Speaking in a Good Friday homily, with the Pope listening, the Pontiff’s personal preacher, Fr Raniero Cantalamessa, likened the drive by the victims of abuse to seek justice from the Vatican, whose priests committed the sexual crimes, with the persecution of Jews. Victims’ groups and Jewish organisations have said it was inappropriate to liken the discomfort of the Catholic Church to hundreds of years of violence and abuse.
But it is more than inappropriate. It shows either an ignorance of the history of anti-Semitism; a desire to relativise the Holocaust; a near-pathological disregards for other people’s suffering; or a wilful aspiration to shift the blame away from the Vatican. The Vatican distanced the Pope from the remarks, with a spokesman saying they were "not an official position of the Catholic Church." But the official Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano has run the text of Cantalamessa’s address – a sign that his remarks find favour in many parts of Vatican City.
It is easy to understand why the Catholic Church is feeling under pressure. Countless cases of sexual abuse by Catholic priests are being revealed. In Holland, 200 cases of sexual abuse are currently being investigated, in Switzerland the number is 60, and in Germany there are at least 300 reported cases of sexual abuse. If the majority of these cases turn out to be true, it will engulf the Catholic Church in one of its worst crises ever. But to hide behind Fr Cantalamessa’s hurtful rhetoric is no way to deal with this issue.