Prof. Paul Eidelberg
David Rosen, former chief rabbi of Ireland, heads the American Jewish Committee's Department of Interreligious Affairs. In the March 30 issue of The Jerusalem Post, Rabbi Rosen writes fawningly of Pope Benedict XVI apropos of the pope's forthcoming visit to Israel.
We read in the subheading of Rosen's article: "By describing anti-Semitism as an assault against the roots of Christianity, Benedict declares that for a Christian to harbor such sentiment is to betray his or her own faith." This being so, Christians in general, and Pope Benedict in particular, should regard Muslims—the most vicious and violent anti-Semites—as enemies of Christianity. This inference may be obvious, but it is not trivial, as we shall soon see.
Rosen quotes Benedict as having said in a visit to a synagogue in Cologne in August 2005: "today I wish to reaffirm that I intend to continue with great vigor, on the path toward improved relations with the Jewish people, following the decisive lead given by Pope John Paul II." Benedict was alluding to the establishment of full diplomatic relations between the Vatican and Israel in 1994 under the aegis of John Paul II.
Rabbi Rosen also offers this obsequious remark: Pope Benedict XVI "has a profound understanding of the significance of the State of Israel for the Jewish people." I wonder, however, whether Rosen has made an objective study of Benedict's attitude toward Judaism, and whether he is aware of the pope's morally neutral position concerning the conflict between Israel and her Islamic enemies? He following remarks about former professor, Cardinal Joseph Alois Ratzinger are extracted from my book A Jewish Philosophy of History.
Prior to his becoming Pope Benedict XVI in 2005, Cardinal Ratzinger wrote an article "Reconciling Gospel and Torah: The Catechism" (April 1, 1996). Professor Sergio I. Minerbi, who has written extensively about the Catholic Church, sees a double meaning of the term "reconciling." On the one hand, "to reconcile" is to make adversaries friendly toward each other. On the other hand, "to reconcile," in the context of religion, can also mean to convert Jews to Christianity.
In one of his books, Cardinal Ratzinger subtly attacked Judaism by saying that "the New Testament is merely an interpretation of the Tanach, starting with the story of Jesus." He audaciously avowed, says Minerbi, "the Tanach during Jesus' time had not yet achieved its final form and taken on the quality of definitive canon. He thus proposed [contrary to Romans 9, 10, and 11] a new version of the old theory of supercession [or replacement theology] according to which the Church is the true Israel."
(Replacement theology churches make up 63% of the American churches attendees. These include the World Council of Churches, the National Council of Churches, and the U.S. Presbyterian Church. On this issue, Cardinal Ratzinger agreed with these Protestant churches.)
In an August 6, 2000 document, Ratzinger wrote that that the only way to salvation is by joining the Catholic Church. On July 7, 2007, Pope Benedict revived the Catholic Latin Mass which permits Catholics to pray for the conversion of Jews. He claimed there are no alternative ways to salvation. This is not all about Church's attitude toward the Jews.
As Minerbi points out, even during the papacy of John Paul II, "the request for [the Jewish people's] forgiveness is not made in the name of the Church itself, but, rather, in the name of those who harmed the Jews." Pope John Paul thereby denied that the New Testament and the Church were in any way responsible for anti-Semitism. This, of course, is sheer obscurantism. Some Christian theologians, in essays compiled by Alan Davies, plainly trace anti-Semitism to the New Testament—obvious to any candid reader.
To spare the Church's reputation, Ratzinger distinguishes between pagan anti-Semitism, which he attributes to Nazism, and ordinary Jew-hatred. He contends that the Church had never been a partner to Nazi anti-Semitism but rather should be included among its victims. In other words, he regards the primary motive of Nazi anti-Semitism as an attack not against the Jews so much as against Christianity!
Further, on May 28, 2006, Pope Benedict XVI visited Auschwitz, more than 90% of whose victims were Jews. In his speech he quoted a sentence from John Paul II, who had previously said at the same place: "Six Million Poles lost their lives during the Second World War—a fifth of the nation." Minerbi comments: "By using the term 'six million,' combining the three million Polish Jews with the three million ethnic Poles, the Pope was, in effect, appropriating the Shoah. This is consistent with the fact that the Church has been systematically trying to present itself as a victim of Nazism, thereby exonerating it from any responsibility for the killing of the Jews."
Now for a word about the Church's attitude toward terrorism and Israel. According to Professor Minerbi, Pope John Paul II never condemned Palestinian terrorism outright. When the Pope did condemn terrorist acts, he did so when referring to international terrorism without a word about Palestinian terrorism. In fact, on two occasions, Yasser Arafat, the godfather of international terrorism who, in word and deed, was committed to Israel's annihilation, was a guest at the Vatican during the papacy of Jean Paul II. On February 15, 2000, the Vatican and Arafat signed an agreement rejecting Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Although Pope Benedict XVI said that no situation can justify terrorism, he nonetheless adopted, in effect, an anti-Israel position vis-à-vis Israel's terrorist enemies. Apropos of the Second Lebanon War and Hezbollah's unprovoked attack on Israel on July 12, 2006, the pope said on July 16: "At the origin of these devastating confrontations, there are, unfortunately, objective situations of the violation of law and justice. But neither terrorist acts nor retaliation can be justified, especially when these come with tragic consequences for the civilian population." This is much more than preaching "do not resist evil." The pope placed Hezbollah's terrorist acts and the Israeli retaliation on the same moral level: for him, neither can be justified. It seems that Pope Benedict XVI had therefore succumbed to moral equivalence, which makes nonsense of the New Testament. Perhaps those troubled by the theological implications of Israel's rebirth tend to sacrifice their intellects to their emotions. Of course, this criticism would be inappropriate coming from Rabbi Rosen.