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    New Vatican Defences

    by earwicga on 2nd April, 2010 at 9:23 pm    

    In light of recent scandals within the Catholic church some Bishops have been apologising for the abuse that is coming to light in countries such as Germany, Holland, Austria, Italy, and Switzerland.  Further scandals are also coming to light in Latin America where Bishops are as defiant as they have been in America and Ireland.

    Vatican spokespeople have been strenously defending their role in covering up abuse of children around the world and have offered many ridiculous and offensive defences in addition to the ones offered previously.  This week has seen accusations of “petty gossip” against the media coverage of clerical abuse with the charge laid against the New York Times of being directed by Satan!  Not a new excuse or defence but still as laughable.

    It’s also being bandied around that clerics aren’t in the empoy of the Vatican so the Pope can’t be sued:

    There’s a general consensus among legal scholars that an employee is someone who works for the employer, who controls the details of the work. Attorneys for the Vatican are expected to argue that diocesan bishops do not work for the pope, and that the Holy See does not exercise the day-to-day control over their work necessary to create an employment relationship.

    One defence I hadn’t imagined was given today by Pope Benedict’s personal preacher,  Rev Raniero Cantalamessa ‘at Good Friday prayers in St Peter’s Basilica, attended by the Pope’:

    In his sermon, he quoted a Jewish friend as saying the accusations reminded him of the “more shameful aspects of anti-Semitism”.

    The Rev Cantalamessa said Jews throughout history had been the victims of “collective violence” and drew a comparison with recent attacks on the Church.

    He read the congregation part of a letter from a Jewish friend who said he was “following with disgust the violent and concentric attacks against the Church, the Pope…

    “The use of stereotypes, the shifting of personal responsibility and guilt to a collective guilt remind me of the most shameful aspects of anti-Semitism,” he quoted from the letter.

    Absolutely disgraceful!

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    1. earwicga — on 2nd April, 2010 at 9:27 pm  

      I am very interested in how this one is going to be explained: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100402/ap_on_re_us/us_church_abuse_arizona

      Apparently it took 12 years for Ratzinger to remove a proven clerical sex abuser of children to be removed from the priesthood.

    2. KJB — on 2nd April, 2010 at 10:07 pm  

      Thanks for keeping your beady eye on this, earwicga. The behaviour of the Vatican is just… beyond words. The whole topic makes me so angry, I could not possibly compile and analyse the litany of fucking ridiculous and shameful excuses that they continue to parade, as you have.

      And Rev Raniero can just fuck right off. ‘People demanding that the Vatican face justice’ is NOWHERE FUCKING NEAR ‘the most shameful aspects of anti-Semitism,’ i.e. the Holocaust. Is this Jewish friend of his non-existent by any chance?

      (On a side note, people who think that their pet persecution is ‘equal’ in any way to the Holocaust need to visit the Imperial War Museum exhibition on the Holocaust at the very least, or go to the Holocaust Museum in Israel. I recommend the IWM exhibition to anyone and everyone, regardless).

      The Catholic Church also seems happy to impute ‘collective guilt’ to the media, for example the accusations of ‘petty gossip,’ and making out that the whole of the NY Times is in league with Satan to bring them down. What unsurprising hypocrisy.

      Btw, may I ask why are you not responding to me in the other thread, earwicga?

    3. earwicga — on 2nd April, 2010 at 10:23 pm  

      I didn’t make it clear that the accusation of “petty gossip” came out of Pope Benedict’s mouth.

      (I will KJB - I’m thinking about what you have written)

    4. Ravi Naik — on 2nd April, 2010 at 10:29 pm  

      And then, there is the case of Marcial Maciel…

    5. KJB — on 2nd April, 2010 at 10:36 pm  

      earwicga - Ah (on both counts)! Ta. I was pretty radfem, and still have my moments, so this site has taken a while for me to get used to. I still don’t really manage to engage with those who seem to be trolls entirely successfully (as you may have seen on the free market and discrimination thread), but other people here have, like I said, and it genuinely does astound me. This is about the ONLY political blog I know, which isn’t heavily moderated, on which the regulars are polite and thoughtful. Rumbold and others here have inspired me to tone down the defensiveness, as it really doesn’t add anything in an already testosterone-fuelled political blogosphere, though it is necessary on the femoweb.

      Just to come back on-topic - surely the massive scale of child abuse in the Catholic Church should now mean that the Vatican should lose its UN ’special observer’ status. Found this randomly, which is quite interesting and thought-provoking, though it is from 2003: http://www.wluml.org/node/1154

    6. earwicga — on 2nd April, 2010 at 11:02 pm  

      Ravi - this is interesting about Maciel: http://blogs.abcnews.com/nightlinedailyline/2010/04/what-pope-benedict-knew-about-father-maciel.html

      KJB - this definately needs something like an UN intervention. As I understand it the Vatican has signed up to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and are in breach of it - I haven’t had time to look up the Convention. This is interesting: http://www.iheu.org/vatican-condemned-un-child-abuse

      I still can’t believe that a Catholic cleric has compared the church being asked to account for it’s actions with ‘the most shameful aspects of anti-Semitism’ - It’s shocking even by their standards.

