Sean Hannity’s Problem with Catholicism

by Michael Potemra

On Friday night, Fox News host Sean Hannity had a dramatic confrontation with Fr. Tom Euteneuer. (The video is at www.foxnews.com; it’s the one titled “Judgment Day for Sean.”) Euteneuer had written a column denouncing Hannity for endorsing contraception; on the Friday Fox broadcast, Euteneuer said the host was being “a heretic in public.” Hannity responded with “judge not lest you be judged,” and an attack on “the corruption in the Church” and “the sex scandal.” There’s much to be said about this. Hannity’s attacks on the Catholic Church are a cheap shot and not relevant to the issue of his dissent from a particular Catholic teaching. Amy Welborn is right to suggest that the Catholic League, which is hypersensitive to slights to Catholicism emanating from the left, should–in the interests of consistency and credibility–knock Hannity when he does the same thing from the right.   But it would be a shame if this turned into a mere bash-Hannity festival. Because Hannity was on to something in his contention about judgmentalism, and this could be an important teaching moment on the issue. It’s a right-wing shibboleth that Jesus’ phrase “judge not lest ye be judged” should be ignored, because after all it’s only an excuse people use for not doing what we (the good people, the religious in-group) know to be the right thing. But Jesus was addressing a genuine religious problem, one that existed in first-century Judea just as it exists today. There is such a thing as pharisaism: the desire to substitute man-made righteousness for God’s righteousness, and to demean anyone who is outside the man-made in-group. Whether Fr. Euteneuer is pharisaical is something on which Sean Hannity and I might disagree–I think that, in general, Euteneuer is a good guy and that, in this particular confrontation, he transgressed the bounds of charity substantially less than Hannity did. But the good news is, the final determination on this will not rest with me or Sean, but with someone more merciful than either of us.