Utne Blogs > Mind and Body

Appropriating the Suffering of Others

by Sarah Thorngate 

Tags: Spirituality, Faith, Holocaust, compassion,


Even before the Vatican’s bungled dealings with Bishop Williamson, who denied the Holocaust, Pope Benedict XVI raised eyebrows with his 2006 prayer at Auschwitz when he said of the Nazi’s, “By destroying Israel, they ultimately wanted to tear up the taproot of the Christian faith.”

“Nothing shows how little we understand the suffering of others,” writes Peter Manseau in Commonweal, “more than the attempt to use our story to make sense of it.”

Manseau warns that when people use the framework of their own faith to express compassion for people of another faith, it can lead to a subtle kind of revisionism that, while not denying history, reshapes it to fit into the narrative of their own religion.

Manseau connects the dots between the pope’s slightly revised understanding of the Holocaust and Bishop Williamson’s outright denial. “There is a difference between facing up to history and seeing one’s own theology play out at every turn. If the first frame of reference for the murder of 6 million Jews is the death of a Christian savior or saint, one can see how the dark spots of history might be forgotten beside the light of faith.”

Source: Commonweal

Image by fdecomite, licensed under Creative Commons.