Saturday, April 3, 2010

More From That Wacky Church

You've probably heard about the latest display of obtuseness from the Vatican. It seems the man designated as the "preacher of the papal household" remarked that, Passover and Holy Week coming together this year, he had been thinking about the Jews. He then read a letter from an anonymous Jewish friend:

I am following 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.

I'll spare you detailed discussion of the more obvious points, such as the rather salient differences between being a victim of anti-Semitism and being accused of covering up child abuse, and note a few less obvious ones.

  • Maybe it's different in Italian, but I have never heard of, and can hardly imagine, a Jew referring to Catholics as "all the faithful." As far as I know, only Catholics refer to Catholics this way, as in Voice of the Faithful, the Catholic lay group started to support victims of, you guessed it, clergy sexual abuse. I haven't heard any attacks against Catholic laymen in this scandal, have you? Attacks by Catholic laymen, yes. (And by the way, what are the less shameful aspects of anti-Semitism?)
  • The good father's comments would have been more effective, I think, if he had shown some understanding of the historical ironies of his analogy. For example: "For the last thousand years, the Church has been complicit in the persecution of the Jews. Now we in the Church have begun to see what it is like to be, as a group, unfairly scorned and demonized." I'm still not convinced, but it's better, right? Of course, if top people in the Church were capable of an admission of error like that, they wouldn't be in this mess.
  • Some academic could easily spend the rest of his life writing case studies from this scandal for an MBA course on organizations. You can probably think of some (comparing how Toyota and the Church handled threats to their reputations, for example). Here's one for a class on ethics: What do you do when ensuring the survival of the organization starts to conflict with its mission? This is, in all seriousness, a knotty problem when you're the One True Church. There's hardly any moral compromise that doesn't seem justified compared to a risk of badly damaging the organization. But maybe the Holocaust would be a better example.

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