Fr. Z from "What Does the Prayer Really Say" blog has his own comments about the two paragraphs from Fr. Cantalamessa's homily given in the presence of the Holy Father on Good Friday's Liturgy of the Passion of the Lord. This was at the end of the homily and Fr. Z's comments are bracketed:
[Here is the section of the sermon that will overshadow everything that Cantalamessa said and shove the rest into obscurity:] By a rare coincidence, this year our Easter falls on the same week of the Jewish Passover which is the ancestor and matrix within which it was formed. This pushes us to direct a thought to our Jewish brothers. 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. I received in this week the letter of a Jewish friend and, with his permission, I share here a part of it. [So far so good.]
He said: [This is where he steps wrong, in my opinion.] "I am following with indignation the violent and concentric attacks against the Church, the Pope and all the faithful by the whole world. 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. [So… there it is.] Therefore I desire to express to you personally, to the Pope and to the whole Church my solidarity as Jew of dialogue and of all those that in the Jewish world (and there are many) share these sentiments of brotherhood. Our Passover and yours are undoubtedly different, but we both live with Messianic hope that surely will reunite us in the love of our common Father. I wish you and all Catholics a Good Easter."
It is unfortunate that Fr. Cantalamessa did not qualify with his own comments what his Jewish friend wrote to him. What is happening to Pope Benedict now, in terms of the accusations that he handled sex abuse cases inappropriately in the past, is not the same as six million Jews being singled out for extermination. This was the culmination of centuries of anti-antisemitism.
Many Jewish commentators have taken Fr. Cantalamessa to task for his less than nuanced use of his Jewish friends analogy. But one rabbi, Rabbi Jack Bemporad, director of the New Jersey-based Center for Interreligious Understanding, said the church and Benedict are unquestionably under attack.
Comparing anti-Semitism and anti-Catholicism was "a little bit of an exaggeration," he said. But Bemporad said he understands what the preacher was driving at: The Jewish community has often been accused and its people even murdered for things for which they bore no collective or even partial responsibility.
"It would be nice," he said, "if there was a little charity and understanding in all this instead of taking someone who is down and kind of stomp on them.
But with that said, the drum beat in the press with relentless unsubstantiated accusations against the pope with reporters and other commentators grinding axes they have against the Church is truly alarming. We in America believe in a free press of course and also freedom of speech. What Fr. Cantalamessa quoted in his homily is of course his opinion and the opinion of a Jewish friend but not properly nuanced. The lack of nuance should be criticized and what the Jewish friend said appreciated as a comment of solidarity with the Catholic Church at this time.
What alarms me about the general demonizing of the Pope,bishops and priests is that it is a demonizing of the Catholic Church in general. What if some deranged, anti-Catholic, despotic, maniacal dictator like Adolph Hitler came into power in Europe or elsewhere. Would he persecute and possibly exterminate as many of the bishops, priests and religious as possible based upon the fomented anti-Catholicism now raging in the liberal media? In centuries past, bishops, priests, religious and lay people have been targeted for death, not to the extent as Jews, but we have been targeted. Is the liberal press fomenting such a possibility for the Church down the road. Anti-Catholicism has always been around, just as antisemitism. Each has its roots in hatred and prejudice.
For a few decades now, the only politically correct prejudice that exists in the world today is prejudice against the Catholic Church. If this prejudice turns to violence fomented by a relentless anti-Catholic media, who will take responsibility?
The bishops of the Catholic Church including Pope Benedict have said in the past and time and time again, that the way the Church handled sexually abusive priests was wrong.The bishops of this country in 2004 in collaboration with Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Ratzinger made sweeping changes to this secretive process of disciplining priests, offering therapy to sexually abusive priests and then recycling them time and time again with monstrous results. Today, if a priest is accused of criminal sexual abuse, the authorities are called, the priest is suspended and due process in both civil and canon law take place. The results of both are public, either the priest is guilty and thus removed from ministry or he is innocent and returned to ministry with the resulting effort to rehabilitate a sullied reputation.
What Pope Benedict must now do is put into place a universal procedure based upon the American model to deal with the criminal activities of a small minority of priests and to help eliminate the scourge of child and teenage sex abuse of the serial type from the Catholic Church. The procedures of the past were flawed and those who were in the destructive path of serial abusers have suffered greatly and are rightfully full of rage at the various levels of mismanagement of these crimes and sins against children and teenagers. The flawed procedures of the past have been admitted time and time again by bishops and this pope. Secrecy, fear of public scandal and protecting a "childlike" laity from hearing about actual scandal exacerbated the abuse and contributed to it.
But let's be clear, other institutions in society, including law enforcement were complicit in dealing with these cases as it concerns all ministers, Catholic, Protestant and Jewish. There seems to be very little outrage against the way in which law enforcement gave ministers of all religions a different and more lenient treatment in the past in order to protect the reputation of these religions and their congregations and ministers.
Let us move on with all due fairness! Let us not foment anti-Catholic sentiment that could turn violent. History does not need to repeat itself.