Fr. Cantalamessa’s sermon for Good Friday in the Vatican Basilica

Here is the text in English of Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa’s sermon for Good Friday in the Vatican Basilica.

My emphases and comments:


Homily on Good Friday 2010 in Saint Peter’s Basilica

"We have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God": thus begins the passage from the Letter to the Hebrews that we heard in the second reading. In the Year for Priests, the liturgy for Good Friday enables us to go back to the historical source of the Christian priesthood. It is the source of both the realizations of the priesthood: the ministerial, of bishops and presbyters, and the universal of all the faithful. This one also, in fact, is founded on the sacrifice of Christ that, Revelation says, "loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father" (Revelation 1:5-6). Hence, it is of vital importance to understand the nature of the sacrifice and of the priesthood of Christ because it is from them that priests and laity, in a different way, must bear the stamp and seek to live the exigencies.  [This isn’t, btw, the Year of the Priesthood of the Baptized Laity.]

The Letter to the Hebrews explains in what the novelty and uniqueness of Christ’s priesthood consists, not only in regard to the priesthood of the old Covenant, but as the history of religions teaches us today, in regard to every priestly institution also outside of the Bible. "But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come […] he entered once for all into the Holy Place, taking not the blood of goats and calves but his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the sprinkling of defiled persons with the blood of goats and bulls and with the ashes of a heifer sanctifies for the purification of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify your conscience from dead works to serve the living God" (Hebrews 9:11-14).

Every other priest offers something outside of himself, Christ offered himself; every other priest offers victims, Christ offered himself victim! Saint Augustine enclosed in a famous formula this new kind of priesthood in which priest and victim are the same thing: "Ideo sacerdos, quia sacrificium": priest because victim."[1]

* * *

In 1972 a famous French thinker launched the thesis according to which "violence is the heart and secret spirit of the sacred."[2] In fact, at the origin and center of every religion there is sacrifice, and sacrifice entails destruction and death. The newspaper "Le Monde" greeted the affirmation, saying that it made of that year "a year to mark with an asterisk in the annals of humanity." However, before this date, that scholar had come close again to Christianity and at Easter of 1959 he made public his "conversion," declaring himself a believer and returning to the Church.

This enabled him not to pause, in his subsequent studies, on the analysis of the mechanism of violence, but to point out also how to come out of it. Many, unfortunately, continue to quote René Girard as the one who denounced the alliance between the sacred and violence, but they do not speak of the Girard who pointed out in the paschal mystery of Christ the total and definitive break of such an alliance. According to him, Jesus unmasks and breaks the mechanism of the scapegoat that makes violence sacred, making himself, the victim of all violence.

 The process that leads to the birth of religion is reversed, in regard to the explanation that Freud had given. In Christ, it is God who makes himself victim, not the victim (in Freud, the primordial father) that, once sacrificed, is successively raised to divine dignity (the Father of the Heavens). It is no longer man that offers sacrifices to God, but God who "sacrifices" himself for man, consigning for him to death his Only-begotten Son (cf. John 3:16). Sacrifice no longer serves to "placate" the divinity, but rather to placate man and to make him desist from his hostility toward God and his neighbor[Hmmm… I am not sure this squares with many of the orations for Holy Mass even in the Novus Ordo.  But read on.]

 Christ did not come with another’s blood but with his own. He did not put his sins on the shoulders of others — men or animals –; he put others’ sins on his own shoulders: "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree" (1 Peter 2:24).  [But He did that for reparation, to placate.]

[And this is why what he said before is a problem…] Can one, then, continue to speak of sacrifice in regard to the death of Christ and hence of the Mass? [Yes.] For a long time the scholar mentioned rejected this concept, holding it too marked by the idea of violence, but then ended by admitting the possibility, on condition of seeing, in that of Christ, a new kind of sacrifice, and of seeing in this change of meaning "the central fact in the religious history of humanity."

* * *

Seen in this light, the sacrifice of Christ contains a formidable message for today’s world. It cries out to the world that violence is an archaic residue, a regression to primitive stages and surmounted by human history and — if it is a question of believers — a culpable and scandalous delay in becoming aware of the leap in quality operated by Christ.

 It reminds also that violence is losing. In almost all ancient myths the victim is the defeated and the executioner the victor . [3] Jesus changed the sign of victory. He inaugurated a new kind of victory that does not consist in making victims, but in making himself victim. "Victor quia victima!", victor because victim, thus Augustine describes the Jesus of the cross.[4]

The modern value of the defense of victims, of the weak and of threatened life is born on the terrain of Christianity, it is a later fruit of the revolution carried out by Christ. We have the counter-proof. As soon as the Christian vision is abandoned (as Nietzsche did) to bring the pagan back to life, this conquest is lost and one turns to exalt "the strong, the powerful, to its most exalted point, the superman," and the Christian is described as "a morality of slaves," fruit of the mean resentment of the weak against the strong.

Unfortunately, however, the same culture of today that condemns violence, on the other hand, favors and exalts it. Garments are torn in face of certain events of blood, but not being aware that the terrain is prepared for them with that which is shown in the next page of the newspaper or in the successive palimpsest of the television network. The pleasure with which one indulges in the description of violence and the competition of the one who is first and the most crude in describing it do no more than favor it. The result is not a catharsis of evil, but an incitement to it. It is disturbing that violence and blood have become one of the ingredients of greatest claim in films and video-games, that one is attracted to it and enjoys watching it.

The same scholar recalled above has unveiled the matrix that sparks the mechanism of violence: mimicry, that innate human inclination to consider desirable the things that others desire and, hence, to repeat the things that they see others do. The "heard" psychology is that which leads to the choice of the "scapegoat" to find, in the struggle against a common enemy — in general, the weakest element, the different one –, a proper artificial and momentous cohesion.

We have an example in the recurrent violence of youth in the stadium, in the bullying in schools and in certain square manifestations that leave behind destruction and debris. A generation of youth that has had the very rare privilege of not knowing a real war and of never having been called to arms, amuses itself (because it is about a game, even if stupid and at times tragic) to invent little wars, driven by the same instinct that moved the primordial horde.

*  * *
However there is a yet more grave and widespread violence than that of youth in stadiums and squares. I am not speaking here of violence against children, of which unfortunately also elements of the clergy are stained; of that there is sufficient talk outside of here. I am speaking of violence to women. [Here is a good point that feminists will hate…] This is an occasion to make persons and institutions that fight against it understand that Christ is their best ally[Tell that to "Sister President" who, with her magisterium of nuns, helped to foster violence to women by aiding and abetting federal funding for abortion.]

It is a violence all the more grave in as much as it is often carried out in the shelter of domestic walls, unknown to all, when it is not actually justified with pseudo-religious and cultural prejudices. The victims find themselves desperately alone and defenceless. Only today, thanks to the support and encouragement of so many associations and institutions, some find the strength to come out in the open and denounce the guilty.

Much of this violence has a sexual background. It is the male who thinks he can demonstrate his virility by inflicting himself on the woman, without realizing that he is only demonstrating his insecurity and baseness. Also in confrontations with the woman who has made a mistake, what a contrast between the conduct of Christ and that still going on in certain environments! Fanaticism calls for stoning; Christ responds to the men who have presented an adulteress to him saying: "Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her" (John 8:7). Adultery is a sin that is always committed by two, but for which only one has always been (and, in some parts of the world, still is) punished.

Violence against woman is never so odious as when it nestles where mutual respect and love should reign, in the relationship between husband and wife. It is true that violence is not always and wholly on the part of one, that one can be violent also with the tongue and not only with the hands, but no one can deny that in the vast majority of cases the victim is the woman.

 There are families where the man still believes himself authorized to raise his voice and hands on the women of the house. Wife and children at times live under the constant threat of "Daddy’s anger." To such as these it is necessary to say courteously: dear men colleagues, by creating you male, God did not intend to give you the right to be angry and to bang your fist on the table for the least thing. The word addressed to Eve after the fault: "He (the man) shall rule over you" (Genesis 3:16), was a bitter forecast, not an authorization.

