Celebrity Cruises announced that it would no longer have priests on board to celebrate daily and Sunday Masses. We immediately followed up by questioning the cruise line about its new policy. Celebrity replied to our inquiry by saying, “Out of respect for our guests of all religious faiths, Celebrity has chosen to align the religious services provided for Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and Interdenominational faiths effective January 4, 2010.” It added that religious services would be provided for “the major High Holy Holidays of each respective faith.”
What this statement failed to note was the reason for the new policy. The following is an excerpt from a letter Celebrity sent to Catholic priests affected by the change in policy:
“While we do meet the needs of many guests onboard by supplying a priest, we have recently encountered a great deal of negative feedback pertaining to the ‘selective’ support of one particular religion/faith. After many internal discussions, external research, and marketing investigations, Celebrity Cruises will only place Roman Catholic Priests on sailings that take place over the Easter and Christmas holiday.”
Celebrity spokeswoman Liz Jakeway defended the new policy by distorting the truth of what actually occurred. She said that the new policy is “built around our guests’ feedback and their suggestion that we ‘level the playing field.’” She failed to mention that Celebrity let bigotry—not parity—drive its new policy.
Similarly, one would never have known the truth of what happened by reading Cathy Lynn Grossman’s column in the January 26 USA Today. She made it sound as if Catholics had been cut a deal by Celebrity at the expense of others. She reported that some “were annoyed that Catholic clergy had ever been favored over other faiths that have daily or weekly prayers.” But there was no favoritism: there is a profound difference between non-Catholic clergy not requesting daily religious services and their being denied by Celebrity.
We advised all Catholics to shop around the next time they plan on taking a cruise, and not to waste their time checking out Celebrity Cruises.
At a fashion show at La Sorbonne in Paris, the clothing line Givenchy introduced some religious-themed items for its Fall/Winter 2010 collection. The male models wore clothes and accessories that were a showcase of Christian symbols. All but one of the items were inoffensive.
Designer Riccardo Tisci crafted “JESUS IS LORD” T-shirts, monastic hoods, clerical shirts, etc. But what crossed the line were his gold-colored crown of thorns necklaces: what was especially disturbing was that they were featured on bare-chested male models.
We asked Givenchy to pull the necklace immediately but received no response.
The travel website Kayak began a commercial campaign featuring two attractive nuns seductively looking at each other implicating a lesbian relationship. On February 15, after many complaints, Kayak CEO Robert Birge issued an apology stating that “it was never intended to be disrespectful to the Church.”
Showtime launched an ad campaign to promote the new season of its show “Nurse Jackie”; the ads were placed on billboards owned by Clear Channel Outdoors. The ad featured the lead character posed like Jesus with a halo of pills and bottles around her head with the phrase “Holy Shift.”
Rockford, IL – The Northern Illinois Women’s Center featured a decoration of a nun in a coffin and posters in its front windows taunting the pro-life community. A sign next to an entrance to the facility had a picture of Jesus extending a middle-finger with the phrase “Even Jesus Hates You” accompanying it.
Along with these signs and decorations, someone from the inside of the building displayed a sign as a priest and a seminarian were praying outside the building; the sign read, “F*** Your Perverted Priests.” Another priest had a sign taped to his car that read, “I Rape Children.”
The Catholic League was informed by a member that the Crow’s Nest Trading Company was selling an item called “Catholic Ring.” The ring was a sterling silver piece of jewelry inscribed with the words “Recovering Catholic.” Bill Donohue wrote to Crow’s Nest President, Douglas Tennis, requesting that the piece be removed from the catalog and website. In a letter of apology, the CEO of Crow’s Nest wrote, “Let me assure you that you have opened our eyes and caused us to look at the offensive merchandise through another perspective, and it has been removed from our line.”
Branford, CT – The Branford Green hosted a “Halloween Pet Parade” for the Dan Cosgrove Animal Shelter. At the parade there was a costume contest for the animals; the winner was a dog dressed as a nun.
Apple, Inc. decided to remove an iPhone app called the “Manhattan Declaration” after some complained that its contents were “anti-gay” and “anti-choice.” The document is an authoritative statement initially signed by 148 signatories—all of them prominent Orthodox Christian, Catholic and Protestant religious leaders—affirming the sanctity of life, religious liberty and marriage (Bill Donohue was one of them). It is free of incendiary language and to label it bigotry is offensive.
New York, NY – A Catholic woman sued Concepts in Time, a Manhattan business run by an Orthodox Jewish boss, claiming that she had been banned from wearing her crucifix to work. According to her attorney, the woman was told to never wear her cross again, but her Jewish colleagues were free to wear jewelry with the Star of David.
MOTHER TERESA CAMPAIGN
In May, the Catholic League began a worldwide campaign protesting a decision by officials from the Empire State Building to deny Mother Teresa the same honor it had extended to virtually every world leader, event or holiday, namely, to shine the colors associated with the honoree from its tower on a designated night.
