Catholic Bashing!

Pope Compared to Adolf Hitler

Christopher A. Ferrara

"What is the value of a church

that could not assert God’s fundamental teachings during the Third Reich?"

...Rabbi Walter Homolka

(Posted April 2, 2008 I am convinced that the putative “division” among traditionalists over the Pope’s revision of the ancient Good Friday prayer for the conversion of the Jews is largely the result of a misunderstanding of the issue.  It should hardly be necessary to say this yet again, but there are still some among us who do not, or will not, recognize what The Remnant and its writers are really saying in this controversy:  No one at this newspaper, and no traditionalist in the entire “movement” so far as I can tell, had any desire to see the Pope revise the traditional prayer. As I wrote on these pages exactly two weeks before the prayer was revised:

As this article goes to press, the worldwide media are abuzz with unconfirmed reports that Pope Benedict will alter the traditional Good Friday prayer for the conversion of the Jews in response to agitation from a few Jewish groups, especially Abe Foxman’s Anti-Defamation League….

At stake in this matter is nothing less than the dignity of the papal office. Should Benedict cave in to pressure and neuter the Good Friday prayer, he will have sent the message that the Pope may be lobbied at will by groups and people demanding compliance with “the reforms of Vatican II.”  And where will it end?

We can only hope the reports are false, or that the Pope, if he does alter the prayer, does so in a way that leaves intact the Church’s unambiguous call for the conversion of the Jewish people, no less than the other peoples of the earth. [“Peter and the Wolves,” January 21, 2008).

For the last time, then, The Remnant’s position, as expressed in its International Declaration in support of the Pope, is not that the Pope’s revision of the prayer is a wonderful thing for which we thank His Holiness—please!—but rather that we ought to defend the Pope’s decision now that it has been made.  Why?  For one reason only: The prayer as revised is so plainly orthodox that the same cranks demanding revision of the traditional prayer are now fuming with uncontrollable outrage and contempt for the Pope and the Church he heads. For the Pope’s action has made it clear that prayers for the conversion of the Jews are not some outmoded theological artifact consigned to oblivion at Vatican II, but rather still very much a part of the life and theology of the Church.

It must said that, as John-Henry Westen reports elsewhere on this website, Jewish spokesmen, such as the well known practicing Jew and political commentator, Michael Medved, take strong exception to those in the Jewish community who are agitating against this teaching:

(A)ny American Jew who doesn't already understand that sincere Christians want the whole world ultimately to come to Christ - including us - is an ignorant fool. Yes, Christianity believes in converting people: and most of us received that memo about 2000 years ago. The proper response to the declaration that Christians want all of humanity to become Christian shouldn't be outrage or indignation; it ought to be, 'Duh!' If your friends or neighbors seek to share with you the greatest gift they've ever received, it's not usually a sign that they hate you; in fact, it's very likely an indication that they love you.

On the fairly reasonable assumption that the Pope knew exactly what he was doing, I have called the revision of the prayer a “masterstroke”—one that I did not foresee when, two weeks earlier, I expressed strong opposition to any change. But even assuming that the consequence of the Pope’s decision—a reaffirmation of Tradition seen as such by the Church’s critics—was totally unintended by him, nevertheless under the circumstances we have no choice but to defend the decision of the Supreme Pontiff. Once again—for apparently this cannot be repeated often enough—the issue is not whether the revision of the prayer was a good idea in itself. As John Vennari, writing in Catholic Family News, has put it: “Thus, whether or not we believe the new Good Friday prayer a good idea,  the Pope is entitled to our sympathy and support if, as a result of publishing this new prayer, he is attacked by the ancient enemies of Christ.”  Read those words again: the Pope is entitled to our sympathy and support—entitled—if he is attacked over his decision.

Now, if we all agree that the Pope is entitled to our support even if we all would rather His Holiness had retained the traditional prayer, then I confess I do not see any principled basis for this “division” among traditionalists. The illusory nature of the “division” becomes even more evident when one considers that as a practical matter no one is compelled to use the revised prayer anyway. No new Missal incorporating it has been ordered by the Pope, nor is there any Vatican directive that requires bishops or priests to create little prayer cards containing the revised prayer and to distribute them in the pews. There is, then, nothing in place for a binding official replacement of the prayer. 

Hence I know of a diocesan-approved Latin Mass community whose priests used this year the pre-1955 version of the traditional prayer with its omission of the flectamus.  By comparison, I know of an SSPX chapel that used the post-1955 (pre-1962) version, to which Pius XII added the flectamus so as to avoid treating the Jews differently from the others whose conversion is prayed for. Amusingly enough, the “approved” Latin Mass was “more traditional” than the SSPX Mass, if one thinks that “tradition” depends upon such nits. Are we really so obtuse that we cannot see what the Pope surely understands: that revision of the prayer is primarily for public consumption, and that no one is strictly bound to incorporate it (how? by whom?) into the Roman Missal?

