After my last post about whether young people increasingly are pro-life, several readers responded to my statement that the March for Life resembled a "gigantic Catholic pep rally." There was no real disagreement about this assertion. So why write about this? Because a story in the San Francisco Chronicle, about the West Coast March for Life, should remind reporters of the latent hostility of some Americans toward Catholics. (And in a related matter, ESPN anchors are not immune to the disease, either.)
Covering the event in The City, Anastasia Ustinova and Sabin Russell recorded a telling chant on the part of pro-choice counter-demonstrators:
During the march, the anti-abortion contingent sang hymns and recited prayers while they stared indifferently at their hecklers. Their critics - more than 300 strong - countered with chants and slogans and waved hand-painted posters declaring, "Keep your rosaries off our ovaries!"
I've heard that line before. Ustinova and Russell really should have batted down this anti-Catholic stereotype. Would they really have let it slide for any other ethnic or religious group? (As a native San Franciscan, I can assure you that they would not have.) Religious historian Philip Jenkins calls this the new anti-Catholicism: turning a blind eye to bigotry and discrimination against Catholics.
My point is that the large Catholic presence at these Marches for Life is not some abstract matter or interesting sidelight. It's a live issue -- and deserves to be covered as such.
Sure, Catholicism and anti-Catholicism should hardly be considered the dominant storyline at these marches. But it is a storyline. Imagine covering a march against genocide without making reference to the large number of Jewish or Armenian participants.
Of course, when newspapers don't cover these annual anti-abortion protests at all, you can guess what they think of Catholicism.