In the closing days of December 2009, Pope Benedict XVI signed a decree of “heroic virtues” of Pope Pius XII, which places him on the path to sainthood. This decision has caused a worldwide uproar among Jews, dissident Catholics, and others who believe that Pius was silent, or worse yet, complicit, in the Holocaust.
In the first two decades following World War II, there was certainly no public perception, among Jews, Catholics, or anyone else that Pius had been silent to a fault during the Holocaust, much less that he was “Hitler’s Pope.” Prominent Jewish leaders such as the first Israeli Prime Minister, Golda Meir, as well as Chief Rabbi Isaac Herzog of Palestine praised Pius. TIME Magazine reported in 1953 that Pius was “to Romans and to much of the world, something of a living and familiar saint.” It was widely known that Pius XII, to a greater extent than many secular heads of state, opposed the designs of the Third Reich. When Pius was able to speak to the world, as he did on Christmas in 1942, there was no question as to where he stood on the tragedies unfolding worldwide.
There is one major area of Catholic social doctrine concern, that is consistently overlooked in all the liberal v.conservative American arguments. The proper nature and responsibility of the “Political Community”. The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church lays out a comprehensive set of teachings and a blueprint for such interests. I am going to start the process of slowly offering the official Compendium quotations- not just proof-texting a sentence here or there. I believe that a real and profound commitment to these teachings will leave both liberals and conservatives something to seriously consider, and may help to form a unique Catholic worldview, which is something mainstream American politics so desperately needs right now.
I’ve set up a special blog devoted to the Papal Pilgrimage as a vehicle for rounding up news, coverage and commentary, and where I’ll be posting from now until the duration of the Holy Father’s journey (upon which time I’ll resume blogging here at American Catholic).
Following are some interviews and links which will set the tone for the papal journey:
With the upcoming visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Israel there are many stories that come to the surface that I find especially intriguing. For example, I came a cross an interesting article on the small community of Hebrew Catholics living in Israel. They consist of:
Christians married to Jews, monks and nuns who live in Israel out of solidarity, Christians who immigrated from the former Soviet Union and Jews who converted.
There are approximately 4000 in all of Israel today. They are in full communion with the Catholic Church. Probably the only difference between them and Latin Rite Catholics is that their liturgy uses Hebrew and they celebrate the Jewish holidays as well as those contained in the Catholic liturgical calendar.
I’d like to point out some historical nuances with certain Hebrew words that are used in their unique liturgy. For instance certain words are updated to remove the negative connotations that the Jews themselves had attributed to Catholic terms and names. An example is the name of Jesus:
Linguists say the modern Hebrew word for Jesus, Yeshu, is derived from the word, Yeshua or Yehoshua, which was given by rabbis in the Middle Ages and which is in fact an acronym of the expression “may his name and memory be obliterated.”
In his latest article for InsideCatholic.com, Deal Hudson presents Ten Hard Facts Confronting Benedict XVI in the Holy Land concerning the plight of Palestinian Christians.
One would expect that — when presenting a list of “hard facts”, particularly a topic as provocative as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — elementary journalistic standards would require the citation of a source.
Furthermore, one might expect the placement of such statistics in context to further enable a moral evaluation.
That Hudson completely neglects to do this is frustrating, to say the least.
One of the books I’ve been reading off and on over the last year has been Avi Shlaim’s The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World. Shlaim is a one of the Israeli New Historians, which is essentially a “post-Zionist” revisionist school of Israeli history, who criticize the “old historians” of Israel of being too personally involved in the 1948 war and its aftermath, and thus writing history which is essentially apologetics for Israel.
There are places where I get the feeling Shlaim is leaning too hard in the other direction (for instance he spends a good deal of time on the expulsion of Palestinians from Israel in 1948, but glosses over the expulsion of Jews from surrounding Arab countries.) However, given that you know where his leanings are, it’s a fascinating read because it’s closely based on documented sources, and it focuses on the very real problem of Israel’s relationship with the Arab world. Among the things it made me realize, however, was how alien the modern sense of nationalism is to citizens of the US.
This may seem a strange conclusion at first,
Over at Human Events, Ben Shapiro has an article about how Israel will lose the conflict in Gaza again. His initial premise states that we keep seeing an essentially endless cycle repeated: Hamas strikes Israel, Israel retaliates, the world comes down hard on Israel, Israel retreats and gives Hamas another chance to strike Israel. Elsewhere, the debate about how justified Israel is in its current cycle of retaliations continues heatedly and almost unanimously denounces Israel’s actions.
As a personal opinion, I believe that Hamas, despite claims to the contrary, is directly responsible for its strikes into Israel. I believe that Hamas deliberately hides behind civilian shields in order to protect themselves from retaliation and to milk the public for sympathy when Israeli attacks kill those civilian shields. I believe that Hamas is single-mindedly dedicated to the destruction of Israel, and that Israel is justified in trying to defend herself against Hamas’ attacks.
On December 27th, 2008, Israel launched a series of air strikes on Hamas training camps, headquarters, weapons storehouses, underground missile silos and command-and-control centers in Gaza — the start of an open-ended offensive to stem the increasing barrage of rocket-attacks that have plagued Southern Israel in the past months.
Israeli ambassador to the UN Gabriela Shaleb defended the operation:
“Israel is taking the necessary military action in order to protect its citizens from ongoing terrorist attacks originating from the Gaza Strip and carried out by Hamas and other terrorist organizations,” Shalev said, adding that Hamas “holds the sole responsibility for the latest events.”
Israel, she continued, “has exhausted all means and efforts to reach and maintain quiet and to respect the state of calm… Israel’s response is aimed solely against the terrorists and their infrastructures in the Gaza Strip. It is not intended against the civilian population. Israel is committed to prevent a humanitarian crisis.”
Shalev asserted that “No country would allow continuous rocketing of its civilian population without taking the necessary actions to stop it.”
Commenting on the three-day air assault by Israel on Hamas, Deal Hudson states “Bombing Gaza Won’t Make Israel Safer”. It’s a good post and, if anything, certainly jeopardizes Hudson’s standing as a member of the cabal of “Catholic neocons” beholden to Israel and the Republican Party (see Robert Sungenis and other tirades from the fringe-right). That said, I wish to register some thoughts in reaction, both to Hudson and our fellow critics at Vox Nova: