The inimitable Bishop Gerhard Mueller of Regensburg has opened his episcopal mouth and put a red-slippered foot into it. His attitude to sexual abuse and his general humaneness can be studied by looking at my case study of an abuser in his diocese: Peter Kramer.
Now he has decided the Freemasons are to blame for all the bad news about the Church. From the Süddeutsche Zeitung:
Bishop Gerhard Müller of Regensburg in an Italian newspaper has sharply attacked the Federal Minister of Justice Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger. He told the newspaper La Stampa that “Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenbeg belongs to a type of Freemasonic organization that portays pedophilia as normal, that should be decriminalized. Therefore she can’t criticize us. Also she has lied, in that she has defamed us. For neither has the Vatican nor the German Church given instructions to keep clerics away from normal justice.”
Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger belongs to the agnostic-oriented Humanistic Union, which, speaking of defaming, has demanded a retraction from Bishop Müller. The court cases should be interesting.
As to the Jews: John Allen reported in 2002:
Since the beginning of the sex abuse crisis in the United States, I have often been asked how Rome sees the situation. My shorthand answer has been that while Vatican officials are certainly horrified by the abuse of children, as well as by the failure of some bishops to prevent that abuse, most also regard the avalanche of public criticism of the Church as exaggerated.
Fueling the attacks, they believe, is an anti-Catholic American press, a legal industry hungry to tap the deep pockets of the Catholic Church, and dissidents within the Church of both left and right grinding their axes.
This is still a good summary of conventional wisdom. But there is also a darker theory about the origins of the anti-Church temper in the American press currently making the rounds. It’s something that so far only one prelate has dared to say out loud, and even then obliquely. Yet I have heard it come up repeatedly in private conversation, enough to convince me that it is fairly widely held.
I should add that I am not talking about reactionaries who see a plot behind any criticism of the church, but about views expressed by several intelligent, cultured Catholic leaders of both left and right.
To put the point more bluntly than these men ever would, in part they blame the Jews.
The point was hinted at in the now-infamous May 2002 interview in the Italian Catholic publication 30 Giorni, where Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga compared media “persecution” of Cardinal Bernard Law and the U.S. Church with the ancient Roman emperors and 20th century dictators such as Hitler and Stalin.
Rodriguez argued that it’s no coincidence the sex abuse scandal broke just as the world seemed to be focusing on Palestinian suffering.
“It certainly makes me think that in a moment in which all the attention of the mass media was focused on the Middle East, all the many injustices done against the Palestinian people, the print media and the TV in the United States became obsessed with sexual scandals that happened 40 years ago, 30 years ago,” Rodriguez said.
“Why? I think it’s also for these motives: What is the church that has received Arafat the most times, and has most often confirmed the necessity of the creation of a Palestinian state? What is the church that does not accept that Jerusalem should be the indivisible capital of the State of Israel, but that it should be the capital of the three great monotheistic religions?”
In recent weeks I’ve had similar conversations with church officials in and around Rome, including Europeans, Latin Americans, and Africans, and I have been struck by how often this theme comes up once tape recorders are turned off. Just last week I was sitting in the Rome office of a leading Catholic educator and intellectual, an Italian who is widely respected as a moderate voice in theological debate.
“Don’t you think,” he asked me, “that the disproportionate Jewish influence in the American media is part of the story?”
In part, the hypothesis reflects the pro-Palestinian slant of much European public opinion, which has long vilified America’s “Jewish lobby.” In part, it reflects the strained Catholic/Jewish relationship in the wake of the beatification of Pius IX, the acrimonious debate over Pius XII and his alleged “silence” during the Holocaust, and the collapse of a Jewish-Catholic scholarly commission empanelled by the Vatican to investigate its World War II archives. In such an atmosphere, it’s easy for some around the Vatican to imagine that influential Jews in the American press might want to wound the church.
Yet one cannot avoid the impression that at a deep, pre-conscious level, some degree of anti-Semitism is also at work. It’s the antique suspicion that whenever a Christian is dealt a low blow, in the background must lurk a Jew.
That such notions still swim in our ecclesiastical bloodstream should give us pause.
I wondered if one fed Müller a few glasses of schnapps, what he would say about his deepest suspicions.