Thursday, February 12, 2009

Which Jew does the Pope support??

Few weeks ago, Pope Benedict XVI decided to reverse the excommunication that was imposed on several bishops with history of strong conservative inclinations in an attempt, as some reporters suggested, to be more inclusive of conservative groups deemed in the passed as fringe. The excommunication, to my knowledge, was not for their opinions, but rather for accepting appointments as bishops despite the objection of the Vatican at that time.

The world was up in arms over the rehabilitation. All that mattered was that one of the 'rehabilitated' bishops has recently expressed 'unpopular opinions'. He actually disputes the number of Jews killed in the holocaust and denied that gas chambers were used for the killings.

"Bloody murder' shouts started coming from the important parts of the world. Israel's Chief Rabi denounced the act, and severed relations with the Vatican. The paranoid head of the anti-defamation league started foaming at the mouth and the German Chancellor demanded that the Pope correct that horrible mistake.
And despite support from some Orthodox Rabbis for the Pope on the ground that how the Catholic Church runs its business is not for non-Catholics to decide, as much as how the Rabbis run their Jewish affairs is not for Catholics to decide. In other words, let each mind their own business, and stop interfering with other people's business.
The heat was to much, so the Pope had to come out, and denounce denial of the holocaust. The recently rehabilitated bishop was ordered to recant his statements about the number of Jews killed by hitler. I really do not care how this farce ends, but what the Pope said had to catch my attention. And as reported by the Huffington Post:
'Pope Benedict XVI, faced with an uproar over the bishop, said Wednesday he feels "full and indisputable solidarity" with Jews...' (Click here for full article)
WHAT??? What did he just say? "Full and indisputable solidarity with Jews"?

I cannot claim to understand the status of the Pope in Catholicism but as some of my catholic friends mentioned, he is supposed to be infallible on matters of faith and morality. What I failed to figure out is whether that his 'unqualified support for Jews' belongs to any of those categories, faith and morality' of it is an administrative worldly matter where he is not infallible.

I am not trying to belittle the Pope, but his statement does not much sense to me. If it is pure politics, then he is not doing his church any favor by mixing religion and politics. And if it a statement of faith and morality, then it should not be inherently contradictory, which unfortunately it is. And that can be very confusing to any thoughtful follower of his.

When person A says that a certain act is totally correct, while person B says that the same thing is totally immoral, you cannot show "full and indisputable solidarity" with both at the same time.

So, which Jews is the Pope showing full and indisputable solidarity with? Let us explore this a bit further:

Does Yitzhak Rabin who was assassinated for promoting peace with the Palestinians get the papal solidarity, or does his killer Yigal Amir who is treated like a celebrity by many killer-minded Israeli Jews?

Can the Pope pour his love on a scoundrel and thief like Bernard Madoff, or he would be more comfortable holding that out of concern for the feelings of Madoff's victims like the dozens of Jewish charities that invested with Madoff and are now bankrupt?

Are terrorists like Meir Kahana and his militant followers in the United States and in Israel, with their racist hateful rhetoric and acts, worthy of the Pope's compassion or he would rather pray for Army of Peace founder Uri Avnery?

Does the Pope prefer to show support for a murderer like Baruch Goldstein who executed 30 Muslim worshipers while they are performing their prayers in Hebron Mosque andwho is still considered a saint by many settler Israelis, or it would be wiser to save the support for the Jewish children exterminated by Goldstein's Nazi counterparts in Auschwitz?

Does he stand in solidarity with Daniel pipes, hate- and war-mongering icon, that built a career on exaggerations and lies against Muslims and Arabs, or with Gideon Levi and Amira Hass with their tireless effort to promote peace and honesty in reporting?

Would the Pope endorse Abe Foxman, the ADL hyper-paranoid president who behaves as if one who does not love Israel as much as they love God they must be antisemitic, or Richard Silverstein who thinks that Abe Foxman has no morals to speak of?

Does the Pope fend for Crazy rabbis of the West Bank settlements who declared a Jewish fatwa that killing innocent palestinians is Kosher, and rabbis of Shas Party who do think of original inhabitants of Palestine, be they Muslims or Christians, as if they were cockroaches and snakes?

Or would the Pope rather stand in line with the Antizionist rabbis and Rabbis for Human Rigths who denounce the occupation of Palestine, and with rabbis of Naturei Karta who think the whole idea of Israel as a state is a violation of the commandments of God?

I guess the reader gets my drift.

So, of all the Jews I have mentioned above, which group does the Pope support??