 John Paul II inaugurated the practice of the request for forgiveness for collective wrongs. One of these, among the most just and necessary, is the forgiveness that half of humanity must ask of the other half, men to women. It must not be generic or abstract. It must lead, especially in one who professes himself a Christian, to concrete gestures of conversion, to words of apology and reconciliation within families and in society.

* * *

The passage from the Letter to the Hebrews that we heard continues saying: "In the days of his flesh, with loud cries and with tears he offered prayers and supplications to Him who could save him from death." Jesus felt in all its crudity the situation of the victims, the suffocated cries and silent tears. Truly, "we do not have a high priest who cannot suffer with us in our weaknesses." In every victim of violence Christ relives mysteriously his earthly experience. Also in regard to every one of these he says: "you did it to me" (Matthew 25:40).

[Here is the section of the sermon that will overshadow everything that Cantalamessa said and shove the rest into obscurity:] By a rare coincidence, this year our Easter falls on 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 brothersThey 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 of a Jewish friend and, with his permission, I share here a part of it.  [So far so good.]

He said: [This is where he steps wrong, in my opinion.] "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. [So… there it is.]  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 are undoubtedly different, 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."

 And also we Catholics wish our Jewish brothers a Good Passover. We do so with the words of their ancient teacher Gamaliel, entered in the Jewish Passover Seder and from there passed into the most ancient Christian liturgy:

"He made us pass

From slavery to liberty,

From sadness to joy,

From mourning to celebration,

From darkness to light,

From servitude to redemption

Because of this before him we say: Alleluia."[5]

* * *


 [1] St. Augustine, Confessions, 10, 43.

[2] Cf. R. Girard, La Violence et le Sacré, Grasset, Paris, 1972.

[3] Cf. R. Girard, Il sacrificio, Milano 2004, pp. 73 f.

[4] St. Augustine, Confessions, 10, 43.

[5] Pesachim, X, 5 e Meliton of Sardi, Easter Homily, 68 (SCh 123, p. 98).


There is much to praise in this sermon, but I also find much that is questionable.

First, I think it was very imprudent to make any connection with the historic suffering of Jews in light of the present controversies.   We are suffering the consequences of clerical abuse of children which we brought on ourselves.  I think that on a day that has been a historic bone of contention for many Jews, and in front of a German Pope who has had some controversies with Jews, as in the rehabilitation of the Good Friday rites in the 1962 Missale Romanum, etc., I don’t think Cantalamessa should have provided an excuse for some Jews to raises their indignant voices, as nearly always happens when a churchman says something a little touchy. 

Also, I think that Cantalamessa has drifted into something quite strange when he talks about Christian sacrifice as not "placating".   Yes… Sacrifice placates.   This is not placate, as in, "let’s just try to shut him up because he is being unreasonable".   Sacrifice does placate, and the sacrifice we perpetuate and renew on the altar – which doesn’t add anything to what Christ did on the Cross – was indeed about correcting a deep wrong in our collective relationship with God.

At the end, he leaves the thing about common Messianic hope dangling in the air.   I think we need a better distinction than what he gave us.  That smacked, to me, of a kind of ecumenical gesture – cordial and sincere – which doesn’t do justice to the differences between Christian Messianic hope and Jewish Messianic hope.

There are other problems here too, but they must wait.

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  1. boko fittleworth says:

    Another long-time holdover that BXVI needs to replace.

  2. TNCath says:

    Thanks for the commentary, Father Z. The whole thing was so unfortunate and so unnecessary. I’m afraid it’s going to be a long time before we get over this one. This will only give The New York Times and the NCR more to crow about.

    I wonder if there is a search underway to find and interview this mysterious Jewish friend of Father Raniero’s who wrote the letter?

  3. Mike says:

    I share your concerns about this, Fr. Z. Very good points!!

  4. rosshalde says:

    Cantalamessa is a huge charismatic and a supporter of the Charismatic “renewal”. Part and parcel of that is a strange Ecumenism, denial of the Eucharistic Sacrifice and often a very strange fall into the old “Adoptionist” heresy. I have personal experience with the leaders of Catholic Charismatic Renewal and they are not at all Traditional in their theology. They are the great lovers of Vatican II and generally can’t stand anything before it.
    I don’t trust Cantalamessa and don’t have much interest in anything he has to say. It is all colored with the many falsehoods of the charismatic movement.

  5. Sedgwick says:

    Sorry, but I don’t understand the hue and cry over the Jewish statement. It wasn’t a statement by Fr. Cantalamessa himself, but a quote from a Jewish friend who supports the Pope! Where is the fodder for the ADL and their ilk?

  6. medievalist says:

    Rather than quoting philosophers and Jewish friends, Fr. Cantalamessa should have followed the time-honoured rule of oratory: K(eep) I(t) S(imple) S(tupid).

    In example, today our associate pastor (N.O. parish) preached on the suffering of Christ as innocent victim for our sins and our identification with the Sorrowful Heart of Mary through the next day or so until Easter. In other words, a pretty simple Catholic homily.

    Luckily, being a long weekend and slow news cycle, I personally believe (hope) that Fr. Cantalamessa’s unfortunate remarks will likely have been forgotten by Tuesday.

  7. skellmeyer says:

    This is silly.

    Cantalamessa did NOT deny the sacrifice of Christ – he asked a rhetorical question, he answered it as a non-Catholic might, then he answered it in Catholic fashion. Seems to me a man named Thomas did similar kinds of things and got away with it.

    As for the fact that several – not all, but several – Jews seem to be calling for an apology from the Pope for… so what?

    Should the Pope apologize that his preacher has Jewish friends?
    Should the Pope apologize that his preacher’s Jewish friends don’t see history and current events the same way the NYT’s Jewish friends do?

    Why would anyone ask the Pope to apologize to the Jews for the remarks made by a Jew?
    Are Jews supposed to be a monolithic block?
    Are they not supposed to care about suffering of others, but only their own?
    Is Fr. Cantalamessa’s remark bad because it shows Jews AREN’T any of those stereotypes?

    I just don’t see how the Professional Victim Society turns this one to their benefit.
    It’s absurd on its face.
    Indeed, properly used, this incident and its response from the MSM PVS can expose that same PVS for what they are – a bunch of narcissistic, no-‘count whiners, much like Our Fearless American Leader.

    Sure, the NYT will be professionally offended, but again, so what?

    The Church in America survived the KKK and the Know-Nothings.
    How is the current MSM different from any group of Know-Nothings?
    Why are you concerned that they can incite the mobs, just as the Know-Nothings did?

    The only difference is that this particular group of Know-Nothings has a wider reach than the old American group, but in terms of per capita ratios, is it really any different? Catholics weren’t more than 15-20% of the population when the KKK and the Know-Nothings were rioting. Now we face a world-wide MSM Know-Nothing party when we’re 1 billion out of 6 billion.

    The odds haven’t changed any.
    What’s the big deal?

  8. skellmeyer says:

    You know, it occurs to me that if this appeared on the Cartoon Network, it might be dangerous.

    But, given that it’s just on the NYT, Reuters and CNN, we aren’t talking about a big audience seeing the negative commentary. These guys are losing market share every day – that’s no small part of what’s driving this latest tempest in the teapot. Combined, they don’t have the readership that Bugs Bunny and Yosemite Sam currently get.

    Why should we obsess over their shrinking teapot?

  9. TNCath says:

    In response to skellmeyer:

    “Should the Pope apologize that his preacher has Jewish friends?”


    “Should the Pope apologize that his preacher’s Jewish friends don’t see history and current events the same way the NYT’s Jewish friends do?”


    “Why would anyone ask the Pope to apologize to the Jews for the remarks made by a Jew?”

    “Anyone” wouldn’t, but if you are anti-Catholic and exercise a great amount of influence on public opinion in this country you would and do. That’s how the NY Times operates.

    “Are Jews supposed to be a monolithic block”

    It’s not a matter of whether or not they are “supposed” to be or not.

