Another blow to civility in the public square was struck last weekend when Oscar-winning actress Susan Sarandon publicly referred to Pope Benedict XVI as a "Nazi."
Not once, but twice.
Newsday reports that the comments came Saturday during an interview session for the Hamptons Film Festival at New York City's Bay Street Theatre.
"She was discussing her 1995 film 'Dead Man Walking,' based on the anti-death penalty book by Sister Helen Prejean, a copy of which she said she sent to the pope.
"'The last one,' she added, 'not this Nazi one we have now.'"
Actor Bob Balaban, who was also participating in the interview, "gently tut-tutted," Newsday writer Rafer Guzman wrote, "but Sarandon only repeated her remark."
According to The Huffington Post, "the Vatican has been open about Pope Benedict XVI's temporary membership in the Hitler Youth during the 1940s . . . Many children were forced to be part of the group during that time."
Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, told
E! News reports that Sarandon is "a despicable person to make these kinds of despicable remarks."
"(The Pope) deserted the Hitler Youth at the first moment," Donohue continued. "(Sarandon) doesn't know what she's talking about . . . To blame him for something that he was never responsible for; he was forced to join as every boy his age was. Unlike the others, he deserted."
The Anti-Defamation League has called for Sarandon to apologize. CNN notes that the ADL's national director, Abraham Foxman, said in a posted statement: "We hope that Susan Sarandon will have the good sense to apologize to the Catholic community and all those she may have offended . . . Ms. Sarandon may have her differences with the Catholic Church, but that is no excuse for throwing around Nazi analogies. Such words are hateful, vindictive and only serve to diminish the true history and meaning of the Holoaust."
So far, Sarandon and her representatives have declined comment.
While Sarandon was in New York calling the Pope a Nazi, Bill Maher was at George Washington University claiming that "Mormonism is more ridiculous than any other religion."
According to New York Times op-ed columnist Maureen Dowd, Maher said Mormonism is "a religion founded on the idea of polygamy. They call it The Principle. That sounds like The Prime Directive in 'Star Trek.'"
Of course, Maher is an equal opportunity hater. Dowd said that he referred to the church in which he was raised, the Catholic Church, as "an international child sex ring."
Meanwhile at Forbes, David DiSalvo, who normally writes about science and technology and their cultural impact, writes about "Mitt, Mormonism and the psychology of religious preference." He glibly outlines his view of the history of the LDS Church, concluding that church founder Joseph Smith was, "in the parlance of orthodox Christianity, a heretic, and if there's one thing most Christians can agree on, it's that the church Smith built has no place in their ranks."
And that, DiSalvo concludes, creates a "Mormon problem" for presidential candidate Mitt Romney. While Romney is currently riding a wave of success created by his own competence, "when the admonishments really get going that voting for Romney is the same as voting for a high-ranking official of a heretical cult, I think the outlook for his campaign is going to change."
"Much as Joseph Smith couldn't outrun the mob," DiSalvo added, "I have a feeling Mitt won't be able to outrun accusations of cultism and heresy. If he can, something central to the very core of Republican politics will have changed, indeed."