Letter: Vatican whitewash

YOU WERE right to dismiss the Vatican statement on the Holocaust as "whitewash" (report, 17 March). Far from being an adequate "act of repentance" it is more of a tactical deflection of criticism of the Church as an institution by shifting the blame on to individuals.

In fact the opposite was often the case, with something of the credibility of the Church being salvaged by the exceptional heroism of individuals like Frans Jagerstatter in the face of overwhelming institutional indifference or hostility.

The Nazis drew widely upon the centuries-old prejudices which had been nurtured by the Church, such as the Servitus Judaeorum (the "perpetual servitude of the Jews"' decreed by the 3rd Lateran Council) and the model of the religious crusading orders which the new "knights" of the SS were expected to emulate.

As with the previous denial of any responsibility by the Church for the genocide of American Indians during their enforced "Christianisation" or more recently the denial by the Church of responsibility for individual cases of clerical abuse, it is not only the act but the denial which is destructive. It induces a paralysis of confidence in the institution.