    “Are they not supposed to care about suffering of others, but only their own?”

    Again, the key were here is “supposed”

    “Is Fr. Cantalamessa’s remark bad because it shows Jews AREN’T any of those stereotypes?”

    Fr. Cantalamessa’s remark was bad because it was so very unnecessary and was a no-win statement. Whether or not it came from the Jewish friend or not doesn’t matter. It came from the lips of a Catholic priest at the Vatican in the presence of the Pope about the Jews.

    Living in the South where over 60% of my city’s population is African-American and racial tensions are extremely high, completely innocent statements can turn into major racial issues. Often it’s not so much the accuracy or legitimacy of the statement as much as it is the person bearing the message. It didn’t matter what the meaning of Father Canatalamassa statement was. What mattered was that he was pushing a hot button that didn’t need to be pushed, especially now.

  10. skellmeyer says:

    Looks like they’re proving Cantalamessa’s point, eh?

    When the Pope made his Regensburg address, the Muslims emphasized their non-violence by slaughtering priests and nuns.

    When the papal preacher points out that even Jews see connections between current MSM anti-Catholic smears and the anti-Semitism of the early 20th century, the MSM responds by… doubling down on the smears.

    Yep, them Catholics… stupid for speaking the truth, ain’t they?

  11. skellmeyer says:


    A) It wasn’t Fr. Cantalamessa’s remark.

    Every time you say the remark came from the good priest, you assist the NYT in their smear. This was the observation of a good Jewish man. Fr. Cantalamessa did exactly what the New York Times does (or claims to do) every day – he reported the remark because it was worthy of being reported.

    B) Father reported the remark, and he was NOT wrong to do so. Passover and Easter have close ties, Father remarked on those ties and on other ties that have been observed between the faiths, such as the anti-Catholic/anti-Semite smears. It’s the perfect time of year to make these connections.

    Did Martin Luther King get martyred for making unwelcome remarks that were completely accurate?
    Why yes, I believe he did.

    Was Father Cantalamessa’s quote accurate?
    There’s no reason to think he lied about it.
    Was his Jewish friend’s observation on target?
    Why yes, I believe it is.

    THAT’S why people are upset.
    They are angry because Fr. C. is right and so is his Jewish friend.

    Does that button need to be pushed?
    That’s a prudential judgement.
    I believe it did need to be pushed.

    When a bully is after you, it does no good to hide in a closet and pretend it isn’t happening. The only way to stop the bully is to make what he’s doing very, very public.

    If that’s what they insist is necessary for the Church, then I don’t see any reason in denying the same courtesy to the anti-Catholic Know-Nothings in the MSM.

  12. pfreddys says:

    Is there not a single person in the Vatican who understands public relations?!?

  13. “We are suffering the consequences of clerical abuse of children which we brought on ourselves.”

    I disagree. I had nothing to do with it. “We” didn’t bring it on “ourselves”. “We” are victims of a cabal of bad leaders and the rapists they ordained.

    The fact that we are all being made to suffer by the media for the actions of our bishops and a very small number of rapists who were ordained is proof that there is something akin to antisemitism going on here. I for one would not be surprised at further reprisals targeted against faithful Catholics in the future. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the emergence of a politically correct, government “approved” version of Catholicism springing up in Western nations, that is independent of the papacy, much like the situation in China. Most mainstream Catholics have already been doctrinally and culturally prepared by the media for just such an eventuality. It is interesting to note that the Obama administration is paving the way in this regard by bringing on board more than a handful of Catholic dissidents, who by their words and actions demonstrate to mainstream Catholics that they can still assume the trappings of Catholicism but at the same time do not have to heed the teachings of the Catholic Church.

    I think you are spot on here: “At the end, he leaves the thing about common Messianic hope dangling in the air. I think we need a better distinction than what he gave us. That smacked, to me, of a kind of ecumenical gesture – cordial and sincere – which doesn’t do justice to the differences between Christian Messianic hope and Jewish Messianic hope.”

  14. “But, given that it’s just on the NYT, Reuters and CNN, we aren’t talking about a big audience seeing the negative commentary.”

    Good point. It’s probably been given more coverage by being posted here.

  15. Lee says:

    I couldn’t agree more with Skellmeyer. Cantalamessa was quoting a Jew, moreover a Jew who was sympathizing with our situation. This is bad?

    Our minds are so calibrated to the sensibilities of the world that we understood immediately the use the world would make of it. Should we run everything through that sieve and accept only what will pass muster with the NYT?

    Abp. Vlazny here in Portland has a better idea. In a statement issued March 31st he urged his priests and archdiocesan staff to cancel their subscriptions to the Oregonian, which among several other insulting cartoons and editorials carried Maureen Dowd’s column, “Should we have an inquisition for the Pope?”

    The world is already condemned. Let us get it OUT of our homes and our minds and continue to speak the truth in love, as Fr. Cantalamessa was doing.

  16. Geoffrey says:

    I don’t think we should be critiquing Fr. Cantalamessa’s homily this much. Fr. Cantalamessa is the Preacher to the Pontifical Household… the only man who preaches to the Pope.

    For Fr. Cantalamessa’s sake, I hope his “friend” comes forward and lets himself be identified. That should settle that.

  17. elmo says:

    I don’t think Fr. Cantalamessa made an error in citing this friend’s letter. I know and we know how the NYT is going to spin it, but this sermon’s audience isn’t the NYT or the American media in general. I thought it was beautiful sermon.

  18. B flat says:

    Fr Z, you were VERY angry a few days ago at the mess that came out of the Murphy scandal. That was very clear in your post at the time.

    Fr Cantalamessa’s focus on violence as the theme of his sermon was appropriate to the liturgy of Good Friday and to the climate in which the Church has been suffering acutely in the last two weeks.

    Time will bring the good insights to bear good fruit.

    The (mis)judgment to include that quotation from his friend wll also bear its fruit. Frankly, I don’t disbelieve the friend, or the letter. Why should any person of goodwill disbelieve a Catholic priest? Unfortunately, that was the attitude towards the individual complaints against churchmen of abuse. The public scrutiny and outcry regarding this part of the sermon may be painful.

    But do you really want the maxims of PR professionals to determine how, or whether, the truth is preached? This Pope gives the best indications we have that the hierarchy will be put into order; but the process will take some time. I pray for the longevity, health, and strength of Pope Benedict.

  19. Sixupman says:

    This is the lead story on all BBC News programmes coupled to a statement by the Archbishop of Canterbury appearing to be highly critical of The Church in Northern Ireland [“lost all credibility”]. In both reports only a selective part of the statements is made. Typical of journalism, but the BBC asserts it is superior to the newspaper ‘hacks’. I know what the Vatican prelate meant, but it comes across wrong and that is exploited.

  20. Brusselscalling says:

    What this priest said was indefensible – and the fact that he was quoting a Jewish friend does not make it any less so. Such remarks had no place in a Good Friday sermon. It was an act of unpardonable stupidity.

    I also understand what the priest meant and, yes, it has probably been misrepresented in the media, but what in heaven’s name did he expect? Preaching this kind of sermon on Good Friday before a German pope! Well done, Father!

    Pope Bendeict really now does have to get his act together and get rid of men of this kind who appear to have spent little more than ten minutes in the real world.

  21. John Fannon says:

    In UK , antiCatholicism = OK

    This has been the situation since the reformation. It has often been said that Catholics are a minority in the UK that it is respectable to distrust or dislike.

    Gordon Brown recently said that ‘Catholics are the conscience of this Nation…’. While this is blatant electioneering, there is probably some truth in this. But he could have gone on to say ‘…but no-one likes a party pooper”

    Carla Powell in the Spectator in 2007 made the point that she had never seen such a concentrated display of anti Catholic venom in Westminster, the Press and the BBC in the context of the so-called debate on gay adoption. The press coverage in the last few months will cap that!

