Pontifications

Pontifications


Reax to Pope to Jews: “Could do better…”

posted by David Gibson

Pope and Jewish leaders.jpgThat is certainly my sense of Benedict’s address at the Vatican this morning to U.S. Jewish leaders. The meeting was the latest and probably last high-profile effort to soothe Jewish-Catholic relations in the wake of the pontiff’s outreach to the schismatic Traditionalists of the SSPX, including the Holocaust-denying bishop, Richard Williamson.
The text is here, the CNS write up is here, and at America’s blog, Michael Sean Winters found the speech note-perfect. “As is often the case, the Holy Father played an entire symphony of right notes,” Winters writes.
Jewish leaders seemed pleased, though the whole process seemed somewhat scripted. And the continuing demands of some that the Pope hold the SSPXers’ feet to the fire on accepting Vatican II is prompting increasingly vocal resentment among some Catholics. (“It’s OUR church–butt out!”)
As with previous papal encounters with Jewish groups, I found Benedict’s remarks flat-footed and unremarkable–certainly not resonant of a German Catholic who experienced the Nazi era first-hand, witnessed the deportation of Jews from his own town, grew up within miles of Dachau and labor camps, and saw the anti-Semitism of many in his own church–an anti-Semitism which is chillingly reminiscent of the cant spouted in the SSPX.
The pope spoke in general terms again about the Holocaust, but never descending into the nitty gritty of historical detail that could be a real catharsis. “How can we begin to grasp the enormity of what took place in those infamous prisons?” he said. “The entire human race feels deep shame at the savage brutality shown to your people at that time.” Yes, but the Catholic Church has a special shame, a specific responsibility.
The closest the pope came to that was when he cited a prayer written by John Paul II, saying he now took those words as his own. I’d like to hear his own words. He of course reiterated Vatican statements of recent days rejecting Holocaust denial absolutely, etc. Benedict appears to want to move on: “The two-thousand-year history of the relationship between Judaism and the Church has passed through many different phases, some of them painful to recall. Now that we are able to meet in a spirit of reconciliation, we must not allow past difficulties to hold us back from extending to one another the hand of friendship. Indeed, what family is there that has not been troubled by tensions of one kind or another?”
To me it was a lost opportunity. He will have another, as he confirmed that he will be visiting Israel in May. What an opportunity that will be. We live in hope.
PHOTO: Osservatore Romano via AP & NYT



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Gerard Nadal

posted February 12, 2009 at 1:55 pm


Do those Rabbis who wish to hold the SSPX’ feet to the fire on accepting Vatican II do so because of their own assent of faith? It is difficult for me to comprehend how they reject, wholecloth, our faith, and yet are so passionate about others holding to what they do not.
Clearly, they could take a page from Rabbi Hirschfield here at Beliefnet. I’m afraid that no matter what the Pope does, it will never be enough for some.
Given our sacrifices for Jews in WWII, and an ensuing seven decades of reaching out, is it too much to expect half as much good will reciprocated? Or, have we stumbled upon a fundamental and irreconcilable difference in world views?
I say let’s get on with moving forward.



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Gerard Nadal

posted February 12, 2009 at 2:07 pm


David,
Perhaps you could play “Pope for a Day” and write a script that you think will do the job. Then share it with us and the Pope. I can guarantee that for some it will not suffice.
What words can the Pope speak that say more, mean more than the blood of Catholics who went to their deaths in the scores of thousands to save Jews. Abraham Lincoln’s words at Gettysburg could just as well sum up the reality facing Benedict.
“But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain.”
Again, let’s get on with moving forward.



