Saturday, April 3, 2010


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."

My comments:
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.


kiwiinamerica said...

There was an excellent article at the Catholic News Agency a week or so back by Elizabeth Lev. She draws a parallel to the situation in France prior to the French Revolution, where corruption and misbehavior among a small fraction of the clergy was used as an excuse to smear the entire body, with the predictable persecution which followed.

Well worth a read.

Anonymous said...

I am not yet convinced the problem was caused by a small fraction of the clergy, but of the greater body of the clergy doing nothing. It is disingenuous to point out that the police did nothing when the clergy should be willing to 'police' themselves without relying on the civil police to help them do the right thing. Conversely, if it comes to the law of the land requiring, e.g., gay marriage, then will the clergy stand up to that? The problem is not that the small fraction did something bad, but that the large fraction did almost nothing to stop it and actually protected the offenders.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

To anonymous, from Fr. McDonald--in the case of "Fr." Murphy in Wisconsin, victims went to the police after 12 or so years and nothing was done--but it was reported!
In this blog I have stated over and over that the Church in the past mishandled this crisis by relying on psychiatric care of priest and then reintegrating them into parish life. The bishops did not rely on canon law. Since 2004 in this country we now have zero tolerance policy, a national evaluation of what happened by a law enforcement agency that said 4% of priests since 1950 committed crimes of abuse. Pope Benedict as Cardinal Ratzinger approved of this new and more stringent way of dealing with the problem. Why is the press acting like nothing has happened since 2004 and dredging up old cases already reported years ago? There must be more at work in all of this then just concern for justice.

Anonymous said...

Father, I reluctantly posted that out of deference for you. Although I do not know you personally, I admire what you post here. However, I have watched the 'manliness' of the clergy evapourate before my eyes over the years where not only this, but the outright heresy of sisters and priests in other matters as well as foolish delving onto matters political and economic have destroyed not only the credibility of the Church on important matters, but undermined the tradition of open thought and science that were the foundation of the enlightenment.

The Church has a social doctrine this in almost exactly the same place as its doctrine toward science was in the time of Galileo. The ongoing misery of the poor in places like India and Central and South America are as much a result of this doctrine as the people who are oppressing them. The policy breeds resentment of achievement and silence in the face of tyranny. I sense defeat in the homilies I hear. Yet I cannot succumb to it. My God did not shrug off his nails, he stood with us even when our foolishness resulted in his death. He could have shown us His power, but he respected our ability to chose and treated us like not only children, but adults. Tomorrow I will celebrate His life that continues even now.

the Clergy have brainwashed themselves to think that a harsh word or look is violence and cannot be tolerated. They would then pave the way to their salvation on the bones of innocent children. I cannot reconcile that and will not. Forgiveness is not permission to continue the sin. Stand up and stand strong because God is on your side.

Templar said...

I can say with conviction that the "manliness" of the clergy in the Diocese of Savannah has not been in doubt while I have lived here (since 1996). There are Clergy who I feel are too much enamored of the "touchy, feely, all you need is love, spirit of Vatican II approach" but they are mostly of an older generation of clergy. The Priests one encounters here now are much closer in manner, word and deed, to the Priests of my youth, even more so of the young Seminarians we encounter, who would make Archbishop Sheen proud.

Gene said...

Yeah, Templar...I believe, under the right circumstances, Fr. MacDonald might even throw a punch...probably a good Irish left hook. He's probably even been tempted to punch me a time or two.

Templar said...

LOL, I know what you mean pinanv525. If I ask for kneelers to be made available for Communion one more time he's likely to take a poke at me as well.

M. Forrest said...

According to various reports across the media (such as this one from the AP:, we are being told that Fr. Cantalamessa “likened allegations that the pontiff covered up sex abuse cases by Catholic clergymen reminded him of the "more shameful aspects of anti-Semitism." This is inaccurate and misleading, at best. As noted here, he read a letter from a Jewish friend, in which the Jewish friend expressed those sentiments. And even those comments need to be read in context to understand the limited sense in which they were employed, imo.

After reading Fr. Cantalamessa’s actual homily in full context (see here: ), I don’t believe that he actually “likened accusations against the pope and the Catholic church in the sex abuse scandal to ‘collective violence’ suffered by the Jews”, as though there was some kind of moral equality, as multiple reports also have it. I think that’s a gross exaggeration.

I completely understand that the Holocaust/Shoah is a very sensitive subject and a horrible tragedy that should never be minimized (nor should any other atrocity). And perhaps Fr. Cantalamessa should have been more clear and careful with his choice of words to avoid any possible misunderstanding. But this does not justify the extreme reaction he has received.

Men like Stephan Kramer of Germany's Central Council of Jews condemned what Fr. Cantalamessa said as “insolence”, “repulsive” and “obscene.”
(See here: Sadly, I believe Kramer could have benefitted from reading the entire homily and Fr. Cantalamessa’s warnings about irresponsible media coverage that is “not a catharsis of evil, but an incitement to it.”