'Religion News Service' Hails 'Moving' Anti-Catholic Play

The Huffington Post is promoting a positive review of Colm Toibin’s blasphemous play “The Testament of Mary” by Religion News Service reporter Charles Austin, who bizarrely claimed the bitterly anti-Catholic Irish writer is just like a preacher in imagining how “biblical heroes” acted between the lines.

“Preachers do it every Sunday in their sermons.” Which preachers echo Toibin in suggesting the Apostles were disreputable frauds, and that Jesus was not God? And if Mary is a bitter, hateful woman who hates the Apostles, how is she still a “biblical hero”? Austin claimed:

The anger about Toibin's book and play is understandable. But Toibin's works are fiction, not Scripture. Novels often expand the stories of biblical heroes such as David, Solomon, Moses and St. Peter.

Usually, however, those works have been in tune with Christian piety. It is not inherently wrong to ask the "what if" questions, to wonder how the characters in the Bible "really" felt or acted. Preachers do it every Sunday in their sermons.

That’s not the only passage where Austin the “religion” reporter doesn’t seem to understand simple religious concepts. He also thinks you can’t call it “blasphemy” to suggest the Mother of God didn’t think her son was God:

Roman Catholic protesters stood across the street from the Walter Kerr theater as the play began previews in March, chanting rosaries and bearing signs label the play "blasphemy."  But the Bible itself says almost nothing about Mary after the crucifixion of Jesus. Legend has it she lived out her life in Ephesus, the scene of Toibin's play...

Seeing Mary as one who cannot find faith rather than as the model of perfect faith is unsettling. But Toibin's work is nonetheless moving, for once he prompts us, it is not hard to imagine a mother whose grief leads not to faith, but to anger.

Perhaps Toibin's Mary stands in for those who catch only a glimpse of the divine, who might want to believe, but cannot.

Toibin has every right to imagine Mary as a vicious, unbelieving old woman. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t blasphemy, or that it matches what preachers do every Sunday. Which editor at “Religion News Service” allowed such an ignorant review to ruin their brand name?

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis