That Old-Time Religion?
While the Catholic Church may have undertaken to change its attitude towards the Jewish People more than a generation ago, I think it is taking somewhat longer for Jews to change their attitude towards the church — and I think the same could be said regarding Christian America overall. Today, I would have to side with Gedalia that American Christian conservatives, Catholic and Protestant, have proven themselves friendly towards Israel and the Jewish People to an unprecedented degree. Pope John Paul II helped contribute to this shift. George W. Bush is both more devout and far more friendly to Israel than his father. Yet many Jews are so uncomfortable with religious Christians that they needlessly — and even irrationally — minimize or dismiss the positive acts and attitudes that we see around us.
I use the word “irrationally” with care. I do not think it rational to expect or demand of someone that they renounce their previous heroes in pursuit of friendship with Jewry. Reading the comments to recent entries, such as Rabbi Adlerstein’s discussion of the Pope, it is obvious that not everyone shares my view.
John Paul II demonstrated a great friendship towards the Jewish People. He prayed at the Kosel. He visited Yad VaShem, the Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem. He apologized for the historic animosity of the Catholic Church towards Jews. He reaffirmed the transformation of Catholic attitudes found in Nostra Aetate, and declared that the Jews are “the people of God of the Old Covenant never revoked by God.”
I mentioned in the comments that his last will “singles out only one living person that he felt fortunate to meet: the Rabbi of Rome.” DovBear responded that “it looks tacked on, or like a courtesy mention,” because the Pope mentions him “at the very end of a paragraph that refers favorably to all the cardinals, archbishops, bishops, priests, Catholic lay-people and non-Christian brothers in the world.” I strongly disagree. Here’s the paragraph, according to the official translation:
How can I not embrace with grateful memory all the bishops of the world whom I have met in “ad limina Apostolorum” (Eds: a reference to required, periodic visits)! How can I not recall so many non-Catholic Christian brothers! And the rabbi of Rome and so many representatives of non-Christian religions! And how many representatives of the world of culture, science, politics, and of the means of social communication!
Tacked on? It’s right in the middle of the paragraph — the mention is both obvious and extremely significant. The Rabbi is the single paradigm of all the “representatives of non-Christian religions” JPII considered himself fortunate enough to meet. He offers no such paradigm for the bishops, the non-Catholic brothers, or the “many representatives of the world of culture, science, politics” — no minister, no Nobel scientist, no president or king is afforded the honor that John Paul II gave Rabbi Toaff. That he mentioned him by office rather than by name is both appropriate and in no way minimizes the compliment. On the contrary, it is important to note that John Paul did not merely honor Rabbi Toaff as an individual. You know how people who stereotype say “your group is like this, but you’re different?” That’s exactly what the Pope was not saying. He valued the relationship especially because Rabbi Toaff was the Rabbi of Rome — the local representative of Jewry.
This is not to say that the Pope did not indeed honor Rabbi Toaff as an individual. Here is Rabbi Toaff’s own recollection of one encounter:
Rabbi Toaff visited the Pope in the hospital when he was recovering from an operation on his femur, several years ago. “It was his birthday,” Rabbi Toaff recalled. “So I decided to go and wish him a happy birthday and a speedy recovery. His secretary met me at the door and said he could not receive anyone. I said, no matter, kindly just go and tell the Pope I have been here to bring him my good wishes. His secretary did as I had asked and returned, amazed, saying ‘The Pope wishes you to enter.’ I found him in bed, and as I approached he threw his arms around my neck. I must confess this moved me deeply, and this is a memory I will always carry with me.”
Let’s remember for the moment that “Is the Pope Catholic?” is considered a rhetorical question. A Pope who “renounced” the historical saints of Catholicism — even those with Jewish blood on their hands — would be, in essence, changing their entire religion. With regards to Pope Pius XII, the question of his own attitudes must be set aside in favor of the more relevant question: are there defenses of his attitude towards Jewry, such that a person can be positive towards both Jews and Pius XII at the same time? The answer is that there are such defenses, and therefore there is no reason to cast JPII in a sinister light because he beatified Pius XII.
Let us not be kafui tova (deny/reject a kindness). Simply on pragmatic terms, it only works in our favor if we remember the Pope for his many acts of friendship towards the Jewish People — and Catholics do likewise. In this case, I strongly believe that it is emes, the truth, as well.
“American Christian conservatives, Catholic and Protestant, have proven themselves friendly towards Israel and the Jewish People to an unprecedented degree.”
Evangelical Christians are very friendly to Israel. Catholics and Protestants, as a whole, are not. Indeed major Protestant denominations are pushing for diverstment from Israel.
I think my emphasis upon American Christian conservatives agrees with you — meaning that it is the liberal churches, such as the Presbyterian Church USA, which have called for divestment. If my characterization of the PCUSA is mistaken, please correct me.
Whatever your sentiments on the pope, I must add that while it’s true that evangelical Christians are staunchly behind us and may be our best “friends” in America today, there’s a heavy price to be paid for that friendship. It is not all good. That doesn’t mean we should neccessarily cast it in their faces – hey, at least they’re not crusading against us and that counts for something, right? But we must be very careful about letting them become our “best friends” because they’ve got lots of money and the Israeli govt. loves money more than anything else. As it is, they hardly need outside encouragement to divest the state of whateve religious attributes it possesses, but a little [or alot] of evangelical money would go a long way toward speeding up the process.
The bottom line is that we have only one true “Friend” – Avinu She’Bashamaim!
“The bottom line is that we have only one true â€śFriendâ€ť â€“ Avinu Sheâ€™Bashamaim!”
No question. But that does not obviate the need for shtadlonus, and for cultivating the very best relations that we can with our countrymen. We don’t have so many friends that we can afford to cavalierly dismiss any, and particularly not those who have been our staunch supporters.
Here is the full quote:
“During the more than 20 years that I am fulfilling the Petrine service “in medio Ecclesiae” I have experienced the benevolence and even more the fecund collaboration of so many (1) cardinals, (2) archbishops and (3)bishops, so many (5)priests, so many (5)consecrated persons – brothers and sisters – and, lastly, so very, very many (6)lay persons, within the Curia, in the vicariate of the diocese of Rome, as well as outside these milieux.
How can I not embrace with grateful memory all the (7) bishops of the world whom I have met in “ad limina Apostolorum” visits! How can I not recall so many (8) non-Catholic Christian brothers! (9)And the rabbi of Rome and so many (10)representatives of non -Christian religions! And how many representatives of the world of (11)culture, (12) science, (13)politics, and of the means of (14)social communication!”
The Rabbi is 9 out of 14. Ok. Not great, but not terrible… but do you notice that the other 13 are all in plural? BishopS. CardinalS. Non-Christian brotherS. RepresentativeS.
And so on a long, long, list, a list that can be easily be understood to be mentioning several tens of thousands of people, we have one, single, lonely, Jew.
Forgive me for holding my applause, and for refusing to grasp, with no dignity, at this straw, a straw that is not useful, nor valuable, nor needed. Really, when will Jews learn not to chase elokai masechot?
As the for the Pope and his “friendship,” a photo op at the Westen Wall and a trip to a museum, a widly criticized apology, and this tacked on mention of the Rabbi, does not erase the offense this Pope, knowingly or not, gave to the Jewish people. The fact that he beatified Pius IX, knighted Kurt Waldheim, and moved heaven and earth trying to cannonize Pius XII tells me all I need to know about what this Pope thought was worth celebrating. Look at what — or who — a man praises and you have his measure.
And Zev, the people to whom you refer are not friends. Friends don’t eagery await your conversion or, absent that, your bloody anihilation. That’s their theology, remember? Rapture is not a game, to them. It’s real. It’s the day they await af all pee she yismohmayah.
The people on the left – the live and let live crowd – are far less threatening, and long term, they are far more supportive or us an our religious needs. They’ll never ask me to convert, never try to indoctrinate my children with idolatry, never attempt to create the Kingdom of Jesus on earth -and best of all, they will protect you from anyone that tries.
All gods aren’t created equal, Rabbi Menken; the Christian god has nothing to say to us and nothing to offer us, and his followers have not even begun to address the troubles they caused us. For 2000 years our Rabbis have warned us to stay away, far, far away, and I am not prepared, pace Zev’s touching, but baseless optimism, to start ignoring their advice.
