All the talk this week was of the historic – and then ultimately deflating – news from the Vatican’s Synod on the Family. But while the eyes of world Catholics were on Rome, perhaps they might have been better off tuning into the CBS ratings hit "Blue Bloods."
The show stars Tom Selleck as Frank Reagan, a top cop in New York City and patriarch to an Irish Catholic law enforcement family.
A recent episode, entitled “Burning Bridges,” got a lot of folks up in arms because of its treatment of an all-too-familiar topic: gays and the church.
In the episode, a police officer ends up at a crime scene in a gay neighborhood, thus essentially outing himself. Chief Reagan is later asked, at a press conference, how he can reconcile his staunch Catholicism with NYPD rules which prohibit discrimination against gay officers.
“The Catholic Church condemns homosexuality as a sin, and the commissioner is famously Catholic,” a reporter asks. “How do you line up your anti-gay faith with your role as an equal-opportunity employer?”
Reagan replies: “What my men and women do in private is their own business.”
The reporter shoots back: “So you only condemn homosexuality on Sunday?”
Forcing Reagan to add: “I do believe the church is a little behind the times on this. But then, I still miss the Latin Mass; so next question.”
Cue the chorus of outraged conservative Catholics!
“Is CBS committing suicide?” Catholic League honcho Bill Donohue howled. “The audience for 'Blue Bloods' has been carefully cultivated, so the price tag for alienating its base is high. Time will tell.”
Then comes this doozy from Donohue: “The show also misrepresents the sexual abuse scandal: almost all the molesting priests were practicing homosexuals. Moreover, the scandal ended in the mid-1980s.”
All of which must be a great comfort to the victims.
Donohue and others also lamented that "Blue Bloods’" take on church policy was insufficiently complex.
Imagine that – network television missing out on the subtleties of religious doctrine.
The timing of the "Blue Bloods" controversy could not have been better. It came just as the bishops gathered in Rome and made a complete hash of what might have been an historic moment.
For a brief moment, there were reports that the church was launching a new era of openness not only towards gays, but divorced Catholics and others. That preliminary mood of reform, however, was quickly dashed by the likes of Irish American Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, who spoke for many traditionalists when he criticized the draft report reflecting a new openness, then adding that same-sex relations were "intrinsically disordered.”
He added: "We wouldn’t, if it were another kind of relationship – something that was profoundly disordered and harmful – we wouldn't expose our children to that relationship, to the direct experience of it. And neither should we do it in the context of a family member who not only suffers from same-sex attraction, but who has chosen to live out that attraction, to act upon it, committing acts which are always and everywhere wrong, evil.”
For what it’s worth, there are reports that Pope Francis will be moving Burke from his Vatican job to another, more ceremonial position.
The delicious irony here is that the critics of "Blue Bloods" have a point. The show did dabble in some classic 19th Century-style anti-Catholic stereotypes, for example, emphasizing the scheming and hypocritical dealings of a powerful cardinal.
But since the bishops themselves are divided over how to handle gays – as evidence in the muddled, watered-down final report from the synod in Rome – how can traditionalists like Bill Donohue claim that this particular episode of "Blue Bloods" is anti-Catholic?
Because this is not only about gays. Church leaders ultimately missed a golden moment for reform on divorce, birth control and a whole host of issues that have sent a generation of Catholics running from the church.
(Contact “Sidewalks” at tdeignan.blogspot.com)