Exactly Like a Holocaust

Jim Burroway

April 2nd, 2010

So let’s recap a bit. Thousands of children in the United States and Europe have been molested by their pastors, who, when their crimes were found out, were shuffled from parish to parish by their bishops who hoped the whole problem would somehow magically disappear without anyone noticing. But not all the bishops — some of them (Archbishop Weakland in Milwaukee, and now we learn also about the late Bishop Moreno in Tucson) begged the Vatican office headed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (today’s Pope Benedict XVI) to have those monster priests defrocked, except now we discover that Ratzinger either dragged his feet or refused outright to allow the canonical trials against the priests to proceed. And those revelations come on the heals of other credible allegations of Ratzinger having covered up similarly abominations when he was bishop of Munich.

So let’s take a moment and just try to imagine the spiritual carnage wrecked for thousands — maybe millions? — of young boys throughout the world. Imagine the devastating effect that massive abuse had on the psychological, spiritual, moral, and even physical foundations of these young boys just as they were preparing to mature into young adulthood. Imagine the general fucked-upness they must have felt as they tried to make sense of themselves (Am I to blame? Am I really that screwed up? Why me?) as their self-worth, their sense of right and wrong, their personhood, their humanity, their dignity, even their sexuality — the most private of spheres in human relations — all of this and more had been stolen from them by their spiritual “father.”

It’s a lot like a holocaust of sorts, isn’t it?  Maybe? Sure, not a genocidal Holocaust, not a wipe-a-people-off-the-face-of-the-earth Holocaust that we write with a capital “H.” I’m speaking of a spiritual and moral holocaust, using a word that we derive from the Greek ὁλόκαυστον (holókauston), which means wholly burnt. Does that not describe the interior devastation that so many of these victims experience? We talk about having been burned by a bad experience, but rape and sexual molestation doesn’t leave one just burned. It leaves them wholly burnt. It leaves them “holocausted,” to coin an adjective.

While I think that the generic word holocaust is a good one to use here, I’m firmly against making direct comparisons to the capital “H” Holocaust. (Update: Anytime we’re not talking about a network of rail lines and concentration camps and a policy calling for the literal incineration of more than ten million people who were deemed to be subhuman, comparisons to that big “H” Holocaust simply don’t apply.) But a Vatican priest delivering a homily before Pope Benedict XVI at a Good Friday service today, reflecting on the unspeakable horrors of the unfolding worldwide scandal, was moved to draw comparisons between today’s unfolding horror and anti-Semitic persecutions of the past century:

Speaking in St. Peter’s Basilica, the priest, the Rev. Raniero Cantalamessa, took note that Easter and Passover fell during the same week this year, and said he was led to think of the Jews.

“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,” said Father Cantalamessa, who serves under the title of preacher of the papal household. Then he quoted from what he said was a letter from a Jewish friend he did not identify.

“I am following the violent and concentric attacks against the church, the pope and all the faithful by the whole world,” he said the friend wrote. “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.”

That’s right. Seeking to hold powerful religious leaders accountable for the rape of untold multitudes of children entrusted to their spiritual and moral care is exactly like the “more shameful aspects of anti-Semitism.” How could I have missed that?

David C.

April 2nd, 2010

“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.”
—Rev. Raniero Cantalamessa

Of course, the supreme irony here is that this is exactly what RCC defenders like Catholic League president Bill Donohue do when they assert that the Church doesn’t have a problem with pedophiles, it has a problem with homosexuals.


April 2nd, 2010

It seems to me that equating the criticism of the Catholic Church’s criminally incompetent and negligent handling of sexual abuse by some its employees

with the persecution of Jews throughout Europe

implies that those aforesaid Jews did something, as the Church did something, to cause what was directed at them.

Cantalamessa’s homily is anti-Semitic, unintentionally or intentionally.

Ben Mathis

April 3rd, 2010

Be careful. while I think the comparison you made is wholly apt, many think it’s sacrilege to use the word holocaust on anything but the one during WW2, despite the Americans eradications of the Natives fitting the definition to a T, and the word being highly appropriate in this instance as well.

The cognitive dissonance needed to believe any lie presented about gay people, and then turn around and defend the church in the face of these facts as “just attacks on the church” is astounding as usual.

