Harrison Butker, of the Kansas City Chiefs, was apparently engaged in a record-setting effort to offend as many progressives as possible (Picture via Benedictine College/Youtube)

Harrison Butker Is Catholic. So What?

This is America: We need to tolerate a Catholic man saying Catholic things at a Catholic university.

Perhaps you have heard of Harrison Butker, the 28-year-old Kansas City Chiefs kicker at the center of the latest viral outrage. Butker was the commencement speaker last week at Benedictine College, a Catholic liberal arts school in Kansas, where he appears to have been engaged in some kind of record-setting effort to offend as many progressives as possible in less time than it takes to deliver the average TED Talk. His speech was critical of abortion, IVF, even surrogacy. He told the men to be “unapologetic in your masculinity”; he suggested the women were probably looking forward more to marriage and children than to high-powered careers. Oh, and there was some stuff in there too about the identity of the guys who killed Jesus, if you know what I mean. 

Butker’s speech was very trad and frequently interrupted by the audience, who, rather than being affronted, kept erupting in cheers and applause. Perhaps they did not realize that this speech by a Catholic kicker at a Catholic university wasn’t for them, the Catholic graduating seniors. It was for me, a 42-year-old woman in New England eating peanut butter straight out of the jar because a sandwich seemed like too much work. 

Or at least, that’s what it feels like: for days now, the story of Butker’s speech and subsequent backlash, including a statement of denunciation from the NFL itself, has been the subject of wall-to-wall coverage from The New York Times to People magazine. It’s as if the media has set aside its differences in service of a single unified mission: to make sure I know this happened and that I am good and mad at it. 

Well, fine. I have watched the speech, and true enough, there is little in it I agree with. If Butker broke into my house, tied me to a chair, and forced me to watch the whole thing with my eyelids taped open Clockwork Orange–style, I wouldn’t be thrilled! But he didn’t do this, and as such, I am far less mad at him than I am the shrieking discourse hall monitors demanding I be outraged by it. Not only is it hard to imagine a more joyless—or fruitless— way to spend my limited time on this planet, it’s hard to see how Butker’s comments differ from the hundreds of thousands of speeches delivered to approving crowds every day, in various settings, by faith leaders of all stripes. Given the sheer diversity of ideology in this country, there’s probably something in there to offend everyone! But this is America; isn’t freedom of speech and assembly, no matter how offensive some might find the ideas involved, kind of what we do here? Indeed, the culture of free expression that allowed Butker to speak his mind to an appreciative audience is the same culture that permits me to host weekly discussion salons with my all-female neighborhood watch group, the Kindred Alliance for Rights, Equality, and Nurturing Society (KARENS). . . which for some reason nobody wants to join, but whatever. 

Join us for our next get-together, where we’ll stage a live dramatic reading of the HOA Regulations, Chapter 4, Section 7: Proper Identification and Reporting of Microaggressive Lawn Gnomes. My guess is it will really get the crowds going.

Kat Rosenfield is a columnist at UnHerd and co-host of the Feminine Chaos podcast. Read her recent piece for The Free Press, “Baby Reindeer Is a True Story—But Whose True Story?” Follow her on X @katrosenfield.

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