After Pete Davidson compared the Catholic Church to R. Kelly on last week’s Saturday Night Live, Church leaders — including Pope Francis — demanded a public apology. “Apparently, the only acceptable bias these days is against the Catholic Church,” they said in a statement.
It’s ironic that the Church — which has long opposed liberal policies like promoting LGBTQ rights and a woman’s right to choose — is suddenly up in arms over Pete Davidson’s use of free speech. They had no problem with free speech when the Pope claimed the institution of the family was under attack by marriage equality advocates, for which the LGBTQ community never got an apology.
In its overblown response, the Church tries to portray itself as the victim. We’re supposed to believe Davidson’s joke about the Church’s long history of covering up sexual abuse was made on the basis of some “bias.”
This purported bias isn’t even against Catholics, but against the Church. That’s right, we’re supposed to feel bad for a corrupt, monolithic institution that refuses to acknowledge its own biases against anyone who isn’t a proper, cisgender, heterosexual Catholic.
This stance is even more outrageous when put into a broader cultural context. On the same day that the Catholic Church railed against Saturday Night Live, the Department of Defense implemented a ban on transgender troops in the military and Bernie Sanders’ national deputy press secretary verbally attacked American Jews. Yet somehow the Catholic Church is the victim here.
The Catholic Church has never issued a statement standing up for the transgender community. It has yet to issue a statement standing up for the American Jewish community in the wake of Tuesday’s bigotry. And while the pope has called for an end to sexual abuse (and done little else), all it took was one SNL joke for the Catholic Church to stand up in the name of the perpetrators.
In its response, the Church stated, “The faithful of our Church are disgusted by the harassment by those in the news and entertainment.” By mischaracterizing media exposure of their cruel and inhumane acts as harassment, the Catholic Church not only denies its own culpability, but continues a decades-old strategy of attacking survivors.
The media coverage of Harvey Weinstein was not harassment. The media coverage of Louis C.K. was not harassment. The media coverage of Brett Kavanaugh was not harassment. But each of these perpetrators claimed they were being harassed in attempts to fraudulently discredit their accusers — as has the Catholic Church. R. Kelly has behaved similarly, vehemently denying the claims against him and attacking survivors, accusing them of lying. Yet we’re supposed to believe that drawing a comparison between these two parties that both covered up decades of sexual abuse constitutes harassment.
Since its mischaracterization of Davidson’s joke (which preceded a call to donate to charities for survivors of sexual abuse) wasn’t enough to further damage its credibility, the Church also claimed that it “has likely done more than anyone else to combat sexual abuse.” Sure. And nobody respects women more than Donald Trump.
The Catholic Church — the organization that has allowed the abuse of tens of thousands of children and continues to cover up and deny abuse to this day — has done more than anyone to combat sexual abuse. The Church — which still refuses to implement more stringent protection and prevention procedures and often accuses survivors of lying even today — has done more than anyone else to combat sexual abuse.
The Catholic Church shouldn’t need an apology for something like this. They shouldn’t even want one. And they absolutely don’t deserve it.
Anthony Raiola, a sexual abuse victim of a Brooklyn Catholic Church priest, put it best.
“It’s absurd that the Brooklyn Diocese is portraying itself as victim of Pete Davidson’s Saturday Night Live joke when priests in Brooklyn and across New York preyed on vulnerable children,” he said. “I am one of those Brooklyn survivors — and I’m still waiting for my apology from the Church.”