Bryan Blumberg

April 3rd, 2010

During the Holocaust, between 11 and 17 million Jews, Gypsies, Homosexuals, people with disabilities, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Christian sympathizers systematically had their lives extinguished in death camps. As bad as Catholic Priest child molestation may be, it is not “Exactly like the Holocaust”. I object to any such comparison.


April 3rd, 2010


Obviously you missed the part where Jim said, “While I think that the generic word holocaust is a good one to use here, I’m firmly against making direct comparisons to the capital ‘H’ Holocaust.”


April 3rd, 2010

That “defense” is the sort of thing you need to read twice and a third time, just to be sure you’ve seen what you thought you saw.

It is breathtakingly foolish.


April 3rd, 2010

On CNN yesterday a famous German author said that when he was 12 he was touched a number of times by a priest, but the author (I’m not sure of his name) said he wanted the sexual contact at the time because he was curious. He dismissed the notion that the interaction had long term negative affects on him.

This statement of his by no means gives Catholic priests the permission to do anything; nor does it absolve them of their abuse of the sacred trust of the confessional. Persons who suffered because of these interactions should come forward and demand justice, however, it is my opinion that we should not always assume that irreparable trauma happened to every individual who had any form of sexual interaction with an adult. This non-nuanced sort of thinking can possibly harm the individual by allowing him or her to blame all later life problems on the incident(s); furthermore, it causes some individuals to fudge the details concerning their level of complicity or “consent” (even though this consent is rightly not legally recognized) in the sexual activities.

I’d also like to know the entire motivation of those who are coming forward with allegations of abuse. For some, surely, this will be an important cathartic event in their lives… but for others Dawkins may have been on to something when he said “there is no shortage of lawyers actively soliciting custom from victims who might not otherwise have raked over the distant past. There’s gold in them thar long-gone fumbles in the vestry.”

Has some atrocious abuse taken place in the past? Of course. Lawrence Murphy is a case in point. Should measures be taken to ensure these sort of reports and allegations end up in under civil, rather than ecumenical, authorities? Of course. I’m merely suggesting that we can’t make blanket-like statements regarding the level and types of suffering victims world-wide of this abuse must have underwent.


April 3rd, 2010

As this scandal continues to unwind, it solidified thoughts that I have had for quite some time:

1. All churches are man made. As such, churches are prone to human errors in judgment and are not perfect and infallible.

2. Denial has been a mainstay of Catholicism for eons and still reigns.

3. The overriding goal of the higher ups at the Catholic Church is obviously to protect the Church at all costs. This seems contradictory to “what would Jesus have done?”. I think Jesus would have put down his hackles, showed some humility, expressed true concern for those victimized by sexual abuse, and showed remorse and a willingness to make amends.

4. Many priests are gay. This is still being denied by the Church. Very few gay men are pedophiles. Perhaps suppressing a man’s sexuality for years on end leads to aberrant behavior that would not ordinarily occur. The Catholic Church’s archaic views on sexuality will be an ongoing problem for the Church.

5. Finally, out of the billions or people on the planet, why are certain humans(the Pope included) deemed more skilled that the rest of us to decide who God is, what God thinks, and how the rest of us humanoids should act? Still trying to figure that one out for years.

Ben in Oakland

April 3rd, 2010

Yup. Just like the holocaust.

Except for the murders, centuries of anti-catholic pogroms, scapegoatingconcentration camps, lies, Nuremberg edicts, being worked to death, being used for chemical experiments, confiscation of property, storm troopers, satrving to death, and so on.

Oh yes, and except for the widespread child molestation and insitutional coverup.

I’m pretty sure the Nazi’s didn’t do that. Even they had some morals.

Ben in Oakland

April 3rd, 2010

“5. Finally, out of the billions or people on the planet, why are certain humans(the Pope included) deemed more skilled that the rest of us to decide who God is, what God thinks, and how the rest of us humanoids should act? Still trying to figure that one out for years.”

Simple answer. G himself told them. It says so right there in that book.


