LOOSE CANONS

Yours truly is up in arms that Jewish groups are up in arms. Pope Francis has recently taken a step that will move Cardinal August Hlond closer to sainthood. Cardinal Hlond was the highest-ranking church official in Poland from 1926 until his death in 1948. What exactly did Cardinal do or say that has raised the ire of Jewish groups? In a 1936 Pastoral letter, Hlond, at the time, primate of Poland, wrote: “It is a fact that the Jews are fighting against the Catholic Church, persisting in free thinking and are the vanguard of godlessness, Bolshevism and subversion”. Adding insult to injury, Cardinal Hlond had the chutzpah to remain silent and not condemn the killing of 40 Jews in Poland in the Post World War II pogrom that took place in July 1946 in the city of Kielce.

Cardinal Hlond’s silence of the post-war pogrom in Poland along with his missive depicting Jews, are viewed as being so egregious, that the director of religious affairs of the American Jewish Committee is quoted as saying: “It’s very difficult to see how you can still claim that the man was a paragon (of saintliness) when the data  is so explicit.

I’m sure that I am in the vast minority, but it seems to me that Jews have no business whatsoever telling the Catholic Church whom they can elevate to sainthood .Twenty-seven years ago, this summer, Yosef Lifsh, driving the third car in a three car motorcade for the Lubavitcher Rebbe (Police escort was the first escort), accidentally hit a concrete pillar that subsequently fell on and killed 7 year old Gavin Cato and injured his 7 year old cousin Angela. However well justified he may have been, there was no reported apology or even comment from the Rebbe, who appears on bill boards throughout all Israel as Melech HaMoshiach – Messiah, the King). Applying the same standards that leaders of Jewish organizations are currently applying against Cardinal Hlond, wouldn’t the Guyanese community of which Gavin Cato and his cousin Angela were part – nay the entire black community of Crown Heights, Brooklyn – have had every right to excoriate the Rebbe through any and all media outlets for his failure to speak out?

I am no Catholic theologian, nor do I profess to be. Yet, from what I do know, one of the main criteria for elevation to sainthood is two miracles to have occurred through the intercession of the individual after his demise. I’m not aware that sainthood in the Catholic Church is contingent upon speaking out against man’s inhumanity against man, nor do I know that sentiments expressed in print, however controversial they are deemed to be, are grounds to withhold elevation to sainthood. Personally, I find it hard to believe that there are rabbis – especially revered rabbis – who have totally immaculate conceptions of non-Jews or are totally guiltless as far as comments – written or spoken concerning “goyim” (I apologize for the pejorative, which I employed to stress a point). So, let’s not be telling other religions how to go about their religious business.

Last, but not least, I dare say that we Jews are out of control as far as our reactions to perceived anti-Semitism. Hallevai (if only) the Third Reich would have come out with such statements instead of genocide. Within the last 6 months, I have heard the following two comments in my office, made by non-Jewish friends: “I tried to Jew him down” and “there’s no question that he’s a Jew, just look at his nose.” I wasn’t angry. I let it go. Perhaps leaders of national Jewish organizations should do the same.

To be sure, Jewish leadership has the right, perhaps even the obligation to express views pertaining to canonization. But these views ought to be expressed respectfully and after the fact. By the same token, Jewish leadership ought to look for the good and the noble in candidates for canonization and then, after canonization has taken place, Jewish leadership ought to take it upon itself to write letters of Yasher Koach and Mazel Tov to Catholic church leadership

AUSCHWITZ CALLING

Predictably, the visit by Pope Frances to Auschwitz this past Friday was on the radar screens of more than a few Jewish organizations. Some of these organizations were hoping against hope that as result of this visit, the Pontiff will break with the policies of six predecessors dating back to immediately following the end of World War II and order the release of Holocaust –era archives which have up until now been sealed by the Vatican. It is maintained that access to these sealed archives would provide the Jewish world with the following information:

1. How much business dealings did the Vatican have with the Third Reich?
2. Could Pope Pius XII have done more to save the Jews?
3. What role did the Church play in enabling Nazi criminals to escape Germany after the war?

As many of you might have surmised, the Pope’s visit was not on my radar screen; as many of you might have guessed, I am not in the least bit interested in what revelations these documents hold. Let’s assume the very worst. Let’s assume that during the years of 1939 Hitler’s hell, Pope Pius XII was in bed with Adolph and was complicit with every inhumane policy and action that was executed. Does knowing that about the Catholic Church make us feel any better as Jews? Do those of us who have maintained all along that the Catholic Church has blood on its hands, now feel exonerated, as we go around espousing a self-righteous attitude of “I told you so” to anyone who will listen?

Alternatively, let’s assume the very best. Let’s assume that Pope Pius XII did everything he could have done to help Jews while not getting on Adolph’s bad side? Doesn’t that now make us look ridiculous for pointing a finger, as we sought comfort with self-conferred victim status? Doesn’t that make us feel foolish for automatically seeing the Catholic Church as being anti-Semitic?

Instead of focusing on that which is sealed, perhaps it’s time that we focus in on that which is revealed? Last year was the worst year in modern history for Christians being persecuted. You would however have no way of knowing it, based on what came out of the Vatican. Along those same lines, I do not recall the Vatican ever speaking out on behalf of Christian Arabs suffering at the hands of Muslim extremists in any number of countries throughout the world.  Not once did the Pontiff express outrage at ISIS (they claimed responsibility) for the slaying of Fr. Jacques Hamel, who was murdered in cold blood in his Church in Normandy two weeks ago. His Holiness is far too busy asking for Divine forgiveness, than seeing the need for human culpability.  If the Holy See sees no real need to become enraged and speak out when Christians are victims and hold the perpetrators responsible, then why should we Jews think that the Holy See sees any need to become enraged and speak out for justice when Jews are victims?

Perhaps the time has come for us Jews to stop deluding ourselves that we have a right to have certain expectations from the Pontiff regarding the Holocaust or even the well-being of Israel.   Perhaps the time has come for us Jews to follow the pattern established by any number of Holocaust survivors and instead of looking for apologies or the taking of responsibility or the redressing of wrongs, (people and nations rarely admit that they are wrong – it’s been that way since Adam and Eve) – perhaps it’s time for us to look ahead and make sure that we don’t behave in the same manner towards others, as others behave toward us. Perhaps the time has come for us as Jews to realize, that as important as it is for the Pope to visit Auschwitz, it’s even more important for Auschwitz to visit the Pope.