I originally posted this with the Reuters item in the previous page reporting the dissatisfaction of Israel's leading rabbis with the Pope's words at Yad Vashem - because I wanted to confine the negative fallout into one post.
But John Allen's take on the Pope's address is such a minefield of prejudices militating against Benedict XVI that it deserves to be treated separately. Especially since it expresses all the 'politically correct conventional wisdom' that prevails in MSM - how much more conformist can you be than to glib spout and amplify PC-CW!). And I do want to get this out of the way before tackling the full papal schedule today.
At Yad Vashem, what the Pope doesn't say makes waves:
apeech at Holocaust meorial draws mixed reviews
BY John L Allen Jr.
May 11, 2009
Pope Benedict XVI has long been a figure who draws mixed reactions, with many admiring his clarity and intellectual depth, and others turned off by his traditionalism and occasional lack of a popular touch.
The pontiff's keenly anticipated visit today to Yad Vashem, the main Israeli Holocaust memorial, is likely to become another chapter in Benedict's mixed reviews.
Some are likely to see it as a stirring poetic meditation on memory and justice, while others will probably be more struck what the pope didn't say than what he did.
For one thing, there's no explicit expression of regret for Christian anti-Semitism, no allusion to the role that currents of thought within Christianity about Jews and Judaism may have played in preparing the soil for the Holocaust.
The omission is all the more striking given that on other occasions, Benedict XVI has acknowledged precisely that point. In a 1990 essay in L'Osservatore Romano
, for example, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger wrote of the hatred of Jews which led to the Holocaust, "it cannot be denied that a certain insufficient resistance to its atrocity on the part of Christians can be explained by an inherited anti-Judaism present in the hearts of not a few Christians."
Pope John Paul II, during his own visit to Yad Vashem in 2000, said that the Catholic church "is deeply saddened by the hatred, acts of persecution and displays of anti-Semitism directed against the Jews by Christians at any time and in any place."
[FOR GOD'S SAKE, DID THAT NOT SAY IT ALL, ONCE AND FOR ALL? WHERE IS IT WRITTEN THAT THE POPE SHOULD BEAT HIS BREAST IN PUBLIC OVER AND OVER ABOUT SOMETHING HE PERSONALLY HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH? Just to make the Jews 'satisfied' for the moment, but only for the moment?
Because there are muilitant Jews who will never be satisfied (they also happen to be the most visible and most publicized ones)- and it's sickening already that everyone in the media is so politically correct no one dares to point this out - this unconscionably insatiable demand to be apologized to, this perpetual self-victimization!
THERE ARE SO MANY POSITIVE WAYS TO ENSURE THAT THE HOLOCAUST LESSON IS NEVER LOST TO MANKIND - BEST EXEMPLIFIED BY THE MOTTO OF THE U.S. HOLOCAUST MUSEUM, 'NEVER AGAIN!" Which is the same message that Benedict XVI says every chance he gets. Why should he recapitulate the history of the Holocaust every time he refers to it? Particularly at Yad Vashem, which is all about the Holocaust!]
In Benedict's address today, there was also no direct reference to the recent controversy involving Bishop Richard Williamson, a member of the breakaway traditionalist society of St. Pius X, whose excommunication, along with three other traditionalist prelates, was recently lifted by Pope Benedict.
[Why on earth would he bring up Williamson in the Holocaust museum? And why should Allen, of all people, demand this? The critical rabbis yesterday did not even mention that!
The Pope's address at Yad Vashem was not intended to be a cover-all answer for all the unjust charges made against him. First, Popes never directly answer specific charges. More importantly, Benedict XVI would never think of using any occasion - much less this unique occasion in a unique setting - to defend himself or even speak about himself.
He made it clear at Yad Vashem that he was speaking as Pope and Successor of Peter - not as Joseph Ratzinger, German (as he expressly did, at Auschwitz). And he offered a philosophical reflection on the concept of name and identity as unforgettable to God - which is more original and helpful to ordinary people, even Jews, when considering the Holocaust than the usual banalities.]
That act became a cause célèbre be cause Williamson has a long record
of minimizing the Holocaust,
[Right! So long and so well-known that Allen, who generally poses as the know-it-all in Catholic journalism, never once wrote about it before January 21, 2009, no better than everybody else????]
including the assertion that the Nazis did not use gas chambers and that far fewer than six million Jews died in the Holocaust.
Benedict did, however, insist that the suffering of the "millions of Jews" who perished should "never be denied, belittled or forgotten."
