THE BLOG

Unholy Week

06/09/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

I, a practicing Catholic, look back on last week, which began with Palm Sunday and ended with Easter Sunday, and conclude that a cast of characters who would identify as most "faithful" made a most unholy week of Holy Week 2010.

On Palm Sunday, New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan had the temerity to compare the Pope to Jesus in his crown of thorns. On Holy Thursday, The Catholic League's Bill Donohue insulted half the church's priests and scores of victims of child rape, while on the other side of the Manhattan Bridge, Brooklyn and Queens' top priest, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, sicced his flock on The New York Times. On Good Friday, papal mouthpiece Reverend Raniero Cantalamessa upped the ante in the "Let's affront God in Jesus's name" game by likening the scrutiny of the Catholic hierarchy to the tortures the Jews in the Holocaust.

That Cantalamessa, who knows that Roman Catholic Good Friday has a problematic track record in the context of Catholic-Jewish relations, would spout such anti-Jewish sentiment on any day is horrendous (until 1955 Catholics prayed for the conversion of the "faithless Jews"), but that he would compare accusations against the Church hierarchy to the "collective violence" suffered by the Jews in the Holocaust during the festival of Passover, on Good Friday, renders his idiocy all the more sinful. That the Pontiff would tacitly endorse this comes as no surprise; possibly it confirms that Benedict XVI may at last deserve -- in his dotage, now, if not in his youth -- the appellation "Hitler Youth."

Sinful, also, was NYC's Archbishop's Timothy Dolan's Palm Sunday homily, in which he compared the Pope's anguish to that of Jesus on his way to the Mountain of Skulls. Dolan got it backwards, for it is the victims -- children raped by woefully sick priests that the hierarchy had the power to stop -- who are the sacrificed Christ, not the Pope. Church hierarchy is the Judas who pimped innocence for a price -- or Pontius Pilate, pawn of the irrefragable muscle emanating from Rome, who washed his hands of the violence, and then looked away. The victims are the sacrificed lamb -- not the Pope or the several bishops who elected to sacrifice these children on the altar of Vatican Public Relations.

Bill Donohue leapt on the Holy Week defilement bandwagon with a homophobic rant even his own team failed to take seriously. Conveniently forgetting, as he fulminated, that as many as 50 percent of the priests he might claim to support are gay, and that the majority of pedophiles are heterosexual, the blowhard apologist for the Holy See blamed gay priests and abused male children for the current crisis in the church. Had Donohue's piety extended to a more complete awareness of what Holy Thursday celebrates -- the institution of the Sacrament of the Eucharist, also known as Communion (which means "coming together"), he might have chosen a more opportune time to throw adolescent rape victims and half the priests under the Vatican bus in God's name.

Cardinal William J. Levada weighed in on Holy Thursday with praise for Ratzinger's handling of the rape crisis in the church. Closer to home, Bishop DiMarzio capitalized upon the solemnity of Thursday's special Chrism mass to deliver a message that was not so much a commission to "go forth and do Christ's work" as it was an exhortation to go forth and throttle the messenger. Perhaps this was the bishop's idea of an appropriate response to such coverage as the March 27 New York Times report on Pope John Paul II's dear friend, Legionaries of Christ cult founder Rev. Marcial Maciel Degollado, who molested children and sexually abused seminarians for decades while taking more than one wife and fathering a number of children. (An April 6 report in The National Catholic Reporter alleges that Maciel may have paid protection to the Holy See in order to stay in power.)

On Holy Saturday afternoon, I chatted with a wonderful priest about things ecclesiastical and otherwise. "Lousy week to be a priest, eh, Father?" I said, wanting to offer acknowledgment, condolence, and support, knowing that when this lovely friend of mine, who truly has dedicated his life to doing works of mercy, takes a walk in our neighborhood, he encounters the stares of some who, seeing the Roman collar at his neck, simply presume him to be some kind of predator. Father nodded in assent, and in sorrow -- but not for himself. "I just don't understand," he said. "Why isn't the focus on helping the victims first, instead of covering things up?"

Later that night I served as a sponsor for an intelligent young woman who was converting to Roman Catholicism. I managed to share her excitement despite the fact that mine was dampened. Many would say she's crazy to choose this now. I see their point, but I hold out hope; maybe she will be the change.

At mass on Easter Sunday morning, my family and I sat behind a survivor of clergy abuse. An activist, now in his 70s, he is finally being heard. During the homily, the priest celebrating the 9:00 a.m. mass spoke candidly about the challenges the abuse crisis presents to him as he works as a social worker in a facility for "at risk" and poor adolescents. This priest's faith always appears to be infused with, and informed by, the religions of his homeland, India, and his reverence for the Jewish tenets and texts Catholics are called to hold as sacred. It's possible that spotting his Jewish friend, my husband, as he slid into a pew up front, inspired the Padre's prefatory words of welcome. It's hard to know, but he kicked off Easter morning with these words: "Welcome, people all of faiths: Moslems, Jews, and Christians."

In other words, he approached the altar of God with a wide embrace -- not a fighter's stance.