Open Letter to Reverend Cantalamessa 

Reverend Cantalamessa, you really messed up when you compared the attacks on the Catholic Church and Pope Benedict with the persecution of the Jews. I know you didn’t mean to insult anyone, 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 that asked God to lift the veil of the blind, “perfidious” Jews?

Gabriel Wilensky

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 inappropriate 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.

“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.”

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.

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