News Articles

Disney/ABC sitcom prompts protest from Catholic group

NEW YORK (BP)–The Disney Company will push “another sick look at priests” onto the nation’s TV screens in September, a Catholic organization has charged.
And the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights is urging affiliates of Disney’s ABC-TV to preempt the new sitcom, “Nothing Sacred.”
“Nothing Sacred” is slated to lead off Disney/ABC’s prime-time lineup on Thursday evenings.
The sitcom seeks “to market the only kind of priest that the Disney crowd can stomach, namely a priest who is as far from resembling the Holy Father as they are from resembling decency,” said William Donohue, president of the 350,000-member Catholic League.
“It is our hope that at least some ABC affiliates will act responsibly and preempt ‘Nothing Sacred’ with some other show,” Donohue said. “Not to do so would be to sanction what is obviously a highly politicized and patently unfair portrayal of Catholic priests.”
ABC, in a statement addressing the Catholic League concerns, said:
“We understand their sensitivities, and we respect their beliefs. However, we feel ‘Nothing Sacred’ is a quality program that offers an honest depiction of one young priest’s desire to balance his faith in God with the challenges of modern-day life. It is our hope that through subsequent episodes, (the Catholic League will) come to find that the series reflects positively on the issues of faith, for that is our intention.”
Weeks earlier, Disney/ABC’s own description of “Nothing Sacred” had enthused:
“It’s tough being a priest in the ’90s. Just ask Father Ray. In one morning alone, he’s nearly been fired for advising a pregnant teenager to follow her own instincts. He’s had to turn down a bribe in the confessional, even though he’s desperate for money to keep his church afloat. His college flame has just walked back into his life and re-ignited old passions. And now his mentor is asking him to deliver a sermon proving the existence of God. How should he know if God exists? … he hasn’t even finished the book yet!”
ABC called the lead character “one of the most accessible and loving priests around. He’s been cursed with the God-given gift for touching people’s souls. If only Ray could find God to sooth his soul.”
Said Donohue, “The last time Disney portrayed the Catholic clergy was in its Miramax production ‘Priest,’ and now it appears that it is picking up where it left off by providing viewers with another sick look at priests.”
The New York-based Catholic League called for a Disney boycott in 1995 when “Priest” was released — the same year a Disney boycott was launched by the evangelical American Family Association, based in Tupelo, Miss., targeting the conglomerate for anti-family, pro- homosexuality products and practices — a boycott joined by the Southern Baptist Convention in a resolution adopted by messengers at the June SBC annual meeting in Dallas.
“Priest,” released five days after Good Friday in 1995, focused on five priests, each “a thoroughly tortured individual,” the Catholic League publication Catalyst noted, citing film critic Michael Medved’s description of “Priest” as arguably the most anti-Catholic film ever made.
Concerning “Nothing Sacred,” Donohue cited two major objections:
— “the show promotes the most positive stereotype of Catholics who dissent from Church teachings while fostering the most negative stereotype of those who remain loyal to the Church.” Church loyalists are portrayed as “cold-hearted, selfish and tyrannical persons,” Donohue said.
— “the show deliberately denigrates the official teachings of the Church by unfavorably contrasting them to the trendy positions of dissenting Catholics.”
Donohue added: “Disney/ABC would never put a positive spin on a priest who rejected the Church’s teachings on welfare reform, nuclear war, immigration and the death penalty, for to do so would be to undermine their own politics. On the other hand, if they really believe that Father Ray is not offensive, then why not make him a black minister or a Jewish rabbi?”
Donohue also took aim at the producers of “Nothing Sacred:” “It is a telling commentary that the executive producers, David Manson and Richard Kramer, are non-Catholics who don’t believe in God. It is also revealing that the actor who plays the lead priest, Kevin Anderson, is proud of his lapsed Catholic status and boasts of not going to church for 18 years; he also does not believe in God.
“Yet when it comes to doing shows about other segments of society, these same Hollywood phonies are ever so sensitive to make certain that only a genuinely politically correct picture is offered,” Donohue said.
Donohue said he based his comments about Manson, Kramer and Anderson on a July 22 news conference the trio held at the Ritz-Carlton Huntington Hotel, Pasadena, Calif.
Concerning a claim by Manson that the Archdiocese of Los Angeles had reviewed the pilot script of “Nothing Sacred,” Donohue noted the director of the archdiocese’s media relations office has called Manson’s statement “misleading and deceptive.”
“I reviewed the pilot’s script for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and I gave the pilot a negative review!” Gregory Coiro wrote in a letter to the Catholic League. Coiro described “Nothing Sacred” as a “vulgar program,” containing “a number of inaccuracies concerning Catholic belief and practice in addition to numerous instances of erroneous, offensive, insulting and objectionable dialogue.”
Coiro credited the pilot for ending with “a touching reconciliation between a teenaged boy and his father” — but an ending “not good enough to redeem what has gone before.”
Among examples of the program’s offensive content, Coiro wrote, are comments “Father Ray” delivers in a homily at Mass, saying he is tired of being a “sexual traffic cop” and calling parishioners to a moratorium on sins of the flesh, then explaining: “Now I know this will be hard on some of you who have come to rely heavily on the 6th and 9th commandments for confessional matter, but I have faith in you. There are 8 other commandments to break, so let’s get out there and get some serious sinning going on.”