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

This is a guest post by Joseph Weissman

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.