    Therefore Father Cantalamessa’s point rang true to me anyway. But of course this will not stop the press rat pack. As Sixupman says, the BBC News conveniently omitted to mention that Fr Cantalamessa was quoting a Jewish friend. So the tenor of the news item was that Vatican, and by implication the Pope had made this assertion himself. Then followed interviews with young people in Ireland, the Church is dying, the need to abolish celibacy, more women in the church, blah, blah, blah, zzzzzzzzz.

    May be the best response is silence and hunkering down.

  22. Brusselscalling says:

    I’m sorry, Mr Fannon, but I cannot agree. I am British, and, yes, there is anti-Catholicism in the UK – but in this case the Church is actually at fault! Our leaders have systematically harboured child rapists. It is utterly untenable to say: “Oh poor us, they’re all against us.” This is not abut blah blah. There are people in positions of power in our Church who simply should not be there. The Archbishop of Dublin: why is he still in his post? Rapist priests should be/shoulde have been returned to the lay state immediately and made subject to the full force of the law.

    This is no time for feeling sorry for ourselves. Members of our Church – perpetrators, lookers-on, coverers-up – have sinned greviously. Yesterday’s sermon in Rome was delivered at the wrong place at the wrong time. It was stupid. Let’s stop defending it, please. We are not hard done-by. The Church has brought this on herself!

  23. Greg Smisek says:

    I think the whole address is more appropriate for the lecture hall than for the sacred liturgy.

  24. Genna says:

    I agree with Brusselscalling in part. It really is time to shut up about the Church being a victim. It is time for action. Not in the sense of the media “here today, gone tomorrow” pattern, but rather quicker than the Vatican usually operates.
    Let’s hope that Card. Brady will have used his Lenten reflection and wise counsel to realise that the longer he stays in post the more he is harming the Catholic Church and, in particular, the Pope and that he will come to the honorable decision.
    I believe that one of the major problems is that the Pope expects that erring clergy of whatever rank will do the honorable thing and in that sense he shows a certain unworldliness. Because these are not honorable men. The very nature of their crimes and recidivism shows that.
    Where I disagree with Brusselscalling is that it is not the Catholic Church per se which has to admit fault, but those within it who have chosen the path of evil and have tarnished the name of Christ. And the bishops who have misused their power to tolerate and harbour them.
    Justice demands that as well as forgiveness the perpetrators and their protectors should receive the punishment to fit their crimes, but as a measured and timely, not a knee-jerk, response.
    The Papal preacher has done none of us any favours, least of all the Pope who will have to be looking over his shoulder a lot more often to discern who his supporters really are.

  25. John Fannon says:

    I am old enough to remember anti Catholicism before these scandals. It’s had time to fester for a few hundred years. These scandals just give the opportunity for those who distrusted the “Romish faith” to nod their heads wisely and say how right they were.

    I don’t think there is any argument about what should be done with rapist priests.

  26. Johannes says:

    Living in Britain, I have been listening to the BBC’s take on Rowan Williams’ interview. Perhaps the Archbishop is being misrepresented. I think he is a good man. However, maybe, just maybe, he is taking an opportunity to have a go at the Church over his bruising after Anglicanorum Coetibus. The Editor of the so-called Catholic paper The Tablet has also jumped on the bandwagon. That tells its own story.

    I read Fr Z’s comments before watching Fr. Cantalamessa’s homily which I watched late last night. It wasn’t what I had expected. Perhaps it was indeed imprudent to enter into this area in that context and at this time. However, if there is an irrational propaganda war against Catholicism, why can we not listen to parallels drawn between this and irrational anti-semitism – or indeed any other irrational and vindictive bigotry?

    I do not think it is fair or true to say that “the Church has brought this on herself” as if child abuse is a product of the Magisterium or the spiritual and theological tradition of the Church. A tiny minority of abuse has happened within the Church. Most has taken place within families. Is there a witch hunt against families, fathers, uncles, etc.? Of course not. That would be ridiculous.

    Local bishops have indeed failed and some have been naive. A very few have colluded with evil acts. However, most of these cases happened many decades ago and it is unfair to judge how people dealt with things then by our current day standards and the greater insight we have into the predatory nature of paedophiles.

    No one should consider “leaving Peter because of Judas”. This whole situation should make us try to live out our faith more: rootedness in the Church and in communion with Peter, Holy Mass, private prayer, works of penance and mortification and, above all, charity. But let us not be slow to defend the Church, with love, to our friends, colleagues and acquaintances who may speak of these things. Our apostolate in these times could be crucial.

  27. Sorbonnetoga says:

    @Brusselscalling re: Archbishop of Dublin: why is he still in his post?

    Are you being serious? If there is one Irish bishop who understands how serious this business is, it’s Diarmuid Martin. He’s not perfect by any means but as for sheltering abusers or covering up for child abuse, he hasn’t. As we say in Ireland, even the dogs in the street know that!

  28. Bornacatholic says:

    It wasn’t a statement by Fr. Cantalamessa himself, but a quote from a Jewish friend who supports the Pope!

    Even though he received the letter, he did not have to reference it in his sermon.

    He could have asked his friend to post it to a paper.

    I agree with Fr. Z.
    The Last Thing The Holy See
    needed was this statement by Fr.C
    which I have graded, generously, D.

  29. shane says:

    Unlike his predecessor, Diarmuid Martin is very capable at PR, but his handling of the abuse crisis leaves a lot to be desired, particularly his “lay down and die” deference to the media monotone. Communicating with the auxiliary bishops firstly through the media was grossly impertinent and I fully understand their dismay.

    Bishop O’Mahony strongly criticized Martin for this in his Letter to Members of the Council of Priests: “You were out of the Diocese for 31 years and had no idea how traumatic it was for those of us who had to deal with allegations without protocols or guidelines or experience in the matter of child sex abuse.”

    Bishop O’Mahony is also annoyed by media and diocesan acceptance of a “cover up,” and points to a police investigation, in 2003, which found no sign of interference with evidence and no attempt to obstruct the course of justice.

    He dislikes the way in which Martin did nothing to challenge certain conclusions of the Report, such as the Report’s allowing a ‘learning curve’ for other professsions, but not for clergy. He also criticizes Martin for doing “nothing to counteract the statement of the Murphy Report, widely circulated in the media that ‘the majority of clergy knew and did nothing’.

    The majority of clergy in Dublin did in fact know nothing.

    This was also echoed by Bishop Eamonn Walsh in his Letter to Dublin Priests of 3 Deaneries:

    Following the death of Archbishop McNamara, I became secretary to Bishop Carroll, when he was Administrator during the interregnum, and, subsequently to Archbishop Connell in 1988. As the Report points out, I had no direct role in dealing with child sexual abuse cases. When I was given information, following a meeting of a priest with the Archbishop, it was only in the context of follow-up action e.g. medical/pastoral needs/accommodation. As secretary I was not party to discussions between either of the Archbishops and individual priests, regarding allegations of clerical child sexual abuse. The confidential nature of the relationship between priest and Archbishop precluded that from happening.

    Secretary: 1985 – 1990
    From 1985-1987 I was secretary to Archbishop McNamara. The duties were basically administrative and secretarial, with no involvement in any personnel issues involving child sexual abuse.

    Auxiliary Bishop: 1990
    Regarding my role as Auxiliary Bishop, the Report states in 1.56:
    There was no clear job description for the auxiliary bishops”.
    In my appointment I was given pastoral responsibility for the deaneries of Blessington, South Dublin and Tallaght. In the course of my work with you, if I was approached on a matter of a confidential nature, or if I had a concern which had been expressed to me, I brought this to the attention of the Archbishop. Archbishop Connell took a very conscientious line in respecting a person’s reputation, and on any other matter he deemed confidential. Information given in this way was not shared at meetings with others present. The result was that discussions were often held where the full facts of the subject under discussion, were not known to all participants. Sometimes the Archbishop himself would not have full information. It is very regrettable that clear pathways of communication were not effected until after the introduction of the Framework Document in 1996. Poor communication led to long-term disastrous consequences.

