Saturday, October 11, 2008

On Being A Poor Guest and the Defense of Pius XII

Everybody knows what it's like to have a rude guest come to their house and raise some sort of scandal. Sometimes it's a relative. Sometimes it's someone who is a friend of a friend. The latter case is basically what happened at the ongoing Synod a few days ago.

Chief Rabbi Shear-Yashuv Cohen of Haifa was invited to speak to the bishops there in order to explain the role of Scripture in the Jewish faith. Seizing on this bit of spotlight, Rabbi Cohen then decided that it would be a good idea to (sticking with our metaphor) break some of the Church's expensive china. Per Catholic Culture:

Denouncing the ‘terrible and vicious words’ spoken in last month’s UN address by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Chief Rabbi Shear-Yashuv Cohen of Haifa urged the Synod of Bishops on Monday to ‘protect, defend and save Israel, the one and only sovereign state of the ‘people of the book,’ from the hands of our enemies.’ The rabbi also told reporters that Pope Pius XII ‘should not be sanctified or looked up to because of his failure to save us, to raise his voice, even if he secretly tried to help … Maybe he was afraid, or for other reasons known to him he did not raise his voice. And that we cannot forget.’ He added, ‘I am not empowered by the families of the millions of deceased to say we forget, we forgive.’

What a loud-mouthed shnook. I'm reminded of the scene in Schindler's List where Schindler is lamenting that he didn't sell his car or more stuff in order to put more people on the list. Judging from Rabbi Cohen's comments, he would agree with this and probably thinks that Schindler should have his name erased from the list of Righteous Gentiles for not doing more. How would this have gone over if Pope Benedict had gone to a synagogue and wondered why Israel hasn't done more to help oppressed Christians in the Holy Land? Foxman & Co. would have had an aneurysm.

Kudos to Pope Benedict for not letting this slander stand unchallenged. Two days after Cohen's comments, the Holy Father came out in defense of his predecessor.

"Pius XII often acted secretly and silently," added the Pontiff, "because, in the light of the concrete realities of that complex historical moment, he saw that this was the only way to avoid the worst and save the largest possible number of Jews.

"Benedict XVI noted the "expressions of gratitude from the highest authorities of the Jewish world" that Pius XII received. The current Pontiff highlighted the words of Israeli Foreign Minister Golda Meir, who wrote upon Pius XII's death: "During the 10 years of Nazi terror, when our people went through the horrors of martyrdom, the Pope raised his voice to condemn the persecutors and commiserate with their victims."She added, "We mourn a great servant of peace."

Benedict would go on to praise Pius XII's great encyclicals, such as Mystici Corporis, Divino Afflante Spiritu, and Mediator Dei. Zenit has both stories here and here.

Not only did the pope defend Pius XII, he did so on Yom Kippur, which had the curious coincidence of being on the 50th anniversary of Pius's death (Oct. 9, 1958). It would have been real easy for the Holy Father to have put off any remembrance comments until next week or some other time. He came right out with it, though, which took no small amount of guts.

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