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Christopher Coughlin

posted February 12, 2009 at 2:59 pm


My mother is Jewish and my father was a Catholic tank battalian commander in the US army that liberated Nordhausen. I first read about holocausts in the Old Testament, learning Semites invaded the land between the rivers and cleared it of anyone living there. Men, women, children, even animals, no trace of several other cultures was left. As a child I learned ethnic cleansing itself was not abhorrent to Jewish culture, it was only Hitler’s choice of Jewish victims. That is why Jews protested when a Catholic chapel was built at Auschwitz to honor the million dead Catholic Poles, who also lost their lives, many for helping Jews. To many Jews, Catholic victims of Hitler are not worth mentioning or remembering. Pope Benedict should call Zionists to account for their treatment of their fellow descendants of Abraham, and the United States should offer the property of American Zionist’s in the States to Palestinians, and move all American Zionists to Palestine, to their God given homeland. Perhaps we would then have peace. Let us put an ocean between Palestinians and Zionists.



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Emilie

posted February 12, 2009 at 10:33 pm


David Gibson: “Yes, but the Catholic Church has a special shame, a specific responsibility.”
What exactly are you talking about? A “special” shame? A “special” responsibility regarding the Holocaust? C’mon, gimme a break!
The Church has rightfully done everything it can to strengthen Jewish-Catholic relations during the past 45 years. We should take pride in this. Additionally, during the AD2000 celebrations, Pope John Paul II reiteterated Catholic atonement for whatever errors we may have committed in the past.
Please remember that Catholics and Protestants were also sent to the Nazi death camps and that Catholic priests bore the brunt of the worst kind of Nazi brutality.
Catholic efforts to foster a healthy and constructive dialogue with Jewish friends should never cease. It is important work. But to suggest that Catholics wear a “special” shame or bear a “special” responsibility regarding the Holocaust is unacceptable.



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Your Name

posted February 12, 2009 at 11:06 pm


“Please remember that Catholics and Protestants were also sent to the Nazi death camps and that Catholic priests bore the brunt of the worst kind of Nazi brutality.”
6 million Catholic priests were murdered? I never heard about that.



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Terik Ororke

posted February 12, 2009 at 11:24 pm


When Jews forget that Christians also died, in many cases protecting Jews, then Judaism is doomed to the same fate as Nazi Germany — both Jews who forget and Nazis who did not care forgot the God WHO IS.



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Scott R.

posted February 13, 2009 at 7:10 pm


No one is forgetting, Terik. We’re also remembering the tens of millions of Xians who did absolutely nothing during the Holocaust – or who joyfully tossed the “Christ killers” into the fire so they could finally live in a land that was judenrein.
Get over yourself.



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Gerard Nadal

posted February 13, 2009 at 10:15 pm


Scott R.
Despite your pernicious anti-Christian bigotry, many of us will not forget the virtue of the Catholic priests, nuns, brothers, monks and seminarians who died by the scores of thousands for sheltering Jews. The same goes for scores of thousands of Catholic laity.
Your arrogant denial/dismissiveness of their goodness is every bit as vulgar and obscene as any Holocaust denier. God gave YOUR people the Ten Commandments. One of them was “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.”
You should think about that as you engage in your own twisted brand of Holocaust denial. In the interim, Catholics and Jews of good will are moving forward without you. It’s just as well.



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JB

posted February 13, 2009 at 11:11 pm


Gerard, so much for your “good intentions” on the other thread. All you want is to shut us up and keep us from speaking the Vatican-approved version of World War II. Beneath it all, you are an anti-Semite like the rest of them.
How is Scott R.’s post “pernicious anti-Xian bigotry”? Have you ever read a history book that wasn’t approved by the Church? Every Jew lost dozens of family members in the Holocaust. Your lack of sensitivity if mind boggling. If you think those comments are biggotted, I suggest you never speak to real Jews again, because most of us do feel that way – and worse. We’ll tell you on the net, never in real life, face to face. That wouldn’t be safe. Interfaith discussions are only done so that we can get assurances from Xians that they will no longer harm us. We do not and can not have closer relationships. Close interfaith relationships are prohibited by Judaism. We can not even walk into a church.
Can you give a citation for the “Catholic priests, nuns, brothers, monks and seminarians who died by the scores of thousands for sheltering Jews. One that hasn’t been blessed by the Church.
I’m glad I wandered onto this blog so that I could see that your words were hollow on the Rabbi’s.



