“Let The Little Children Come To Me & Do Not Hinder Them”

Vatican preacher Raniela Cantalamessa – the only person allowed to preach to the Pope – has compared criticism of the Church over child abuse to anti-Semitism.

BBC News reports:

The Rev Raniero Cantalamessa was speaking at Good Friday prayers in St Peter’s Basilica, attended by the Pope.

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

Thousands of pilgrims are in Rome for the Easter rituals.

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

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

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

Rev Cantalamessa’s argument is hardly convincing. Firstly, it’s worth saying that it does not matter that Cantalamessa read out a letter written by a Jew. The arguments are still faulty.

It is surely no coincidence that Rev Cantalamessa chose to express these opinions on Good Friday, a day which has traditionally been unpleasant for Jews living in nominally-Christian countries.

In any case, ’the Jews’ as a collective ethnic or religious entity cannot possibly be held accountable for individual or institutional misdemeanours. Jews are not an institution but a people group, and there is no sense in which those criticising the Pope’s alleged role in covering up sex abuses are engaging in anything remotely equivalent to anti-Semitism.

According to the book of Ecclesiastes, there is nothing new under the sun, and here Rev Cantalamessa is using a line of argument which has been used by other clerical abusers.

When ‘abusive rabbi’ Elior Chen was indicted for abusing eight children, beating children with a hammer, burning their organs, and forcing them to eat their own excrement, his attorney accused Israeli police of launching an anti-Semitic campaign against Chen.

Sadly, it is a common tactic for the religious elite to accuse its critics of wholesale demonisation, and one which must be rejected by every free society.

Instead of Raniela Cantalamessa using his pulpit to try and silence his critics, he should be providing answers to their questions, and calling the Church to repentance on this matter.

When Jesus’ disciples held back children from coming to him, Jesus replied:

“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

The Vatican should strongly oppose those who hinder little children via sexual and psychological abuse, and Rev. Cantalamessa should re-consider his Good Friday sermon.



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6 responses to ““Let The Little Children Come To Me & Do Not Hinder Them”

  1. modernityblog

    Spot on post!


    Rev. Cantalamessa, you really messed up today. I know you didn’t mean to insult anyone when you compared the current attacks on the Catholic Church and Pope Benedict with the persecution of the Jews, but you did, and you did it big time. It seems that you are ignoring a few important points: first of all, there is no comparison because the Church persecuted the Jews for no other reason than their Jewishness, which the Church found intolerable, while the current attacks on the Church and the Pope—I wouldn’t quite call it “persecution”—are well deserved as the Church seems to have an endemic child abuse problem compounded with on obstruction of justice problem. This is not the first time this happens. It’s best to not even talk about the Middle Ages. Hopefully the Pope will make use of his power and swiftly remove any offenders from the Church and hand them over to the civil authorities for prosecution, as would be the case with any child molester. The attacks on the Pope are well deserved too. He was responsible for some of these cases before he became pope and he not only did not punish these priests, he moved them to other places where they were able to molest children again! So, it’s hard to feel sorry for the Church or the Pope these days. You also seem to have forgotten that of the 365 days of the year, this is the least appropriate day to make such comparison with the persecution of the Jews. Should I remind you of the forced conversion of the Jews, instituted by the Church centuries ago? Should I remind you of the incitement to violence in the faithful every Good Friday after sermons and Passion Plays? Should I remind you of the accusation of deicide which prompted countless acts of Christian violence toward Jews? Or the Good Friday prayer which asked God to lift the veil of the blind, perfidious Jews?

    It makes me wonder about your boss, Pope Benedict, too, because one needs to ask oneself the uncomfortable question of why he didn’t stand up as you were making this innapropriate comparison and distance himself and the Church from your comments. But then, maybe one should not be so surprised about this given his recent track record regarding the sexual predator priests, or his treatment of the whole Bishop Williamson affair, or his reinstating the Good Friday prayer referenced above, or his rush canonization process for the problematic wartime Pope Pius XII. In a way, seeing Pope Benedict looking at the floor today as you uttered those words reminded me of his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, who also stood silently by the Syrian dictator Bashar Assad in 2001 as Assad let loose an antisemitic rant that was broadcast in the entire Christian world. Assad, like the Catholic Church before him, presented Jews as enemies of God. Also like Christians before him, Assad used the Christian blood libel of Jews as Christ-killers. Pope John Paul II did not see fit to stop him right then and there and thus appeared to implicitly accept Assad’s vitriolic statements.

    Perhaps this issue of silent popes is also endemic in the Church. After all, Pope Pius XI and his successor Pope Pius XII both stood by silently as the Nazis slowly and inexorably dehumanized, demonized, and exterminated millions of Jews during the Second World War.

    To wrap it up, Rev. Cantalamessa, as the sole and direct preacher to the pope I think you yourself need some advicing. I would encourage you to think about these things, and next time you sit with Pope Benedict advice him better.

    Gabriel Wilensky

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

  3. Pingback: “Let The Little Children Come To Me & Do Not Hinder Them” « The Rosh Pina Project

  4. Pingback: Easter Christendon: Raniela Cantalamessa, Rowan Williams, Chris Grayling, Cordoba church & Westminster 2010 Declaration the ‘declaration of conscience on values’ | eChurch Christian Blog

  5. Cantalamessa has a point. Jews have been wrongly accused of ritual sacrifice, child killing or political control just as RCC priests have been wrongly accused of sex-abuse… no, that’s not right.