    This resulted in some offending priests being given appointments on the basis of medical assessment, and other professional advice, which indicated that they were fit for ministry and/or fit to remain in existing appointments. All of this was done in good faith but with appalling consequences. The Report covers the years 1976 – 2004. Within that period there have been major advances in the understanding of the nature of paedophilia, and the impact of child sexual abuse. The absence, particularly during the early years, of the range and level of expertise now available meant that bad decisions were made. This does not excuse them, but puts them into the context of a different time. While there is no mandatory reporting of complaints for child sexual abuse in Irish law, the Archdiocese committed to mandatory reporting since 1996. I am on record as advocating this approach since 1990.

    When I was appointed Apostolic Administrator in Ferns I piloted, with the Diocesan Team, the inter-agency meetings whereby the diocese, HSE and Gardai met to share information so as to inform best practice in dealing with child sexual abuse. The Ferns Report commended this pilot scheme and recommended that it be replicated throughout the country. Legislation has yet to be passed to give support to this. It is the practice at present in the Dublin Archdiocese. My actions as Auxiliary Bishop and as Apostolic Administrator could not be described as those of ‘cover-up’.”

    At National level in 1999 I was appointed Chairperson of the Irish Bishops’ Liaison Committee on Child Abuse, which later became known as the Irish Bishops’ Committee on Child Protection. Through that Committee, the Irish Bishops’ Conference established the National Child Protection Office in 2001. The Committee, under my Chairmanship, commissioned the College of Surgeons to produce a comprehensive research study on clerical sexual abuse. The result ‘Time to Listen’ – is commended in the Murphy Report. “In this Commission’s view this was a very valuable contribution to the debate on child sexual abuse by clergy “(7.47) My work in child protection since 1996 assisted me in my appointment and work as Apostolic Administrator in the Diocese of Ferns from April 2002 – April 2006. My work there is outlined in the Ferns Report where both Mr. George Birmingham, S.C., and Mr. Justice Frank Murphy commended the co-operation they received from the Diocese of Ferns and myself.

    […]The question of resignation has been raised on the grounds of ‘guilt by association’. However, guilt by association only arises where someone is complicit in a decision or action, or is silent when to speak would have made a difference. Present in a room or proximity to a decision-maker of itself is not guilt by association. If anyone attributes such guilt to me, he or she does so without foundation, and against the findings of the Dublin Report.

  30. Athanasius says:

    A benefit of the Traditional Good Friday practice was that sermons were never given during the Good Friday liturgy. A local spiritual conference by a priest, or even by a Bishop might occur at night.
    This practice in the Novus Ordo of giving sermons all the time is quite tiresome, and more evidence of what Michael Davies called the “talking Church”, by which endless committees, meetings, synods, and non-starter sermons flood the Church but the work of the spiritual life takes a back seat.

  31. ljc says:

    On the brighter side, this may give the Pope a good occasion to change the Apostolic Preacher. Wouldn’t it be great if, in keeping with the tradition of choosing a Franciscan, he chose a member of the Franciscans of the Immaculate, to give them publicity and show his pleasure with them?

  32. Brusselscalling says:

    Re: Sorbonnetoga: By his own admission, the Archbishop of Dublin was involved in two children being asked to sign a gagging order about a notorious child rapist. Yes, this happened in 1975, when he was a much more junior prelate. But it was in 1975 – not 1475. Do not tell me he did not know that was wrong. And if he genuinely did not know, then he should have known, not only as a Catholic priest but as a human being. It is utterly shameful and whatever his merits or demerits since then, he has no place in the leadership of the Church.

    I agree with Johannes that our apostolate is now more than ever crucial, but it is utterly exasperating to be thwarted at every turn by the Vatican itself. The Holy Father’s conduct in this sorry affair has been exemplary, but he must remove people who are clearly incapable of doing their job – including his Good Friday preacher. This is not pandering to public opinion, but the pope must start surrounding himself with people who have more than three-quarters of a gram of common sense.

  33. Brusselscalling says:

    I apologise, I of course meant the Archbishop of Armagh….

  34. shane says:

    Brusselscalling: ahhhh, you are confusing the the Archbishop of Armagh, Cardinal Sean Brady, (Primate of All Ireland) with the Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, (Primate of Ireland).

    The ‘gagging order’ has been the subject of much mispresentation by the media. This is a press release from the Catholic Communications Office clarifying media lies:

    “The following is a correction note from the Catholic Communications Office regarding the Irish Indepedent article “Revealed: Oath taken by Smyth, children, and Brady” by Breda Heffernan published yesterday, 18 March 2010.

    In relation to the wording of the oath involved in the 1975 enquiry involving the then Fr Seán Brady and concerning Fr Brendan Smyth, the published words used in yesterday’s Irish Independent (18 March 2010) were incorrect. The wording of the oath is as follows:

    “I [name] hereby swear that I have told the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, and that I will talk to no-one about this interview except authorised priests.”

    In addition, the following sentence was included in the second oath:

    “So help me God and these holy Gospels which I touch.”

    Authorised priests in this case refers to the personnel who were taking evidence. The intention of the oaths was to avoid potential collusion in the gathering of the enquiry’s evidence and to ensure that the process was robust enough to withstand challenge by the perpetrator, Fr Brendan Smyth. It was understood by canonical personnel in Ireland that the oaths were no longer binding when the taking of evidence from all witnesses was complete.”

  35. chonak says:

    I suppose it is exemplary in a sense that Pope Benedict is willing to put up with imperfect preaching like other Catholics.

  36. patrick_f says:

    Despite the shortcomings of his homily, one VERY important point was made, although it was probably done in not the best ways..and I KEEP droning this to other catholics…and yet no one seems to get it

    The World…Being of flesh, hates us. Its never going to accept us with open arms. Why? Read the bible…I will spare the Database the extra work. My point is, if we started out, being thrown to lions and boiled alive, why should today be ANY different

    Fr. Z makes a good point, we brought it on ourselves. But… lets thing for a moment, had the abuse not happened… Those who are in league with the enemy, would just find some other reason to persecute us. Its never going to go away. I think if anything it shows how much of the culture we STILL NEED TO CHANGE, one that is so perverted that it can even bring down those who have sworn their life to almighty God.

    So perhaps one thing we can take away from the abuse is this. Maybe it was the wakeup call not only for us to “Clean house” but also realize that we are in a true spiritual battle, one where the stakes are the very souls of those who we might see every morning on the way to work, or the gas station or whatever

  37. Gail F says:

    Gotta read the whole thing again before even thinking of a coherent comment, but first let me say that this comment from Fr. Z “This isn’t, btw, the Year of the Priesthood of the Baptized Laity” is a CLASSIC.

  38. muckemdanno says:

    What he says about the nature of the sacrifice of Our Lord is awful.

    What his Jewish friend says about the parallels between anti-semitism and anti-Catholicism is exactly true. What exactly is the problem there?

  39. spock says:

    First off, making comparisons between Jewish suffering and Catholic suffering especially at this point in time, bad news, shouldn’t do that. However, I don’t see any direct comparison between the Shoah and the attacks on The Church. Don’t know why I thought that was going on. Maybe something I read. However, one can all too easily make that comparison, which is one reason among others why the comparison with the Jews and us shouldn’t be made.

    The statement:

    “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.”

    to myself implies something like, “A black person stole something, therefore all black people steal” or “A white guy murdered someone, therefore all white guys are murderers.” I guess I don’t have to much of an issue with it.

    The issue I do have is that people should be intelligent enough to realize what directions their statements can go in our world. Just didn’t think through what he was going to say.

    Not that this is equivalent, but I am reminded of the 2 times in my life where I asked a woman if she was pregnant. And she wasn’t. Bad move. Never do that. Let her tell you !

  40. Titus says:

    We have an example in the recurrent violence of youth in the stadium

    Is he calling athletic competition a malady of modern Godlessness?? This strikes me as beyond bizarre.

  41. irishgirl says:

    I’m with you on both your points, Athanasius and ljc.

    I wonder what this sermon had anything to do with the sufferings and death of Our Lord?

