Larry Doyle’s “Jesus-Eating Cult”

The reaction of Catholic leaders to Larry Doyle’s recent satiric piece at HuffPo, “The Jesus-Eating Cult of Rick Santorum,” has been exactly the wrong reaction.  We have taken offense, demanded apologies of Arianna Huffington, and asked that we please not be exposed through satire to the virulently-anti Catholic opinions of the Church’s opponents.  Doyle’s piece, like the shows for which he has written, “Beavis and Butthead,” and “The Simpsons,” was crude. There’s no doubt about that.

He led off:

“It’s time to take a good hard look at Rick Santorum’s faith.

Many of you will be shocked to learn what our possible future president believes, who he answers to, the bloody jihads his so-called church has carried on for centuries, and its current role as the tactical arm of the North American Man-Boy Love Association.”

So, the Crusades are chalked up as “bloody jihads” and the current hierarchy as promoters of pedophilia.

He goes on to say:

“Unlike Christians, Santorum and his fellow Roman Catholics participate in a barbaric ritual dating back two millennia, a “mass” in which a black-robed cleric casts a spell over some bread and wine, transfiguring it into the actual living flesh and blood of their Christ. Followers then line up to eat the Jesus meat and drink his holy blood in a cannibalistic reverie not often seen outside Cinemax.”

Larry Doyle is a bright guy, and part of the satire here alludes to historical slurs against Roman Catholicism (and in fact, all Christians, when all Christians belonged to one Church prior to the schism with Orthodoxy.)   The magical spell of common parlance, “hocus pocus,” derives from the words of consecration in the Latin Mass, “hoc est enim corpus”–this is my very body.  During the age of persecution under the ancient Romans, Christians were accused of being “cannibals” for believing they were partaking of the real body and blood of their Lord in the Eucharist.  Larry Doyle, an Irish Catholic by heritage and a former altar boy, knows where he comes from and therefore how to strike at the  heart of the tradition. His piece puts a new spin on accusations that have been around since the time of Nero.

Should we be shocked and appalled by this?  Hardly, it only means that today’s Catholics are getting back to being authentic Christians in an increasingly pagan society. “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad,” says the Lord (Matt 5:11-12a).  Jesus does not say, Kindly ask them to mind their manners and treat the faith as too precious for open discussion.

In a subsequent posting Doyle mocked the pro forma apology being required of him, and frankly, I don’t blame him.  He said what he said because he hates Catholicism for standing in the way of a secular agenda.  I’d much rather have frank and honest hatred exposed for what is it than Orwellian expressions of “respect” for religion that are really just a smoke screen for the tyrannical imposition of secular values.

When we ask for apologies from such people, we are asking that faith enjoy a privileged status where it’s largely treated as out-of-bounds for frank criticism, and therefore, in fact, irrelevant to public issues.

If we want to reintroduce the Christian vocabulary into the conversation, then we are going to have to let criticisms, even vicious attacks, flow freely.  Do I really need to point out that Doyle’s commentary–and anything else like it–does more to expose the vile nature of anti-Catholic prejudice and its prevalence in our society than anything Bill Donohue and The Catholic League could possible do?  (For the record, I admire Donohue and The Catholic League’s work tremendously.)

It’s time to grow up and mix it up, rhetorically.  The best satire–much better than Doyle’s, in fact–has always come out of Christianity, because satire as a form depends on a consistent moral viewpoint.  See Jonathan Swift and the wonderful work in the last decades of the twentieth century of Walker Percy.  The first a devout Anglican priest and the latter a devout Catholic.

Larry, you are wrong, and if you’d like to talk about it, we’re ready.  That’s all that needs saying.  Put away the calls for apologies and group pressure tactics in favor of censorship.  As Catholics we are here, we are relevant, and we are totally unafraid of debate or crude and self-refuting jokes.


Harold Fickett is the author of novels, biographies, and works of spirituality, including The Holy Fool, The Living Christ, and Dancing with the Divine. He was a co-founder of the journal Image, and has collaborated with Charles Colson on several books, including The Faith and The Good Life. Fickett has contributed to such publications as The National Review, Crisis, Christianity & Literature, Decision, The World & I, Publishers Weekly, The New Oxford Review, Books & Culture, Leadership, and Christianity Today.

  • I respectfully  disagree. I would agree with you if the other side played by the same rules but they don’t. Instead, they ostracize faithful Catholics from society as bigots for just repeating traditional moral teaching and force us into hiding. Look at what’s recently happened to Pat Buchanan. I agree that we should respectfully engage them in a debate on the issues but we should also not back down from calling them out for using derogatory terms and slanderous language. They need to be exposed as hypocrites for their double-standard when it comes to anti-Catholic bigotry.

