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Anti-Catholicism in literature and media

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Jan 3, 2022

The Catholic Church has been criticised in fiction, such as literature, film and television. Polemics have also been written on the Church and its practices. Some examples are the anti-Catholic stereotypes that filled Gothic fiction of Anglican England, the films of Luis Buñuel who had his issues with the Church in Spain, the humor of some US television pundits like Rosie O’Donnell, and the rhetoric of some fundamentalist preachers. Since the Reformation sexual immorality by individuals in the Catholic church has been fertile ground for criticism, with biased coverage evident in media coverage of abuse cases.

. . . Anti-Catholicism in literature and media . . .

Anti-Catholic stereotypes are a long-standing feature of English literature, popular fiction, and even pornography. Gothic fiction is particularly rich in this regard. Lustful priests, cruel abbesses, immured nuns, and sadistic inquisitors appear in such works as The Italian by Ann Radcliffe, The Monk by Matthew Lewis, Melmoth the Wanderer by Charles Maturin and The Pit and the Pendulum by Edgar Allan Poe.[1]

Such gothic fiction may have inspired Rebecca Reed‘s Six Months in a Convent which describes her alleged captivity by an Ursuline order near Boston in 1832.[2][3]

Reed’s claims inspired an angry mob to burn down the convent, and her narrative, released three years later as the rioters were tried, famously sold 200,000 copies in one month. Reed’s book was soon followed by another bestselling fraudulent exposé, Awful Disclosures of the Hotel-Dieu Nunnery (1836) in which Maria Monk claimed that the convent served as a harem for Catholic priests, and that any resulting children were murdered after baptism. Col. William Stone, a New York city newspaper editor, along with a team of Protestant investigators, inquired into Monk’s claims, inspecting the convent in the process. Col. Stone’s investigation concluded there was no evidence that Maria Monk “had ever been within the walls of the cloister”.[4]

Reed’s book became a best-seller, and Monk or her handlers hoped to cash in on the evident market for anti-Catholic horror fiction. The tale of Maria Monk was, in fact, clearly modeled on the Gothic novels popular in the early 19th century. This literary genre had already been used for anti-Catholic sentiments in works such as Matthew Lewis’ The Monk. Maria Monk’s story exhibits the genre-defining elements of a young and innocent woman trapped in a remote, old, and gloomily picturesque estate; she learns the dark secrets of the place; after harrowing adventures she escapes.[5][6]

The anti-Catholic Gothic tradition continued with Charlotte Brontë‘s semi-autobiographical novel Villette (1853). Bronte explores the culture clash between the heroine’s English Protestantism and the Catholicism of the environment at her school in ‘Villette’ (aka Brussels) before magisterially pronouncing “God is not with Rome.”[7]

In a chapter of Fyodor Dostoevsky‘s The Brothers Karamazov called The Grand Inquisitor, the Catholic Church convicts a returned-from-Heaven Jesus Christ of heresy and is portrayed as a servant of Satan.[8]

Dan Brown‘s best-selling novel The Da Vinci Code depicts the Catholic Church as determined to hide the truth about Mary Magdalene. An article in an April 2004 issue of National Catholic Register maintains that “The Da Vinci Code claims that Catholicism is a big, bloody, woman-hating lie created out of pagan cloth by the manipulative Emperor of Rome”.[9] An earlier book by Brown, Angels & Demons, depicts the Church as involved in an elemental battle with the Illuminati.

A World Lit Only by Fire by William Manchester quotes several anti-Catholic stereotypes about Middle Ages, while pretending[clarification needed] to be academic.[10]

In Germany, Otto von Corvin has published two anti-Catholic books.

. . . Anti-Catholicism in literature and media . . .

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. . . Anti-Catholicism in literature and media . . .