    I think it’s time that Fr. C is relieved of his post, and get someone younger.

  42. haleype says:

    Our Passover and yours are undoubtedly different, 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.

    Dear Father Cantalamessa,
    We don’t hope for a Messiah like the Jews; we have a Messiah and His name is Jesus. Are you denying that Jesus Christ instututed a New Covenant in His Blood under which all men, including Jews, are to be saved? And why is it necessary for you to even bring up this matter at such a profoundly Christian devotion? Preacher to the papal household – eh? You wouldn’t be if I had the reins of command.

  43. Fr.Estabrook says:

    Fr. Z, it seems like your contention with Catalamessa’s remarks are for “political” reasons. i.e his comparison to anti-Catholicism and anti-semitism was politically imprudent. Yet anti-semitism is an “image” that the world understands. To not vocalize this parallel because “some Jews” might get offended reminds me of the critique’s the Holy Father received for his address at Regensburg.

    I think his comparison was edgy, yet accurate. Is not the Church demonized because of the sins of individuals? Is that not comparable to the collective demonization of the Jews?

    Isn’t the media trying to discredit the entire Church because of the pedophiles? Even the attack on Pope Benedict is an attempt to discredit the entire Church.

  44. Fr. Estabrook: I understand your point.

    However, I think it was imprudent at this time – call this a political analysis if you will – to throw more red meat to the beast.

    Think about the parallel that is sure to be drawn by those looking for a way to blast the Church.

    Even though the Church’s enemies abound, even though the Church is attacked on many fronts, the Catholic Church brought this sexual abuse crisis on itself.

    Is Fr. Cantalamessa suggesting by his comparison that the Jews, who have always had enemies, brought some of their persecution on themselves?

    Yes, the more political dimension of this is, in my opinion, enough to conclude that what Fr. Cantalamessa did was ill advised.

  45. useless servant says:

    Praise the Lord you don’t haleype. Our Messianic hope is the waiting for His return and the fulness of the Kingdom of God. At this time of our celebration of the Resurrection, the greatest source of hope of all time, what is wrong with voicing the hope for a future, in whatever way God chooses to unite Jews and Christians in Jesus Christ, when we are all truly united in the love of the Father. That this can and will be done by the Holy Spirit is a great and noble hope to have, for we have the assurance that nothing is impossible with God. I am new to this board, but it leaves me with the feeling of being around people who prefer to complain about others instead of seeking to adopt the mind of Christ. (Philippians 2) Or am I missing something? (CCC 1042-1050) I do not mean to be disrespectful, I just cannot find another way to put it.

    May all have a Blessed Easter!!!

  46. haleype says:

    Please do not misunderstand my post, servant, for I am only saying that we have a Messiah who came to us with a human body and who sacrificed that Body on the Cross in reparation for our sins and the sins of all mankind, including by the way, the sins of the Jews who demanded that He be crucified (“Father, forgive them for they know not what they do”). To imply that we are still waiting in hope for that to happen is a non sequitur. Nevertheless, we can and do hope for His return and hope that we ourselves will be prepared by mortification and suffering to join Him in Glory. We hope and, indeed we pray, for a better life, for the elimination of war, for the rescue of those lost in heresy, for the elimination of poverty and disease, for the restoration of all things in Christ.

    Our Hope is expressed in the prayer:

    O my God, relying on Your infinite goodness and promises, I hope to obtain pardon of my sins, the help of Your grace, and life everlasting, through the merits of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Redeemer.

  47. skellmeyer says:

    The Tea Partiers were accused of having used the “N” word, although there’s never been any evidence anyone did.

    Now, Fr. C. is accused of having used the “H” word (or “S” word, if you prefer Hebrew), although he never did.

    You can’t protect yourself against liars.

  48. Henry Edwards says:

    pfreddys: Is there not a single person in the Vatican who understands public relations?!?

    I don’t understand this question. If they understood public relations, what would they be doing in the Vatican?

  49. skellmeyer says:


    You misread the good padre’s point about Messianic hope. Our Messianic hope is still hope, not in the fact that God has not yet taken flesh – of course, He has – but in two other senses:

    1) Our Messianic hope that we will stay true to and close to the sacraments, our only source of salvation. We may be saved in the past and completed tense by the Cross, but we still have to have hope in the present and future tenses, because we can lose our salvation. We have to remain joined to the Messiah through the sacraments.

    2) We hope (in the sense of a sure hope, but a hope, nonetheless) for the return of the Messiah on Doomsday. We know He’s coming back, but we don’t know when. Every day we rise with Messianic hope that this may be the day.

    Now, our hope is DIFFERENT than the Jewish Messianic hope, sure, but Fr. C. didn’t intimate that the hopes were the same. You are being uncharitable by assuming he attached a heretical understanding to his use of the phrase. That is completely unwarranted.

    As for the reference to violence of the youth in stadia, surely you know that European soccer fans are legendary for the mob scenes after a particularly well-fought loss or win? It makes the American sports mob scene look weak by comparison. Rome has never been fond of this sports-associated violence, and Fr. C. takes a swipe at it in the sermon. Given how inculturated this violence is in Europe, I don’t see how it is unwarranted or bizarre to make reference to it. He is a European preaching to Europeans.

  50. SonofMonica says:

    Um… Fr. C is the papal preacher. He preaches to the Pope. I’m sure he thought it would be edifying to the Pope to know that a Jew had extended such gracious blessings to the Holy Father and sympathized with his plight as being persecuted by the world. I flat out disagree with you, Fr. Z, on this one. Fr. C’s words were words of blessing and comfort and sympathy, not of controversy. Who cares what the secular media thinks about the Church all of a sudden? [I think that, when read in context with good will, those words weren’t bad. But there are big issues for the Church out there right now too. I think the timing was off on this.] The world that the media sells their cancerous product to is a lost world, and we have no obligation to appease the media or the world by watering down truth or tip-toeing around the gospel or how we relate to other religions. Quite the opposite. Throw open the doors! [I appreciate that strong spirit. OORAH!]


  51. spock says:


    I agree with you. It was made clear in the sermon that the Jewish celebration and the Catholic celebration at this time are not the same thing. As you know, our Messianic hope is different from theirs in that ours reached a fulfillment 2000 years ago.

    Not sure what people want sometimes. I guess Catholics should never talk to Jews, or Muslims or Buddhists etc. Unless you think like me, don’t talk to me. Talk to me only if you think like me. The first person to talk to the other is the first one to get spanked by his own people. Do nothing, it’s easier. It’s easier to slam someone who does something than someone who does nothing.

    Happy Easter !

  52. haleype says:


    I don’t have the same understanding of “Messianic” hope as you – I’ll grant you that for I don’t hope that Christ will return, I know it. Form his own words and the words of the Evangelist in the Apocalypse, that is already crystal clear in my mind. What I hope for, if you will, is that I will be found worthy when He does come again.

    As for your reference to “violence of the youth in stadia”, and what that has to do with my post I am at a loss to determine what you mean. Now, if Fr. Cantalamessa needs to have his remarks on Hope further explained by someone like yourself, I humbly submit that I have made my point.

  53. jstroh says:

    But he said: ” Our Passover and yours are undoubtedly different, but we both live with Messianic hope that surely will reunite us in the love of our common Father.” In this did Fr. C not differentiate? How is he still in “hot water”?

  54. Maltese says:

    Sacrifice does placate, and the sacrifice we perpetuate and renew on the altar – which doesn’t add anything to what Christ did on the Cross – was indeed about correcting a deep wrong in our collective relationship with God.