April 3rd, 2010

Yes, I have a real problem with any human self appointing themselves as all knowing and holier than the rest of us poor slobs when it comes to matters of faith. In the same vein, what arrogance and hypocrisy for any human to claim to know what is right and wrong when it comes to sexual orientation. To take such a complicated and poorly understood biological process and to boil it down to something simple is characteristic of small minds. Sometimes admitting that we don’t know how something works takes a lot of courage and is always harder to admit than adopting a simple right/wrong stance as many in organized religion pursue. I have found that most with questioning minds don’t go to Mass any more. To sit there and to be talked down to by a hypocritical organization with the attitude that “I know more than you do” is offensive. Perhaps this is why the average age of parishioners in my area is probably over 70—-these parishioners aren’t dumb, but they are from an era where you never questioned authority in the Catholic Church. It’s interesting that the younger Catholics seem to be far and few between. Similarly, young priests are a scarce commodity let alone young nuns.


April 3rd, 2010

Burroway, this post is certifiably nuts. I know that you need to keep the blog interesting, but if you have to post stuff like this, maybe it is time to consider bringing on new contributors.

Just because an act is wrong and hurts a lot of people over over many years or decades does not make it a holocaust. Is drunk driving also a holocaust? What about domestic violence? What about prison rape? What about our government’s acquiescence to chronic unemployment?

Oooh, and here’s one: what about HIV transmission via barebacking, say, post-1984? Unlike Catholic priests’ groping kids, barebacking has directly led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. So be careful tossing around holocaust comparisons.

Ben in Oakland

April 3rd, 2010

Excuse me, Tim. But you must not have read this. This was not a holocaust comparison– quite the opposite.

paul j stein

April 3rd, 2010

The Catholic Church just wants to keep the MONEY FLOWING. Since it’s inception fund raising has been it’s FIRST purpose.


April 4th, 2010

This whole scandal is very South Park (Season 6 – Red Hot Catholic Love), only without the giant spider ;)

In that episode, every priest in the world was focused on how to get their victims to stop reporting the crimes, and Father Maxi was the only one who suggested that maybe they just stop f**king boys.

Maybe if the church leadership would man up and take ownership of this problem – maybe if they would admit responsibility and take steps to *stop this from happening* people all around the world might stop making such “horrible” accusations about them.

As I’ve been saying for a couple weeks now – was Jeffrey Dahmer harassed by the media, with those reports of his unsavory behavior? Is Bernard Madoff being harassed? Scott Roeder?

The church needs to learn the easiest way to avoid negative press is to not do bad things.

Tom in Lazybrook

April 4th, 2010

Off Topic…but..

60 Minutes just ran a puff piece extolling Martin Ssempa as someone who fights against AIDS in Uganda. No mention was made about his support of genocide legislation that would make Gay Ugandans face jail to educate them about HIV prevention.


April 5th, 2010

@Ben In Oakland:

I did read it and it is a holocaust comparison, although Burroway also tries to be cute and say that it is not a Holocaust with a capital H comparison. Of course, right below that is a picture from a concentration camp. So what does that tell you about the integrity of this post and of Burroway’s willingness to use genocide victim graphics in order to score a rhetorical point?

In any event, my questions stand. Using Burroway’s standard, aren’t domestic violence, prison rape, and HIV transmission via barebacking lower-case h holocausts?


April 5th, 2010

Uhhh, Tim the picture from the concentration camp explicitly followed Rev. Raniero Cantalamessa’s claim that what the Catholic Church is going through at the moment is just like anti-Semitism in an effort to highlight the inherent delusional ridiculousness of the claim.

I do like that once again we see the unnamed minority friend cropping up in effort to lend legitimacy to a really stupid claim. At least this time it isn’t “many gay friends.”

Jason D

April 5th, 2010

tim, you apparently need this post explained to you.

A) Catholic spokespeople are trying to say that the criticism the church is receiving is akin to the bigotry and persecution that the Jewish people have experienced for millenia. IE: To criticize the Catholic Church is no different than putting them in a prison camp, working them to death, mass murdering any survivors, and then burying them in a mass grave.

B) Jim is obviously ridiculing this comparison.

C) Jim brings up the (ironic?) point that the innocent children who have been abused have a legit comparison(if anyone does) between what they have experienced and the holocaust.

Now, do you really need to ask your question?

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