Early in the year, we found out that on September 5, the U.S. Postal Service would honor the 100th anniversary of the birth of Mother Teresa by issuing a stamp with her image. On February 2, Bill Donohue submitted an application to the Empire State Building Lighting Partners requesting that the tower lights feature blue and white, the colors of Mother Teresa’s congregation, the Missionaries of Charity, on August 26. On May 5, the request was denied without explanation.
During her life, Mother Teresa received 124 awards, including the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Medal of Freedom. She built hundreds of orphanages, hospitals, hospices, health clinics, homeless shelters, youth shelters and soup kitchens all over the world, and is revered in India for her work. She created the first hospice in New York’s Greenwich Village for AIDS patients. Not surprisingly, she was voted the most admired woman in the world three years in a row in the mid-1990s. But she was not good enough to be honored by the Empire State Building.
In the Autumn of 2009, the Empire State Building shone in red and yellow lights to honor the 60th anniversary of the Chinese Communist revolution. Yet under its founder, Mao Zedong, the Communists killed 77 million people. In other words, the greatest mass murderer in history merited the same tribute being denied to Mother Teresa.
We launched a worldwide petition drive protesting this indefensible decision and gathered well over 40,000 signatures. We also petitioned Anthony Malkin, the owner of the Empire State Building, to reverse the decision and urged our members to write to him. But all requests were ignored.
Every reporter who contacted Malkin’s office was hung up on. A PR representative hired from another firm would only say that he had been instructed not to say anything. Furthermore, when reporters from CBS sought access to Malkin on May 14, security guards escorted them out of his building.
Malkin called his decision to deny the lighting “final and irrevocable.” Apropos, we called for a demonstration on August 26 outside of the Empire State Building. A decision that we said was “final and irrevocable.”
While stiffing Mother Teresa drove much of the response, lying and arrogance associated with this event were also important factors. Click here see a copy of the application that we filled out in February; see also a copy of the application that was drawn up after our protest was lodged. In other words, they simply invented a new policy regarding religious figures so as to give themselves cover.
The support we garnered was wide. Media outlets all over the world carried this story, and the response was overwhelmingly positive. Liberals, conservatives, moderates—all were on board. So were people of every religious and ethnic affiliation; we were especially pleased by the strong response from Mother Teresa’s own ethnic community, the Albanians. Indeed, Malkin brought people together the likes of which we’ve never seen before.
In fact, few could believe that Malkin dug himself such a hole. While he was paying lawyers and consultants for advice, we reached out to a record number of bishops, priests, religious and lay leaders. Of special note was the warm reception we received from several bishops in India; they all had fond memories of Mother Teresa. We also gained new members at a fast pace.
In addition to holding a rally, we decided to conduct a positive PR campaign via our website: we posted the names and contact information of pro-life organizations in the New York tri-state area, urging people to make a donation in the name of Mother Teresa.
We had a lot of prominent people come to the rally. Moreover, we are pleased to note that not only did many New York buildings shine blue and white that night, but so did buildings in places ranging from Buffalo to Miami to Belfast. We encouraged everyone—no matter where they live—to wear blue and white on August 26.
August 26, 2010 will go down in American history as an important Catholic date. The rally proved to be a success, drawing over 3,000 people filling both sides of 34th street between 5th Avenue and Broadway. Seventeen notables spoke at the rally: politicians from both the Republican and Democratic Parties; celebrities, religious figures and New York icons; there were Albanians, African Americans, Indians, Irish, Italians, Jews, Latinos and others; there were Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims and Hindus. The diversity of the speakers proved our point: Mother Teresa transcended all demographic boundaries.
MOTHER TERESA PETITION
In the June edition of Catalyst, we provided the following petition for our members to sign and send to Anthony Malkin, asking him to reverse the decision of the Empire State Building and to light its towers to honor Mother Teresa:
Dear Mr. Malkin:
As the owner of the Empire State Building, we implore you to reverse the decision made by Empire State Lighting Partners to deny Mother Teresa the honor of having the towers shine in blue and white on August 26. On this day, the U.S. Postal Service will honor her with a stamp, marking the 100th anniversary of her birth.
Mother Teresa received 124 awards, including the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Medal of Freedom. She built hundreds of orphanages, hospitals, hospices, health clinics, homeless shelters, youth shelters and soup kitchens all over the world, and is revered in India for her work. She created the first hospice in Greenwich Village for AIDS patients. Not surprisingly, she was voted the most admired woman in the world three years in a row in the mid-1990s.
Last year the Empire State Building shone in red and yellow lights to honor the 60th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Revolution. Yet under its founder, Mao Zedong, the Communists killed 77 million people. In other words, the greatest mass murderer in history merited the same tribute being denied to Mother Teresa.
We look forward to your intervention in this matter.