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February 19, 2009 - Image 43

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2009-02-19

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Dry Bones arSra


Editorials are posted and archived on JNonline.us .






How Vatican Can Boost
Jewish-Catholic Bonds


t "seems right to me that a bishop
who denies the Shoah is better off
growing potatoes or doing anything
else, but not being a bishop!' So said
the papal spokesperson, Jesuit Father
Federico Lombardi, about Bishop Richard
Williamson, one of four bishops who had
their excommunication from the Catholic
Church overturned by Pope Benedict XVI
in late January.
Williamson and the others were made
bishops 20 years ago in a direct challenge
to Pope John Paul II and were excom-
municated for their refusal to accept the
reformed Church doctrine adopted at the
Second Vatican Council held in the early
1960s. Not only did they refuse, these
ultra-conservative traditionalists also
pined for the good old days of not just
Latin masses, but persecution of non-
Christians and Protestants. Jews, who they
claimed killed Jesus, were a special target
as they had been in the darkest days of the
Catholic Church.
Pope Benedict says that Williamson's
beliefs about the Holocaust — that at
most a few hundred thousand Jews were
killed and none were gassed, for start-
ers — were unknown to him when he

decided to allow him back into the fold.
Supposedly, it was all about healing
schisms and internal Church politics. No
matter how it happened, his demand that
Williamson "absolutely, unequivocally and
publicly" recant his Holocaust denial goes
a long way to repair the harm that has
been done.
Also reassuring is that the pope was
challenged by leading Roman Catholic
cardinals and bishops in Germany and
Austria, including some of his major sup-
porters. Instead of trying to cover up the
past, they took offense at Williamson's
anti-Semitism. German Chancellor Angela
Merkel publicly asked the pope for a clari-
fication on his position on the Holocaust.
In Argentina, Williamson's seminary
removed him from his leadership position.
But even accepting that pope didn't
know enough about Williamson, there is
still something very troubling: He cer-
tainly knew that the four renegade bishops
rejected the Second Vatican Council.
Part of Vatican II was the "Declaration
on the Relation of the Church with Non-
Christian Religions" or Nostra Aetate
that paved the way for a sea change in
Catholic-Jewish relations. Passed by a

vote of 2,221 to 88 of the
assembled bishops on Oct.
28,1965, it rejected the
deicide charge that Jews
of Jesus' time and Jews
today are responsible for
the death of Jesus, affirmed
that God's covenant with
the Jews remains and is
to be valued, condemned
hatred and persecution of
Jews "and manifestations
of anti-Semitism directed
against Jews at any time
and by anyone" and promoted mutual
past to seep into the future.
understanding, respect and "brotherly
If there was ever a teachable moment,
this is it. The Vatican should strengthen
While there is legitimate concern that
its Holocaust education programs in its
the teachings of the Nostra Aetate have
churches and its schools and forthrightly
not adequately reached Catholics around
confront the Church's and its members'
the world, only a very small subset of
roles in advancing Hitler's Final Solution
Catholics has challenged them outright.
through both commission and omission. It
Pope Benedict XVI, who prides himself
should strengthen the authority of Vatican
on his non-compromising positions on
II, especially Nostra Aetate. And likewise,
Catholic doctrine, should not brook any
the Jewish community should continue
opposition on this issue. A failure to accept to reach out and work closely with the
Vatican II should be just as much a non-
Catholic Church and community to
starter as Holocaust denial. Making allow-
achieve our common aims: amity, respect,
ances for either allow the darkness of the
cooperation and peace.

Reality Check

Shoes And Windbags


hen the Holy Roman Emperor
Henry IV displeased the pope
he had to go barefoot in the
snow to the papal castle at Canossa and do
The Big Three auto executives and Wall
Street bankers got off easier. To appease
Congress they must take their shoes off
only when passing through security while
flying coach. No more corporate jets for
you, you naughty boys. Only congressional
leaders get to do that.
In the midst of economic turmoil, what
a strange thing on which to focus. Does
anyone seriously believe that this will be
the best use of their time? Yes, I know all
about symbolism. It's very big in Congress,
possibly because our elected representa-
tives are so woefully short on substance.
A few of them are so dense that they
should be lined up, stuffed into bottles
and tossed into the Gulf Stream.
But maybe they're on to something.
Flying was never one of the most pleasant

modes of travel. Now it is an
ongoing misery, from parking at
the airport to praying fervently
that they haven't lost your lug-
gage as the carousel goes round
and round and your bags do
not appear. I don't know if that's
an appropriate time for a Mi
Shebeirach prayer, but I recite
one anyhow.
That is punishment. Now,
you'll learn what we varlets go
through. I use the archaic word
as a mark of respect for my
alma mater, dear old Wayne
State in Detroit. Some faculty members
are carrying on an Internet campaign to
revive colorful words that have gone out of
The headline on the story in the Detroit
News described this as "quixotic," which
should win the copy editor an award of
some kind. That is the perfect word to
describe any attempt to bring back styl-

ish writing to a generation that
communicates with one-letter
abbreviations and smiley faces.
I know the high school and
college students I taught would
have been baffled by these
words. After all, reading is such
a bore.
When I am asked what
courses I found most useful in
preparing to become a journal-
ist I always answer Latin and
German. These are two of the
three great streams that make
up the English language (the
other being Greek) and understanding
the root structure of so many words will
inevitably improve your writing.
I also strongly suggest taking courses
in the King James translation of the Bible,
Shakespeare and the Romantic poets, in
case anyone is interested.
Great writing never ages. I thought the
film Slumdog Millionaire, for example,

was the closest thing I have seen in recent
years to a Charles Dickens novel.
The overlapping layers of rich charac-
terization and coincidence are so similar,
although, all things considered, I still pre-
fer Great Expectations.
One factor that has impoverished the
language is the dumbing down of media. I
am convinced that if you denied use of the
words disturbing inspiring tragic, miracu-
lous and shocking to writers of TV news-
casts they would be out of ammunition.
Wouldn't you like to hear a news anchor
say, "You will be aghast at this calamitous
tale. It beggars belief. Dolorous details at
6!' Just once, which is probably all it would
take to get her fired.
It is such a rich and supple language.
Too bad we don't read and hear more of it
these days. L

George Cantor's e-mail address is


February 19 • 2009 Cl

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