-Madonna? It was wildly inappropriate. The people in charge of this affair should be ashamed of allowing it under the guise of free speech. There is such a thing as prudence. All things may be lawful, but not all things are profitable.



It's my brother's new book, about the work of Jack Kirby, arguably one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, and not just in terms of comics. Check it out!

HAND OF FIRE: The Comics Art of Jack Kirby from Charles Hatfield on Vimeo.