Rick Steve, Travel Expert - biased comments in his programs?

We were watching episodes of “Rick Steve’s Europe” on the Orange County (CA) PBS station yesterday. His where-to-go shows and tips are usually very informative and we expected more of the same. So we were surprised and somewhat offended hear Mr. Steve really go out of his way to bring up the dark side of Catholic Church history, first about the Roman Catholic Church killing thousands of Cathars for practicing their heretical beliefs in medieval France, and then in a separate episode, he glowingly described Czech struggles against an oppressive Austrian rule which was also *Catholic *. These were not brief statements; they formed significant segments of the programs.

We’re not hypersensitive, and would have had no problem if he had only mentioned the facts; e.g. that the Cathar sect was a victim of Church excesses, or that there were religious tensions between Catholic Austria and its Protestant Slavic subjects in times when religion and government were inseparable. But Steve’s comments made no attempt to separate old history from modern Catholicism, and were inappropriate in a tourist program.

IMHO, Rick Steves is a blatant stealthy anti-Catholic. We’ve watched his programs for years and, if one was not soundly grounded in history, his little jabs and downright misrepresentations would pass unnoticed and be accepted as fact. DW and I have both popped up and “shouted at the TV” on far too many occasions. It is highly unlikely that we will ever get to go to Europe so we watch because we will not get to see the places he goes.

Burt Wolf is a different matter entirely.

Rick Steves is an active, committed Lutheran (ELCA) which may color his view of history.


We’ve seen virtually all of his shows and enjoy them thoroughly. I’ve honestly never noticed anything I’d consider offensive.

Something that most folks don’t know about Steves is that he is also a proponent of NORML, which support the decriminalization of marijuana!!! He’s so geeky I laughed out loud when I found out.


I was aware of both. But I am not willing to concede that his Lutheranism or participation in NORML gives him an excuse for his anti-Catholicism. I am more than willing to acknowledge HMC’s mistakes in a historical context. But I would never “diss” the Lutherans even though I believe they were wrong. Rick makes subtle anti-Catholic statements at every opportunity and the fact that you have never found anything offensive simply means that you have been charmed by this charming tour guide. See? Blatant stealthy anti-Catholicism…

I know my history and I know my anthropology. My Catholicism does not color either when it comes to the facts. (I would betray my education if it were otherwise). I doubt if Rick even had the Cathars or Albigensians on his radar screen. He’s been fed pap on a mighty complex subject and chose to lash out at Catholicism instead of understanding what Luther himself would have rejected. Luther would have understood the Cathars/Albigensians to have been heretics. How could he not?

He is a Lutheran, he talks like a Lutheran. I find it interesting that PBS lets him speak about religious things at all.

Pray for his conversion, if you don’t like his Lutheranism, don’t watch him.

We’re down here in Catholic south Louisiana where we are either in the majority or a very significant minority. Lutherans are a small minority here and the Lutherans I know are not like Rick Steves. Must be that Mid-West thing.

I don’t have a problem with his Lutheranism. I do have a big problem with his interpretation of history. And, I’m not going to quit watching him because he takes me places that I will never get to go.

Kage, I do know where you are coming from though. I do understand that south Louisiana is Catholic and we don’t have your perspective.

I didn’t intend to make any connection between his NORML activities and anti-Catholicism; it was simply an interesting fact that surprised me and didn’t seem to jibe with his nerdiness.

I’ve noticed that he actually mentions Christianity more than most TV travel hosts. (If I recall, he spent some time showing a hidden Amsterdam attic chapel where Catholic priests said Mass during times of persecution…)

We’ll pay closer attention to see if he says anything patently anti-Catholic in the future, though we are usually pretty adept at picking up on that.

I believe he is from the Seattle area (which might explain the NORML thing…)

No, no. Not at all. DW and I have watched Rick for umpteen years on our local PBS station. You really, really have to listen to what he has to say…sheesh, I was really incensed about his comments about Catholic Bavaria and he dissed my Irish ancestors as well. I don’t have a spread sheet of Rick’s anti-Catholic statements.

Sigh. I don’t know how to point out to y’all the historical distortions this man spreads under the guise of geneality.

Support Brother Hrolf’s answer to Rick Steves. :smiley: I’m not making this up y’all. When it comes to HMC, what Rick says is often not historically true.

I have watched Rick Steves’ shows for years, and I really like them. I have always appreciated how he shows up in so many churches and gives the history of the Church.

I never noticed anything anti-Catholic at all. There were Catholics back in the Middle Ages who did a lot of outrageous things. If Rick Steves happens to mention some of them, why should I get upset and say that he is anti-Catholic? I knew that he is a Lutheran. Why would you expect a Lutheran to never say anything negative about the Catholic Church, especially if it really happened?

I personally think that Rick Steves has done a lot for world peace. He seems to respect different cultures and religions. He always has an attitude about learning things regarding other cultures and religions. His attitude is never negative.