    7. chairwoman — on 2nd April, 2010 at 11:37 pm  

      The abuse of boys in Catholic schools was a long standing open secret.

      As I have mentioned here previously, the late Chairman was a pupil at a school run by monks. Corporal punishment for petty rule breaking was the norm. Frequently boys were required to go to the gym where, wearing only a jock strap they were beaten with a leather strap by a red-faced, heavy breathing ‘man of God’.

      Incidentally, the Chairman was expelled from the Upper 6th. His crime? Drawing a naked woman in his jotter.

      He rejected Catholicism initially, and subsequently all religions and their trappings.

      Final thought. I was in New York a few years ago when a RC Priest/schoolboy scandal broke. It had occured within the Tri-state Area, and was extensively covered on the local news. The newsreader broke off from the script, and very emotionally told the audience that he and his family were practicing Catholics, and what shame he and his wife felt, and how they wondered how long they could remain as communicants of a Church that continued to sweep these things under the carpet.

      I think it’s time the Pope remembers that Mea Culpa actually means something.

      As for the comparison with centuries of antisemitism… Speechless.

    8. Gabriel Wilensky — on 3rd April, 2010 at 3:22 am  


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

      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 innapropriate 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.

      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 advicing. I would encourage you to think about these things, and next time you sit with Pope Benedict advice him better.

      Gabriel Wilensky

      Six Million Crucifixions:
      How Christian Teachings About Jews Paved the Road to the Holocaust
      Follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/sixmillionbook
      Become a Fan on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/SixMillionCrucifixions

    9. Katy Newton — on 3rd April, 2010 at 8:06 am  

      More coverage here.

      This is a beautiful example of someone using an allegation of antisemitism to try to shut down debate. Personally I’m struggling to see how Benedict can stay in office (but I gather that the Pope actually isn’t allowed to resign once he becomes Pope: apparently John Paul II was desperate to retire because he was frail and exhausted and was advised that it was against Catholic law for him to do so).

    10. Lucy — on 3rd April, 2010 at 8:28 am  

      If he was really naive enough to think it would shut down debate and not rekindle it, he is a twerp. Apparently, according to the Today Programme anyway, he was badly advised - by a Jewish friend…who, presumably, was also badly advised.

    11. Don — on 3rd April, 2010 at 9:03 am  

      Fiat justitia ruat caelum.

    12. Abu Faris — on 3rd April, 2010 at 12:53 pm  

      “A good man was ther of religioun,
      And was a povre PERSOUN OF A TOUN,
      But riche he was of hooly thoght and werk.
      He was also a lerned man, a clerk,
      That Cristes gospel trewely wolde preche;
      His parisshens devoutly wolde he teche.
      Benynge he was, and wonder diligent,
      And in adversitee ful pacient,
      And swich he was ypreved ofte sithes.
      Ful looth were hym to cursen for his tithes,
      But rather wolde he yeven, out of doute,
      Unto his povre parisshens aboute
      Of his offryng and eek of his substaunce.
      He koude in litel thyng have suffisaunce.
      Wyd was his parisshe, and houses fer asonder,
      But he ne lefte nat, for reyn ne thonder,
      In siknesse nor in meschief to visite
      The ferreste in his parisshe, muche and lite,
      Upon his feet, and in his hand a staf.
      This noble ensample to his sheep he yaf,
      That first he wroghte, and afterward he taughte.
      Out of the gosple he tho wordes caughte,
      And this figure he added eek therto,
      That if gold ruste, what shal iren do?
      For if a preest be foul, on whom we truste,
      No wonder is a lewed man to ruste;
      And shame it is, if a prest take keep,
      A shiten shepherde and a clene sheep.
      Wel oghte a preest ensample for to yive,
      By his clennesse, how that his sheep sholde lyve.”

      General Prologue of “The Canterbury Tales”, Geoffrey Chaucer, ll. 480 -508

    13. earwicga — on 3rd April, 2010 at 12:59 pm  

      Abu - is there not a newer English version?

      Katy - I have read that resignation is allowed within Canon law. There have been papal resignations, albeit not for a long long time.

      Another commonly held myth is that everything a pope says is infalliable - it isn’t. When he speaks Ex cathedra it is held to be infalliable - funnily enough this isn’t a label that is/isn’t on any pronouncements. It is decided by the CDF formerly known as The Inquisition.

