Friday, April 02, 2010

Still Not Getting It

Amazing NY Times article today: it's Good Friday, and the Pope's own priest, Rev. Raniero Cantalamessa, likens current criticism of the Pope and the Church over child abuse (mostly, but not exclusively, sexual) to the persecution of the Jews.
Let's try this again: the preacher of the papal household - that's Rev. Cantalamessa's title - equated criticism of the Church for criminal acts committed by its priests to the persecution of a religious group that saw some 6 million of its members murdered in a short period during the last century.

Let's try once more: criticism is being equated with murder.

And once more again: criticism of the church hierarchy for very specific acts is being equated with systematic persecution of a whole people.

I don't see the tumbrils coming for the Pope and the College of Cardinals. I don't see any gas chambers waiting for them. Here's the worst I've seen:
  • Criticism of the cover-ups
  • Criticism of the church's preference for transferring priests known to be abusers over, say, reporting criminal acts to the authorities
  • Criticism of denial that anything abusive was going on
  • Criticism of various pronouncements by the Pope and other Catholic clergy
Criticism isn't the same as murder. No institution is immune to criticism, and given the 60-year history of cover-ups, more than a little criticism is in order. The Catholic hierarchy concealed criminal acts against children by individuals under its supervision; sexual abuse by priests and, from what I've read, various kind of emotional and physical abuse by nuns and priests, especially in Ireland.

What we're seeing now is more of what we've been seeing: the Catholic hierarchy is protecting its own, rather than repenting, contemplating sin and redemption, and seeking healing for the victims of these crimes. At the same time that the Vatican backpedaled mighty fast about Rev. Cantalamessa's speech, saying "it's his personal opinion," it published his sermon in the official Vatican newspaper.

Guys, you don't just get it. You might try listening to what the chief rabbi of Rome had to say:
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.”


Paul Muller said...

I don't get it why they don't get it. I think real change will have to wait for a new Pope.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Or a new new Pope, because JP II appointed some huge percentage of the current college of cardinals, and they all lean conservative.

Jonquil said...

"No institution is immune to criticism."

I think it's supposed to be. The Pope is the direct descendant (spiritually) of St. Peter, and the only people who get to criticize him -- or his hierarchy -- are in Heaven. Seriously.

And as to real change by the next Pope -- I don't think so. As Lisa said, JPII both deliberately stacked the college of Cardinals and set in place a rule that Cardinals over 80 had no vote.

Hence Benedict.

There are currently 108 Cardinals of voting age, one of whom was not appointed by JPII or Benedict. The Church is moving backward -- and in particular trying to undo Vatican II -- as fast as its little legs can carry it.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Aha, so one issue is clearly that the Church doesn't realize that the rest of the world isn't playing by its rules.

Jonquil said...

The awesome keeps on a-comin'. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/apr/04/pope-defiant-child-sex-abuse

The Cardinals in the countries hardest-hit by the scandal have apologized to their congregations. The Pope didn't see fit to mention it.

Lisa Hirsch said...

I read an impressive account of a ritual of healing, more or less, that Christoph Cardinal Schoeborn arranged in Vienna. Off to read the Guardian article now - thank you!

Joe Barron said...

I think it's supposed to be ...the only people who get to criticize him -- or his hierarchy -- are in Heaven.

1. I've been thinking a lot about this, or something like it, the past few days. It is ironic to me that an organization that claims to be the repository of all divine truth (or as much of it as God deigns to reveal) needs outside criticism to get moving. An outside perspective — what the church would regard as error or even heresy — is critical to its own self-evaluation, which would never come solely from the inside. The church is proud that is does not adhere to what it calls the world's values, but it turns out that sometimes the world is right.
2. Anyone besides me notice how much this whole controversy is shaping up like Watergate? The church is behaving like the Nixon White House: blame the media, and let the underlings take the fall for the man at the top. And then there's the whole question of what the pope knew, and when he knew it.