    Very interesting, and theologically way beyond my pay scale. But in the Sacrifice of Christ, wasn’t God offering, and thus “placating” Himself? Christ asked that the cup should pass, but God’s will be done. But Holy Mass is most certainly the unbloody Sacrifice of Our Lord:

    The principal excellence of the most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass consists in being essentially, and in the very highest degree, identical with that which was offered on the Cross of Calvary: with this sole difference, that the Sacrifice on the Cross was bloody, and made once for all, and did on that one occasion satisfy fully for all the sins of the world; while the Sacrifice of the Altar is an unbloody sacrifice, which can be repeated an infinite number of times, and was instituted in order to apply in detail that universal ransom which Jesus paid for us on Calvary. So that the bloody Sacrifice was the instrument of redemption; the unbloody is that which puts us in possession: the one threw open the treasury of the merits of Christ Our Lord; the other affords the practical use of that treasury. And, therefore, observe that in Mass there is made not a mere representation, nor a simple commemoration of the Passion and Death of the Redeemer, but there is performed, in a certain true sense, the selfsame most holy act which was performed on Calvary. It may be said, with all truth, that in every Mass Our Redeemer returns mystically to die for us, without really dying, at one and the same time really alive and as it were slain—–vidi Agnum stantem tamquam occisum, “I saw a Lamb standing as it were slain” (Apoc. v. 6). Saint Port-Maurice

  55. MWP says:

    Personally I think the comparison was made in good faith by a Jewish person (who now probably wants nothing more than to stay out of the media for the next several weeks) but I find no reason to see a hidden agenda in Fr. C’s sermon. His intention as I see it was to notice that the media brew of false and manipulative reporting has a very real negative impact on Catholics who neither have nor had anything to do with child-molesting priests (I’ve never met one, having spent my childhood in Poland and the US; I now live in Poland), or who have remained true to the Church despite having experienced the evil behavior of such individuals. Catholics are now being collectively stigmatized by this kind of reporting, and they are being continually called upon by the media to “do something about” the existence of child-molesting priests who supposedly incriminate “the whole Church”. This “doing something” should supposedly – I am inferring this from the tone of the (ahem!) coverage – consist of signing out of the Church or maybe camping in protest before the Vatican. Otherwise Catholics – I am again inferring this – will have to endure the stigma of “having done nothing” about this evil (NB: do I hear another anti-semitism echo?). This media tactic breeds understandable suspicion and frustration among even faithful and pious Catholics. I think we all know who stands the most to gain from it.

    My conclusion is, no, “we” have not brought it on ourselves. We haven’t brought it on ourselves any more than “we” ever brought the Crusades on ourselves, or the Inquisition in some of its more deadly forms or the Galileo trial for that matter, or any other evil, wrong, unjust or cruel act committed in the past by a ruler who considered him/herself a Catholic but obviously and blatantly violated one or more of the Ten Commandments. We’re all responsible individually before God, and under Roman law we’re responsible individually before human justice (one cannot be lawfully condemned for the crimes of another). I refuse to take the blame for others unless very definite proof is given. However, I can do penance which I will offer to Jesus to atone for the sins of others, and will do that. This is another matter altogether. It occurs within the Church and should not be thrashed out in the forum of the media. Or am I being naive? Maybe reporters should be invited too?

    The problem with the “political” part of the sermon, which was in my opinion quite typically blown out of all proportion, lies with defining antisemitism. As a rule, antisemitism can cover a very broad spectrum of actions and events directed against Jews. Fr. C.’s Jewish friend took a narrow definition of antisemitism 1) which initially spread as a generalized prejudice disseminated through the media. I’m talking here about the situation in let’s say ‘fin de siecle’ France or Germany predating Hitler. An ethnic/religious group which was satirized and pilloried for a range of (often contradictory) perceived negative qualities. Now there is nothing to prevent the media from seizing on a broad definition 2) of anti-semitism, by which the horrible genocide of the Holocaust perpetrated by the Nazi’s from the outset of the Second World War is called by the same term. While the present situation does bear some resemblance to 1) it certainly does not (yet?) resemble that covered by 2). In the disconnect between 1) and 2) the media found their day’s fodder.

    The “this resembles anti-semitism” line is not new anyway. It is very often adopted by muslims in European countries like the Netherlands. In those countries islamists find themselves ridiculed and attacked in the media for aspects of religiously-motivated behavior such not shaking hands with women or wearing face-covering veils and they find themselves confronted with media-generated situations like the Mohammed-cartoons. One of the common reactions is to attribute this to “a new antisemitism” by which the Moslems call themselves “the new [persecuted] Jews”. Not going into a further discussion of this, I think Catholics can and should come up with a more original way of putting things that would be more in line with our Graeco-Roman traditions.

    Sorry for this rant, I’m aware it’s probably way too long. But most importantly, Fr. Z., thank you for this great blog, Happy Easter, Alleluia! May our Lord Jesus Christ through His victory over death help you and preserve you with all His wonderful blessings!

    Marcin, Poland

  56. Dave N. says:

    There comes a time when doing nothing (or dropping money in the collection plate for that matter) becomes complicity. As a Church we can no longer wash our hands of this matter by simply saying: “this doesn’t involve me.” That’s not the way the Body of Christ works.

  57. MWP says:

    Maybe I shouldn’t drop money in the collection plate because one of the Popes was a Borgia. Oh, and doing nothing just might make me complicit in the Crusades. Cannot wash my hands of that either. Guess I need to work hard at developing a collective sense of guilt. Yes, I get the hint but it rather proves my point.

  58. Scelata says:

    Can anyone speak to this? — msm reports refer to Fr Cantalamessa constantly, (meme-ishly, ?) as “the only person who’s ‘authorized’ or ‘allowed’ to preach to the Pope.”

    Would, say, the master of a Lenten retreat such as the Salesian theologian Father Enrico dal Covolo not be so “authorized”?

    Is this more lazy journalism, or do I not understand the situation?

    (Save the Liturgy, Save the World)

  59. TonyLayne says:


    Great rant! In your penultimate paragraph, you made the point I was going to make in a different way about the use of “anti-Semitism”. If you don’t mind my building on it?

    I have my own problem with invoking the Shoah in discussing anti-Catholicism, beyond the fact that it’s a variation of the argumentum ad Hitlerum. It’s understandable why so many groups wish to yoke their positions to episodes of truly great evil, such as the pro-choice advocates who equate unwanted pregnancy to slavery. (Personally, I think the most apt comparison is that of abortion to the Carthaginians’ sacrifices to Moloch, but that’s beside the point.) Unfortunately, such comparisons shut discussion down; you may have made for yourself an impregnable fortress of righteousness, but you’ve also made it impossible to reach your foe … you can neither defeat nor convert him, once you’re within its walls. But my further problem is that anti-Catholicism is deplorable on its own demerits, and doesn’t need direct analogy to hatred or oppression of any other group.

    I’d also like to point out to Dave N. that his statement, “There comes a time when doing nothing (or dropping money in the collection plate for that matter) becomes complicity,” assumes that nothing has been done … precisely the assumption the enemies of the Church want us to make. Within the Church in America, the adoption of the Charter for the Protection of Monors have made Church-operated schools safer, more accountable and more transparent than most secular school systems. The Murphy Report which has raised such a storm in Ireland was motivated and produced internally, not externally. When JPII’s motu proprio Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutela assigned the purview of such cases to the CDF in 2001, Cdl. Ratzinger made the dicastery very effective in dealing with cases that had gotten to that level. Things have been done, and things are being done. To say that the recent scandals in Ireland and Germany somehow prove “the Church hasn’t learned its lesson” is sheer calumny.

    This is a little off-point, but there’s a limit to what we in the pews can do without causing “collateral damage”. Withholding money from the collection basket (when was the last time someone actually saw a collection plate?) deprives churches of funds necessary for its many good works, as well as for salaries for Church employees not connected with any scandal, malfeasance or abuse. Stopping Mass attendance deprives ourselves of the Eucharist and the opportunity to fully worship the Lord. We can—and have—made our displeasure well-known, though. And we can also follow the advice my mother once gave: “If you don’t like the way things are being done, do them yourself.” If you can’t do that (for we are not all called to the priesthood), then you can at least put yourself in a place where you can make a difference … consider St. Catherine of Siena, a woman who, despite her illiteracy and humble role as a nun, hounded the Pope to move back to Rome from Avignon.

