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From the New York Times:

ROME — A senior Vatican priest speaking at a Good Friday service compared the uproar over sexual abuse scandals in the Catholic Church — which have included reports about Pope Benedict XVI’s oversight role in two cases — to the persecution of the Jews, sharply raising the volume in the Vatican’s counterattack.

The remarks, on the day Christians mark the crucifixion, underscored how much the Catholic Church has felt under attack from recent news reports and criticism over how it has handled charges of child molestation against priests in the past, and sought to focus attention on the church as the central victim.

In recent weeks, Vatican officials and many bishops have angrily denounced news reports that Benedict failed to act strongly enough against pedophile priests, once as archbishop of Munich and Friesing in 1980 and once as a leader of a powerful Vatican congregation in the 1990s.

Benedict sat looking downward when the Rev. Raniero Cantalamessa, who holds the office of preacher of the papal household, delivered his remarks in the traditional prayer service in St. Peter’s Basilica. Wearing the brown cassock of a Franciscan, Father Cantalamessa took note that Easter and Passover were falling during the same week this year, saying 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,” he said.

Father Cantalamessa quoted from what he said was a letter from an unnamed Jewish friend. “I am following the violent and concentric attacks against the church, the pope and all the faithful by the whole word,” 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.”

Even as the priest spoke out against attacks on the church, Archbishop Robert Zollitsch of Freiburg, head of the German Bishops Conference, said that sex abuse victims were not helped enough “out of a misplaced concern for the reputation of the church.” The church, he said, was shaken by “the suffering inflicted on the victims, who often for decades could not put their injuries into words.” Bishops around Europe have been offering similar remarks in recent days, following up on a major statement on molestation in the Irish church by the pope.

Disclosures about hundreds of such cases have emerged in recent months in Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland and France, after a previous round of scandal in the United States earlier this decade.

A leading advocate for sex abuse victims in the United States, David Clohessy, called comparing criticism of the church to persecution of the Jews “breathtakingly callous and misguided.”

“Men who deliberately and consistently hide child sex crime are in no way victims,” he said. “And to conflate public scrutiny with horrific violence is about as wrong as wrong can be.”

Read the full story here.

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