An exceptionally poor Associated Press report last week paired the news of a Catholic priest’s arrest in Ohio for growing pot with that of a priest in Iowa, sentenced to a year for kiddie porn. This is the grossest kind of religion reporting, and lends credence to the claim that anti-Catholicism is the new anti-Semitism, acceptable in polite company — a notion of whichThe Revealer has been skeptical. But imagine the outcry if AP filed a daily round-up of unconnected crimes committed by Jews.

The fact that such a report is unimaginable, argues Father Ephraem Chifley in the Australian Age, suggests just how thoroughly anti-Catholicism has replaced anti-Semitism in elite, intellectual circles.

Intellectual? That label doesn’t apply to Dan Brown‘s The Da Vinci Code, a book that has come to carry the banner for anti-Catholic sentiments.

Opus Dei, the shadowy, reactionary Catholic order that’s one of the subjects of the bestseller reproduces on its website an op-ed from The Chicago Sun-Times, by Thomas Roesser, that indicts Brown for purveying “extremist feminist theories,” a notion almost as half-baked as Brown’s novel.

The Ithaca Journal offers a more balanced critique by Gary SternPhilip Jenkins, a bestselling neo-con crusader disguised as a scholar, gives Stern an insightful explanation: “‘The Da Vinci Code simply appeals to a culture that’s increasingly skeptical of claims to religious truth… I think anti-Catholicism is a contributory factor, but the main reason for the book’s popularity is deeper, a fundamental suspicion of traditional claims to authority.”

Then Jenkins veers right into a kind of meta-conspiracy theory of his own: “It mainly illustrates a broader suspicion about orthodoxy generally, and the idea that the truth is out there.”

Is that all there is? Da Vinci Code relativists with no standards in one corner, clear-eyed enlightenment champions in the other?

Anti-Catholicism is a lot more complex, even if the insipid Da Vinci Code is not. David Cruz-Uribe, a Franciscan and a mathemitican specializing in “harmonic analysis” at Trinity College, has compiled an admirable guide to the subject, complete with links to religious and secular anti-Catholic websites. A better starting point for an investigation of the subject, no doubt, than all the pundits and the wonks seeking to deny anti-Catholicism, defend anti-Semitism, or fight neo-con battles from an alleged moral highground.