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Will The Catholic Church Return to its Anti-Semitic History?

February 20, 2013 1:26 am 11 comments

Óscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga, the Archbishop of Honduras. Photo: Wiki commons.

The Catholic Church has a long and disturbing history of tolerating priests, bishops and even cardinals who preach classic anti-Semitism.  Cardinal Joseph Glemp, the Polish Primate, told his followers that Jews were responsible for alcoholism, communism and virtually every other “ism” that plagued Poland.  Yet he remained an honored member of the College of Cardinals until his death several months ago.  Recent popes have taken a much stronger stand against anti-Semitism and have worked hard to build bridges with the Jewish community.  Now this good work is being challenged by the candidacy of Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras to succeed the good Pope Benedict XVI.  Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga is charismatic and popular in his home country and his name has appeared on various media short lists, because he is South American and fluent in Spanish.

The problem is that Rodriguez Maradiaga is an out and out Jew-hater.  He has said that “the Jews” are to blame for the scandal surrounding the sexual misconduct of priests toward young parishioners!  The Jews?  How did Rodriguez Maradiaga ever come up with this hair-brained idea?  Here is his “logic.” He begins by asserting that the Vatican is anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian (as he says it should be).  It follows, therefore, that “The Jews” had to get even with the Catholic Church, while at the same time deflecting attention away from Israeli injustices against the Palestinians.  The Jews managed to do this by arranging for the media—which he says they control—to give disproportionate attention on the Vatican sex scandal.

Rodriguez Maradiaga then went on to compare the Jewish controlled media with “Hitler,” because they are “protagonists of what I do not hesitate to define as a persecution against The Church.”

The prime media culprit in Rodriguez Maradiaga’s bizarro world is the Boston Globe, which has won numerous journalistic awards for its exposure of the sex scandal and cover up.  The Globe is owned by The New York Times, which is controlled by the Sulzberger family.  Hence the Jewish conspiracy.  The problem (among so many) with this cockamamie theory is that the Jewish community of Boston was very close to, and admiring of, Cardinal Bernard Law, who presided over the arch diocese during the scandal.  Cardinal Law had built bridges between the Catholic and Jewish communities of Boston, and when the scandal was exposed by the very un-Jewish Boston Globe the Jewish community remained largely supportive of Law.  None of the leading media critics, lawyers or politicians who railed against the church were Jewish.  Most were Catholic.  But that didn’t matter to the bigoted cardinal, who—along with other classic anti-Semites — believes that if there is a problem “the Jews” must be to blame for it.  As James Carrol, the distinguished columnist for the Boston Globe who is himself a Catholic, has characterized Rodriguez Maradiaga’s “crackpot” mindset: “when the church has a problem—here is the oldest move of all—blame the Jews.”

When asked whether he wanted to reconsider his attack, Rodriguez Maradiaga replied: “I don’t repent… sometimes it is necessary to shake things up.”  He later promised Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League that he wouldn’t repeat his conspiratorial nonsense, but he has refused to publicly apologize or “repent” in the presence of his followers in the language that they speak.

The Vatican has rightly called anti-Semitism a “sin,” and yet an unrepentant sinner is on the short list to become the leader of the Catholic Church.  Is it because the other cardinals are unaware of Rodriguez Maradiaga’s anti-Semitism? Unlikely, because he has made no secret of his bigotry against the Jews.  Or is it because not enough of them care as much as they should?

Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga’s candidacy poses a great challenge to the Catholic Church.  Will it move forward in its efforts to build bridges with the Jewish community, or will it take a giant step backwards into its dark history of anti-Semitism?

Alan Dershowitz is a professor of law at Harvard.


  • To Ms. Gladstone: sharpton was found by the courts of nys to to be malicious as a matter of law…when he speaks he speaks with malice…there is little difference between malice and evil…so remember the next time sharpton makes a non-malicious statement will be the first time!

    • Bathsheva Gladstone

      Hey Richard,

      I don’t agree. I think what you may perceive as malice I see as vehemence. I do think he doesn’t want to coddle and I don’t think he’s capable of hiding his contempt for those he sees as malevolent judging him or his people based on notions that have nothing more than skin deep value. But, like I said, love him or hate him–what you feel about him is beside the point.

      I used him as an example as someone who is front and center, in the mix–if you will. He’s not going to baptist churches speaking his piece. He’s out in the world as a spokesperson, “proselytizing” his case. That’s a word we hate–but there is nothing wrong with self promotion if its effective and shuts up and shuts down the hate.

      I will also go so far to say that the accusation of Jews controlling the media is a very effective one, isn’t it? Brought on my christian fascists and muslim extremists, in both cases they get their day in the worldwide arena and we shut up lest someone mistake that we do control the media. Heaven Forbid!

