Saturday, April 03, 2010

What Cantalamessa said

This is what Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, Preacher to the Papal Household actually said yesterday: these are the words of his anonymous Jewish friend.
"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. 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 undoubtedly have different elements, 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."
It was wise neither wise nor prudent and if I was Jewish or a victim of abuse I would find it deeply offensive and it is hardly the tone that the Holy Father expressed in his letter to the Cathol;ics of Ireland.

Why did he not have the humility to ask someone to check it over? I have been trying to remember some other gaffs of Fr Cantalamessa, there have been one or two Trinitarian ones, and if I remember rightly, there have been a few instances where he has contradicted the Pope.
I would have hoped that Fr Cantalamessa might have had the humility to have spent the remainder of yesterday going around the newsagencies appologising. Perhaps it is time that JPII's preacher went the way of Mgr Piero Marini his Master of Ceremonies, there is obviously a need for a new Preacher to the Household.


JARay said...

His comments certainly went down like a lead balloon here in Australia. The ABC reported his sermon on the News this morning and implied that he could not have made a bigger mess if he had tried to.

laicus said...

I don't quite get your point, Father.

The whole of what you quote was from the letter you refer to, received by Fr. Cantalamessa from a Jewish friend of his. It therefore does not seem to justify your heading "What Cantalamessa said".

The following was what Fr. Cantalamessa himself said in introduction (translation as in Rorate Coeli):

"By rare coincidence, this year our Easter falls in 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 brethren. 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 from a Jewish friend and, with his permission, I share here a part of it.

"He [the Jewish friend] said: 'I am following with indignation (etc., etc.)' "

Surely this letter from a friendly Jewish person empathizing with us, and Fr. Cantalamessa's quoting of it, are to be warmly welcomed?

I do not see how either of these contradicts what the Holy Father has said. The parallel ("personal responsibility and guilt" - in the present case, on the part of the individual perpetrators of the abuse and on the part of those who in actuality were at fault for not dealing with the matters as they should have; "collective guilt" - in the present case, a description of what is unjustly being sought to be fixed on the whole Catholic Church as an institution) is surely an apt one.

nickbris said...

This is precisely why the Bishops are by & large keeping quiet.Anything anybody says at this time will be picked over and misinterpreted.

The idea of keeping ones head beneath the parapet is to keep it from being blown off.

georgem said...

Here's a flavour:
It would be quite wrong to emulate him by pulling out a quote by the Tablet writer that he sounds like Luther.
He also appears to be a fan of laying on of hands by the laity and of the Alpha course.
One of the old Marini brigade, by the look of it. They're dead but they won't lie down.
Perhaps he could persuade the anon friend he quoted to come forward.
Really. With friends like this . . . one has the awful thought that there will be more like him trying to be helpful.
There is also another thought bubbling up which I am finding increasingly difficult to suppress.
Would The Pope be the target of so much vitriol if he weren't German?

H Stanford said...

I fail to see the issue here. There is a reference to (as I understand it) the gradual build up of hatred and victimisation of the Jews, and a Jewish friend likens that to the increasing very selective media and political attacks against the church. The parallel seems clear. Why should offense be taken, other than by professional offense takers?

Fr Ray Blake said...

It is a quote, from presumably a private letter, but Fr C is using to make a comparison. It appears to be an evasion of responsibility.

Unlike even the beginnings of the Nazi era unsemiticism, no one has yet been killed, no church been burnt. Members of the Church have actually been guilty of crimes.

Anonymous said...

I don't think that the known tendency of the media to distort these things is enough reason to keep quiet about it. Maybe the timing was a bit off, certainly, but I for one welcome this calling-out of the media on their biased reporting of late.

The only thing I would possibly hold against Fr. Cantalamessa is that he was perhaps a bit clumsy to say these things now.

But when faced with the distortions of his homily, it is all of us who must point out what it was that was really said.

epsilon said...

Father Cantalamessa was talking mostly about domestic violence - see my post with reference to this

Father Cantalamessa, René Girard, The Four Mass'keteers and A Little Guide For Your Last Days

Michael Petek said...

Father Cantalamessa's comments, as a quote from a Jewish friend of his, are well taken in so far as people who hate Jews are usually the same as those who hate God, so they han be expected to hate the Church also.

