In an unusually strong editorial, the newspaper of the Los Angeles Catholic Archdiocese said Friday that an independent Catholic group’s boycott campaign against the ABC-TV series “Nothing Sacred” is unfair and unrepresentative of most Catholic views.
The hourlong show, featuring a young priest’s struggles in a poor parish, “should be allowed to develop before anyone passes final judgment,” said the Tidings, the weekly paper of the archdiocese.
Though the paper does not speak for Los Angeles Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, Editor Tod M. Tamberg said he took into account the cardinal’s 1993 pastoral letter advising a constructive approach to critiquing Hollywood. Also, a memo circulated recently by the U.S. Catholic bishops said the program could prove beneficial to the church in the long run.
“A discussion of the role of the church and the priesthood in society and in the media could be a worthwhile result,” wrote Bishop Thomas J. Costello of Syracuse, N.Y., who heads the U.S. Catholic bishops’ communications committee.
Though only three of 13 episodes of “Nothing Sacred” have aired so far, the controversy generated by William Donohue, president of the New York-based Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, has a longer history related to Hollywood-and-religion culture wars.
Walt Disney Co. - already the boycott target of Southern Baptists and other evangelical Protestant groups on a variety of issues - was already being boycotted by the conservative Catholic League over “The Priest,” a movie distributed by a Disney subsidiary.
Since Disney affiliate ABC released the pilot show of “Nothing Sacred” in August, Donohue urged petitions be sent to Disney demanding the cancellation of what Donohue called a “frontal assault on Roman Catholicism.”
The Los Angeles archdiocesan newspaper, which rarely takes a strong stance against other Catholic figures, lit into the Catholic League. The editorial noted that Donohue’s claimed supporters include a “right-wing fringe (Catholic) group” and a fundamentalist Protestant organization, the American Family Association.
Addressing Donohue personally, the paper, which has a circulation of 30,000, contended that many faithful, intelligent Catholics “resent your self-appointment” as censor of Hollywood.
Stu Bloomberg, entertainment chairman at ABC, said Friday that the network has no regrets about airing a conflict-filled program dealing with faith. He said the protests are having no effect.
“We are extremely proud of the series,” Bloomberg said. “If this show were canceled today, the hue and cry would be louder about taking a quality show off the air than the scattered applause of pressure groups.”