I agree with most of the substance of the post. A minor quibble is that I believe it is not only Catholic conservatives who have become much more friendly to the Jewish people-but also liberal religious Catholics. I’m referring to those Catholics who accept the religion of the Church but are also into improving the world-lehavdil “tikkun olam”.
“George W. Bush is both more devout and far more friendly to Israel than his father. ” I hope that you could still write the same statement January 20, 2009.
” A Pope who â€śrenouncedâ€ť the historical saints of Catholicismâ€”even those with Jewish blood on their handsâ€”would be, in essence, changing their entire religion”
Excellent point-one can’t expect a member of one religion to renounce his religion. One who truly believes won’t-the Pope was a traditional Catholic-nonbelievers do not lead a life of celibacy for the priesthood. Not getting into a discussion of celibacy-but one must recognize that for a Catholic to become a priest requires giving up what the rest of the world considers normal-marriage-there is a huge sacrifice that would only be done by believers.
Judaism and Christianity are two distinct faith communities that cannot be brought together under the umbrella of the misused term “Judeo-Christian”. We differ not merely about Messiah but more fundamentally about fundamental concepts such as incarnation. Disagreement with the use of the term “Judeo-Christian” should not be interpreted as total negation of the religious values of Christianity.
Certainly joint action in the social and economic areas is appropriate. One probably should have discussion of purely theological positions where Judaism and Christianity have relatively little in common-especiallly on the Internet. In our attitudes, we are certainly closer to the Christian than to the secularist -but of course one must realize we would rather have a Jew become a secularist than become a Christian.
It should be obvious that issues of religious faith do not lend themselves to negotiation where in order to arrive at a mutually agreeable settlement both sides are ready to make concessions. Thus, we should never comment, criticize other faiths theological foundations-it is terrible from a pragmatic viewpoint.
It is not only the Pope who treated Jews well-many of the Cardinals did too. By the way there are many specialists in the Church who are very familiar with our sources-including Rishonim. Even though ein Torah bagoyim-there is Chachmah bagoyim. They have many who are experts in our sources-similar to Rabbanim who are experts in Catholicism. I believe the Archbishop of Boston? once said about Rav Soloveitchik ZT”L something similar to that if he had a question about Catholicism Rav Soloveitchik knew more than anyone in Boston.
Really, when will Jews learn not to chase elokai masechot?
This maybe nitpicking, but I think it’s important. That should read “elohai masechot”. By substituting “elokai” you imply that you’re referring to the real G-d, not false gods.
A Pope who â€śrenouncedâ€ť the historical saints of Catholicismâ€”even those with Jewish blood on their handsâ€”would be, in essence, changing their entire religionâ€ť
Ok. Maybe the religion should be changed.
MYKROFT, as usual, I really don’t understand your point. If the fringe of Hamas was to renounce its determination to drive Israel into the sea, wouldn’t that be changing “their entire “religion”
Of course it would be changing their entire religion! And any sensible person would welcome and embrace that change!
Why are you willing to tolerate the church’s willingness to tolerate the hatred of Jews? Why the blind eye? Why the free pass? What is it about the Catholic Church that makes good Jews so starry eyed?
It makes absolutely no sense.
One thing that puzzles me — maybe someone can provide some insight — is the wildly-circulated story about JPIIâ€™s insistence that a Jewish child be returned to his faith after the Second World War. Why on earth did he do that? Condemn that child to eternal damnation?
Thanks. You’re spot on.
The child hadn’t been bapitized. It would have been a violation of canon law, as well as an affront to the legions of Popes who had already “paskened” on the subject, to allow a baptized child to be raised by heretics.
Incidently, the most famous case (but only because it was the last, there were many similar cases) of the Church kidnapping a jewish child because he has been baptized, involved Pius ix, the man JP II cannonized in 1998.
By cannonizing Pius ix – a rare event; only SIX Popse have been cannoninzed since the 1100s – JP II very plainly announced his support for his predecessor’s policies.
I know that George W. Bush mouths pieties, but can you tell me what evidence you have that he is “devout”? And, for that matter, when he began to become “devout”?
(I consider John Paul II a mixed blessing, quite obviously conflicted towards the Jews. I am convinced he meant well towards Jews and everyone else but could really not fathom the enormity of the actions of some of his predecessors, the problems that Jews had with Edith Stein, Kurt Waldheim and others. In efforts to protect the Church ….be it the american sex scandals or by maintaining secrecy of the WWII aspects of the vatican records, he betrayed both his integrity and that of his church. But then perhaps I am hung up on WWII.)
