Defending the 12th century since the 14th; blogging since the 21st.

Catholicism, Conservatism, the Middle Ages, Opera, and Historical and Literary Objets d'Art blogged by a suburban dad who teaches law and writes stuff.

"Very fun." -- J. Bottum, Editor, FIRST THINGS

"Too modest" -- Elinor Dashwood

"Perhaps the wisest man on the Web" -- Henry Dieterich

"Hat tip: me (but really Cacciaguida)" -- Diana Feygin, Editor, THE YALE FREE PRESS

"You are my sire. You give me confidence to speak. You raise my heart so high that I am no more I." -- Dante

"Fabulous!"-- Warlock D.J. Prod of Didsbury

Who was Cacciaguida? See Dante's PARADISO, Cantos XV, XVI, & XVII.

E-mail me

Saturday, April 03, 2010
Fr. Cantalessa's homily

Been away for a while again, but I thought I'd step down again to reflect on this particular aspect of the Satanically-originated trials our beloved Holy Father is currently going through, which are part of the Church's Long Lent, and which will purify and strengthen the Church and also (in ways I may get a chance to explain) strengthen ties with living and fruitful albeit schismatic branches such as the Eastern Orthodox (e.g. did you see this? or this?), while helping to cut off deadwood such as the Anglicans.

Anyway, about the Cantalamessa homily. (The name means "sing the Mass," not that that's helpful.)

The Vatican can distance itself from his Good Friday homily if it wants to, but it seems to me the reasons it should aren't the reasons why it is. Perhaps it should b/c of some passages in it that seem to cast doubt on the sacrificial nature of Christ's death. Cantalamessa has more than once shown himself slightly dodgy as a theologian, and might be a better fit in the CDF's in-box than in the Pope's pulpit.

That said, however, you might want to read the entire homily text here, with the "offending" parts about Jews near the end, in boldface. These passages are obviously, uncontroversially, a gesture of outreach and solidarity towards Jews, and an attempt to convey to them good wishes for Passover. Also included were remarks, including a quote from a letter Cantalemessa said he had received from a Jewish friend, likening the phenomenon of mass slander directed against the Pope to similar slanders directed against the Jews.

No good deed goes unpunished. First came reactions from, e.g., Germany's Central Council of Jews. The only charitable interpretation of this group's reaction is that they had not read the homily and felt a duty to be at the head of the newswheel with comments, and hostile ones at that. If they stand by their comments after reading it, they must be either haters tout court, or examples of invincible ignorance.

The excuse of commenting w/o reading must also serve for certain conservative Catholic blogs, which interpreted Cantalamessa as having compared current attacks on the Pope to the Holocaust. That would indeed have been outrageous, but in fact, he did no such thing. In his own words, and in the words of the Jewish friend whose letter he read from, he made the point (I'm elaborating only a little) that problems that are local, and possibly resolvable among individuals, or (in the case of crimes such as sex with under-age persons) between individuals and civil law enforcement, can grow into worldwide group libels with alarming speed.

Perhaps what went through the minds of the Council of Jews, over in Germany, was that the Church's abuse scandal is based on real events, whereas anti-Semitism is based on complete fiction from the ground up, so analogies between the etiologies of hatred in the two cases, no matter how otherwise precise, are pernicious.

Let us grant that assumption for the sake of argument -- the assumption, that is, that no Jew, any where, at any time, ever did anything that might have given a Christian neighbor even the slightest grounds for complaint. Even on that assumption, the similarities between the etiologies of hatred cannot be ignored. Groups are put through the group-libel ringer for reasons having little or nothing to do with what they have, in the common man's parlance, "done."

As far as sexual abuse of minors, we know for sure that the Catholic Church is pikers compared to, oh, the American public school system. Except, the American public school system happens not to stand for the pro-life cause, traditional marriage, and chastity -- somewhat the opposite, so far as I know. The Church -- and Ratzinger/Benedict -- does. So guess who gets The Treatment.

Church, Jews -- both get persecuted, when they do, not for their faults, but for their virtues. (Jews are ineluctable witnesses to the reality of the Old Testament, alone among the ancient religious books that have come down to us. It has long been my view that this is a major basis for anti-Semitism in its modern form, tho' I acknowledge the issue is far more complex.)

This brings me to my final point about what Fr. Cantalemessa may have been saying. If he wasn't saying it, then someone should.

Myths of sexual insatiability -- such as the vast majority of parish priests and male religious who are abstemious and faithful have to put up with every day -- are the stock in trade of mass hatreds. They played a huge role in lynchings in the South (and in the "electronic lynching" that was attempted in 1991), and Julius Streicher of "Der Stuermer" constantly stirred up (mostly through scabrous cartoons) fears about dangers to "pure" German maidenhood from the Jewish men he labelled and libelled as unnaturally libidinous. There's no large-scale hate campaign w/o the "protect our women/children from these priapic monsters" factor.

I don't know if Cantalamessa meant all that; he pretty clearly did not mean that hate campaigns against the Pope and against the Jews are in all respects identical; he very clearly did not mean that what the Church is undergoing now is like the Holocaust. He said, very clearly, the people who have been targets of artificially inflated mass hatred have that as a common bond, and on the basis of that bond, he offered the Jews friendly greeting. Which some of them, affecting to be spokesmen, have flung in his face.

Very likely Cantalamessa should be (without undue haste) removed from the papal-theologian billet -- but because of his unCatholic views on the Atonement, not because of his rejected overtures of friendship to Jews.