The HollyChurch Double Standard

God willing, if the long Lent of 2002 led to badly needed reforms for the Catholic Church, the long fall of 2017 will do the same for Hollywood.

Hollywood sign, Los Angeles (Daniil Vnoutchkov/unsplash.com)

Here’s a little thought experiment. Imagine the industry known in shorthand as Hollywood as a kind of parallel Catholic Church. Call it the First HollyChurch of Bel Air. (Remember, this is an analogy, not a simile.)

In HollyChurch, the studio heads and producers are the bishops; the directors are the priests; and the celebrity actors are the deacons. The HollyChurch bishops have the power to hire or fire the priests and deacons. The trouble is, firing rarely happens, only more hiring—unless there’s a huge PR nightmare.

Enter Harvey Cardinal Weinstein, whose bishopric comes with special honors.

His Infamous has led a double life—a public life (“public” as in the outsider perception of him and his accomplishments) and a private one, the one in which he sexually harassed, and—if allegations are true—raped at least one of his deacons.

In the wake of Weinstein’s fall, a spate of HollyChurch priests have also been accused of similar behavior, both homosexual and heterosexual. For example, there’s the Reverend Fathers Roman Polanski, Bryan Singer, Brett Ratner, and James Toback.

A growing list of deacons of HollyChurch have also been credibly accused, including Deacons Kevin Spacey, Ben Affleck, Bill Cosby, Dustin Hoffman, Charlie Sheen, and Louis C.K. There are plenty more in the wings.

One deacon, Corey Feldman, says he was a victim of serial abuse by unnamed HollyChurch prelates years ago, and recently opined that “pedophilia has been, is, and always will be the biggest problem” there. Feldman has further vowed to take a wrecking ball to the pedophile ring he says infests the place to this day.

As convenient as it is to scapegoat the Cardinal, the fact remains that molesting moguls are nothing new in the fame factory, which has a very poor track record when it comes to respecting minors.

Start that list with Judy Garland’s own account of indignities suffered at the wandering hands of Louis B. Mayer, and the fact that she her teen co-star Mickey Rooney were given uppers, then downers, to make the Dickensian shooting schedules. Thus was born the phenomenon of the millionaire child slave. (There’s even an implied casting couch scene involving the fictional Bishop Max Fabian in the 1950 Academy Ward-winning movie All About Eve—pay attention to the scene involving the deaconess Marilyn Monroe.)

With the lid blown off the story, we get the spectacle of dozens of high-level HollyChurch clergy who stayed mute for years about Weinstein now enthused about joining the scapegoating posse. If they don’t drive him into the desert to expiate their own sins of omission, who will?

A more potent mix of schadenfreude, chutzpah, and cowardice is hard to find.

Some, like former Los Angeles County D.A. Steve Cooley, have pointed out some similarities between HollyChurch and the Catholic Church. Both are viewed as powerful organizations with secrets to hide, reputations to protect, and victims to shame or frighten (usually both) or otherwise silence through plea bargains, payouts, and non-disparagement clauses.

These similarities don’t make most practicing Catholics wince because of anti-Catholic bigotry, but because they hew uncomfortably close to the truth.

But this is not the point of the HollyChurch analogy. Which is: where is the MSM presupposition that Hollywood itselfthe whole showbiz industry—is corrupt based on the actions of some of its leaders? When Catholics behave badly, they’re invariably cast as part of an institution that’s evil in itself, while showbiz perpetrators are depicted as philandering rogues independent from the system that gave them both positions of power and cover from consequences.

Could it be, just maybe, that the difference here is that the mainstream media oligarchs and the prelates of HollyChurch are fellow travelers who sing off the same sheet music, and work for the same cultural ends?

If we must admit the unflattering similarities, we must also admit that, despite the media-skewed impression, bad priests are a very rare exception to the rule in the Catholic Church. The John Jay Report (2002), corroborating other studies, found that the total percentage of priests convicted between 1950 and 2002 is 0.1%, against a total accusation rate of 4%. Compare this to public schools. In their survey on 2,064 students in 8th through 11th grade (2000), the American Association of University Women (AAUW) reported that a full 38% of students reported they were sexually harassed by teachers or school employees.

Another difference: the sins of HollyChurch are framed by the media mavens more as gossipy feminist narrative about male power than as serious crimes. The double standard should be self-evident to a reasonable observer. The clincher is that every practicing Catholic abhors what a mercifully tiny minority of clerical predators did. But what does the HollyChurch establishment do whenever Roman Polanksi gets an award or gives a speech? They leap to their feet with a thunderous ovation.