Yes, he is for legalizing mirajuana. So what? He has seen a lot of countries where it is legal. It is really outrageous when states approve medical mirajuana, and then the Feds come and swarm in on them. People who need it medically are usually dying of cancer and have a lot of pain and nausea. It is said that mirajuana helps the nausea. But then, that is a subject for another thread.

A lot of people in these forums are just looking for something they can criticize about people. Not a very Christian trait, if you ask me.

Rick Steves has some very good programs about other countries and I used a travel guide of his once. It was very good. However, when I went to visit my daughter and Rome, I got his guide and was astonished to read real anti-Catholicism. It isn’t that he has criticism of the behavior of some Church representatives. There is certainly much to criticize. But it should be accurate and have an understanding of the times. Potshots are something else, and they also spread false understanding from folk who may think his statements about HMC are as good as his travel advice.

Centuries ago, almost everyone did barbaric things for religion out of a depth of ignorance we can’t imagine today. Steve’s remarks were soft bigotry and out of place. I doubt you’ll find any mention by Steve like “On this site in Germany, Luther’s followers massacred thousands of unarmed Catholic peasants”. We never seem to hear about that, or about Protestants slaughtering other Protestants of the “wrong brand”. Its always about the evil Papists and their “Roman Church”. You’re simply not paying attention if you can’t see the rise in overt anti-Catholicism. If the offenders are not called on it, next time it will be stronger.

My husband and I have also enjoyed watching Rick’s programs. However, I will admit that his coverage of Catholic locations (and that of other travel programs) did motivate us to create our own Catholic travel television program. We seek to fill in where secular travel television shows leave off. But we hope to look just as good.

I thought I’d mention it–we’re nowhere near as big as Rick–in case you all might be interested. It’s called The Faithful Traveler, and we visit Catholic shrines, amazing churches, and places of pilgrimage throughout the US. We just came out with our first DVD. You can find out more at www.thefaithfultraveler.com.

As for Rick, did you know that he’s married to the sister of the president of Notre Dame University?

He is also a very, VERY nice guy. He gave us some great advice on our show, which he said he thought was a great idea! (He did a show on Faithful Travel, as well.)


Thanks weedarkone. I just added the site to my favorites. :thumbsup:

Me too!! Did Rick know you began in reaction to his anti-Catholic lapses?

As an historian, I have found Rick Steves to be relatively fair in his portrayal of Catholicism (NOTE - not perfect, but fair). On his show and in his guidebooks, he not only points out some of the sad problems in Catholic history, but has gone out of his way to defend many Catholic practices as well. That said, he does subscribe to some rather liberal political and social views, but that doesn’t usually get in the way of my enjoyment of his program. In fact, I’m a frequent call-in guest to his radio program, so I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with him on several occasions.

Another interesting fact I recently learned is that his daughter is Catholic. She posts a travel blog on her dad’s website. I wasn’t sure about the rest of his family, but if his wife is the sister of the President of Notre Dame, that begins to make some sense!

LOL. No! Honestly, I was so honored that he would even talk to me about my silly little questions! He was so fabulous and helpful.

I’ve had some non-Catholic friends ask me why we don’t visit other religious sites for our show–sites that aren’t Catholic. I think back to what my old high school English teacher used to tell me about writing well. You write best when you tell about something you know. I know Catholic things, and I love to talk about the saints and Catholic stuff, so it comes easy to me. Rick isn’t Catholic.

As a human, as a television host, you speak from what you know. That’s all you can hope to do. I think Rick does his show well. And he leaves the door open for others, like us, to do our thing well, too.

Please pray for us! It’s not easy! :slight_smile: Happy new year everyone.

I had not noticed Steves’ anti-Catholicism, but we do enjoy his show.

What we have noticed, though, is that Burt Wolf spends a lot of time on Catholic traditions and seems to treat them respectfully and with more than a passing reference. He’s done shows on the Black Madonna of Czestochowa and, if I recall correctly, Our Lady of Guadalupe and either Our Lady of Fatima or Our Lady of Lourdes. We get a kick out of the huge swinging censor that is seen in one of his visits to an old European church – can’t remember which one – and that is used on trailers. Plus, he’s got a good self-deprecating sense of humor.

God bless – and keep on travellin’,

I should probably keep my mouth shut because my memory is bad and I cannot remember specifics. I either watched him on tv or read an article about him at Vatican City. Although I don’t remember him saying anything expressly anti-Catholic, he did say some negative things about the Vatican (maybe how it was run, or the prices, etc.) and I remember feeling shocked and hurt by what he said. I always liked watching him, but whatever I read/saw left a bad taste in my mouth.

The Rome portion of his Christmas in Europe special was filmed in 2004 - JPII’s last Midnight Mass. I was there and so was Rick!

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