Barry D Bayer
Editor in Chief
Law Office Technology Review
It is interesting that GWB’s critics accuse him of being genuine or an actor about religion essentially at whim. He’s “faith-based” (as compared to “reality-based”) one minute, and “paying lip service” the next. But by and large, what many liberal Jews (as well as athiests) find threatening is the very fact that he means it. You can disagree with his policies and their source, without casting aspersions upon his sincerity.
If he’s been acting since he “got religion” in 1985, give him an Oscar. According to the Washington Post, “current and former White House aides, as well as religious leaders close to the president, maintain that underneath Bush’s religious references is a no-frills set of classical Christian beliefs that he holds firmly but voices softly.” He studies the Bible daily, and speaks about his religious faith privately, not just in front of a microphone.
Forgive me, but you are bending logic into a pretzel trying to avoid John Paul’s special honor of Rabbi Toaff. You write as if Rabbis don’t qualify as “representatives of non-Christian religions!” Yes, John Paul II wrote about “several tens of thousands of people” — and he singled out only one. A “single, lonely, Jew?” Hardly — all the other Rabbis were included in the tens of thousands, categorized under representatives of non-Christian religions. But the only person in his entire Will to be singled out for honor (rather than taking care of last business) was a Rabbi.
Your argument about Kurt Waldheim is a good one. It does make you wonder — but again, whether we think he’s guilty isn’t the point. Waldheim has his defenders as Piux XII has his, and that JPII chose to believe the defenders doesn’t automatically call into question his friendship towards Jews. I confess total ignorance about Pius IX, but as far as how rare it was to canonize Popes — JPII apparently canonized more people than all of his predecessors combined.
Regarding Edith Stein, I never quite figured out what was so objectionable about canonizing a Holocaust victim. Obviously we’d have rather they canonized a Rabbi than a Nun, but that’s not realistic as expectations go.
“no-frills set of classical Christian beliefs”
Why doesn’t that make your skin crawl? It means he doesn’t believe Jews go to heaven. It means he beleived we killed Jesus. It means he waits for Rapture, and eagerly anticipates our death or our conversion. A no frill set of classical Chrsitian beliefs has always been dangerous to Jews, and Jewish interests. How short your memory is! (GWB, in fact said, in 1994 that Jews do not go to heaven. Google will lead you to the quotes. And note: if you argue that he does not hold those beleifs, you are, in fact, arguing that his “christian” beliefs are not classical, but something new.)
“But the only person in his entire Will to be singled out for honor”
And that matters to you because…? This is worth blogging about because…. Why are you celebrating the fact that the Pope deigned to notice one Rabbi? and why doesn’t that fact that one of the stated goals of the Catholic church is the conversion of the Jews, make you wary and suspicious? JP II was sly, I’ll give him that. He mentioned one Rabbi in his will, and look how all the good Jews swoon. The veiw from here: it’s disgusting, to see Jews acting like teenage girls in front of an avoda zara.
Why do you lack the ability to say, their god is not our God, and because of the goodness of God (not to mention the politics of Liberalism) after 2000 years they can finally no longer hurt us, so good riddance! Why the unseemly rush to gain their favor and to receive their worthless praise? Why the excitment at every half-recognition and every petty compliment?
“I confess total ignorance about Pius IX,”
I suggest you read up. This is the man who rebuilt the Walls of the Roman ghetto (after liberals tore them down) made Jews kiss his feet when they came calling, kidnapped Edgardo Morato, and more. See if you can figure out why JP II singled out this anti-semite for special honor. I can’t. (Well, actualy I can, but you seem unwilling to accept the obvious.)
Regarding Edith Stein, I never quite figured out what was so objectionable about canonizing a Holocaust victim.
JPII broke the churches own rules and denied his own medical experts opinion to canoninze Edith Stein. Why? Many scholars viewsthe canonization of Stein as a papal effort to hijack the Holocaust from the Jews, a way of saying “we were victims, not perpetrators,” a way of obscuring all the Church did, over 2000 years, to lay the groundwork for the Holocaust
I’m glad that we finally can agree that the mention of Rabbi Toaff was not a “tacked on courtesy” about a “single, lonely Jew,” but an obvious honor.