      There word is out and about and rearing its ugly head. I say it’s time we fight fire with fire and get some sort of campaign going, we need the Jewish equivalent of Al Sharpton for the black cause, Dan Savage for the gay cause–they aren’t talking to themselves are they?

  • Such leaps of logic, Archbishop Maradiaga!! I find it hard to find any resemblance between a huge political organisation -stadling continents- and the Jewish leader who stated clearly:”My kindgdom is not of this world”(John 18:36); likewise between an organisation controlling huge wealth and Jesus who had to catch fish to pay the temple tax. Nevertheless there have always been good and bad Catholics (as people.) Unfortunately Archbishop Maradiaga is clearly decieved and twisted.

  • When did Catholic Dogma stop teaching Jew-hatred?

  • It took the Church almost 2,000 years to finally declare that the Jews were not responsible for the death of Jesus; rather the Roman were. One man, such as this Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga could very quickly turn the tables back to where they were before Vatican II and raise the level of anti-Semitism many notches. In addition, it has been such a pleasure to work with the Catholic community with a decidedly less antagonistic tone in the last forty years; whereas, I can remember attending public school in the middle 50s to the middle 60s and feeling the weight of religious antagonism as I was becoming more aware of the world in which I would live. An anti-Semite for a Pope seems outrageous after all of the wonderful interfaith strides made among Jews Christians globally in the last four decades. I agree with Mr. Dershowitz; I hope that this cardinal from Honduras stays in Honduras and someone more compassionate, kinder, considerate, and rational becomes the new Pope.

  • I deplore these remarks by this SA Cardinal. I am with Israel . I am with all Jews. As a Catholic this bishop embarrasses me. I don’t think he will be the Pope. Too many communists have infiltrated the Church through South America and Liberation Theology. The new Pope will be an Italian.

  • Bathsheva Gladstone

    I just wonder why there is no intelligence standard put into place as a prerequisite for employment as a religious leader, pope or otherwise. It’s not the Jews who have sworn to annihilate all that doesn’t conform to a hardline islamist ideology and regime. Why are we as a collective of humanity Jewish and otherwise so willing to turn a blind eye to what is egregiously low brow and entirely unacceptable?

    Why is it that the only time I see somebody speaking up for Jews it’s to a strictly Jewish forum? We aren’t the one’s who need convincing or to be reminded of anything.

    Why now, on a world-wide scale, is it acceptable to slaughter us verbally, ostracize us at sporting events, or college campuses(In New York, in Brooklyn? What?!?) (I say this because the effect of being a proud Jew and speaking up is being ousted and subsequent immediate and effective ostracization)–and worse, at any given moment? But gays, blacks and other groups are now under the safety umbrella of a supposed equal rights/opportunities socially acceptable morality. Why is this?

    One only needs to look at the Reverend Al Sharpton to see what needs to be done. Love him or hate him, he has accomplished something quite remarkable.

    I remember over the Tawana Brawley case he was practically a laughing stock, to all but his constituents. Newscasters couldn’t keep a straight face, but he was there, warts and all, getting his hands soiled. Why? Because, regardless of Miss Brawley’s intentions he felt, and rightfully so, this voiceless, young black girl was going to be heard, she wasn’t going to muted or turned away, if she was uncomfortable it wasn’t just going to be her problem. As we all know the Brawley case was a fiasco of lies, but this is beside the point.

    He showed up, with his posse, where ever there was a camera, and he spoke. With his retro 1970’s cool and his processed hair and his loud booming southern voice and his “in your face” attitude and he spoke and he hasn’t stopped since. He was and remains a voice for the people. Not the persevering humble but steadfast voice of Martin Luther King (not that there’s anything wrong with that) nor the questionably violent and threatening Malcolm X, but he comes on his own terms with his own voice.

    We need to be there–where ever and when ever there is. Not with some whining, crying, hiding back behind the bimah voice, but a big booming voice.

    Sharpton doesn’t ask that you like him or his people–he doesn’t care. But you will hear what he has to say and any problem anyone has with that they must keep it to themselves because he will out fact you and out talk you on the issues that he cares about. He persistently, consistently and effectively shuts down the mishegoss. Now that’s Chutzpah!

    Come on someone, anyone? Say it loud, I’m Jew and I’m proud…no… I am Jew, hear me roar…Nope…

    Okay, We need a posse and a motto…

  • richard sherman

    sorry alan…there is no difference between this guy and chuck hagel…and your guy obama worships the ground chuck hagel walks on

    • Amen, hallelujah. Don’t expect Al to have any epiphany ’cause because being a Democrat is part of Prof D’s religious DNA.

    • So clearly Obama has a motive in choosing this Hagel? There will always be people like Hagel, but not always chosen by the American President to wield such power. We know a man by the friends he chooses.

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