Speaking of suffering; waxing on bees

HISTORY & THE CRUCIFIXION

Thank you for Peter Manseau’s penetrating critique of Christian theodicies that too facilely appropriate the suffering of others (“Catholics & the Shoah,” March 13), and Matthew Boudway’s careful rejoinder (“Suffering, Silence & Holy Week,” April 10), one of the best exchanges on the subject I have read in a very long time. Citing Pope Benedict’s claim (which gave me a shudder) that the Nazis, by destroying Israel, “ultimately wanted to tear up the taproot of Christian faith,” Manseau justly asks, “Who becomes the victim in this kind of remembrance?” Yet something in me resisted his sweeping conclusions: “it does little good to treat Auschwitz as another stage in an endless Passion Play. To do so subjects brutal realities to the theological imagination, where meaning holds sway over facts.”

For some weeks I tried, and failed, to conceive a half-credible response to Manseau’s empathetic logic that would vindicate, if not the unfortunate revisionism of the pope, then theologians like Jon Sobrino and contemplatives like Thomas Merton, who do not hesitate to identify Christ crucified with the crucified peoples of history, not least the Jews. Enter Boudway, who insists that for Christians to cleanly divorce the darkest...

To read the rest of this article please login or become a subscriber.