It is true that one of the stated goals of Catholicism is the conversion of Jews to Catholicism. I do not recall people being overly particular about the PLO Charter when they feted Arafat as a great peacemaker — but unlike Arafat, with John Paul II we have no evidence of a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Do we see that he acted to encourage conversion of Jews? Does the Catholic church sponsor Messianic groups?
On the contrary, even as a Priest it is reported that Karol Wojtyla believed it more important that a young Jewish child be sent to live with family than that he be brought into the church. How “many scholars” attribute sinister motives to his canonization of Edith Stein impresses me far less than the totality of his known behavior, which demonstrated unprecedented sensitivity towards the Jewish People.
No one is advocating that we accept Catholicism. I fail to understand why some believe that every Christian leader is almost by definition an evil enemy of the Jews, against all the evidence.
I freely admit that “classical Christian beliefs” do not make my skin crawl. If Bush is truly sincere about his Christianity, then he believes that I’m not going to Heaven. Secular people don’t believe I’m going to get into Heaven either, because they believe Heaven doesn’t exist (ch”v). This is far more troubling, because humanity demonstrates time and again that incentives work. Belief in a final reward does help us make better choices.
What Bush believes will happen to me in the end of my days, or at the end of days, is far less important to me than what he believes here and now. Last time I checked, his opinion of who makes it into Heaven wasn’t binding upon the Beis Din shel Ma’alah [Heavenly Court]. Here and now, he supports free and unencumbered religious practice, the right of Jews to live independently and safely in Israel, and — as a sincerely religious person — he respects sincere religious conviction.
“The live and let live crowd are far less threatening?” They don’t indoctrinate? They don’t want to convert our children? One wonders whether to laugh or cry. Forgive me if I get a little agitated about this; if I ever blog about it, I’ll take a while to express myself more sedately. Here’s my gut reaction.
It wasn’t so long ago that, in the context of Terri Schiavo, we were discussing how Jewish families dealing with the trauma of severely ill or injured relatives face unconscionable pressure to “pull the plug” — aka murder their beloved — from “live and let die” doctors and hospitals.
The US school system has degenerated into a secular indoctrination system where even a sticker recommending that students think about the theory of evolution is deemed a “religious intrusion.” [This is because the Theory of Evolution, for all its problems, is the only theory of our origins that does not recognize a Creator. Therefore it is an article of secular faith, and cannot be questioned.] And of course, we have to fund that school system while receiving not a dollar for our own children’s secular education, simply because we don’t wish our children to be indoctrinated in that fashion at the same time. The Christians support school vouchers, while the “live and let live” folks would happily see our families choose between Torah education and basic foodstuffs — so that they can convert us to secularism.
The Chofetz Chaim perceived that secular atheism was far more dangerous than Christianity. Hitler and Stalin did an excellent job proving him right. Live and Let Die may have made a good movie (anyone know?), but it’s lousy politics.
Iâ€™m glad that we finally can agree that the mention of Rabbi Toaff was not a â€śtacked on courtesyâ€ť about a â€śsingle, lonely Jew,â€ť but an obvious honor.
We didn’t agree. I don’t think it was an honor at all, and certainly not obvious. The fact that I didn’t reiterate that in my most recent post is not my way of saying I agree with you.
unlike Arafat, with John Paul II we have no evidence of a wolf in sheepâ€™s clothing. Do we see that he acted to encourage conversion of Jews?
Are you actually arguing here that the Pope renounced one of the tenets of his religion, and decided that the Universal Religion and the “King of kings and Lord of lords, very God of very God” has nothing to offer the Jews, and that it isn’t his obligation, as the incarnation of Jesus on earth, to lead them to it? Wow. That’s astrounding.
On the contrary, even as a Priest it is reported that Karol Wojtyla believed it more important that a young Jewish child be sent to live with family than that he be brought into the church.
