With the recent announcement that Pope Benedict has reinstated four bishops who had been excommunicated as schismatic, we have entered a new phase of Jewish-Catholic relationships, and not a good one.
It’s not the place of a non-Catholic to take issue with what Catholics find heretical. What should give pause is the reinstatement of Holocaust denier Bishop Richard Williamson.
Equally disturbing are the pallid responses of Jewish civil servants to this latest outrage against Jews.
ADL leader Abraham Foxman (in the New York Times, on Jan. 25) wrote that this reinstatement “could provide succor to those whose views threaten the Jewish people and the church’s desire to improve and deepen its relationship with us to benefit all mankind.” Rabbi David Rosen of the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations (in the same source) called on the Vatican to “reiterate its unqualified repudiation and condemnation of… any Holocaust denial.”
Israeli interfaith organizations and the rabbinate have written similar responses.
Well, that should certainly make a difference. Not.
The Pope’s decision is in direct response to a letter sent by the Society of Pius X, which itself was founded in 1970 in opposition to, and in open conflict with, the liberalizing reforms of Vatican II that opened a meaningful dialogue between Jews and Catholics.
In a letter to Germany’s 27 official bishops in October, the director of the society’s German branch, Rev. Franz Schmidberger, wrote that Jews “are not ‘our older brothers in faith.’” Instead, he wrote, “for as long as they do not distance themselves from their forefathers’ guilt through the avowal of Christ’s divinity and baptism, they are complicit in the deicide,” according to a copy of the letter available on the society’s website.
Pope Benedict himself has a totally different agenda for the church, and it certainly does not include making nice with the Jews. Foxman et al can write all the letters they want. Just get out of the Pope’s way, because his train is not going down that track.
This latest incident is not the only indicator that the Pope plans to follow in the footsteps of his illustrious predecessor: the late (and not by us lamented) Pope Pius XII – who, by the way, Benedict recently set on the road to sainthood. This is the man whom author John Cornwell calls “Hitler’s Pope.” Pius XII, in turn, followed Pius X’s anti-modernizing program for the Church.
But he was much worse. As Hitler began his campaign of genocide, Pius XII stepped out of the way in return for hegemony over the Church hierarchy, signing a pact with Hitler that in effect withdrew the Church from denouncing the war against the Jews.
If this chain seems tenuous, it’s not. There’s a clear connection between Pius X, XII, and Benedict. Their goal: to assure the supremacy of the papacy, and to oppose any acknowledgement of the validity of other faiths, and certainly any of the reforms derived from Vatican II.
That includes detente with the Jews, who, in any case, face eternal damnation, since there is no salvation outside the Church. That’s another tenet of the present pope, who has written much on how the other Christian denominations – never mind Jews and Muslims – rate lower in the scale of salvation.
Hitler’s Pope: the Secret History of Pius XII, by Cornwell, documents the way Pius XII manoeuvred to remove resistance to Hitler by Church officials, many of whom were appalled by Nazi Germany.
Why? Because control of doctrine and the vast engine of the Church were Pius’ goals. Those same goals, through a smaller but doctrinally pure Catholic Church, are also the goals of Benedict.
The victims in this are those Catholics who want to remain in the Church yet want it to embrace a wider spectrum of faith, while at the same time maintaining the spiritual strength that the Catholic faith offers them.
It’s not our job to tell the church what to do. But having been the victims of its disregard of atrocity once, we can only watch as it prepares to eat its own, or at least to turn them away, as it were, at the door of the cathedral.