Equally striking, the Pontiff never alluded to his own personal experience of the Second World War. The young Joseph Ratzinger was briefly and involuntarily enrolled in the Hitler Youth, and was later drafted into the German army. He ended the war in an American prisoner of war camp near Ulm, Germany. [IDEM. supra cit.]
Generally speaking, Benedict XVI does not draw upon his own biography in public in the style of John Paul, who recalled his experience growing up in Poland under the Nazis during his 2000 address at Yad Vashem. Nevertheless, if ever there were an occasion that seemed to beckon such a touch, a German pontiff visiting Yad Vashem would seem to be it. [Not necessarily! It's a matter of personal taste and style - something he demonstrated amply at Auschwitz.]
Moreover, it's not that Benedict XVI has a blanket policy against personal references. During his recent trip to Angola, he said that he could identify with their experience of civil war because of his own memories as a youth in war-torn Germany.
[Because he experienced the war directly! Even if he knew about German persecution of the Jews starting with Kristallnacht, like the rest of Germany and the world, he learned of the Holocaust itself after the fact - after the Allies discovered all the corpses and crematoria in 1945, confirmed later on by all the revealed Nazi decrees on the so-called Final Solution. No one - not even the Jews themselves, not Churchill or Roosevelt - was aware of the Holocaust as the literal holocaust that it was while it was tkaing place. It was only after the war that the horrendous extent of the German genocide program became known.]
Early indications are that even longtime Jewish friends
of the Catholic church may be left slightly cold by Benedict's words. [Are they really 'friends' if they cna be 'left cold' by all that the Holy Father did say yesterday, knowing how much else he has said in teh past???? Or have they simply been claiming friendship for convenience or other self-interested reasons?]
Rabbi David Rosen, a longtime veteran of Jewish-Catholic dialogue, told NCR this afternoon that the most important thing is that Benedict went to Yad Vashem in the first place, and that his comments on Holocaust denial were valuable.
Nonetheless, Rosen said, "it's disappointing that he didn't use this opportunity to go further, and acknowledge the tragic connection between the teaching of contempt and Jewish suffering."
[Just another variation on the apology theme - and its implied verdict that Christian contempt was ultimately responsible for the Holocaust.
Which is completely wrong, because Hitler's rejection of the Jews clearly had nothing to do with their religion but their race (non-Aryan = inferior, unworthy creature, in the Nazi ideological lexicon) - and that's a completely different thing from the roots of the Christian tradition of anti-Semticism, which was due to the obviously wrong belief that since Jews killed Jesus, all Jesus are guilty of deicide - a belief that was also most un-Christian in every sense, especially since Jesus forgave his executioners from the Cross!
I'm gagging from all this historical 'ignorance' - in the literal sense of ignoring historical fact and perpetrating myth in place of fact. I cna understand Rosen's insistence because he is a Jew, but what horse is Allen riding anyway - other than seeking to impose and project his own personal standards on Benedict XVI. In which context he is just some pesky flea buzzing in the elephant's ear.
On the other hand, some Jewish leaders seemed to stress gratitude for Benedict’s presence at Yad Vashem, almost apart from what he said.
"It’s not a great day for those who reject peaceful co-existence," Rabbi Arthur Schneier told NCR. A Holocaust survivor, Schneier hosted Benedict XVI last April when he visited the Park East Synagogue in New York.
Schneier also said that the Pope’s speech at Yad Vashem should be read in the context of his strong words this morning at the Tel Aviv airport about fighting anti-Semitism, as well as his reference to the bonds between Christianity and Judaism at Mount Nebo in Jordan just days ago.
[Schneier, who has been stuanchly loyal to Benedict XVI all these months, is the only one who has commented rationally so far about this. Benedict XVI obciously decided to tackle the major issues regarding Judaism and Israel at this airport arrival speech - to make himself clear again, first and foremost, as he began this visit to Israel. For which he was universally applauded, even by the same rabbis who criticized him for what he did not say at Yad Vashem. Yet they exoected him to repeat himself at Yad Vashem.
To fault him for not saying all the things they want to hear is equivalent to diminishing the importance of his visit. Do you think all this would have been avoided if he had prefaced his own address by saying, "Nine years ago, my beloved predecessor came here and said memorable words that you all recall. I am here to profess the same sentiments, to which I would now like to add this reflection"? No, they would have said, "Well, he should have repeated them in his own words!"
