The comments were made on HBO's "Real Time with Bill Maher" on Friday, April 11. Maher went into a long monologue on his program comparing the Catholic church to a polygamous cult -- the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints -- which was raided on April 3 and whose founder, Warren Jeffs, was convicted last year for being an accessory to the rape of a teenage girl.
Bill Maher compared the Texas scandal and its latest alleged abuse with the sexual abuse scandal that rocked the Catholic Church in the United States in 2002.
"I'd like to tip off law enforcement to an even larger child-abusing religious cult," Maher told his audience. "Its leader also has a compound, and this guy not only operates outside the bounds of the law, but he used to be a Nazi and he wears funny hats. That's right, the Pope is coming to America this week and, ladies, he's single."
Catholic League President Bill Donohue responded that Maher "lied when he said the Pope 'used to be a Nazi.' Like all young men in Germany at the time, he was conscripted into a German Youth organization (from which he fled as soon as he could). Every responsible Jewish leader has acknowledged this reality and has never sought to brand the Pope a Nazi. That job falls to Maher."
Maher, a political liberal, has often been a magnet for controversy, making audacious statements targeting religion in general and ridiculing Christians especially. His mother was Jewish but he says that he "was raised Catholic."
On May 24, 2002, Maher told CNN's Larry King Live: "I never even knew I was half-Jewish until I was a teen-ager. I was just so frightened about the Catholics and everything that was going on there in the church -- and I was never, you know, molested or anything. And I'm a little insulted. I guess they never found me attractive. And that's really their loss."
Last year, Maher made news after strongly implying on his HBO show that the world would be a better place if Vice President Dick Cheney had been assassinated. "I have zero doubt that if Dick Cheney was not in power, people wouldn't be dying needlessly tomorrow," Maher said on March 5. "I'm just saying if he did die, other people, more people would live. That's a fact."
On his May 18, 2007 edition of "Real time with Bill Maher," the host compared communion to homosexual oral sodomy and called for turning homosexuality into a religion.
"Gay men, don't say you're life-partners, say you're a nunnery of two," said Maher. "We weren't having sex officer, I was performing a very private Mass, here in my car. I was letting my rod and my staff comfort him. Take this and eat of it, for this is my roommate, Barry. ...
"And for all those who truly believe there is a special place for you in Kevin. And speaking of Heaven, one can only hope that as Jerry Falwell now approaches the Pearly Gates, he is met there by God Himself, wearing a Fire Island muscle shirt, and nut-hugger shorts, and saying to Jerry in a mighty lisp, 'I'm not talking to you.'"
Maher frequently has well-known celebrities, politicians, and journalists on his program.
Mary Ann Kreitzer, president of the Catholic Media Coalition, an umbrella group of Catholic organizations, called the comments, "a horrifying anti-Catholic diatribe."
"Poor Bill Maher. We'll pray for him," Kreitzer told Cybercast News Service. "Talk about hate speech."
Regarding the contents of his comments, she noted that one percent of priests were pedophiles, less than the number of pedophiles in U.S. public schools and other institutions.
Maher, last Friday, further said: "If you have a few hundred followers, and you let some of them molest children, they call you a cult leader. If you have a billion, they call you 'Pope.' It's like, if you can't pay your mortgage, you're a deadbeat. But if you can't pay a million mortgages, you're Bear Stearns and we bail you out. And that is who the Catholic Church is: the Bear Stearns of organized pedophilia -- too big, too fat."
"When the current Pope was in his previous Vatican job as John Paul's Dick Cheney, he wrote a letter instructing every Catholic bishop to keep the sex abuse of minors secret until the Statute of Limitations ran out," said Maher. "And that's the Church's attitude: 'We're here, we're queer, get used to it,' which is fine, far be it from me to criticize religion. But just remember one thing: If the Pope was -- instead of a religious figure -- merely the CEO of a nationwide chain of day care centers, where thousands of employees had been caught molesting kids and then covering it up, he'd be arrested faster than you can say 'who wants to touch Mr. Wiggle?'"
Maher's comments about the Pope were vicious and false, said Donohue, as Pope Benedict XVI was never involved in the sex scandal cover-up.
"The fact is that, before he was named pope, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Benedict XVI) had absolutely nothing to do with policing allegations of sexual abuse until 2002, after the scandal erupted that January," Donohue said in a statement. "And he certainly never counseled bishops to keep sexual abuse secret-this is a bald face lie. Indeed, a week before Pope John Paul II died, he addressed the scandal by saying, 'How much filth there is in the church, even among those who, in the priesthood, should belong entirely' to God."
Kreitzer believes that celebrity guests that appear on Maher's show should rethink appearing on the program considering Maher's comments.
"We ask everybody else to apologize and some people make one comment and they get fired," Kreitzer said. "There was nothing accidental about Maher's comments. They were deliberately inflammatory."
But what's more important than getting an apology is helping Maher understand the truth, said Hugh Owen, director of the of the Kolbe Center for the Study of Creation.
"It's hard to apologize when you think you've done nothing wrong," Owen told Cybercast News Service. "More important than forcing an apology, which usually comes down to economic pressure, is that the truth be presented to Mr. Maher."
Owen also addressed Maher's comments on the sex-abuse scandal.
"Yes, there are church leaders that acted in immoral and sometimes evil ways," Owen said. "The solution is not to follow Mr. Maher and say all religion is bunk. The solution is to remain faithful to Jesus Christ and remain in the church and work for the restoration of the church."
Rational people don't engage in such rhetoric as Maher, said Father Francis deRosa of St. Louis Catholic Church in Alexandria, Va., adding that Protestant Christians, Muslims, Jews and even atheists can have dialogue with the church and respect the Pope.
"It's very unprofessional and reveals a deep inner turmoil," deRosa told Cybercast News Service. "It was a loud insult to a billion people, really more, because the Pope is respected by many people who aren't Catholics."
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