US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Bishop's Hitler comment another black eye for Catholic image

Scott Alessi | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

Here we go again: A Catholic bishop has to apologize for making an off-the-cuff comment that has drawn the ire of the general public.

Last month, it was Chicago's Cardinal Francis George making an unfortunate comparison to the Ku Klux Klan when talking about his city's gay pride parade. And now, it is Bishop Joseph McFadden of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, who in an interview about school vouchers said that today's public school system models the ideals of Adolf Hitler.

“In totalitarian governments, they would love our system,” McFadden told a local ABC news station. “This is what Hitler and Mussolini and all those tried to establish: a monolith so all the children would be educated in one set of beliefs and one way of doing things.”

Not surprisingly, that sparked complaints from the local chapter of the Anti-Defamation League and the ACLU. McFadden responding by saying he didn't want to offend anyone, but that he was making "a dramatic illustration" and didn't exactly back away from the comment. But regardless of whether or not you agree with McFadden's point about the school system, invoking the name of Hitler to make your point is always a bad idea.

Meanwhile, the news is still filled with stories about the Catholic Church's fight with the Obama administration over the mandate that Catholic employers provide contraception coverage in their health care plans. Bishops have decried the lack of religious liberty and continue to make claims of anti-Catholic bias. The church demands fair treatment of its members and respect for their religious beliefs.

That might be a tough sell to the average, non-Catholic American, who hears both bishops asking for fair treatment of Catholics and making comments that might be taken as offensive to others.

Bishops and others who speak on behalf of the church are passionate about defending their faith and the teachings of Jesus Christ. That passion sometimes leads them to make regrettable comments that reflect poorly on Catholicism in a country where many are already skeptical of religion. So next time a bishop gets in front of a microphone or a television camera, perhaps they should be less concerned with making "dramatic illustrations" and more focused on simply delivering the message of Jesus--the one that teaches love, acceptance, and unity among all of God's people. They may still be met with opposition, but at least they'll have nothing to apologize for.