Saturday, April 3, 2010


The Preacher of the Pontifical Household, in a sermon delivered in the Pope's presence and printed on the front page of the Vatican's official newspaper, read from a letter apparently sent to him by a friend that compared recent criticisms of the Pope to anti-Semitism. The Vatican has said that the sermon does not represent its official view and that such an analogy could "lead to misunderstandings."

This might be funny if it were not so absurd and outrageous. For one thing, the letter writer has a deficient grasp of anti-Semitism and of prejudice in general.
"The use of stereotypes and the passing from personal responsibility and guilt to a collective guilt remind me of the more shameful aspects of anti-Semitism," the letter said. The writer was no doubt trying to say that the sins or errors of some Church officials should not be attributed to all of them or the institution as a whole, but the attempted analogy doesn't work. That's because anti-Semitism and racism usually start and end with attributions of collective guilt: there's no need to "pass from" a putative individual guilt to collective guilt because the evil nature of the entire group is simply assumed. "Misunderstandings" indeed.


hank_F_M said...

The text with comments.

I think there dumber than they sound in article.

LFC said...

Thanks for the link. I did not take the time to read the sermon, but I did note that the Fr.Z of the site you linked says that in his view the remark in question -- i.e. the quote from the letter -- was "very imprudent."

Then I came to the comments left by readers on that site. I did not read all 58 of them by any means, but I glanced through the first ten or so. There's a lot of grumbling in those comments about the New York Times, the mainstream media, and so on, with the clear implication or statement by some of the commenters that the MSM is on an anti-Catholic smear campaign.

My inclination is to be skeptical about the allegations of a smear campaign, but the truth is I haven't really been following the MSM's coverage of the current situation. I am busy with other things at the moment. A friend e-mailed me the NYT article on this but I haven't read it yet. There are reasons my home page is the BBC not the NYT; one has to do with the relative length of the articles (the BBC's are shorter), another that I guess I just don't care that much what the NYT writes. The NYT is very good for some things, and I do read it from time to time, but I wouldn't turn to it on this particular subject.

I will say one (last) thing: if the NYT has called editorially for the Pope to apologize for this -- I don't whether it has but I got that impression from some of the comments at the site you linked -- then that strikes me as pretty foolish. The Vatican has already said the sermon doesn't represent its official views. Obviously the Pope can't be held personally responsible for everything the Preacher of the Pontifical Household (I didn't even know there was such a position before I read this story) says. I'm not a Catholic and I don't know a huge amount about the Catholic Church, but that just seems like common sense. If the Pope's preacher had said something himself that was anti-Semitic, rather than quoting a friend's quite stupid letter, that might well be a different matter. But that's not what happened here. It was very dumb, not just "imprudent," but not in my view something that requires a papal apology. (Sorry for the long response.)

LFC said...

p.s. I left out a word:
should be "I don't know whether it has..."

hank_F_M said...

In this sort of case FR’ Z’s tactful “imprudent” means at least stupid.

The NYT article they were upset about is a trip. It accuses the Pope of direct complicity in covering up a case that he or his office had no knowledge of until twenty years after it began. I read the document file the NTY attached to the online version, the article was not supported by their own evidence. Milwaukee sat on a case for 20 years and finally decided to prosecute when the public relations scandal could not be avoided. In my opinion the now retired in disgrace Archbishop of Milwaukee was one of the worst for cover ups. The only contact then Cardinal Ratizinger’s office had to do with it was when Milwaukee requested it delegate authority reserved to that office and then later waive the statute of limitations which it did. The NYT apparenly think the pro froma due process reminder is direction to cover up. There is enough blame to go around several times over without inventing it. Smear, laziness, or sloppiness the NYT is getting a lot of criticism on that article.