Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Thoughts About Pope Benedict, Richard Williamson and Interfaith Dialogue

After Yasir Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin met in Washington, monitors of Arab media pointed out the vast difference between statements in English and those directed at an Arab audience. The differences were far to great to be attributed to a problem in translation. It was outright duplicity.

Much has been made of Pope Benedict's act of rehabilitation, in which he revoked the excommunication of four right wing Catholic bishops. The most prominent of them, Richard Williamson has been most noted for his open support for and promotion of holocaust revisionism. There has been a chorus of condemnation of Pope Benedict, not only for Richardson's readmission to the Catholic Church, but also for his renewed use of a Good Friday service in which a prayer for the conversion of Jews is said.

I believe that a true enemy is better than a false friend. When the church said they wanted to convert us, then Jews were on guard. I feel that the renunciation of open conversion efforts was a change of approach rather than a change of objective.

I remember when Pope John Paul the Second visited Austria at a time when war crimes allegations were swirling around Kurt Waldheim, who became Chancellor of Austria. There was a photograph of Kurt Waldheim with a his mouth open and tongue out receiving communion from the Pope.

I think as little as possible of my Catholic religious instruction from six years of Catholic school. But when I saw that picture, I flashed back to my fourth grade teacher, who told us "Anyone who has committed a mortal sin must go to confession and receive absolution from a priest. Anyone who takes communion without having done so has committed a mortal sin.'

What I saw in the picture of Kurt Waldheim receiving communion was a public declaration by the Pope without saying a word was that Waldheim was absolved of any sins he might have committed.

The Catholic church can be very decisive when it wants to be. There was a Catholic priest in Massachusetts named Robert Drinan who was elected to congress in 1970. In 1980, he stepped down after being told directly by the Pope that a priest could not be involved in politics.

This stands in stark contrast to Josef Tiso, who was a Catholic priest when he served as the President of the Nazi puppet state of Slovakia, presiding over the deportation of Slovakian Jewry.

In the 1930's Father Charles Coughlin became one of the first mega preachers with his anti Jewish and pro fascist nationwide radio broadcasts. The church chose not to silence him.

What is most disturbing is the failure of the Catholic Church to transcend local ethnic hatreds and tame them. To be fair, this criticism applies to other Christian denominations as well who in Rwanda took part in the genocide in that country in 1994.

In Croatia during World War Two, the Catholic clergy participated actively in the crimes of the Nazi puppet state, through the Croatian equivalent of the Storm Troopers, the Ustasha. Many Serbian Christians in Croatian territory were murdered or forcibly converted to Catholicism.

In Israel, Arab Catholic clergy work hand in glove with political groups who seek to destroy Israel. The Catholic church tends to co opt local beliefs and practices and to blend in. What a Catholic bishop says in New York might differ vastly from the words of a Catholic prelate in Damascus.

There are many good individuals who attend Catholic churches. There are causes that believers of all faiths should support. Those who want to send their children to religious schools, whether Jewish or Christian and benefit from the school taxes they must pay should find common cause together.

Abortion should unite Christian and Jewish believers. Modest fashion, music and films can and should be made for the use of people of all faiths.

Jewish Christian collaboration should be on specific issues. It should be a practical united effort. We might be in such an alliance for our reasons and they for theirs. That is fine. If good will comes of such united efforts, that is even better.

It is foolish for us to lie to ourselves about the Catholic Church . It is pitiful for us to ask them to lie to us about their past and current intentions. It is far more dignified to defend politically issues of common concern to Jew and gentile and to defend our Holy Land with G-d's help and by force of arms.

It is with pained sadness that I present the videos with this posting . One video is about the Catholic Church in Nazi Croatia. The other is a video of an interview with a chromosomal human named Richard Williamson, the Catholic priest recently readmitted to the Catholic Church who denies the murder of six million Jews in World War Two. I juxtapose the two videos to remind the reader that there are Serbian Christians who also were murdered whose deaths Williamson would undoubtedly love to deny. I can not drink enough slivowitz to forget about the crimes committed with the help and blessings of Catholic clergy during World War Two. Forgetting these crimes when sober is impossible. I can not understand why anyone would even try.

I just read a story of a rabbinical court in Israel on Israel Jewish News about a rabbinical court in Israel that retroactively annulled a conversion of a man converted as an infant. It is only one of many anecdotes of chaotic fighting between rival Jewish groups and the unfortunate people caught in the middle of such discord.

Jews are trying to make peace with the Arab world. We are having an ecumenical dialogue with the Catholic Church. I have a simpler suggestion. Let's have peace talks with each other.

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