O'Reilly compared Catholic leaders' silence over "war" on Christmas to Church's reaction to pedophilia scandalDecember 15, 2005 1:23 PM EST ››› SAM GILL
Asserting that Catholic leaders are "MIA in the Christmas controversy," Fox News' Bill O'Reilly compared what he said was the Church leadership's silence on the "war" on Christmas to the Church's handling of the pedophilia scandal. O'Reilly's guest on the December 14 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, Rev. Richard McBrien, professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame, responded by saying, "This controversy over a Christmas celebration ... is a very minor issue in comparison."
O'Reilly attempted to further compare what he depicted as Catholic leaders' indifference toward the "war" on Christmas with Protestant-led Christmas movements, citing the leadership of Rev. Jerry Falwell, founder and chairman of the Moral Majority Coalition and American Family Association president Don Wildmon. McBrien countered that Falwell and Wildmon represent "a certain segment of the Protestant side ... But mainstream Protestants generally are in the same boat, as it were, as mainstream Catholics and their bishops."
McBrien then asserted:
Today there are many, many millions of non-Christians beyond the Jewish community. And so, you know, business is business. It's out to make a profit, and it doesn't want to alienate potential customers.
O'Reilly's responded: "[T]hat's dopey, Father."
Promoting the segment earlier that day on his nationally syndicated radio show, The Radio Factor, O'Reilly asked, "Why aren't the prelates of the Catholic Church in America, the cardinals and the archbishops standing up for Christmas? Why? ... If you don't stick up for the baby Jesus, who are you going to stick up for?"
From the December 14 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
O'REILLY: Now, Father, we had almost the exact same discussion -- Father McBrien -- about the priest pedophilia scandal, when I just said, "Look, we can't get one cardinal, one archbishop to come on the program and say anything." And now here we are again; the same thing except for [Archbishop of Santa Fe, New Mexico, Michael] Sheehan. What's going on?
McBRIEN: Well, first of all, Bill, this is a very different sort of issue. I mean, the pedophilia crisis and scandal that it was associated with it was enormously significant. In fact, I think the most important crisis the Catholic Church in America has ever faced.
This controversy over a Christmas celebration -- whether to say "Happy Holidays" or "Merry Christmas" or to allow nativity scenes, crèches, and so forth, or to call Christmas trees "Christmas trees" rather than "Holiday trees" -- is a very minor issue in comparison.
O'REILLY: Look, look, here's the deal. We've got 65 million American Catholics. OK? And they don't hear a word from any Catholic leadership on the subject at all.
The Protestants have at least a half dozen -- what, you got, Falwell, Wildmon (they're going to be on next week); we've got campaigns that the Protestants have organized to say to retailers, "Hey, listen, if you don't -- if you disrespect the holiday of Christmas, we're going to let our people know." All of this is in play on the Protestant side; zippo on the Catholic side.
McBRIEN: But --
O'REILLY: Listen -- go ahead.
McBRIEN: But, Bill, it's only, it's a certain segment of the Protestant side, and I'm not -- I don't intend to diminish them or to put them down. But mainstream Protestants generally are in the same boat, as it were, as mainstream Catholics and their bishops.
Look, for decades, Catholics and mainstream Protestants have bemoaned the commercialization of Christmas, the using the religious aspects of the feast to sell products.
And what's happened -- two things have happened -- one is that this nation has changed. In 1955, Will Herbert, a very famous social scientist, wrote a book called "Protestant, Catholic, Jew." In 1955, that was the religious landscape of this country. The only real non-Christians in this country were Jews, and they were a small minority. Today, there are many, many millions of non-Christians beyond the Jewish community. And so, you know, business is business. It's out to make a profit, and it doesn't want to alienate potential customers.
O'REILLY: Yes, but that -- you know that's dopey, Father.
From the December 14 broadcast of Westwood One's The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly:
O'Reilly: And, uh, we also have a very provocative segment, why aren't the prelates of the Catholic Church in America, the cardinals and the archbishops standing up for Christmas? Why? There's only one who will talk to us, Sheehan out in New Mexico. Archbishop Sheehan. Where are the others? Where are they? If you don't stick up for the baby Jesus, who are you going to stick up for?
Now, they were MIA in the priest/pedophilia scandals. Now, they're MIA in the Christmas controversy. What the heck's going on with them? So we're going to do that, and I'll probably get excommunicated again. How many times can you get excommunicated? No, I haven't been excommunicated, not that I know of.