If, nevertheless, some traditionalists are going to continue with disquisitions in opposition to the revised prayer, they should at least be fair in their presentation. I was extremely disappointed to see this line from the Southern Sentinel newsletter of the Holy Cross Seminary of SSPX in Australia, written by Father Scott: “The new prayer removes, of course, all such expressions, substituting them simply with the prayer that “they may acknowledge Jesus Christ.” (Southern Sentinel, March 1, 2008).   Well, the revised prayer says a bit more than that.  It says:

Let us also pray for the Jews: that God our Lord might enlighten their hearts, so that they may acknowledge Jesus Christ as the Savior of all mankind.

Oremus et pro Iudaeis. Ut Deus et Dominus noster illuminet corda eorum, ut agnoscant Iesum Christum salvatorem omnium hominum.

I query why Father Scott put a period at the end of his quotation instead of using an ellipsis to alert the reader that he had left out the following rather important words: “the Savior of all mankind.” I wonder why he also failed to mention that the revised prayer begins “Let us also pray for the Jews: that God our Lord might enlighten their hearts…”  Did he not think it was important for his readers to know that the revised prayer speaks of enlightening Jewish hearts and of Christ as the savior of all men, including the Jews?  I rather doubt the search for truth is advanced by omitting such facts. What would be advanced, however, is the search for a way to win an argument.

If certain traditionalists want to continue to voice objections to the revised prayer, they are certainly free to do so.  But while reserving that right, let them also come to the defense of the Pope as he is being subjected to relentless attack by liberal Jewish critics for what he has done. This issue is simply not going away, as we see with the utterly outrageous statements by Rabbi Walter Homolka, a representative of the World Union for Progressive Judaism in Germany. The World Union has 1.6 million members in 46 countries and claims it is the world’s largest Jewish religious organization. With the subtlety of a bulldozer, Homolka suggested last February that the Pope’s revised prayer, which repeats the Church’s perennial request to God that He enlighten the hearts of the Jewish people so that they may acknowledge Christ as Savior, should be viewed in the context of Nazism. Not content with this outrageous suggestion, Homolka has upped the ante in an interview with the German daily Der Spiegel, published online—appropriately enough—on Good Friday.

Providing Homolka with a forward pass, Spiegel comments that “In contrast to his predecessor Pope John Paul II, who was feted for his efforts to build bridges with other religions, Benedict has succeeded in alienating members of other faiths on several occasions since he took office in 2005. He offended Muslims with a 2006 speech at the University of Regensburg in which he quoted a Byzantine emperor who described Islam as violent. Many Jews were disappointed with Benedict’s 2006 visit to Auschwitz, having hoped for a stronger message on the Church’s role in the Holocaust. More recently, Jewish groups criticized Benedict’s meeting with a notoriously anti-Semitic Polish priest in August 2007. The latest incident is likely to further jeopardize efforts to promote Catholic-Jewish dialogue.”

Get it?  John Paul II good.  Benedict bad. Taking the ball and running with it, Homolka complains that Pope Benedict

has lost his sensitivity. It is insulting to Jews that the Catholic Church, in the context of Good Friday of all things, is once again praying for the illumination of the Jews, so that we can acknowledge Jesus as the savior. Such statements are made in a historical context which is closely connected with discrimination, persecution and death. Given the weight of responsibility that the Catholic Church has acquired in its history with Judaism, most recently during the Third Reich, this is completely inappropriate and must be rejected to the utmost degree.

Consider those words very carefully: The representative of the world’s largest Jewish religious  organization, advancing beyond his more tentative suggestion in February, now explicitly declares that Pope Benedict’s action in revising the Good Friday prayer adds to what he claims is the Catholic Church’s responsibility for the Third Reich.

It is hard to imagine a more despicable form of demagoguery. Homolka is simply shameless. But wait: it gets worse—much worse. Commenting further on the new prayer, Homolka protests that its text “indicates that he [Pope Benedict] believes that the path to salvation, even for Jews, can only go through Jesus, the savior.”  In other words, Homolka attacks the Pope for believing in the infallibly defined dogma of the Catholic faith that no one can be saved except by Jesus Christ. Homolka then takes it up another notch: “The Internet is already full of comments by conservative, right-wing Catholics [including this columnist, perhaps?] who say: ‘Wonderful, now we finally have the signal to convert the Jews.’ This kind of signal has an extremely provocative effect on anti-Semitic groups. The Catholic Church does not have its anti-Semitic tendencies under control.”

