From the Publisher The Last Stereotype

When directed at Christians, bigotry is still in fashion.

PITY THE POOR EDITORIAL CARTOONIST IN an age of political correctness. There is so much about which so little can be said. Caricature depends on stereotypes, and when stereotypes themselves are out of fashion, a daily cartoon becomes a real test of the imagination. Whole categories of once-familiar editorial images have been eliminated: the somnolent Mexican under his sombero, the thick-lipped Negro, the limp-wristed decorator. Jews were long ago taken off the list, and now Muslims pose a problem.

So what’s the explanation for this cartoon drawn by Bill DeOre and published by the News in April? Political correctness apparently allows for exceptions. Bigotry is still fashionable when it’s directed at Christians.

This particular cartoon is made the more mysterious by being so off the mark. The bishop of Dallas would have had an easier time if he were a harder man. Appointed to the bishopric more for his spiritual maturity than his administrative abilities, he soon found himself tested on the very qualities he didn’t possess, under siege in a lawsuit for actions he didn’t take and a coverup he didn’t concoct. A churchman with the experience and mental toughness of a W. A. Criswell or a Cardinal Spellman might have navigated these stormy waters, but this bishop wasn’t made of that stern stuff. In the St. Ann’s controversy, he tried to be fair by allowing protesting groups time to raise enough money to buy the old building and nearly lost control of the property as a result. Hispanic activists who never had shown any interest in St. Ann’s until he needed to sell it took advantage of his fairness to flex their political muscle in a bid to thwart him, not by meeting the necessary price but by using government to keep him from selling it at all. A less innocent man would have sold the property, cashed the check, and announced it as a/ait accompli.

That’s what makes this cartoon so puzzling. Members of his flock certainly question how this bishop has handled the moral and financial crisis he inherited. But how can he, of all people, possibly be accused of venality?

Where the facts don’t fit, the cartoonist falls back on the few stereotypes that remain. The dollar sign on the shepherd’s staff isn’t meant to libel a bishop, it is meant to libel a religion. The stereotype of the money-grubbing prelate in some quarters has a history as redolent as that of the money-grubbing Jew. (Come to think of it, they’re very likely the same quarters; ignorance is indiscriminate.) While specifically anti-Catholic in intent, the message is broadly anti-Christian in effect, not merely a slam against a religion, but against all religion. The design is to show what religion really cares about, and the dollar sign is the answer.

What difference does it make that it’s not true? The editorial cartoonist has so few targets left that he has to take them where he can find them. Since Christians are the last stereotype allowed to him. when all else fails, a good and gentle shepherd will do.


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