The Pope cannot have it both ways. A true Christian may be able to love people on opposing ends of any cause, but even the Pope cannot support opposing arguments simultaneously. And with blanket statements like "full and indisputable solidarity with Jews" he paints himself into a corner.

One has to assume that either he has a profound subliminal meaning that less-than-holy lay people like myself cannot get, or that his statement was founded in pure politics.

What do you think??


Selected Links:


  1. Khaled, I think you are exaggerating - a lot. Perhaps when the Pope was talking about the Jews, he was talking about the people in general rather than the State of Israel. Yes, you mentioned Jewish responses from Israel about the recent Catholic affair, but who did it come from? The Chief Rabbi, not some government Minister or Knesset Member. Who does the Rabbi represent? Jews. All your critics of the various Jews you talked about are of the Israeli political sphere. You need to differentiate between Jewish acts and state/political acts of the State of Israel.

    Your extension of of the Pope's pro-Jewish statement to a pro-Israel statement is the same extension certain people make when fire-bombing a synagogue in France as revenge or protest against Israel's recent war in Gaza.

    About the issue of Jewish involvement in Catholic affairs, read "Constantine's Sword" by James Carroll. For a long time, Catholic theological evolution revolved around anti-Jewish sentiment and resulted with much pain and death for the Jewish people.

    -Michael W.

  2. Hi Michael:
    I actually am very conscious of the differences between the Jewish People and the State of Israel.
    This posting is not about Israel, so do not take it that way. Its thrust is the general statement that the Pope made that was unwarranted by the circumstances, and as I tried to make a point of, is largely empty of content that stands the test of logic and objectivity, not to mention fairness, justice and ). If you take the word 'Jews' out of his statement and replace it with any other religion, ethnicity, national group group, it is like going to sound a bit more strange to most ears and will be equally devoid of content.
    Of course, attempts by Israel's public relations efforts, and by many pro-Israel groups to make Israel and the Jews one and the same thing is not something I invented.
    the total confusion between Jews as a believers of a particular religion, and Jews as an ethnic group does not help either.
    There is unfortunately such an effort, and many Jews are overtly opposed to it but they are not as well heard as the opposing public relations machinery.
    (see for example this
    Standing against a tide of hatred: It is not Israel's action, but the vitriolic reaction to it that has been disproportionate. There's only one explanation: antisemitism
    or this:
    Anti-Israel vs. anti-Semite,0,1357809.story
    and this
    Anti-Zionism is anti-semitism
    The insults thrown and Jews who criticize Israel as 'self-hating Jews' is an example of how some factions would like to make Israel and the Jews as one thing, and hence legitimizing using charges of anti-Semitic against anyone who criticizes Israel.
    Progressive and pro-Palestinian Jews have always raised the issue up, expressing their unhappiness with such an blurring on the lines between Israel and Jews.
    The Catholic contribution to the harm of Jews in the past is evident and undisputed, and that is for the church to correct. But that has nothing to do this article, or with making such blank statements under 'angry public opinion pressure', which the Pope should not engage in.
    His decision to rehabilitate the right wing bishop may have been wrong, and it may have needed correction. But that again was not the focus of that post.

  3. Pro-Israel groups that accuse Israel critics of antisemitism are sometimes legitimate, sometimes not. But you can't say that it is coincidence that a spike of antisemitic attacks occurred at the same time as the rise of legitimate protests against Israel. Perhaps if legitimate protesters against Israel confront the antisemites among them in those same protest events they participate in (such as the infamous Ft. Lauderdale Gaza protest), they wouldn't be called antisemites.

    Anyway, one must always be careful when taking only a few words from an entire speech. This is one instance. The pope was trying to mend recent friction in Catholic-Jewish relations. The Jews got angered with over the Pope's rehabilitation of a deranged bishop. The Jews don't like this bishop. The Pope said that he agreed with the Jews that the bishop's statement were unacceptable. What's wrong with that? Well, you took that statement by the Pope as sympathizing with all Jewish actions, rather than sympathizing with the Jewish condemnation of the bishop. As a Muslim American in post 9/11 America, I would think you would learn from the mistakes of many Americans of mischaracterizing the Quran and Islam who take just a few verses of Quran to represent it as a document of hate instead of providing context as on overall good document.

    The Pope shouldn't respond to "angry public opinion pressure"? Why not? He's a leader/public figure. If the American President said something wrong (axis of evil) that angered the Iranians, well, the President needs a change of tone such as what Obama is doing now. As in the book I mentioned, the author says that for a long time Catholicism and some Christianity sects themselves by being anti-Jewish. It's very complex, the book is almost 700 pages.