A new book by Pope John II has caused an outcry among Germany's Jewish groups due to passages that some critics say compare abortion to the horrors of the Holocaust.
Passages from the pope's book have caused a storm ahead of publication
A new book by Pope John Paul II reveals the pontiff's views on many of the last century's most tragic events, the attempt on his own life in 1981 and restates his positions on a variety of religious, historical and social subjects. But it is his condemnation of abortion and same-sex marriage in the 227-page book "Memory and Identity" that has caused sharp criticism and controversy.
The 84-year-old muses about the competing forces of good and evil in the world and history within the book, with special attention on the horrors committed by the Nazis and by communist regimes.
In one passage, after evoking the massacre of Jews by the Nazis in the Holocaust, the pope writes that the democratically elected parliaments that replaced brutal authoritarian regimes in some countries continue to carry out murder on a huge scale by allowing abortion.
"There is still, however, a legal extermination of human beings who have been conceived but not yet born," the pope writes. "And this time, we are talking about an extermination which has been allowed by nothing less than democratically elected parliaments."
Germany's Jews criticize Catholic view
Many critics have drawn a direct line between the pope's reference to the Holocaust and abortion, something Jewish groups in Germany immediately seized upon.
"The Catholic Church does not understand or does not want to understand that there is an enormous difference between mass genocide and what women do to their own bodies," Paul Spiegel, the president of the Central Council for Jews in Germany, said in a statement.
German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Roman Catholic Church's doctrinal watchdog, defended the pope and argued that misinterpretation had resulted in unwarranted criticism.
German cardinal defends pontiff
Ratzinger, who has been touted as a possible successor to the ailing pontiff, told a new conference earlier this week that the pope "was not trying to put the Holocaust and abortion on the same plane." It was the pope's intention, he added, to show the pervasiveness of evil, "even in liberal political systems."
The book further echoes similar remarks made by the cardinal of Cologne, Joachim Meisner, who declared in a sermon in January: "First there was Herod, who ordered the children of Bethlehem to be killed, then there was Hitler and Stalin among others, and today unborn children are being killed in their millions." Meisner later expressed regret for his comparison.
In other areas of the pontiff's book, the pope discusses the fear within the Vatican that rampant relativism and secularism are causing the decay of Christian values in Europe and beyond. He uses the debate on same-sex marriages as an example.
Same-sex marriages part of "new evil"
#bHe ponders whether the European Parliament has been put under pressure to legalize same-sex marriage as "part of a new ideology of evil, perhaps more insidious and hidden, which attempts to pit human rights against the family and against man."
The book, based on conversations the pope had in Polish with two friends, the philosopher Krzysztof Michalski and the late Father Jozef Tischner, at the papal summer residence near Rome in 1993, also says terrorist networks represent "a constant threat to the life of millions of innocents," and specifically mentions the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and other recent outrages. It will soon be available in 11 languages.