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crows nest
By Stephen Tomkins
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The Catholic blame game
April 2010

You would have thought the Vatican would find it hard to lower itself any further in the court of public opinion. An ever-emerging catalogue of child sexual abuse stretching back half a century – involving one in 25 Catholic clergy in the US alone – has been matched by an ever-emerging record of cover-up and spin on the part of the Church at every level, instead of acting against the criminals or reporting their crimes.

To make yourself look significantly worse in the wake of such revelations requires something really quite special. But in a truly inspired leap of the imagination and righteous stupidity, the Church has found the way: blame the Jews.

Vatican authorities have repeatedly made shadowy comments about the media attack on the Church over priestly paedophilia being orchestrated by powerful lobbies. But Giacomo Babini, the emeritus Bishop of Grosseto, seems to be rather less subtle. Interviewed by the Catholic website Pontifex, he said that the campaign was so "powerful and refined" it must be a "Zionist attack".

In the article, written by Bruno Volpe, Babini added that Jews are the "natural enemies" of the church, and that "deep down, historically speaking, the Jews are God killers". Babini later claimed to have been misquoted, but Volpe insists that his recording of the interview proves Babini was not, and he has offered to release it.

It's tempting when the whole world, including your own flock, is pointing the finger at you (or just giving it to you), to blame someone else. But to do so by reminding everyone of your own 2,000-year history of victimization and genocide of the Jewish people brings a whole new meaning to "pouring oil on flames" as well as "don't know your arse from a hole in the ground".

A different but equally well-judged approach was offered by the Pope's chaplain, Raniero Cantalamessa, who tackled the question in his Good Friday sermon before the Pope. Rather than blaming the Jews for the criticism of the Church, he said that the criticism was comparable to the worst excesses of anti-semitism.

He said, "The use of stereotypes, and the shifting of personal responsibility and guilt to a collective guilt, remind me of the most shameful aspects of anti-Semitism."

So let's get this right. On every Good Friday until 1960, the Catholic liturgy talked about "the perfidious Jews" in their "darkness", "blindness" and "faithlessness". And it was on Good Friday this year that Father Cantalamessa chose to tell us that stereotyping and collectively blaming the Catholic priesthood for the crimes of Catholic priests is on a par with the persecution of Jews. With apologists like that, who needs Dawkins?

Well, the Catholic Church does, for a start. Professor Dawkins has announced, along with Christopher Hitchens, that they aim to have the Pope arrested for crimes against humanity when he comes to the UK in September. This is on the basis that in the three years in which the Pope, as Cardinal Ratzinger, was responsible for the discipline of priests at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he only directly removed men from ministry in 2,000 of the 3,000 cases that came before him.

With the Church insisting on magnifying its failures at every turn, it clearly depends on the hysterical pointscoring of our favourite God-baiters to keep them in perspective.
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