So, by revising the Good Friday prayer in a way that reaffirms the original prayer’s call for Jewish conversion, Pope Benedict is not only adding to the burden of the Church’s (imaginary) complicity in the Third Reich, but is also unleashing the Church’s “anti-Semitic tendencies”—those being defined as the belief of Catholics in the Church’s traditional teaching on the conversion of the Jews.

When asked point blank: “So Benedict is encouraging anti-Semitic tendencies?”, Homolka replied: “He is accepting them, at the very least.” At the very least!  In other words, the Pope is not only encouraging “anti-Semitic tendencies,” but may also have those tendencies himself. Is that really what Homolka means to suggest? There is no question about it. When asked whether the new prayer is not an improvement—from the Jewish perspective—over the old one, he replied:

I consider Benedict’s version, too, to be more than unfortunately worded. He is making, on a central liturgical occasion, namely the Good Friday liturgy, a theological statement that Jews cannot help but perceive as aggressive and crass. Throughout history, Jews have repeatedly been subjected to persecution and death on Good Friday. Christians have often translated the message of Good Friday into the question: “Where are the murderers of Christ?”

So, according to Homolka, by revising the prayer  the Pope is sending a “message” that calls for a return of the mythical Catholic practice of persecuting and murdering Jews on Good Friday! But surely not even Homolka is contending that there could be any such danger to Jews today. On the contrary, that is exactly what this shameless demagogue is suggesting. When asked “But wasn’t this danger [what danger?] eliminated long ago?” he replied: “any approach to the possibility of a mission by the Church to convert Jews is essentially a hostile act—a continuation, on a different level, of Hitler’s crimes against the Jews.”

Yes, incredibly enough, Homolka dares to assert that Pope Benedict’s revision of the Good Friday prayer is an act akin to Hitler’s genocide! This would be hilarious if Homolka were not so deadly serious.  He clearly means to incite worldwide fear and loathing of the Pope among Jews.

When asked if he was not exaggerating just a wee bit—after all, only a few Catholics will be using the revised Latin prayer—Homolka answered: “The issue is not where this extraordinary form of the prayer will be used. The pope, by choosing the wording himself, has made an important, precedent-setting change and has given it his personal seal of approval.” That is, the Pope has given his seal of approval to “the anti-Semitic tendencies” of the Church.  Read: Pope Benedict XVI is an “anti-Semite.”

Homolka would rather the Pope had mandated that Latin Mass-attending Catholics use the vapid and utterly ambiguous 1970 version of the prayer employed in the New Mass of Paul VI, which states: “Let us pray for the Jewish people, the first to hear the word of God, that they may continue to grow in the love of his name and in faithfulness to his covenant”—whatever that means. But, says Homolka, by personally devising instead a revised prayer that retains the call for the divine illumination of the Jewish people the Pope “deprives the acceptable 1970 form of the prayer of its credibility.” Indeed, he does! So, the Pope should have used the prayer Homolka deems “acceptable” instead of providing a revision that implicates the Pope in the crimes of Hitler.

Is there no limit to this man’s impudence? No, there isn’t. Asked this question: “Christianity is a missionary religion. Isn’t it logical that it would also seek to convert Jews?”, Homolka gives this answer:

No, because the controversial Good Friday Prayer completely ignores the unique status of the Jews as God’s chosen people. God called us Jews to be a ‘light for the nations,’ so we certainly do not require illumination by the Catholic Church. The younger sister has clearly struck the wrong chord here.

As Homolka would have it, the Catholic Church’s prayers must acknowledge her theological inferiority to “the light for the nations,” including “progressive” rabbis like himself, who condone abortion, contraception and divorce. Pressing further, Homolka’s interviewer points out, quite reasonably, that “Jesus himself was of course a Jew and he proselytized among the Jews.” This prompts Homolka’s next outrage:

Jesus put forward his arguments within the context of an internal Jewish dialogue. What the Church turned this into was something completely different. It made Jesus the rabbi into a deity. On top of that, it claims that the crucifixion of this rabbi is relevant to my personal salvation. Such teachings would have been news to Jesus.

Simply incredible. The self-proclaimed representative of the “light for the nations” assures us that Christ would be surprised to learn of the Catholic teaching that He is God Incarnate as opposed to a rabbi who debated with other rabbis.

There we have it: This is why Homolka, and all those who think like him, loathes the new Good Friday prayer. He and his collaborators loathe it because they reject the divinity of Christ and consider it “anti-Semitic” for the Church to preach the divinity of a mere rabbi who lived and died 2,000 years ago. They loathe the Good Friday prayer because they loathe the Catholic Church that makes of this mere rabbi a divinity. As Homolka asks his interviewer contemptuously: “What is the value of a church that could not assert God’s fundamental teachings during the Third Reich?”