That is in keeping with Canon law. It doesn’t display “sensitivity.” Canon law, going back hundreds, of years says that (a) an unbaptized child can and should be returned to his parents because (b) converson requires “daas” ie: free will and adult knowledge. Had the child been baptized (even against his will) Canon law would have forbidden returning him, because the church recognizes, that b’deved conversion, ie, a valid baptism done against your will is valid and irrevocable.Your ignorance of Church law, practice and history is allowing you to attribute motives to this action that did not exist or apply. And remember JPII beatfied Pius ix the pope who, in the Mortaro case, offered the most famouse demonstrationg of the significance and irrevocability of these principles. Why do you refuse to see this for what it is?
How â€śmany scholarsâ€ť attribute sinister motives to his canonization of Edith Stein impresses me far less than the totality of his known behavior, which demonstrated unprecedented sensitivity towards the Jewish People.
Please explain to me how honoring a Nazi like Waldheim and beatifying one of the most anti-Semitic Pope in history, the Pope that rebuilt the ghetto walls, and played a starring role in the most famous kidnapping case in history demonstrates “sensitivity.” You’re not focusing on the “totality of his known behavior” you’re focusing on photo ops and you’re picking and choosing.
I fail to understand why some believe that every Christian leader is almost by definition an evil enemy of the Jews, against all the evidence.
Eisav soneh et Yaakov. The people who beleived that are Chazal.
I’ll deal with your wholly unjustified, baseless, and ahistorical attack on liberalism when you express it more “sedately.” I’ll only point out that your friends the Christians made the Hitler’s work much easier, by laying the groundwork over several centuries, and were some of his very best allies. All of Hitler’s “ideas” for example (ghettos, yellow stars, strict segragation, confiscating Jewish business) were ENTHUSIASTICLALY embraced by the Holy See throughout the 19th century and as late as the early 20th century. And in 1945 Pope Pius xii, who excomunicated ever communist in the world, but never excommunicated a single Nazi, ordered a requim sung in all Catholic Churches for Hitler, the so called secular atheist, at his death.
You really must do some more reading.
If I want to write much more about this, I’ll have to blog a new entry. No, the Pope did not abandon official doctrine, but he certainly de-emphasized certain things in favor of others. Many scholars believe that most other Polish Priests would have been happy to baptize the young Jewish child rather than send him to America.
“Esav soneh l’Yaakov” is neither universal to every individual non-Jew, nor is it applicable to Christians over your liberal “friends” — who lead the way on everything from divestment from Israel to banning shechita.
We agree again by the end of your most recent comment. Hitler and his minions continued a long history of anti-Jewish hatred that spans European history. He and his atheist colleague Stalin merely raised it to new heights. The church, on the other hand, very visibly changed course, and that’s what you seem to have missed.
Many scholars believe that most other Polish Priests would have been happy to baptize the young Jewish child rather than send him to America.
Please cite your source. I very much doubt this is true, because to baptize the Jewish child against his will would have been an express violation of Cannon law, and it would have defied the clear, and unambiguous teaching of Popes going back hundreds of years. I doubt any priest, polish or not, would have been willing to do that. The story of Karol and the child -if its even true- really is not so extraordinary.
â€śEsav soneh lâ€™Yaakovâ€ť is neither universal to every individual non-Jew, nor is it applicable to Christians over your liberal â€śfriends
Of course it applies to all non-jews equally, but you don’t see me drooling over the remains of any secular anti-Semites do you?
The church, on the other hand, very visibly changed course, and thatâ€™s what you seem to have missed.
This statement is neither true nor reassuring. It isn’t true, because JPII’s church still saw fit to honor anti-Semites like Waldheim, Arafat, Pius 9, Pius 12, and the leader of Syria. It isn’t true because JPII’s church was still able to fundementally misunderstand the role of the Church in the Holocaust, as evidenced by his apologist apology “We Remember” The statment isn’t reassuring, because to say that this Pope was less anti-Semitic than previous Popes is a little like saying the dwarf is shorter than the midget.
The church, on the other hand, very visibly changed course, and thatâ€™s what you seem to have missed.
Changed course? Only because they –thank god– have been stripped of political power – BY LIBERALS Do you think for one second that the church would be all lovey-dovey in front of the cameras if they still had the papal states, and the political power they once enjoyed? The church didn’t change because the church is good. The church changed b/ liberalism dragged them kicking and screaming into the modern era. And if it weren’t for liberalism, they’d gladly go back to the inquisitions and the rest.