Saturday, April 3, 2010

Pope's Preacher Compares Media's Coverage of the Vatican's Mishandling of Sexual Abuse to Holocaust

     Good Friday didn't pass without the Vatican using its savior's death and its holiday-enlarged audience to strike back at the news media, who've been critical of Pope Benedict's handling of sexually abusive priests

     Let me introduce you to the Rev. Raniero Cantalamessa, official preacher of the papal household since 1980, a Franciscan  in the Order of Capuchin Friars Minor, and the guy who leads the pope in meditative prayer.  He also just used Good Friday to compare the media's covering of the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church to the Nazi's extermination of the Jews in the Holocaust.  Seriously.

     The New York Times reports:
     Speaking in St. Peter’s Basilica, the priest, the Rev. Raniero Cantalamessa, took note that Easter and Passover fell during the same week this year, and said he was led to think of the Jews.   “They know from experience what it means to be victims of collective violence, and also because of this they are quick to recognize the recurring symptoms,” said Father Cantalamessa, who serves under the title of preacher of the papal household. Then he quoted from what he said was a letter from a Jewish friend he did not identify.  “I am following the violent and concentric attacks against the church, the pope and all the faithful by the whole world,” he said the friend wrote. “The use of stereotypes, the passing from personal responsibility and guilt to a collective guilt, remind me of the more shameful aspects of anti-Semitism.”

     Here are some responses to the Vatican preacher's comparison of the the attacks on sexually abusive clergy and the bishops who covered for them to the annihilation and extermination of 6 million Jews in the Nazi-led Holocaust.  (Via the Times.)
     A leading advocate for sexual abuse victims in the United States, David Clohessy, called comparing criticism of the church to persecution of the Jews “breathtakingly callous and misguided.”  “Men who deliberately and consistently hide child sex crime are in no way victims,” he said. “And to conflate public scrutiny with horrific violence is about as wrong as wrong can be.”
     Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni, the chief rabbi of Rome, who was host to Benedict at the Rome synagogue in January on a visit that helped calm waters after a year of tensions, laughed in seeming disbelief when asked about Father Cantalamessa’s remarks.  “With a minimum of irony, I will say that today is Good Friday, when they pray that the Lord illuminate our hearts so we recognize Jesus,” Rabbi Di Segni said, referring to a prayer in the traditional Catholic liturgy calling for the conversion of the Jews. “We also pray that the Lord illuminate theirs.
     Abraham Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League in the United States, attributed the remarks to ignorance, not malice. “You would think that a senior priest in the church would have a better understanding of anti-Semitism than to make this hideous comparison,” he said.
     What Triduum tirade will the Vatican provide on Holy Saturday?  Don't you just love the Catholic high holy days?

Image Credits:

3 comments:

Bruno said...

OPEN LETTER TO REV. CANTALAMESSA

Rev. Cantalamessa, you really messed up today. I know you didn’t mean to insult anyone when you compared the current attacks on the Catholic Church and Pope Benedict with the persecution of the Jews, but you did, and you did it big time. It seems that you are ignoring a few important points: first of all, there is no comparison because the Church persecuted the Jews for no other reason than their Jewishness, which the Church found intolerable, while the current attacks on the Church and the Pope—I wouldn’t quite call it “persecution”—are well deserved as the Church seems to have an endemic child abuse problem compounded with on obstruction of justice problem. This is not the first time this happens. It’s best to not even talk about the Middle Ages. Hopefully the Pope will make use of his power and swiftly remove any offenders from the Church and hand them over to the civil authorities for prosecution, as would be the case with any child molester. The attacks on the Pope are well deserved too. He was responsible for some of these cases before he became pope and he not only did not punish these priests, he moved them to other places where they were able to molest children again! So, it’s hard to feel sorry for the Church or the Pope these days. You also seem to have forgotten that of the 365 days of the year, this is the least appropriate day to make such comparison with the persecution of the Jews. Should I remind you of the forced conversion of the Jews, instituted by the Church centuries ago? Should I remind you of the incitement to violence in the faithful every Good Friday after sermons and Passion Plays? Should I remind you of the accusation of deicide which prompted countless acts of Christian violence toward Jews? Or the Good Friday prayer which asked God to lift the veil of the blind, perfidious Jews?

It makes me wonder about your boss, Pope Benedict, too, because one needs to ask oneself the uncomfortable question of why he didn’t stand up as you were making this innapropriate comparison and distance himself and the Church from your comments. But then, maybe one should not be so surprised about this given his recent track record regarding the sexual predator priests, or his treatment of the whole Bishop Williamson affair, or his reinstating the Good Friday prayer referenced above, or his rush canonization process for the problematic wartime Pope Pius XII. In a way, seeing Pope Benedict looking at the floor today as you uttered those words reminded me of his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, who also stood silently by the Syrian dictator Bashar Assad in 2001 as Assad let loose an antisemitic rant that was broadcast in the entire Christian world. Assad, like the Catholic Church before him, presented Jews as enemies of God. Also like Christians before him, Assad used the Christian blood libel of Jews as Christ-killers. Pope John Paul II did not see fit to stop him right then and there and thus appeared to implicitly accept Assad’s vitriolic statements.

Perhaps this issue of silent popes is also endemic in the Church. After all, Pope Pius XI and his successor Pope Pius XII both stood by silently as the Nazis slowly and inexorably dehumanized, demonized, and exterminated millions of Jews during the Second World War.

To wrap it up, Rev. Cantalamessa, as the sole and direct preacher to the pope I think you yourself need some advising. I would encourage you to think about these things, and next time you sit with Pope Benedict advise him better.

Gabriel Wilensky

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stev.bach said...

a little impresion about roman catholic church and ns:
http://anticlerical.multiply.com/photos/album/16/Alemanha_nazista

and it was the roman catholics, who did the first holocausts in history!

Heretic Tom said...

Thanks for the Stev.bach.

Those pictures speak volumes.