What is to the point is that the civil authorities have the primary responsibility, and the monopoly of lawful coercion, to suppress violent crime on their territory, by whomsoever committed, be they Catholic priests or Swedish police officers.

JMeaden said...

Sorry to change the subject, but what does everyone think of the comments made by Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury?

My personal view is that he is kicking the Catholic Church while it's down. It still shows that there is some Protestant hatred for the Church. I thought this is a time for all Christians to unite and support eachother. After all, the Anglicans are not clean of abuse scandals and other wrongdoings.

This Jew is saying what Rowan Williams should have said. He is showing more love and support than even our own fellow Christians.

It reminds me of the story of the Samaritan where the Chruch represents the man beaten up dying on the ground, the Samaritan represents the Jew and, Rowan Williams is the high priest or Rabbi who just walks on.

laicus said...

This letter was from a Jewish gentleman who made kindly and fraternal comments in empathy with the Catholic Church in what she is unjustly facing at present. Fr. Cantalamessa quoted from it, with his friend's permission and with his own friendly comments on what the letter had said.

What is everyone getting so worked up about? Even you, Father Ray, who have no greater fan than myself.

laicus said...

Better put: "... of whom no-one is a greater fan than myself".

santoeusebio said...

I must say I share the concerns of some of your commentators that it is not obvious what is so objectionable about Fr C's sermons and the message he quoted.

The Church is under attack and there are some similarities between the prejudicial views and false statements that are being put about against the Church and those used by anti-semites. I welcome the sympathetic message of solidarity from somebody of the Jewish faith in our present predicament.

And let us try and get this abuse problem in perspective. I am not familiar with what went on in Ireland but perhaps we ought to remember that it was a country that was deliberately impoverished and brutalised and it is against that background that we should view such things as the industrial schools. Shocking and terrible things went on in England in past centuries in similar institutions. They just went on a bit longer in Ireland. Who is to blame for that?

As for England there has been a great deal of misinformation. It is untrue to say every case of abuse by Catholic priests was mishandled by the Church authorities. The police were often involved. Why have we not heard more about whether the police took these cases seriously or whether Magistrates were not remiss in not handing out custodial sentences rather than accepting assurances of treatment? And what about other institutions than the Catholic Church? Yes we should sympathise with the abused but we should also remember that excessive hysteria about abuse has led to false accusations which have been incredibly damaging for those falsely accused.

We have a Press and Media which loves to pick single sentences out of context e.g. Archbishop's Vincent Nichols remarks about contraceptive being attractive in certain circumstances. Today we have Rowan Williams making a remark which I suspect he did not mean in quite the way it has been interpreted and again has probably been taken out of context.

Selective quotation to misrepresent a person's views is a technique that the Catholic Education Service seems to use. I wrote to Bishop McMahon to say I was not impressed by this and he has replied to say he was sorry that I was not impressed but he offers no explanation or answer to my questions about the conflicts between what the Ministers are saying about sex education and what the CES is saying. I suspect this indicates that he has no answers. He goes on to say that Parliament will soon be dissolved so it will be interesting to see if the CSF Bill will survive.

I bet he and his fellow Bishops are all on their knees praying hard that the bill will NOT survive. We should follow their example.

Ma Tucker said...

I see no problem with quoting this however, I think he should have stopped quoting before he got to the theoillogical part. As regards evasion of responsibility. It is the responsibility of the abusers not to abuse. It is the responsibility of the Bishop to deal with the abuser. It is completely unacceptable to attribute fault to the Catholic Church for the personal failures of Church men and women. Did not the Church have established procedures to deal with this problem? Was it not the problem that these procedures were not implemented by Bishops?

B flat said...

If we start by arguing that Fr Cantalamessa (beautiful liturgical thought!) was wrong to raise the subject of Jews, then we can no doubt demonstrate his imprudence, tactlessness, lack of proportion etc.
However, he preached a meditative sermon, not a political statement or election manifesto for public debate. If we take the sermon as a whole, is it not instructive, fairly deep and quite moving? It was preached at a Divine Service, and was very appropriate thematically for the occasion and the hearers.
What business is it of anyone else, especially of those who are interested neither in the Church nor Christ, in their own salvation or that of anyone else? I got a lot from the sermon. I get nothing from the Times that I cannot get elsewhere, and a great deal that I don't want.