    Going back to the point: The issue is not that the problem isn’t serious. Rather, the problem is being exaggerated to appear systemic, even all-enveloping. It’s bad enough that a (relative) handful of priests and bishops have committed gross negligence, and even criminal collusion, in handling predator priests without all the hysterical hyperbole, far less the slanderous attempts to pin the blame on B16. Heck, it’s bad enough that there are predator priests! Even worse, it has been exaggerated to the point where it has become commonly accepted that the Catholic Church is the sole owner of the problem … allowing victims who are students in other (secular and non-Catholic) schools to be overlooked. Which means that the MSM is interested in sexual abuse of minors by educators only so far as it’s a shoe they can throw at the Church. The victims themselves don’t matter to the fifth column.

    To put a bow on it, my contention is that the “hermeneutic of victimization” won’t get us anywhere, won’t buy us any credibility. It’s stale, overused and too familiar to those who were responsible for foisting it on us in the first place. Rather, we need to illustrate boldly the blindness and hypocrisy of the MSM in making sexual abuse of students a “Catholic problem”, that blaming the Pope for the problem is as ludicrous and irresponsible an act as would be blaming Pres. Obama for the abuse of students in, say, the Omaha Public Schools system.

  60. catholicmidwest says:

    Only one thing.

    Somebody needs to get Fr. Catalamessa some newsreels of Krystallnacht and the liberation of Auschwitz and make him watch them. Then maybe he wouldn’t say such STUPID stuff in public.

  61. catholicmidwest says:

    Oh, and he probably needs to be replaced by somebody who has a basic grasp of history.

    I wonder about the Church’s personnel choices a lot, both internationally and locally. Do they intentionally hire people not good enough to work anywhere else, or does it just look like it?

  62. catholicmidwest says:


    A very good assessment, except for a few things.

    The reason a person shouldn’t just put money in a collection without tagging it specifically to some cause should be obvious. Some of it is used to fund the USCCB (among other things they don’t tell you about) which removes the accountability that bishops have to a) the people in their own dioceses and b) the Vatican. The USCCB has served as a buffer, allowing abuses and exceptions to occur which the Vatican has found it difficult to control–think indults, stalling and grandstanding, you get the idea. The bishops as a group have come to view themselves as administrators of a grand enterprise, sort of like sub-kings in a feudal kingdom, which because of its size and power is not beholden to Rome. Few dioceses could do this but the USCCB can. This, believe it or not, is an integral part of the abuse story. I refer you to the Bernardin saga for examples.

    The above bit re the USCCB is all the more reason (in addition to what you’ve said), to conclude that Rome is not to blame as much as some people think. IN particular Benedict XVI, once Cdl Ratzinger, is especially not to blame, because he’s been the primary force in Rome for dealing with the scandals going forward. His predecessor, however, did not believe that the scandals were real, and there is some blame to be had there. {Interestingly few people are saying anything about that, which leads me to believe they just have it in for Benedict XVI.}

    I agree that the problem is being exaggerated, and there is some degree of moral panic occurring, probably both inside and outside the Church, but the Church isn’t helping remedy that at all this spring. The point about moral panic also needs to be that in some cases, moral panics have no basis in reality. That is not the case here, and moreover it’s made worse by the fact that there is little transparency, so people really don’t know what’s going on, and they are left to guess. (Forty miles from here sits a priest, with his faculties to say mass publicly removed because of past abuses, but he’s still a priest. He still has a bunch of friends who regard him as such. He can say mass privately and who knows what else he does. He’s on the payroll. What is this? Permanent paid vacation is what it is. What is the meaning of that??? Just one more reason not to feed a general collection, that’s what it is.)

    The whining is not helping, and comparisons to the Jews are really not helping for all the reasons you cite and more.

    PS. When was the last time I saw a collection plate? If plate can = basket, last night.

  63. Dave N. says:

    OK. We still have plates in our parish, but I’ll concede most use baskets. :)

    You can designate funds to go to specific causes/projects to make sure none of it ends up funding diocesean or USCCB shenanigans–simply talk to your pastor or parish bookkeeper. And remember that any undesignated funds you give to the church legally belongs to the Bishop, not to your parish.

    Stemming new abuse? Yes, much has been done. Bringing those who perpetrated, enabled and covered up abuse to some real justice? Not nearly enough. And I’d say it’s probably a lot more than just a handful of bishops involved–but how do we know one way or the other? Who’s doing the investigation? This is a very serious problem. And very, very few Catholics are willing to say much of anything about this, at least not around here.

  64. TJerome says:

    The problem these days, in both the secular and church realm, is that words have to be chosen carefully because the media caters to the hypersensitive. I recall an absolutely looney example. A few years back, some government bureaucrat in Washington D.C. was accused of racism because when writing a report about a budgetary matter, he indicated the department had to be “niggardly” in its approach to budgeting. Well some idiot on the Washington DC City Council, charged that was a racial slur. In a just world, the councilman would be voted out for extreme idiocy but the media aided and abetted this by continuing to run “news stories” aka propaganda, to the point that the bureaucrat apologized for a “crime” he did not commit. The same can be said for this situation. The use of the holocaust analogy is toxic when it is appropriated by a non-Jewish writer or speaker. It’s unfortunate that the world is the way it is, but nonetheless that’s the way it is. I think that’s what one commentator meant when he said the Vatican needs to be more public relations savy.

  65. skellmeyer says:

    To catholicmidwest:

    1) Six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust, but so were 3 million Catholics. Auschwitz killed Catholics exclusively for the first 26 months of operation (alright, there was actually ONE Jew killed during that period, but you get the point). Hitler targeted Jews, Roma (Gypsies), Slavs and Catholics. Indeed, Roma experienced a higher per capita extermination ratio than the Jews. They just don’t have a good political pressure group, so nobody cares. It is perfectly legitimate for Catholics to invoke the Holocaust in reference to their own suffering. I’m very tired of Jews pretending they were the only ones targeted. It’s a lie. They were predominantly targeted, but they were by no means alone.

    2) Referring to European anti-Semitism or violence is NOT necessarily a reference to the Holocaust. Read up on the Dreyfus affair sometime. Anti-Semitism was rife in Europe for decades prior to 1933. From Fr. C.’s address, it’s pretty clear that both he and his friend have in mind the anti-Semitic rhetoric that came from the decades preceding Hitler’s takeover.

    3) Krystallnacht didn’t happen until 1938, the eve of war. Look at a map of death camps some time. They’re all in Poland and Byelorussia, not Germany. The violence against Jews really didn’t start until the war began – that was five to six years after Hitler took power. Indeed, many historians argue that the Final Solution was only implemented because the war precluded Hitler from moving Jews out of occupied territories easily.

    Prior to the war, he worked with David Ben-Burion and the Zionists to move as many Jews to Israel as possible, he even considered moving them all to Madagascar. The Zionists actually struck a medal with a swastika on one side and a Star of David on the other to commemorate Heydrich’s Zionist-sponsored tour of Hebrew settlements in the pre-war era.

    Everyone thinks that Hitler started killing Jews the minute he attained power.
    It ain’t true.

    He started killing communists and socialists in street fights even before he gained power, but it took YEARS before he got going on the Jews, and when he did, he went after ALL the people he considered trash, not just Jews.

  66. TJerome says:

    skellmeyer, hate to burst your bubble, but the death camps in Poland and Byelorussia were set up by the Nazis. Also, Dachau, outside of Munich, was established in the mid-1930s by the Nazis, as I recall. But that is besides the point. I think in this hypersensitive world, with the media gunning for you, Fr. C could have made all of his points without invoking the holocaust. Make no mistake, I am a huge admirer of Pope Benedict, who in my humble opinion, is the best Pope in my lifetime, and I was born during the reign of Pius XII.

  67. catholicmidwest says:

    Sooner or later, when you hang around comment boxes (or apparently papal preachers), somebody mentions Hitler. It’s a truism of modern life, I suppose.

    Next somebody will say the word “quantum.” The OTHER combox magic word.

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