    • Brian A. Cook

      Buchanan was “forced into hiding” because of a long history of genuine extreme right-wing rhetoric.  I don’t have time to get into details because I’m also working on online schoolwork.   There is a page on the website of the ADL which should give a solid overview.

      • I find no use of slurs in Buchanan’s writings. His criticism of AIPAC influence on US policy does not count as anti-semitism. Besides, his latest black-listing was more due to his traditional Catholic stance on homosexuality than his advocacy of non-interventionism abroad.

        • Brian

          Take the time to take a closer look at his record, please.

  • ROB

    This is absurd. An historical satire, you gotta be kidding. But maybe I got Fickett wrong. Comparing a cartoonist to Swift, now that has to be satire.

  • Brian A. Cook

    I will concede that the satire (let’s not forget what it was) is completely mean-spirited.  However, I must take issue with the blithe quoting of one of the Beatitudes.  In order to qualify, the accusations MUST be completely unjustified–they key word is “falsely.”  Are there not injustices and ambiguities within the Church’s history?  I have been asking hard questions in order to search for the truth.  As a matter of fact, I went to Confession yesterday to ask for renewed faith in Christ’s presence in the Church.    I appreciate Blessed John Paul’s mass of penance immensely, as it is a much-needed starting point for renewal. 

    • Mark Rutledge

      Brian, men are sinners.  Always have been, always will be, and that includes every single saint (save the BVM).  With that in mind, why dwell on past sins committed by men in the name of the Church, especially since they have no bearing on what is being ridiculed?

  • Chassup

    Although I appreciate Mr. Fickett’s argument, and mostly agree, I do want to point out that while we must never disparage a man’s right to believe and say what he will, we must demand he respect our right to do the same.  A civil society is as good as the personal accountability to which we hold one another.  Selective outrage is on full display these days… like Satan, they use our virtue against us, begging us to respond in like manner.  Rush Limbaugh was caught in that trap recently.  
    As a Catholic I need only look to the cross to see my example going forward, and that model requires I subject myself to annihilation, even my life in this world.  My father always told me I would be persecuted for my Catholic faith at some point in my life… he was right.  We Catholics are indeed under vicious attack in America today.  What Mr. Fickett advocates is nothing less than what the first Christian martyrs accepted… and, in part, our church stands today because of them.  But as an American I will use every power and legal means to stand up to attacks on my liberty, and I will not negotiate with evil. I will call them as I see them.  And the cartoon is reprehensible, worthy of public scorn.
    While I intend to suffer patiently, I also intend to stand up to evil when I see it, I refuse to be cowed or relinquish my rights, and I am prepared to fight evil in any way I can, save for the loss of my soul in exchange.  St. Joan of Arch was a soldier for Christ before she was a martyr.

    • Brian A. Cook

       *sigh* He only sarcastically (and, let me concede again, in a mean-spirited manner) brought up the allegation of cannibalism.  He did not call for extermination or mass jailing. 

      • Chassup

        I understand you view this as purely sarcastic, but I don’t.  His offense is calculated, conscious and motivated by an anti-Catholicism that is evident and abundant in today’s culture.  He’s not clever, he’s crass… and I have a right and duty to judge his public behavior… publicly.

  • One correction, the Orthodox went into schism, not us.

  • Smiths4jmj

    As a practicing & devout Catholic (the need to preface what kind of Catholic is necessary today), I was one who immediately responded to Doyle’s article with outrage.  But, I also saw the opportunity to put forth the TRUTH realizing that it probably wouldn’t change hardened hearts, but maybe it would plant some seeds of truth for some who would read the comments.

    I posted the “scientific evidence” surrounding the Miracle of Lanciano when the bread became heart tissue.  My intention was not to just refute what Doyle said in an emotional way,  but to actually provide some evidence of TRUTH.

    It also gives us believers a little “fire in our bellies” to PRAY for all those who are damning themselves to hell.  Jesus revealed to St. Faustina how so many of the damned have no one to pray for them.  He died on the cross for all.  We must intercede and try to bring as many souls to heaven… that is our true mission in life.

  • Kenneth J. Wolfe

    On a side note, I am pleased to see Crisis showing a photo of a traditional Latin Mass.  We’ve come a long way in the past decade…

  • Guest

    With due respect, this piece is the silliest thing I ever read on Crisis magazine.