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Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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Ron Howard to Catholic League chief: Put a sock in it!

William Donohue, the always volatile head of the Catholic League, has once again gone on the attack, this time against the Ron Howard-directed "Angels & Demons," the prequel to "The Da Vinci Code," one of the biggest hits of 2006. Donohue claims that Howard and "Da Vinci Code" author Dan Brown have "collaborated in smearing the Catholic Church with fabulously bogus tales," adding that the movie -- which, of course, Donohue hasn't actually seen -- paints the church as "anti-reason."

Angels_and_demons_eng1 Howard responded with a heated defense of the movie on the Huffington Post, where he dismisses Donohue's charge as a "silly and mean-spirited work of propaganda," adding that "Mr. Donohue has, in effect, smeared me by claiming I am smearing his Church.... Let me be clear: Neither I nor 'Angels & Demons' are anti-Catholic."

When it comes to diatribes from Donohue, Howard is in good company. Donohue's list of adversaries includes everyone from Kevin Smith, Bill Maher and Marilyn Manson to Bob Jones University, the producers of "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" and Christopher Hitchens, who have all been accused by Donohue of various anti-Catholic bias. For someone who runs a religious anti-defamation group, you'd think Donohue would be more respectful of other religions. But at the height of the hubbub over Mel Gibson's "Passion of the Christ," it was Donohue who said that "Hollywood is controlled by secular Jews who hate Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular. It's why they hate this movie."

So the real question is this: Why would anyone in Hollywood dignify Donohue's fanaticism by responding to his crackpot charges in the first place (unless you were just hoping to get a little more publicity for your movie, though it's hard to imagine that 'Angels & Demons' needs any more ink)? If you go back and read Donohue's column in the New York Daily News, you'd learn that his broadside against "Angels & Demons" only occupies one tiny paragraph in the column, which is largely devoted to bashing any legislation that would permit gay marriage or defend a woman's right to abortion. So then why make such a big deal about it? 

In an era where even the most conservative Republican politicians have largely abandoned their assaults on Hollywood and the pursuit of culture-war wedge issues, why give Donohue's charges any free publicity? After all, people like me are only writing about the issue because an A-list talent like Howard has weighed in on the matter. In this case, silence would be golden. If revenge is really necessary, why not follow the example of the creators of "South Park," who after being attacked by Donohue put him into their 2007 "Fantastic Easter Special" episode of the show, where Donohue is portrayed as a power-hungry Catholic Church functionary who overthrows the pope and sentences Jesus to death. It's just a guess, but I'm betting that might have something to do with why Donohue hasn't been attacking the "South Park" guys lately.

Comments () | Archives (3)

The comments to this entry are closed.

I'm glad that Ron Howard doesn't actually tell Donohue to "put a sock on it" as this headline suggests. Telling people you don't agree with to shut up seems pretty par for the course for some on the left these days. Maybe Donohue doesn't need to actually travel to the moon to know that it is a cold and lifeless world, so I would think that Catholics' experiences with "The Da Vinci Code" would tell them pretty much all they need to know without having to suffer through "Angels and Demons" before rendering judgment about the "prequel."

Ron Howard can say all he wants about "Gee, we portray some priests as men of science and reason (what's the problem?), but that doesn't take away from the Da Vinci Code's view of the divinity or mortality of Jesus, or Opus Dei assassins, or a host of other assertions by the movie's characters. "A-List Talent" indeed. How dare Donohue speak up about mass popular culture that goes against his deeply held beliefs.

If Donohue is a nut, then why is Howard responding at all? Maybe he is worried about the bottom line for his box office? Or maybe, perhaps, the accusations have got to him...?

Howard feels guilty in some corner of his heart because he knows Angels & Demons is payback against those Catholics who famously defended Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ."


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