Bill Donohue, as the head and pretty much lone voice of the Catholic League, has spent the past many years obsessing about LGBT people. If you just take a quick look at this Commentator Accountability Project profile, you get an idea of how this guy has used his platform as a Catholic commentator:
-- Says AIDS is "self-inflicted": "The fact is that the artist who made the vile video died of self-inflicted wounds: he died of AIDS. The homosexual, David Wojnarowicz, hated the Catholic Church (had he lived by its teachings, he would not have self-destructed)."
-- Equated married equality with Apartheid: "[I]f people don’t realize what we’re up against here, they may be a minority but you know it was a minority of people in South Africa who took away the rights of Black people. You can be a well-organized minority in this country here such as those on the left, gay and straight alike, and have a tremendous amount of influence if you have this lust and appetite for power." (15:15-15:36)
-- Despite the existence of gay-affirming faith groups, said: "Every world religion is either opposed to homosexuality or takes no position on it; not one finds it acceptable. So if being opposed to homosexuality makes one phobic, then almost the entire world (throughout all of history) suffers the same malady….How about adultery and incest—is opposition to them also phobic?"
-- Says God smites faith communities who welcome gay people: "In other words, those religions whose teachings on abortion and marriage approximate the views of the New York Times and NPR are in free fall. Looks like God is truly looking out for those religions that don't treat Scripture as if it were a post-modern text to be deconstructed by left-wing ideologues."
-- On marriage equality: "If somebody said this while I was a kid growing up, they would've said 'let's call 911 and take me to Bellevue' -- that's how crazy this idea of two men getting married" (4:36)
-- Said: “The idea of two men marrying is so bizarre and so anti-marriage that it is a great tribute to the American people that they continue to respect the right of gays to participate in American life without harassment while simultaneously rejecting the extremist gay agenda.”
-- Warned: “We’re not going to allow gay people to adopt children, that’s against nature, it’s against nature’s God.” (1:24-1:28)
-- Said: "Yes, there’s a connection between Irish and alcoholism, and, yes, there’s a connection between homosexuality and sexual abuse of minors."
-- Despite worldwide trends and diversity of portrait, says marriage equality is province of "white liberals": "This is such a bizarre idea, you go to Latin America or Africa or to the Middle East or to Russia or Asia and you ask those people about two men getting married and they'll look at you like you're nuts -- this is the white man's burden. This is the white, upper-class, well-educated liberals who decide this is a good idea." (2:36-3:00)
Let's be clear: this is a man who has been actively working toward discrimination. Ask anyone who knows about Bill Donohue and words like "divisive" would pop into the surrounding word cloud long before anything having to do with actual Catholic theology or values came to the fore.
So when a Pope chastises his own flock for being "obsessed" about issues like marriage equality, as Pope Francis did in a recent interview, he is pretty much calling out people like BIll Donohue. The pontiff is putting someone like Mr. Donohue on the hot seat, asking him to explain why he has spent so much of his time and energy and capital on discrimination when he could have instead fostered the Catholic value of human dignity. As my colleague Michelangelo Signorile more bluntly puts it: "Francis is slapping at blowhards like Bill Donohue of the Catholic League, who, if he didn't talk about gay marriage and abortion all the time, would not be invited onto TV talk shows to discuss much of anything."
Understandably, Mr. Donohue is now on the defensive. And when someone who has said all kinds of harsh things is pressed on those harsh things that he or she has said, it becomes even more important for the person interviewing him or her to keep the focus where it deserves to be rather than let the commentator dance out of the rightly scrutinized chair.
This is exactly what CNN's Chris Cuomo did in a morning interview with Donohue. Media Matters brings us the clip:
Donohue is trying his hardest to cheer and agree fully with everything his Pope is saying. But that is simply not the case! Look back above at some of Mr. Donohue's comments. He has not only tried to blame LGBT people for the church's scandals, but he has gone after LGBT people in every way imaginable. From a God that smites pro-LGBT faith views to calling gay parenting "against nature's God," Mr. Donohue is like the poster child for what Pope Francis was talking about when he called out the "obsessed" voices within his Church and pointedly distanced himself from the right-wingers.
Chris Cuomo was having none of it. Good for him for bringing up Donohue's own words and asking if he still stands by them. According to Donohue's response, he still does, or doesn't see his language as the divisive rhetoric that it is. One can continue to hope that anti-LGBT activists like Donohue will follow his Pope and a majority of Catholics in the US, but until that time, we thank Chris Cuomo for highlighting his words.