William A. Donohue was born in Long Island, New York on July 18, 1947 and after Catholic elementary and secondary training, received his teaching degree and became a professor at St. Lucy's School in Spanish Harlem. A product of the civil rights in the sixties, Donohue could see first hand the injustices in this district and how the Puerto Ricans were being taken advantage of in all aspects of society. It caused him great concern for others and the plight of people who had little representation.
At the same time Vatican II reforms were being enforced and he was also concerned how they didn't jive with what the Council Fathers had directed. Doing constant research he began taking note of the discrepancies. In 1977 he was offered a faculty position at La Roche College in Pittsburgh while still commuting in studying for his PhD at New York University.
He received his Doctorate in Sociology from NYU in 1980 and began to write on the discrepancies he had discovered in society, publishing his first book The Politics of the American Civil Liberties Union in 1985. His thirst for the scholastic scene earned him a scholarship as a Bradley Resident Scholar at The Heritage Foundation where he wrote his second book, The New Freedom: Individualism and Collectivism in the Social LIves of Americans. His ACLU influence continued with his third book, Twilight of Liberty: The Legacy of the ACLU released in 1994 by Transaction Press.
While Bill was in college in New York, a Jesuit priest Father Virgil C. Blum founded the Catholic League at Marquette University in Milwaukee in order to defend the rights of lay and clergy Catholics, especially in education allowing them to participate in American public life without defamation or discrimination. He felt it was necessary because the First Amendment is supposed to safeguard the religious freedom rights and the free speech rights of Catholics whenever they are threatened, no matter where. It was the esteemed Harvard professor Dr. Arthur Schlesinger, Sr. who noted that the prejudice against the Church and her members amounted to "the deepest bias in the history of the American people."
Dating back to Colonial times there has always been spoken and unspoken persecution against Catholics who are derisively called "Papists" for their loyalty to the Vicar of Christ in Rome. The unabashed Catholic-hater Thomas Nast bashed Catholics at every opportunity he could in his national editorial cartoons in the early years of this country and present Yale professor Peter Viereck has noted that "Catholic baiting is the anti-Semitism of the liberals." For twenty years Fr. Blum ran the Catholic League as a grass-roots program without ever gaining any real credibility or clout with the all-powerful media. When Fr. Blum died in 1990, the Board of Directors waited for three years to appoint a successor. In 1993 they didn't have to search far for a successor. It was a natural to appoint Donohue as the new Director of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights because of his track record in human rights, libertarian leanings, and strong orthodox Catholic beliefs.
Almost immediately after assuming his new position at the new League headquarters on the 20th floor of a highrise office building in midtown Manhattan, Donohue went into action. He realized the Catholic League had to be a greater force to offset today's brand of anti-Catholicism so prevalent in the print and broadcast media as well as a powerful voice to convey to the entertainment industry, especially film, television, music and the audio and video talk-show circuit, that Catholics have had enough and are no longer going to stand for the defamation that has become more virulent and more pervasive than in anytime in American history. Acknowledging that Catholics had made great strides in securing their rights, he also realized that the degree of hostility towards Catholics in general was appalling.
Therefore, through an ambitious direct mail campaign, he launched a crusade to raise badly needed funds and spread the League nationwide, setting up satellites to be on the lookout for Catholic bashing in all forms of society. He wanted to take the Catholic League to the prestigious status enjoyed by such organizations as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Jewish Anti-Defamation League. In six short years he has established the League as just such a force, where recognition is acknowledged by political organizations as well as major corporations. But he has forged this status without catering to the political and special interest groups as the NAACP and ADL and a plethora of other civil rights groups have done.
In spurning control by special interest groups the League has subsisted on donations from individuals, not the Church or any other organization. A publication called Catalyst, which Bill edits, is part of the membership benefits for those interested in joining the League. For more on the League you can check them out at www.catholicleague.org. Though the League does not have the financial support of the Church or is a bonafide Church-run organization, it has the respect of the Church, evident from the many endorsements from Cardinal John O'Connor, Anthony Bevilaqua, Bernard Law and even Cardinal Roger Mahony who has disagreed with Donohue in the past in some things because of their differing viewpoints. While the League is not Church-sponsored, it does not intend to speak for the hierarchy or for the universal Church any more than the NCR and Call To Action speak for the Church on the far left or The Wanderer speaks for ultra-conservative loyal Catholics.
