Hating the Pope

The UPI’s Religious Affairs Editor, Uwe Siemon-Netto, catalogs the abuse to which Pope Benedict has been subjected since his election, noting that Googling the phrase “Nazi Pope” turns up nearly 700 entries. Much of the abuse directed at the Pope is superficially anti-German, but in reality, as Siemon-Netto acknowledges, it is anti-Catholic:

“They knock the Germans but they are motivated by their anti-Catholicism,” Catholic League president William Donohue proposed.
New York Times columnist Maureen Down seemed to prove Donohue right by stirring all the elements she considered disagreeable about Ratzinger and his church into one venomous brew.

Siemon-Netto notes that “[t]he Internet is of course the kooks’ playground,” but, notwithstanding the encouragement dished out by columnist Dowd, he seems surprised to find some of the most venemous of the anti-Pope abuse dispensed by readers of the New York Times:

[The term “Nazi Pope” entered America’s foremost paper via the Readers’ Opinion section of NYTimes.com and caused dismay at the Anti-Defamation League.
“We reject that outright,” ADL spokeswoman Mryna Shinebaum told UPI. Her national director, Abraham H. Foxman, had welcomed Ratzinger’s election. ” Cardinal Ratzinger has great sensitivity to Jewish history and the Holocaust. He has shown this sensitivity countless times,” Foxman stated.
Was it ethical, then, for NYTimes.com to publish a text accusing pope Benedict XVI of being a Nazi?
Toby Usnik, the Times’ director of public relations seems to think so. “We choose not to censor such posts unless they are abusive, defamatory or obscene. While we believe that this post stretches the truth of the pope’s youth, we do not believe it violates our policies,” he informed UPI.

One wonders: If accusing one of the world’s great theologians and religious leaders of committing or sympathizing with genocide is not abusive or defamatory, what would be? In the law of defamation there is no such thing as an outcast, a person so low that he cannot be libelled. It seems, however, that in some people’s eyes, Catholics in general and the Pope in particular are in that category.

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