    14. Abu Faris — on 3rd April, 2010 at 1:04 pm  


      Your wish is my command:

      “There was a Parson, too, that had his cure
      In a small town, a good man and a poor;
      But rich he was in holy thought and work.
      Also he was a learned man, a clerk,
      Seeking Christ`s gospel faithfully to preach;
      Most piously his people would he teach.
      Benign and wondrous diligent was he,
      And very patient in adversity -
      Often had he been tried to desperation!
      He would not make an excommunication
      For tithes unpaid, but rather would he give -
      Helping his poor parishioners to live -
      From the offerings, or his own small property;
      In little he would find sufficiency.
      Broad was his parish, with houses far apart,
      Yet come it rain or thunder he would start
      Upon his rounds, in woe or sickness too,
      And reach the farthest, poor or well-to-do,
      Going on foot, his staff within his hand -
      Example that his sheep could understand -
      Namely, that first he wrought and after taught.
      These words from holy gospel he had brought,
      And used to add this metaphor thereto -
      That if gold rust, what then shall iron do?
      For if the priest be bad, in whom we trust,
      What wonder is it if a layman rust?
      And shame to him - happy the priest who heeds it -
      Whose flock is clean when he is soiled who leads it!
      Surely a priest should good example give,
      Showing by cleanness how his sheep should live.”

    15. chairwoman — on 3rd April, 2010 at 1:08 pm  

      Earwicga - I think that Papal resignations are not usual because he is the Lord’s Annointed and that he has to have sinned against the Church in specific ways for it to happen.

      You’re spot on about the infallibility.

    16. Abu Faris — on 3rd April, 2010 at 1:09 pm  


      The Pope is held to be infallible in matters of dogma. Incidentally, Church Councils are held collectively in the same regard by the Eastern Orthodox Church. Amongst the Copts and other Oriental Orthodox Churches, there are no claims to infallibility at all.

    17. Abu Faris — on 3rd April, 2010 at 1:10 pm  

      Ex-cathedra means, of course, when the Pope is speaking as head of the Roman Catholic Church and not as Bishop of Rome.

    18. earwicga — on 3rd April, 2010 at 1:15 pm  

      Thank you for the translation Abu Faris, and absolutely! I shall certainly be listening to Start the Week on Monday as Rowan Williams seems to be making a good point (contrary to the way it is being reported, obviously). Some here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8601381.stm

      He said: “I was speaking to an Irish friend recently who was saying that it’s quite difficult in some parts of Ireland to go down the street wearing a clerical collar now.

      “And an institution so deeply bound into the life of a society, suddenly becoming, suddenly losing all credibility - that’s not just a problem for the Church, it is a problem for everybody in Ireland.”

    19. Abu Faris — on 3rd April, 2010 at 1:17 pm  

      Again, as an aside, the Orthodox notion of dogma is somewhat distinct from Catholic conceptions of the same. Kallistos Ward writes well on the same - I have the reference somewhere on this bloody hard drive.

      The Papal claim to infallibility is historically very recent, as we should all know. It derives from the Papal assumption (some might want arrogation) of conciliar functions in matters of dogma - and, of course, as a reaction to the stripping of his lay rights as ruler of the Papal States in Il Risorgimento.

    20. Abu Faris — on 3rd April, 2010 at 1:22 pm  

      Very apposite comment from an Irish priest, Earwicga.

      The running joke in Ireland has been:

      Q: What does P.R.I.E.S.T. stand for?

      A: Paedophile Resident In Every Small Town.

    21. Abu Faris — on 3rd April, 2010 at 1:31 pm  


      Or, as Kant had it:

      Fiat iustitia, et pereat mundus.

    22. KB Player — on 3rd April, 2010 at 1:31 pm  

      Apt quoting from Chaucer, Abu Faris. He of course also portrayed dodgy Church employees (the Pardoner) as well as conscientious ones, like the Priest. This must be heart-breaking for priests who try to do their job properly. However, the Church was evidently more interested in its own power and prestige over every other consideration.

      There’s something about the Dreyfus Affair:-


      Against all justice, the Church took the side of the anti-Dreyfusards as a way of increasing its own power.

    23. Don — on 3rd April, 2010 at 3:15 pm  


      Nice quote. I suggest that ‘A shiten shepherde ‘ might be a good T-shirt to wear for Joey Ratz’s forthcoming visit.

    24. KJB — on 3rd April, 2010 at 3:28 pm  

      *huffs over Latin nerdiness*

    25. earwicga — on 3rd April, 2010 at 4:06 pm  

      Abu Faris - that joke won’t have any standing soon as vocations are so low - I believe that the seven Catholic seminaries in Ireland have now been reduced to one. And of course the Orthodox branch has different rules on marriage.

    26. Abu Faris — on 4th April, 2010 at 7:59 am  

      Orthodox priests are allowed to be married, just in case they were married before they were ordained as priests. All Orthodox bishops must be monks and ordained priests - therefore they are celibate.

      Divorce is immensely difficult in most Orthodox communions - especially the Coptic Orthodox Church. Copt widows were traditionally expected to remain single and devote themselves to the Church.

      Seminaries are in general going out of fashion, as the training of priests becomes more specialised and academically orientated. Most now attend regular university and then move on to postgraduate training for the priesthood. Certainly that was already the case in my time at a very priest infested university college.

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