It takes a lot of malice to utter a lie like this. As Homolka surely knows, Jewish spokesman after Jewish spokesman following World War II, including Albert Einstein and Golda Meir, praised Pius XII for his courageous actions to defend and protect Jews during the genocide.  No less than the chief rabbi of Rome, Israel Zolli, was so inspired by Pius XII’s example of heroic Christian charity that he converted to Catholicism, taking Eugenio—the Pope’s given name at birth—as his own baptismal name in honor of Pius.

Quite simply, Homolka is a hater and a bigot, and his interview with Spiegel is “hate speech,” if we must use a term invented by the New World Order. The Pope’s actions have flushed Homolka out, along with all the other haters and bigots who think the way he does.  Hence, whether or not we would have preferred to remain with the old prayer, it should be obvious by now that the Pope’s revision of it is a providential development because it has revealed for all to see the burning enmity toward the Catholic Church and its Founder that people like Homolka have always harbored in their breasts throughout decades of Catholic-Jewish “dialogue.”

In a way, we owe Homolka thanks. For he has provided the proof that, when all is said and done, it is Catholicism itself that his ilk views as “anti-Semitic” and wants to see repealed forever, and that “dialogue” is the way they thought they could prevent the Church from reaffirming what she believes on the authority of God speaking. Indeed, Homolka seems to think the Church’s teaching on Jewish conversion was repealed at Vatican II, only to learn from the Pope’s action that the Church does not and cannot repeal revealed truth, does not and cannot repudiate the divinity of her own Founder, does not and cannot deny that He is the “saviour of all mankind,” as the new prayer states.

Homolka concludes his interview by expressing his contempt precisely for what he sees as Benedict’s attempt to end the post-Vatican II drift of the Church and steer a course back toward Tradition:

What we have here is a captain on the bridge of his supertanker. A new course was set with the Second Vatican Council. Now the captain wants to turn around and set another new course within a short period of time. And one or two explosive devices are needed to get the ship into its new position. For the pope, the Church of the Second Vatican Council has lost too much of its power to retain the faithful, and university theology has become too feeble. This is why we are seeing these massive changes in the Catholic Church.

What could be more revealing of the true intentions of “dialogue partners” like Homolka? For them, “dialogue” was never anything but the means by which the illusory “Church of the Second Vatican Council,” the Church that “lost too much of its power to retain the faithful,” would be kept in this condition of weakness. “Dialogue” was a weapon deployed against the Church by her worst foes.

Homolka’s last words include these:

Good Friday this year will be a black day in relations between Jews and Catholics…. Four Jewish speakers have already cancelled their participation in the German Catholic Convention. Nerves are raw on the Jewish side. A few months ago, (Jewish intellectual) Micha Brumlik warned of an ‘ice age’ and now it has arrived…..

And all of this, mind you, because of a prayer that merely repeats the Church’s traditional petition to God for the conversion of the Jewish people, along with all the other peoples of the earth—a prayer that is an act of supernatural love. That hate-mongering, juvenile pouting and quasi-hysteria are the end result of some forty years of Catholic-Jewish “dialogue” is but another indication of why the dialogue must end. For “dialogue” clearly has not served the cause of the Gospel, but rather the cause of those whose utter contempt for Christ and His Church is erupting to the surface now that they suspect that “dialogue” might no longer serve their aims.

Let us, then, agree to disagree over the wisdom of the Pope’s revision of the Good Friday prayer. Let us put that dispute behind us and focus instead on building what should be a united front of every individual and group that professes to defend Tradition in communion with Rome. The matter is really very simple, and the division some think exists is not really there.

When the Pope is attacked by the Church’s most outspoken critics, we—all of us—must defend him. And it seems the only Catholics defending the Pope against the Homolkas of the world are, in fact, traditionalists. The neo-Catholic establishment is silent. The “respectable” Catholic media are silent. The bishops’ conferences are silent.  That silence, ironically enough, is our cue to speak out.

Providence, at this very moment, is presenting a challenge to our movement: To lead a defense of Benedict XVI while the “mainstream” of the Church beats a hasty retreat—to lead that defense, moreover, whether or not we have agreed, or will agree in the future, with every prudential decision of the Pope. To defend the Pope in these circumstances is hardly “papalatry.” It is simply what Catholics are obliged to do whenever their Pope is unjustly attacked, no matter what that Pope has said or done in some other connection; and The Remnant has never thought otherwise in its forty years of publication. I hope that every one of us will move past the disagreement over the revised Good Friday prayer—a disagreement more apparent than real— and take up the defense of the Supreme Pontiff in this affair.