The media exposure of the abuse scandals in the Archdiocese of Boston rocked the Catholic Church, from the pew to the papacy. The late Father Richard John Neuhaus called it “the long Lent of 2002.” The exposure, led by The Boston Globe, had very good effects including the establishment of salient, if far from perfect, reforms under Pope Benedict XVI.

Still, to extend the movie industry analogy, many of the faithful have voted with their feet by staying away from the Church’s product, as chronicled starkly in Philip Lawler’s The Faithful Departed: The Collapse of Boston’s Catholic Culture. Likewise, moviegoers began voting with their feet more recently, first because of disgust at Hollywood’s creations (2017 was the worst box office year in 25 years) and now because of disgust at their creators.

God willing, if the long Lent of 2002 led to badly needed reforms for the Catholic Church, the long fall of 2017 will do the same for Hollywood. The quality of current movies can only get better.

About Patrick Coffin 9 Articles

Patrick Coffin is an author and the host of The Patrick Coffin Show at patrickcoffin.media. He lives just south of Hollywood.

11 Comments

  1. I have been waiting for such a column. The fact that so few have made the above connections and comparisons only buttresses the author’s main assertion.

    I doubt, though, that the culture of entertainment or the public school system will undergo any serious about-face in dealing with the core causes.

    • The character Humbert in Nabokov’s Lolita shows the pretext secular culture has for the next After the Ball planning to assault decency: “she seduced him”. 2 recent French court decisions regarding intergenerational relations with 11 year olds are denying the fact that children are incapable of consent. The pattern is that the younger the child is initiation the more likely force is to be used. This fact dissolves the distinction between the mere conceptual terms “statutory” and “rape”. It’s always Traumatic Early Sexualization. Children’s Right to Innocence is the next target.

  2. Just curious. What would Mr. Coffin think “perfect” reforms for child/youth protection in the Church should consist of, beyond what has already been implemented?

    • Slightly off point, but a good question. For starters, I had in mind reforms that don’t require tens of thousands of lay teachers and speakers to undergo a full battery of over-kill finger-printing and criminal background checks for benign activities involving spreading the Faith; and that don’t involve rushes to judgment and INSTANT removal of priests before due process is engaged. It’s unpopular to mention in some settings but falsely accused priests suffer tremendously.

      • Patrick,

        Thanks for pointing out the John Jay study and its rigorous findings versus any other group in the world; not just teachers or HollyChurch. We are entitled to our opinions but not our facts.
        Furthermore, whether its the church or the Knights of Columbus the legal requirements are obstructing a great deal of charity which is desperately needed by Catholics and non-Catholics alike.
        But as Shawn Carney of 40 Days for Life recently remarked “ the Cross is constantly showering splinters and if your not getting some on you then your not standing close enough. “

        God Bless,
        Jim Gill

  3. Well stated and much appreciated. Good work, Mr. Coffin.
    I would only ask that it be expanded and find a more widely read venue. And, I might add, an extra lens on the nasty reality of sin and its impact on the human condition.
    Whole lotta people running around pointing fingers at everyone but themselves. Particularly women who engage in their own form of abuse — seduction by “fashion.”
    Something contemporary agnosticism and fraudulent kristianity are painfully unable to discuss.

  4. Can get the tone (the style) of the article, but it’s a bit off-putting knowing there’s much more (and far worse) to come. The swamp is very deep indeed, and seeps its sewage far beyond Hollywood Hills and Burbank.

    The next stage in this story is to peg and isolate it as unique to the locale between Santa Monica Blvd. and Canoga Park. The tale won’t stay put. No more than any other previous scandal.

  5. When scandalized disciples of a God-Man Jesus Christ said This is a hard saying. Who can bear it? He indicated his willingness to chuck the whole thing and start over, Will you leave me also? Adonai declared to the priesthood in Malachi 2, I will smear the dung of your sacrifices on your faces because of your failure to give right instruction. If He is only left with 1 little priest to serve Him after the great sorting out, it will be a pure one who loves Him.

  6. There’s a difference. Hollywood makes movies and entertains people. The Catholic Church claims moral authority (and may try to reclaim temporal authority in the future). The Catholic Church holds people under its sway. The Catholic Church attempts to regulate the lives of others and pronounce from on high what is right and what is wrong. That’s what makes its transgressions worse than any harm Hollywood does and the crimes and abuses of its hierarchy all the more sordid and hypocritical.

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