Why not just ignore the snipings from the enemies of the Church and Christ? That is what I was told as a child when I complained of being picked on. It might reduce the tension, and the bullies will tire, and find a new target.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for explaining, Father.

I agree with you that the circumstances that led to the Holocaust were vastly different from what we are facing now. Yet there are similarities.

The Church as a whole is accused, as is the pope. It is virtually certain that the pope is innocent of the accusations made against him. Some segments of the Church are not - there are priests and bishops, possibly even entire congregations, who are guilty of the crimes they are accused of.

However, the majority of the Church is innocent. Yet she is accused with the same vehemence and too often hatred that the guilty parties face. Not unlike the victims of the Holocaust, we were also accused and condemned despite their innocence.

Colin said...

RE Fr. Cantalamessa. Please explain what was wrong in what he said.

Adulio said...

It is regrettable that Fr. Cantalamessa is a the papal preacher but what would one expect under the calibre of appointments that JP II appointed? I am told by someone reliable, that when he visted London some years ago, he made a vist to the evangelicals at Holy Trinity Brompton but curiously did not have time to enter the church of the Oratory, right by the side.

WWAWF said...

Great fan of your Blog but not with you on this one, Fr Ray. The contents of the letter quoted by Fr C very much reflect the comments by the thoughtful Atheist, Brendan O'Neill, that you blogged about a few days ago. Also top marks to Fr C for having the courage to come out publicly with support and solace for the Pope.

Adulio said...

I bet he and his fellow Bishops are all on their knees praying hard that the bill will NOT survive. We should follow their example.

Would that be a bill that most of his brother-bishops have hardly spoken out publically against?

fidelisjoff said...

You are right Father it wasn't appropriate. It is a time of shame and penance for the Church. It needs time for the frenzy in the media to die down. It is not a time to be quiet for bishops they need to tend their flock in the storm and assist the victims in every way possible. It has happened the effects of this grave sin will shame us for a long time.

Michael Petek said...

Let's make some distinctions here.

In the moral and spiritual order the Church is never culpable in sin or crime, though she can be wounded by it, because she is the Body of Christ. Each of her members and officers can be.

Under international law, the Church as a member of the international community, and her officers, can be responsible in respect of acts done by her officers in an official capacity or under colour of their authority.

Under national law, only individuals can be fixed with guilt of criminal offences.

Of the people who accuse the Church there are many who accused Christ first.

And who is the great Accuser?

GOR said...

As I have stated elsewhere I believe what Fr. Cantalamessa said was taken out of context and much more is being read into it than was intended. He noted the connection between Passover and Easter and their concurrence this year. He quotes a letter from a Jewish friend sympathetic to what the Church and the Holy Father have been subjected to in the media.

Everyone assumes that Fr. Cantalamessa’s reference to the Jews being subjected to “collective violence” refers just to The Holocaust. That is not how it came across to me. While The Holocaust is undoubtedly the most awful example of anti-Semitism, it was by no means the only one. Throughout history the Jewish people have been discriminated against – often collectively - by governments, tyrants and cities in Europe and elsewhere. Being forced to live in ghettos didn’t just begin with Nazism.

While it might have been more prudent of Fr. Cantalamessa to avoid any comparisons with Jewish discrimination in any era, referencing instead the unjust treatment Our Lord received and which should not be unexpected when visited upon His Vicar and His Church, I think he is being unjustly vilified. We should not be too quick to parrot the secular media line and add to the vilification.

RJ said...

I'm not sure Fr Catalamessa was comparing the hostility to the Church with the physical violence inflicted on Jewish people throughout the ages (the way it was interpreted on the BBC), but rather to anti-Semitism, which is a hostile attitude of mind. (The violent attacks referred to in the letter I took to be 'violent' in the sense of being extremely hostile or vitriolic). The parallel may be said to be more exact in this case.
I have heard and seen Fr Cantalamessa. He seems full of the joy of the Gospel, and I am pretty sure he is not some liberal dissenter. Who can say that they have not said something theologically dodgy at times? It is one thing to make a mistake or be materially in error (undesirable as that is), another to be a formal heretic.

Crux Fidelis said...

Cantalamessa - what an appropriate name for a priest.

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