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JB

posted February 13, 2009 at 11:16 pm


Incidentally, no matter what you’ve said on other blogs, 2,000 years can not be undone in 50 years, no matter how good a man John Paul was. It will take hundreds of years, if not a millenium, to build trust.
Do you really think I’m going to teach my son that the Catholics respect him after what you, and others, have said on this thread? Or after the Williamson flap? No, a healthy fear may not be sociabl, but it will keep us alive.



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Gerard Nadal

posted February 14, 2009 at 12:16 am


JB,
I am consistent with every word and sentiment expressed on Rabbi Hirscfield’s blog.
You ask me, “Can you give a citation for the “Catholic priests, nuns, brothers, monks and seminarians who died by the scores of thousands for sheltering Jews. One that hasn’t been blessed by the Church.”
Yes I can. It is a popular and well-documented book written by a Rabbi.
“The Myth of Hitler’s Pope: How Pope Pius XII Rescued Jews From the Nazis,” by Rabbi David G. Dalin, (Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing, Inc, 2005).
An excerpt:
Pg 2 “The rhetorical campaign against the pope’s conduct in World War Ii began as easily dismissed Communist agitprop against the strongly anti-Communist pontiff. But the campaign of vilification became a major issue after the 1963 Berlin premier of a play called The Deputy, written by a young left-wing German writer (and former member of the Hitler Youth) named Rolf Hochhuth… Promoted as “the most controversial play of or time,” The Deputy was fictional, highly polemical, and offered no historical evidence. It nevertheless became a sensation and ignited a firestorm of controversy in the media and among intellectuals.[ftnt 3: Joseph Bottum, “Introduction,” in Joseph Bottum and David G. Dalin, eds., The Pius War: Responses to the Critics of Pius XII (Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books, 2004), 3; the views of Alfred Kazin, Karl Jaspers, Hannah Arendt, and other scholars and public intellectuals on The Deputy and the public debate it precipitated can be found in: Eric Bently, The Storm Over The Deputy: Essays and Articles about Hochhuth’s Explosive Drama (New York: Grove Press Inc., 1964).
I found this book to be as illuminating as Martin Gilbert’s definitive work on the Holocaust.
As I said to you on Rabbi Hirschfield’s blog, not all of us are anti-Semites.
Scott R. dismisses the sacrifices and deaths of between 5-7 million Christians in those same camps, a fact also testified to by the Jewish historian Mx I. DiMont in his bestselling book, Jews, God and History. The truth is that we all had a stake in that terribly dark period of history. The truth, witnessed to by Rabbi Dalin, is that my Church contained enormous latent good will and love for your people which came pouring out during the Holocaust. The truth is that scores of thousands of our clergy died for sheltering Jews. The truth is that their sacrificial deaths are a solid foundation to build new bonds of fraternal love and respect-precisely to ensure that my people never again harbor such foul and vicious bigotry that could give rise to another pogrom or worse-EVER!
Scott R.’s denial and dismissiveness of the goodness in so many of my Church undercuts the very foundation upon which we build that new relationship. As such, I view it as every bit as pernicious as those Christians who deny the Holocaust. I denounce it as severely as any Holocaust denial.
Denying the work of goodness is every bit as malignant as denying the deeds of evil-regardless of who is doing the denial.
Yes, his denials do bear false witness against his neighbors. That’s a sin. In every post, I have said that we need to move forward together, and I mean it.
I will call out anyone, from any quarter who sabotages that work by denying any element of the truth. That doesn’t make me an anti-Semite, JB. Not by any reasonable definition.



