Actress and activist Susan Sarandon caused quite a stir over the weekend at the Hamptons Film Festival. Sarandon spoke about Occupy Wall Street and her altercations with the New York Police Department over the Amadou Diallo case. She also called Pope Benedict XVI a “Nazi” while discussing her film Dead Man Walking, which was based on an anti-death-penalty book by Sister Helen Prejean, a nun in Louisiana, whom Sarandon portrayed. The actress noted that she had sent a copy of the book to the Pope and then added
“The last one, not this Nazi one we have now.”
Actor Bob Balaban was interviewing Sarandon and “chided” her — Danish director Lars von Trier was banned by the Cannes Film Festival after jokingly calling himself a Nazi — but Sarandon repeated her remark. According to Fox News, she also repeated her remark later in the day at a party.
Sarandon was raised Roman Catholic in New Jersey and attended the Catholic University of America. She has long been an anti-war activist and supporter of liberal causes and was appointed a UNICEF goodwill ambassador in 1999.
Nor surprisingly, the president of the Catholic League, right-wing Catholic Bill Donohue, said Sarandon’s comment is “obscene” and, in a statement, spoke of the Pontiff’s decision to leave the Hitler Youth:
“Joseph Ratzinger [the pope] was conscripted at the age of 14 into the Hitler Youth, along with every other young German boy. Unlike most of the other teenagers, Ratzinger refused to go to meetings, bringing economic hardship to his family. Moreover, unlike most of the others, he deserted at the first opportunity.”
Donohue also labeled Sarandon as a “despicable person to make these kinds of despicable remarks” and added that “it is very hard to find someone dumber than [Sarandon].” The national director of the Anti Defamation League of America, Abraham H. Foxman, also had harsh words for Sarandon:
“Ms. Sarandon may have her differences with the Catholic Church, but that is no excuse for throwing around Nazi analogies. Such words are hateful, vindictive and only serve to diminish the true history and meaning of the Holocaust.”
Some suggest Sarandon’s remark benefits the Pope as the “victim of a controversy that he didn’t start.” Benedict’s record about abortions, gays and lesbians, Islam, etc. has indeed left something to be desired. Given the latest revelations about the global sex abuse scandal among the Catholic clergy — last Friday, Kansas City bishop Robert W. Finn, and the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph were indicted for failing to report suspected child abuse – and the Pope’s and the Church’s continued dragging of their feet to address the crisis, it’s fair to say Benedict might not mind some burnishing of his image. What is the cover-up and protection of abusive priests but “obscene” and “despicable”?
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