Friday, April 02, 2010
They're going here on Good Friday? Really?
A senior Vatican priest speaking at a Good Friday service compared the uproar over sexual abuse scandals in the Catholic Church — which have included reports about Pope Benedict XVI’s oversight role in two cases — to the persecution of the Jews, sharply raising the volume in the Vatican’s counterattack.
The remarks, on the day Christians mark the crucifixion, underscored how much the Catholic Church has felt under attack from recent news reports and criticism over how it has handled charges of child molestation against priests in the past, and sought to focus attention on the church as the central victim.
In recent weeks, Vatican officials and many bishops have angrily denounced news reports that Benedict failed to act strongly enough against pedophile priests, once as archbishop of Munich and Friesing in 1980 and once as a leader of a powerful Vatican congregation in the 1990s.
Benedict sat looking downward when the Rev. Raniero Cantalamessa, who holds the office of preacher of the papal household, delivered his remarks in the traditional prayer service in St. Peter’s Basilica. Wearing the brown cassock of a Franciscan, Father Cantalamessa took note that Easter and Passover were falling during the same week this year, saying 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,” he said.
Father Cantalamessa quoted from what he said was a letter from an unnamed Jewish friend. “I am following the violent and concentric attacks against the church, the pope and all the faithful by the whole word,” 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.”
That takes some real chutzpah all right. This is from just 10 years ago:
Defying warnings from some theologians that the unprecedented apology would undermine the church's authority, the 79-year-old pontiff asked God to forgive the persecution of the Jews. "We are deeply saddened by the behaviour of those who in the course of history have caused these children of yours to suffer, and asking your forgiveness we wish to commit ourselves to genuine brotherhood."
Fine. To sin is human and forgiveness divine and all that. To then compare critics of the church's cover up of its epidemic of child molestation to anti-semitism just ten years later (on Good Friday!) is verging on farce.
Wearing the purple vestments of lenten mourning, the Pope sought pardon for seven categories of sin: general sins; sins in the service of truth; sins against Christian unity; against the Jews; against respect for love, peace and cultures; against the dignity of women and minorities; and against human rights.
Ethnic groups had endured "contempt for their cultures and religious traditions". Women were "all too often humiliated and marginalised". Trust in wealth and power had obscured the church's responsibility to the poor and oppressed.
There was no reference to homosexuals, who had asked to be included for suffering theocratic violence. The Pope did not identify guilty individuals or name the crusades, the Inquisition or the Holocaust, but the references were clear.
Five Vatican cardinals and two bishops confessed sins on behalf of the church during the ceremony. Cardinal Edward Cassidy recalled the "sufferings of the people of Israel" asked divine pardon for the "sins committed by not a few [Catholics] against the people of the covenant".
Several Jewish leaders praised the sermon as historic and significant but Israel's chief rabbi said he was deeply frustrated by the Pope's failure to mention the Holocaust, and described the service as "a severely warped view of history".
Rabbi Israel Meir Lau joined other Israelis in expressing hope that the pope had omitted acknowledging the church's passivity during the Holocaust only because he was planning a specific apology during next week's pilgrimage to the holy land.
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, head of the congregation of the doctrine of the faith, confessed to the sins of the congregation's predecessor, the Inquisition. "Even men of the church, in the name of faith and morals, have sometimes used methods not in keeping with the Gospel," he said...
Here's just a little reminder of the history that makes this comparison particularly distasteful:
Pope Urban II, anxious to assert Rome's authority in the east, sent a military expedition in 1095 to reconquer the holy land. The crusaders ravaged the countries they passed through and massacred the Muslim, Jewish and even Christian population of Jerusalem after capturing it in 1099. After 200 years of conflict Muslim armies drove them out for good, but the crusaders' symbol of the red cross remains provocative.It's really not in good taste for a powerful church with that history to compare criticism of itself to the persecution of the Jews. Coming from a church which taught for years on easter that "the Jews killed Jesus" to do it on Good Friday is especially rich -- just ask Mel Gibson about that.
The attempt to combat suspected apostates, Jews and Muslims at the time of the Reformation spawned tribunals in Europe and the new world that tortured and executed thousands. Ecclesiastical queasiness about flowing blood led to the use of racks, thumbscrews and red-hot metal instead of blades; 2,000 people were burned at the stake during the tenure of Spain's first grand inquisitor, Tomas de Torquemada.
Pope Pius XII never publicly condemned the Nazis' persecution of Jews, even when they were being rounded up and deported from Rome. His silence is partly blamed for the failure of Germany's Catholics to resist Hitler. Anti-Jewish Catholic doctrines such as the claim that the Jews murdered Christ were said to have ideologically underpinned nazism. Vatican officials allegedly helped Nazis escape Europe after the war.
In fairness, they have been working on it:
Baby steps folks ...
February 6, 2008
A Catholic Good Friday prayer from the pre-Vatican II Tridentine Mass will no longer ask that God "remove the veil from the hearts" of Jews, the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano said yesterday.
It will also drop an allusion to Jewish "blindness" and forgo a passage asking that Jews "be delivered from their darkness." A new prayer, released Monday by the Vatican, still asks that Jews "acknowledge Jesus Christ."
I suspect that the Church hierarchy is becoming defiant now because of earlier skepticism about that decision by Pope John Paul to ask for forgiveness for these sins back in 2000. Conservatives in the church were very concerned that it would open a floodgate of requests for apologies. (What did they know and when did they know it ....)
You can understand why any organization would worry about such a thing, I suppose. But this isn't just any organization, it's a church. And this is a sex scandal involving children. It is a horrible, horrible moral failing, as big as anything we've ever seen from religious leaders. Their God may forgive them for all this but I've never heard that anyone believes He's susceptible to spin or stonewalling. Meanwhile, secular authorities have a right to deal with this in any case, but especially after it's been proven that the church not only failed for decade after decade not only to protect the kids in its care, it actively covered these crimes up. No amount of outraged victimization or slick damage control is going to fix that.
Tristero weighs in:
A senior Vatican priest speaking at a Good Friday service compared the uproar over sexual abuse scandals in the Catholic Church — which have included reports about Pope Benedict XVI’s oversight role in two cases — to the persecution of the Jews...Did I read that properly? That can't be true. There must be some misunderstanding:
Father Cantalamessa took note that Easter and Passover were falling during the same week this year, saying 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,” he said.Who the fuck approved this shit?
Comparing the well-earned disgust the entire world rightly feels over the system-wide rape of women and children by Catholic priests to the demented bigotry of Anti-Semitism is way, way, WAY beyond offensive.
I say this as someone whose deep respect for a wide spectrum of religious belief, and of Catholics especially, is a matter of long public record . Note to Vatican:
Cut it out, you stupid assholes. You are managing to accomplish the impossible: making the awful situation YOU refused to deal with a whole lot worse. Back off. NOW.
tristero 4/02/2010 01:30:00 PM