SCHOOL OF HARD KNOX…. Harry Knox, the Human Rights Campaign’s Religion and Faith Director, was understandably troubled by the Pope’s recent comments about sexual health. “The Pope needs to start telling the truth about condom use,” Knox said. “We are eager to help him do that. Until he is willing to do that and able, he’s doing a great deal more harm than good — not just in Africa but around the world. It is endangering people’s lives.”

These comments struck me as common sense. They struck House Republicans as an anti-Catholic attack, which warrants Knox’s resignation from President Obama’s faith-based council.

Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Thaddeus McCotter (R-Mich.) co-signed a letter characterizing Harry Knox, a member of the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, as a “virulent anti-Catholic bigot” who has made “numerous vile dishonest attacks against the Church and the Holy Father.”

The letter, delivered to the White House [yesterday] morning, says that “[Knox] has no business on any Council having to do with faith or religion,” and calls on President Obama to “remove Mr. Knox from his position and to formally disassociate yourself from his militant anti-Catholicism.”

The letter was signed by 20 Catholic organizations leaders concerned about past comments made by Knox. The group, in a press conference Wednesday, stressed that the disagreements they have with Knox extend beyond policy, and go to nature and tone of his comments.

Mr. Knox “has not only criticized the public policy of a Catholic leader, but in did so terms that are hateful and simply prejudice,” said Chuck Donovan, executive vice president of the Family Research Council.

Really? Knox is a “virulent anti-Catholic bigot”? U.S. News’ Dan Gilgoff asked the Catholic League for a catalog of Knox’s alleged anti-Catholic statements. The sent over seven Knox quotes. You can see for yourself whether they meet your standards for “vile” and “hateful” language, but I’ll just say this: I’ve heard militant anti-Catholicism. This ain’t it. Not even close.

And yet, Minority Leader Boehner’s spokesperson said he “felt it was important to weigh in condemning the abusive rhetoric.”

As manufactured controversies go, GOP leaders and their misguided allies are grasping at straws here. They no doubt resent the fact that the president put together a faith-based council and invited (eek!) a gay-right supporter to participate. That Knox disagrees with the Pope on a variety of major policy issues — a lot of American Catholics disagree with the Pope, too, by the way — has become a convenient excuse for another tantrum.

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.