    Okie, some RCC priests have been guilty of sex-abuse just as some Jews have been guilty of ritual sacrifice, child killing or political control… no, that’s wrong as well.

    Have any RCC priests been herded into a seminary and machine-gunned?

  6. Kilbarry1

    Instead of Raniela Cantalamessa using his pulpit to try and silence his critics, he should be providing answers to their questions, and calling the Church to repentance on this matter.

    Indeed in the name way that the Nazis called the Catholic Church to repentence on this very same matter. The following is from the website of an Irish Group Alliance Support that supports genuine victims of child abuse but they don’t like liars and fanatics who discredit their cause.

    Added on November 25, 2007

    The following is an extract from Michael Burleigh’s book ‘Sacred Causes: Religion and Politics from the European Dictators to Al Qaeda’. Burleigh is a leading historian who has taught at Oxford, the London School of Economics etc. His book explores the attitude of the churches to totalitarian dictatorships and the attitude of such dictators as Hitler and Stalin to the Catholic Church in particular.

    [In Nazi Germany in the 1930s] the state used various forms of chicanery to close Catholic homes and institutions. These ranged from adversely changing their charitable tax status to using the Gestapo to suborn children to make accusations of sexual abuse against those in charge of them.

    “Between September 1933 and March 1937 [the Vatican] secretary of State Pacelli signed over 70 notes and memoranda protesting against Nazi violations of the Concordat [1]. The Nazis almost immediately began chipping away at the autonomy of Catholic lay organisations which had apparently been secured by the Concordat……….

    “In the mid-1930s these various measures were given a more vicious accent by Government sponsored campaigns involving those old standbys of money and sex. ……Well publicised investigations into these currency violations in turn triggered denunciation of the Catholic clergy for mostly homosexual but also paedophile offences. Between May 1936 and July 1937 there were 270 prosecutions of such men, of whom 170 monks and 64 priests were convicted. A major trial was held in Koblenz in May 1936 which resulted in the conviction of past and present members of a lay nursing order, most of the evidence coming from a former member of the order who had joined the SD [SS Security Service]. The intervening Olympic Games led Hitler to drop further trials, which were resumed with a vengeance after Pius XI’s encyclical ‘Mit Brennender Sorge’ was released in early 1937.

    Hitler immediately the Ministry of Justice to give priority to these ‘morality trials’. The Ministry of Propaganda urged the press to treat these trials as evidence of pervasive perversity within the Catholic Church. The press, and caricaturists in particular, had a field day with illicit intimacies in the confessionals or tubby monks whose capacious cassocks concealed several pairs of dainty feet. That summer Nazi publications also attacked secretary of state Pacelli, accusing him of using a visit to Liseux in France to organise the ‘moral encirclement’ of Germany with the aid of ‘friends’ in the French Communist Party who were shown holding his cloak. [2] ……

    “Tendentious reporting [3] of a small number of sex crimes (involving mainly lay staff) in Catholic boarding schools or religious houses enabled members of the Government to claim that the Catholic Church was awash with sex fiends. There were few holds barred in gathering the evidence, which involved the SD and Gestapo interviewing disgruntled religious drop-outs, ex-pupils and orphans, with offers of sweets alternating with a head bashed into a wall or the threat of concentration camp to secure the appropriate testimony. On this basis minister for the Churches Kerrl could claim that 7,000 clergy had been convicted of sex crimes between 1933 and 1937, whereas the true figure seems to have been 170, of whom many had left the religious life prior to their convictions. The deliberate inflation of statistics was a favoured Nazi device for ramping up hysteria [3], as they would do in 1939 when they turned 5,000 ethnic German victims of the Poles whose country the Nazis had invaded into ‘50,000’. There was no reporting of similar sexual transgressions involving members of Nazi formations.

    The above extract is from Chapter 3, sub-section 111 of Burleigh’s book, the part entitled ‘The Catholic Church and German National Socialism’.

    [1] This is Eugenio Pacelli, who became Pope Pius XII in 1939. According to John Cornwell (and other ‘liberal’ commentators) he was ‘Hitler’s Pope’. (Cornwell’s book of that name was published in 2000).

    [2] So the Nazis accused the future Pope Pius XII of being a friend of Communists whereas ‘liberals’ accuse him of being soft on Nazis! I recall that George Orwell once said that Nazis and Communists have more in common with each other than either has with a democrat!

    [3] Regarding “tendentious reporting” and “ramping up hysteria” the following quotation from Hermann Kelly’s recent book ‘Kathy’s Real Story’ is relevant. The author is talking about the use of the term ‘paedophile priest’ by the media in Ireland.

    According to Michael J. Breen (Studies Autumn 2000) this phrase was used 332 times in The Irish Times between August 1993 and August 2000. The ‘paedophile priest’ term comes up 265 times in The Irish Times archive between January 1996 – August 2007, yet the terms ‘paedophile farmer’, ‘paedophile lawyer’, ‘paedophile teacher’ or ‘paedophile journalist’ never occurs.” (page 148/149).

    As per George Orwell, The Irish Times has more in common with Nazi propagandists than it has with the Catholic Church!

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