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So The Catholic Church Is Being Persecuted Like The Jews? Sermon Sets Off Another Controversy

Oh, this is getting absurd. But at least they aren't dropping hints blaming the Jewish media, the way they've done in the past. I suppose that's progr

Oh, this is getting absurd. But at least they aren't dropping hints blaming the Jewish media, the way they've done in the past. I suppose that's progress!

On the most solemn day in the Roman Catholic calendar, a senior Vatican priest ignited a fresh chapter Friday in the debate over the priest abuse scandal by comparing criticism of the Church and Pope Benedict XVI to the historic persecution and "collective violence" against Jews.

In a Good Friday sermon in St. Peter's Basilica attended by the pope, the Rev. Raniero Cantalamessa said a Jewish friend had written to him, saying the recent accusations about the Church reminded him of the "more shameful aspects of anti-Semitism."

Jews know "from experience what it means to be victims of collective violence," the priest said, and "because of this, they are quick to recognize the recurring symptoms."

The statement stung Jewish groups -- with one spokesman calling it "repulsive" -- and prompted calls for the priest to retract it and for the pope to address it.

The statement also angered victims groups, which expressed outrage that the Church, some of whose priests preyed on generations of Catholic children, was portraying itself as a victim.

"The pope is not the victim here, nor is the Church hierarchy," said David Clohessy, who is an advocate for victims and who experienced alleged abuses by a priest as a boy. "The victims are the boys and girls being sexually assaulted by priests, nuns, seminarians."

He said, "When they play the victim, when they rally around those who were predators or try to cover up for them, it just intimidates those who were abused from speaking up."

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