February 13, 2009

Jewish-Catholic Ties Don’t Face Apocalypse

Your February 6 editorial “Betraying Vatican II” is mostly fair, but I think it does boil over into hyperbole in places.

First, all Pope Benedict XVI has done is rescind the excommunication order for the four bishops from the Society of St. Pius X. Neither they nor their followers have been reconciled to the Catholic Church. More to the point, the decision relates to their consecration as bishops back in 1988 — it has nothing to do with their behaviors or commentary since.

Second, the appalling Holocaust denial of Bishop Richard Williamson has been unequivocally condemned by the head of the Society of St. Pius X and its German branch. Yes, these repudiations are long, long overdue, and I have no doubt that they were the result of pressure, but the fact that they finally came should be a sign of hope should the Society of St. Pius X be reconciled.

Third, should that reconciliation come, the Society of St. Pius X will have to embrace Nostra Aetate and the discipline of the church, which will purify it of the Williamson mentalities that are present within the society. Leaving the society outside the church will permit it to roll about the deck like the proverbial loose cannon.

Finally, the notion that “the reassertion of traditional Catholic beliefs and practices” would strain Catholic-Jewish relations is a bit disturbing to me as a tradition-minded Catholic. John L. Allen Jr., the Catholic writer you are paraphrasing, has also written that “the vast majority of ordinary Catholics attracted to the Latin Mass, or who harbor reservations about doctrinal innovations in the church, are neither bigots nor crackpots.” To hint otherwise itself contributes to a climate of suspicion and distrust.

We need to sit down, take a deep breath and talk to each other, and not just through the preferred media of familiar, good-hearted figures like Father John Pawlikowski, who while they constitute established figures of dialogue, do not represent the church as a whole.

This isn’t the Apocalypse, nor even an apocalypse, in Catholic-Jewish relations. Let us reason together.

While your February 6 editorial “Betraying Vatican II” is thoughtful and well-written, I think it is inappropriate for a Jewish newspaper editorial to use the term “Jesus Christ.”

“Christ” is not the last name of the historical Jesus of Nazareth. Rather, it is the title bestowed by Christians on the person they believe is the messiah.

I often see and hear the name “Jesus Christ” in the mainstream, non-Jewish media. I did not expect it in the Forward.

‘Revisionists’ Are Actually Deniers

Scholars of the Holocaust have been careful to call Holocaust deniers just that, deniers, not revisionists as they call themselves (“Revisionist: It’s Time To Quit Shoah Fight,” January 23).

The reasons are obvious: Revisionism in history is an honorable task when exercised by honorable scholars who overturn conventional thought and attack accepted wisdom. Holocaust deniers are charlatans, oftentimes also antisemites and racists.

I am not alone in asking the Forward not to use the term “revisionist” when describing them.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Forward.

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February 13, 2009

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