With Pope Benedict’s recent declaration of Pope Pius XII as “venerable,” it is becoming clear once again that the true nature of the Catholic Church’s relationship with the Jewish people is largely misunderstood as an effort to promote a “can’t-we-all-just-get-along” brand of diplomacy, but it is nothing of the sort.
The Second Vatican Council’s treatment of the subject, which is repeatedly misrepresented in the media, concerns an inter-religious relationship that is animated by the shared spiritual patrimonies of respective faith traditions that are united in covenant with the God of Abraham.
Attentive observers will notice that many of the most vocal so-called “Jewish leaders” (like Abraham Foxman of the ADL) that have turned the sullying of Pope Pius XXII’s reputation into a PR gimmick are not, and have never been, a party to this relationship. They are often little more than secular activists that march under the Mogen David while substantially sharing a heritage of faith with neither traditional Judaism nor the Roman Catholic Church.
Father David Neuhaus, S.J., Secretary-General of the Hebrew-speaking Catholic Vicariate in Israel, offered insight into Jewish sensibilities in an interview with Zenit last year saying, “The Shoah and its memory is one of the most central issues in Jewish consciousness. Together with a sense of solidarity with the state of Israel, the Shoah defines who many Jews are in the world, how they define themselves.”
In other words, the self-identity of largely “cultural Jews” is not primarily based upon a covenant relationship with God — in fact, it appears to be based upon political activism as much as anything — and it is these who cry out the loudest over the prospect of a future Pope St. Pius XII.
Such individuals are not the “elder brothers in faith” to which Pope John Paul II referred; they are enemy combatants in the culture war being waged against the traditional moral values that Judaism and Catholicism have perennially held dear; those shared tenets of faith that stand in opposition to the Left’s hell-bent determination to construct a society built on such planks as abortion-on-demand, radical environmentalism and gay “marriage.”
Make no mistake about it; this is the real reason Pope Benedict XVI is being opposed on this and so many other fronts by progressive forces both within the Church and without.
As Rabbi Yehuda Levin, the outspoken representative of the Union of Orthodox Rabbis and the Rabbinical Alliance of America, shared with me in a conversation concerning tensions in the Church’s relationship with the Jews during the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI, “There can be no question of this Pope’s affection for traditional Jewish morality, and this is where the real problem lies.”
Pope Pius XII, as anyone with access to a public library knows, was widely hailed by his contemporaries — numerous Jews included — for his heroic actions in defense of the Jewish people during World War II. The controversy surrounding his legacy came of age only years after his death; sparked largely by the imagination of a controversial playwright, Rolf Hochhuth, whose 1963 fictional drama, The Deputy, painted a nefarious picture of papal anti-Semitism during WWII.
While the play’s premise, which has given rise to a veritable industry of slander, has since been soundly debunked by both Jewish and gentile historians alike, it remains one of the political Left’s most treasured tools for whipping up the uninformed and unsuspecting into a self-serving frenzy.
“Anyone who understands the Vatican knows that in the last three decades, one of the moral and intellectual underpinnings of the papacy of Pope John Paul II was Cardinal Ratzinger. Whoever doesn’t understand this doesn’t realize that this man, Pope Benedict XVI, has a decades-long track record of anti-Nazism and genuine affection for the Jews,” Rabbi Levin concluded.
Both Catholics and Jews need to be careful not to be fooled into thinking otherwise lest they become a pawn, willing or otherwise, in a game that is ultimately nothing more than political in nature.