The League has been on the hotseat with some bishops for various criticisms of some programs that have split Catholics. Most notably was the flap over ABC's drama series "Nothing Sacred" which Donohue attacked for heresy and depiction of the Catholic Church and its members as a liberal entity with those faithful to Rome being portrayed as dolts. Though ABC and Disney won't admit it, it was the pressure of Donohue's criticism and call for a nationwide boycott that finally axed the show. The same course was taken with Disney's movie Priests which Donohue attacked as totally without redeeming value that depicts Catholic priests in the most degrading way possible. ABC has long been a target of Donohue who feels that there is a pattern at ABC that seems immune to the conscience and their blatant bashing of Catholics in their programming, the most vile one being an episode of "That's Life" during Holy Week that attacked dogma, the sacraments, the Blessed Mother, the saints, pious Catholic practices and was, in Donohue's words, "the most anti-Catholic show" he had ever seen!
It's possible, with the resignation of Jamie Tarses, head of entertainment at the American Broadcasting Company last week, that the pendulum may be swinging and ABC will wise up. The pressure on Disney by Donohue and the League forced Michael Eisner to bow out of a project due out later this year called Dogma which parodies the Catholic Church in a most unfavorable light. Yet Disney is not without guilt for they passed it on to one of their subsidiaries.
You name the issue and the Catholic League has been there with Donohue getting involved in all aspects. He and his staff pour through tons of mail from members who send him clippings or accounts they have heard on radio or TV. If their complaint merits investigation, he is ready to dive in. Under his leadership the Catholic League has intensified its efforts to defend Catholics in all walks of life, in school, in the workplace and in politics without getting politically involved. The League offers legal representation and stays on top of all complaints, following up with letters and documentation to the offenders to cease and desist or they will face the full brunt of the Catholic League.
In the past such actions by the League may have been met with apathy or disdain, but not today for, under the vision of William A. Donohue, the Catholic League has become a respected player in the quest for Catholics and all others to realize the Constitution also applies to Catholics. As a show of prestige for the League, four of the members of the Board of Advisors and Directors were voted to the TOP 100 CATHOLICS OF THE CENTURY list.
Besides his full-time duties with the League, he serves on the Board of Advisors of the Washington Legal Foundation, the Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society, the Educational Freedom Foundation, the Society of Catholic Social Scientists, Catholics United for the Faith, the Jewish Action Alliance, and the Ave Maria Institute. He is also a member of the Ancient Order of Hibernians and Catholic War Veterans.
While he has appeared on thousands of television and radio shows and been quoted countless times in the print media, ironically, probably his greatest backhanded compliment has come from the liberal element of the Amerikan Church, headed by Call To Action and their mouthpiece the National Catholic Reporter. They accused him of striving to take the Church in America back to the days of "Going My Way" and "The Bells of St. Mary's" which, while not true, is one of the best testimonies to Donohue's total loyalty to Rome.
Death of Saint Raymond Nonnatus whose last name is derived from the fact he was born via Caesarian operation rather than natural birth - "non natus". He made the most of his life, joining the Mercedarians and offered his own life in ransom. Having been imprisoned and tortured by the Moors, he suffered greatly but was rescued via ransom by Saint Peter Nola but he died shortly thereafter. St. Raymond is the patron saint of midwives.
The Netherlands' Cardinal Hadrian Florensz Dedal, Bishop of Utrecht is selected as the 218th successor of Peter. He took the name Pope Hadrian VI and served only a little over a year. His papacy was frought with not grasping the seriousness of the threat of Lutheranism until it was too late. Though he was engaged in a deep struggle against those who were harassing the Church - both Protestants and Turks, he was hampered by diminishing coffers and the immense dislike for a non-Italian pontiff. Interestingly, he was the last non-Italian Pope until John Paul II was elected in 1978.
Pope Paul III prepares the bull that would excommunicate King Henry VIII for his disobedience to the Holy See, but it would not be enacted on until December 17, 1538.