The biased reporting of a comparison

I am seeing tweets and media reports which claim that Pope Benedict XVI or his spokesperson (there seems to be disagreement) compared the current biased media reporting against the Church and the pope to the persecution of the Jews during the Holocaust. Said media are tumbling over one another to be the first to spout their indignation at this comparison.

But what really happened? Zenit has the answer. The person making the comparison was Father Raneiro Cantalamessa, preacher of the Pontifical Household, and he made them during his Good Friday homily. Here is the passage in question:

“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 brothers. They 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.

“He said: “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. 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 undoubtedly have different elements, 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.””

Can you say ‘whoops’, media and twitter users? It was not the pope, nor Fr. Cantalamessa, but a Jewish friend of the latter who recognised the similarities. I can’t help but consider this yet another example of the failure of certain modern media outlets and its consumers to be objective and to think before they write.

I also see criticism from Catholic circles against Father Cantalamessa for using the passage from the letter in his homily. I am not entirely sure why that is so. Is it because it focusses the attention on a painful situation? Well, the media bias deserves to be called out. Is it because it sounds like the Church assuming the role of the victim? Perhaps, but that is not entirely unwarranted and does not say anything about the culpability of the Church or her officials in other cases. Or is it perhaps because Fr. Cantalamessa should have known that this passage would be picked up and distorted? Well, he obviously should have known (and who’s to say he didn’t?), but that in itself is not enough reason to keep quiet about it.

In the current climate of accusation and defence it is so very important to read carefully. It is us, the readers, who must make the distinction between fact and fiction, between objectivity and hype. Because we can no longer rely on the media to do it for us.


Holy Saturday

Ecce homo!”

Jesus Nazarenus, Rex Judæorum

Woman, behold your son… Behold your mother…

Eli, Eli, lamma sabacthani?”

Consummatum est.

Indeed, this was the Son of God.

With the pain and chaos of Good Friday, of the suffering and death of our Lord Jesus Christ, still ringing in our ears, we consider the silence of the grave that descends upon this Holy Saturday. The world does not know and goes about its business. But we know. Jesus Christ, fully man and fully God, is no longer with us. He died a criminal’s death on the cross, sharing our fear and pain until the last moment. And we feel left stranded amid the debris of a sick and perverted world.

But then we look towards the east, to where the sun rises… is that a glimmer of hope we feel?