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Gerard Nadal

posted February 14, 2009 at 12:49 am


JB,
“Incidentally, no matter what you’ve said on other blogs, 2,000 years can not be undone in 50 years, no matter how good a man John Paul was. It will take hundreds of years, if not a millenium, to build trust.”
Yes, I said as much on Rabbi’s blog when I said it would take much longer. In the 1980’s, I read Martin Gilbert’s definitive book on the Holocaust, in addition to many others. I found Gilbert to be the most thorough and well documented. I understand the Jewish experience. I attended school with children of Holocaust survivors and heard their stories, and I grew up hating the evil done in that time, a time before I was born.
I can not deny the goodness done in that time, and will not. No more than I will deny the evil. As I said on Rabbi’s blog, we live in consequential times. We have an opportunity to make “Never Again” a reality. That begins with understanding the TRUTH, the WHOLE truth, and dealing in the whole truth.
Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan used to say, “You’re entitled to your own opinion. You’re not entitled to your own set of facts.”
If “Never Again” is ever to become a reality, it will require that opinions are informed by the facts, all of the facts.
“Do you really think I’m going to teach my son that the Catholics respect him after what you, and others, have said on this thread?”
I will teach my son, and two daughters not only to respect Jews, but to esteem them as, “Our beloved elder brothers” as Pope John Paul II said. And I will teach them the whole truth of the Holocaust, how great goodness and love could not be conquered by great evil. I’ll teach them to be proud of our Catholic martyrs who died, not for their faith, but for yours. I’ll teach them to hate evil, including the evil of anti-Semitism. And I’ll remind them that Jesus was a Jew, not a Catholic. I’ll teach them to understand your justifiable fear of us, but not to let that dissuade or dishearten them. And you may teach your son that at least one Catholic is out there doing so, and that because of that, he will grow up with three Catholics in his generation who believe as their father and mother did, and who will raise their children the same way
My denunciation of Scott’s denial of the goodness in my Church does not negate all of that. It protects it. I wish you well JB, even if you feel otherwise.
God Bless.



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Bob

posted February 15, 2009 at 12:46 pm


“Jewish leaders seemed pleased…
Great.
“I found Benedict’s remarks flat-footed…”
But the Jewish leaders liked it. So whats the problem?
“the whole process seemed somewhat scripted…”
What!?! Incredible.. Next thing you’ll tell me is that our own Obama uses a teleprompter.
You know what, David Gibson, every time I read one of your posts I get the nagging feeling that you might be one of those self-loathing Catholics who’s strangely uncomfortable with his own Church and would be happier as a Protestant.
Everything the Pope does is wrong, the Church is too old-fashioned, etc. etc…
Well then what on earth keeps you here (in the RCC)?



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Paul Terry

posted February 15, 2009 at 1:03 pm


JB: I too stumbled on this site. Indeed, it can be very difficult to reconcile the cold stiff body of the institition with the warmth and flexibility of its members; 50 years can provide plenty of ecumenical linament.
Gerard: Moynihan was a wise man. So was Charlie Chan: “Facts, like photographic film, must be exposed before developing.” Move forward, yes; but so with the exposure of facts..



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Paul Terry

posted February 15, 2009 at 1:13 pm


Darn, I misspelled liniment. (cursing censored)



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Gerard Nadal

posted February 15, 2009 at 1:27 pm


Paul Terry,
You too are a wise man. If you’re the same Paul Terry I’m thinking of, you were at Columbia too!



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pagansister

posted February 16, 2009 at 4:31 pm


Of course the speech was scripted. Did anyone think Benny was going to write his own words? If, for the moment, things calm down on the latest goof by Benny, that is good. However, he seems to be out of touch in a lot of ways with the real people. He has men around him, IMO, who tell him what he wants to hear. How could he, in all good conscience, have lifted the excommunication of Williamsom IF he knew Williamson’s comments on the holocaust. As the head of the RCC, it is his job to know such things. His underlings need to keep him inmformed. As Truman famously said “The buck stops here”. In other words, I’m ultimately responsible. Over that past few weeks, I’ve gotten the impression that Williamson could give a rip about the Vatican and Benny anyhow.



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