Yesterday, Catholic League put out a press release with statements from CL’s president, Bill Donohue commenting on “Walmart’s Catholic Problem.”
“Fat Girl Costumes” sold by Walmart were the subject of a deep apology and a pledge to rid the store’s inventory of such demeaning garb. Yesterday, when Catholics who are on our news release list complained to Walmart about three offensive Catholic costumes—a Virgin Mary with blood dripping from her eyes, a nun outfit with a skeleton head, and a costume that mocks the confessional—they got a different response.
“We apologize if we offended you. Because we have multiple buyers of customers, we try to provide them with plenty of options. However, we have documented your concern in order to improve our inventory at Walmart.com and in stores.”
I was so bothered by the story that I opted to not make a purchase at a Walmart yesterday. But then I realized that I really didn’t know much about the story; so I decided to return to the Walmart and see what I could find. In speaking with the manager, I got a little more info. Apparently, the Walmart site was hacked and that’s how the “Fat Girl Costumes” got there. This manager had seen none of the offending costumes (they’ve been sold out of costumes for a while now) and, given what I’ve consistently seen in this Walmart, I believed him. It’s family friendly, lots of Christian materials.
I went to the Walmart website. Yes, there’s the offending nun costume.
But no Virgin Mary with bleeding eyes or “a costume that mocks the confessional,” whatever that may be.
There are Virgin Mary costumes, priest costumes, and rabbi costumes. (No imam costumes, for what it’s worth.)
But in all fairness, these costumes could be purchased and used without being offensive. Heck, lots of Catholics and other Christians encourage alternative Halloween celebrations, e.g. saints, harvest costumes, etc.
So here’s my point. Catholic League may be completely right in their statement, but it’s difficult to verify. They don’t have the offending costumes pictured on their website, much less identified as Walmart merchandise. It’s unclear what one of the offending costumes might even look like. And there’s a bit of a back story, which sounds legitimate, about the “Fat Girl Costumes.”
I think we need to be very careful as Catholic experts and commentators when we run with a story. Is it accurate? Do we know enough? The commentary surrounding the recent Synod was evidence of more imprecision and confusion.
As Archbishop Chaput recently reminded us, confusion is of the devil. Our job is not to add to the confusion or to create it, but to be light that dispels darkness and confusion.
Catholic League, please shed some light on your story. I’m happy to post anything that you can document. Right now, it’s just confusing.