Holocaust passion seems to be an insatiable beast that must be constantly fed with what it wants to hear, otherwise it roars, breathes fire and brimstone, and threatens to devour whoever fails to do so.
Surely it is possible to look forward positively, never forgetting the lesson of the Holocaust - as Jews like Rabbi Schneier and Gary Krupp do - instead of forever looking back with so much rancour.
This is the second occasion when a speech by Benedict XVI at a key site associated with the Holocaust has drawn mixed reviews. When he visited Auschwitz three years ago, he suggested that the Nazis attempt to eradicate the Jews was ultimately an attempt to eradicate God, and thus to destroy "the tap root of the Christian faith." (A concept he expressed many times in the past, including at his keynote address in the first International Jewish-Christian Relations Conference in jerusalem in 1994. No one protested then.]
Some critics took that as an attempt to minimize the uniqueness of Jewish suffering in the Holocaust
[No! Their suffering was not unique. Genocides have happened in the past - and the horror of mass murder is not 'morally amplified' by the numbers involved: It is the same outrage to God when one human being is killed, or 400 as in Gaza rencetly, or six million as in the Shoah.
What is the moral distinction between the sufferings of, say, all the refugees left to starve to death in Darfur through no fault of their own, and the sufferings of the Jews who were sent to the Nazi death camps?
What is the moral distinction even between that and the sufferings of all the displaced Palestinians and their descendants, even if most of them chose to leave Israeli territory after Israel decisively won the First Arab-Isareli War (which the Arabs launched to try and abortt the newly-created State of Israel)?
Benedict said that standing at Yad Vashem's reflecting pool and seeing the faces of victims, "their cry still echoes in our hearts." He pledged that the Catholic church "is committed to praying and working tirelessly to ensure that hatred will never reign in the hearts of men again." ;And that goes for relentlessly rancorous Jews, as well: rnacour is just another form of hatred.]
"It is a cry raised against every act of injustice and violence," the Pope said. "It is a perpetual reproach against the spilling of innocent blood." [All innocent blood - including Israeli and Palesitnian civilians victimized in the current cnflict.]
Belatedly but thankfully, I see that Sandro Magister reacts appropriately to the Yad Vashem address, as he has always shown the right discernment and appreciation for Benedict XVI's texts, particularly in their theological and pastoral sense. And happily, we share the adjective 'original' to describe the reflections offered by the Holy Father yesterday.
But, of course, the world is still only too ready to pounce on the Pope - as the MSM did yesterday, with relentlessly militant Jews demanding their pound of flesh every chance they get. If Christians sinned of anti-Semitism in centuries long past, does that justify the Jews pursuing their own bigotry till Kingdom come?
The Pope in Israel:
Day One - two surprises
The world was ready to pounce on him, over the most explosive questions: anti-Semitism, the war.
But Benedict XVI did it his own way. He took two words from the Bible.
With the first, he explained the conditions for peace.
With the second, he illuminated the mystery of the Holocaust.
ROME, May 12, 2009 – As soon as he landed in Israel on Monday, Benedict XVI immediately took up the most controversial questions: first, peace and security, then the Holocaust and anti-Semitism.
On both fronts, the ambush was set. He was subjected to constant pressure, not all of it above-board. For many of his critics, the script was already written, and they were simply waiting to judge whether and how the Pope would stick to it.
Instead, Benedict XVI acted with surprising originality, in both cases. [Alas, with few to appreciate it, at least judging by immediate MSM reactions.]
He asserted the unbreakable bond between the arrival of peace and that "seeking God" which had been the dominant theme of his memorable speech to cultural figures in Paris: one of the capital discourses of his pontificate.
He developed the theme of security – which is crucial for Israel – on the basis of the biblical word "betah," which means security, but also trust: and the one cannot stand without the other.
On his visit to Yad Vashem – the memorial for the victims of the Holocaust, where their names are inscribed by the millions – the Pope illustrated the meaning of another biblical word: the "name."
The names of all "are indelibly inscribed in the memory of Almighty God." And therefore "one can never take away the name of another human being," not even when one intends to take away everything he has.
"The cry of the slain rises from the ground as in the time of Abel, against any spilling of innocent blood, and God hears all of their cries, because "his mercies are not spent."
The Pope wrote these last words, taken from the book of Lamentations, in the guest book that he signed.
[Magister then eproduces the texts of the two apeeches referred to
[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 5/13/2009 11:06 PM]