I don't have time to post much more today, but I remembered that you posed this question a couple hours ago so I wanted to answer before signing off.
My response is that comments about the white, hot, sticky Holy Spirit being injected into Mary's womb are offensive, and thus slights against Catholics who believe in the virgin birth. She didn't say "The virgin birth is a scientifically untenable belief" or some such thing. She instead was sardonic. Not just "funny," but sardonic. And it's not just that comment -- it's the others, too.
So, to answer your question, of course it's possible to criticize the pope without bashing Catholics -- but the crudeness matters. When one brings the rhetoric that far down into the gutter, there emerges an implicit contempt not just of certain beliefs, but of the people who hold them.
If you don't believe in the views being slammed, I understand how it can seem humorless when others are offended at the crudeness of the criticisms. But obviously there are a lot of moderate-liberal Catholics who despise Donohue yet don't like being talked down to. I don't blame them. And I hope you can understand where they're coming from.
Have a good weekend, and feel free to email me (or to post another comment, though I don't know when I'll check this thread again) if you'd like to discuss further.
You've still misrepresented Tom's original post, in the way I described above, to make it seem sinister when it's nothing of the kind. And you still have credited me with a post that Tom Donnelly quoted, which is pretty ridiculous, whether I agree or not. (Irrelevantly to that point, I do think it's a fine post because of its actual, rather than imagined, emphasis.) In any event, I myself think this is a time both to stand up against Donohue's bullying and to make clear that anti-religious rudeness is offensive. Big deal.
I think Edwards got it about right: point out that he's personally offended, but refuse to fire people just because Bill Donohue threw yet another temper tantrum. Donohue likes to brag about ruining people's careers, and it would be cowardly to cowtow to that idiocy.
The post to which Matt links doesn't say anything to the contrary, by the way.
Now, that said, others who post on FD may disagree, and I'm not going to censor their stuff. In fact, Tom Donnelly has a new post in which he says the Edwards statement was insufficient. He doesn't say he wants the bloggers fired, but you can judge his opinion for yourself. As for me, I support the Edwards approach. I certainly like the health care plan he just released and his general focus on poverty.
Jesse Lava here at Faithful Democrats. I'm a little confused by this post, Matt. First of all, the FD post to which you link isn't an editorial statement by "Jesse Lava and Faithful Democrats." It's an individual post by Tom Donnelly. Second, the entire post is (and is cited as) a repost of an Eduardo Penalver piece from Commonweal. Yes, Tom quotes it approvingly, but it's neither original nor, again, an editorial statement. ("Editorial" in the sense of speaking for the site as a whole.) Third, almost the entire post blasted Donohue; the very end said he had a point that the Edwards's bloggers had made anti-Catholic comments. And indeed they had. You are quoting the post as if Tom (and Eduardo) had mostly sided with Donohue, with a mere "caveat that Donohue isn't a nice guy."
In fact, when you demand the "ethical response" that "Donohue should be ignored because of his record," the post says exactly that:
"Donohue is probably not the best guy to be out policing blogs for civility. After all, this is the person who said 'Who really cares what Hollywood thinks? All these hacks come out there. Hollywood is controlled by secular Jews who hate Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular. It's not a secret, OK? And I'm not afraid to say it. ... Hollywood likes anal sex. They like to see the public square without nativity scenes. I like families. I like children. They like abortions.'"
So the post did what you asked, while daring to make the additional, final point that the Edwards bloggers had made some comments that were offensive to Catholics. What's with the thin skin?