Saperstein: Remark by Catholic League’s Donohue could be seen as ‘threatening’ to Jews

25 June 2012

From the Jewish Telegraphic Agency; Weblink

A Reform movement leader, Rabbi David Saperstein, said a statement to a rabbi by Catholic League chief Bill Donohue could be construed as "threatening to American Jews who differ with the Church."

Donohue had a heated email exchange with Rabbi Arthur Waskow, the founder of the Shalom Center in Philadelphia, after Waskow published a column on The Huffington Post website on June 11 criticizing the U.S. Conference of Bishops for its opposition to the Obama administration's mandate requiring access to contraceptive coverage for employees of religious-run institutions like hospitals and orphanages.

In a statement June 20, Saperstein, the director of Reform's Religious Action Center, noted that Donohue ended the exchange with Waskow with a quote from former New York Mayor Ed Koch, who is Jewish, "in a manner that can be read as threatening to American Jews who differ with the Church."

Donohue's second email to Waskow ended with "Ed Koch, my friend, once said that Jews had better not make enemies of their Catholic friends since they have so few of them. Think about that the next time you feel compelled to attack my religion."

Saperstein said that "the importance of both the health care rights of women and the social justice passion of the Catholic nuns who serve on the front lines of our neediest citizens’  struggles for economic justice deserve a more respectful response."

In a June 21 statement, Donohue said he was quoting an address by Koch in January to a Jewish group in which the former mayor said, "We’re 13 million Jews in the whole world -- less than one-tenth of 1 percent. And we need allies. The best ally we can have is the Catholic Church.”

Koch, in his own statement on the matter, said Donohue had misconstrued his remarks.

"My comments have always been about fostering good feelings between Jews and Catholics toward mutual understanding of our shared interests," Koch said. "However, I certainly do not believe that Jews, or Catholics, should be threatened for making critical remarks, nor should my name be used when doing so. While I do have a high regard for Bill, his references to me and my remarks were inappropriate and different in substance and tone than what I said on an earlier occasion."

Donohue's reference to what he saw as Waskow's "attack" on Roman Catholicism appeared to refer to Waskow's criticism in his column of the Vatican for strictures it imposed recently on an American nun's conference, Leadership Conference of Women Religious.

Church leaders have tasked three male bishops with overhauling the group, alleging it had de-emphasized opposition to abortion in favor of social justice issues.

In his statement, Donohue said he had taken particular offense to Waskow's claim in his Huffington Post column that for the bishops, "religion happens in the genitals."

In his first email, Donohue asked Waskow whether it is "the business of any religious leader to condemn the strictures of another religion."

In his release to reporters, Waskow attached only Donohue's second email, with the Koch quote, and omitted the first, which makes it clear that Donohue is taking offense more at Waskow's comments on the nuns than his dealing with the issue of contraceptive coverage.

The Catholic League's spokesman, Jeff Field, told JTA that Donohue regarded that omission as "despicable."

Waskow, in his comments on the exchange, noted a New York Times interview with Donohue last week that described the Catholic League leader as having moved from representing the church's right wing to its mainstream.

"Now we will find out whether that includes threatening Jews for disagreeing with the Church hierarchy," Waskow said in a release.


SSPX says doctrinal difficulties could prolong talks with Vatican

14 June 2012

From The Catholic News Service; Weblink

By Carol Glatz

The breakaway traditionalist Society of St. Pius X said unresolved "doctrinal difficulties" with the teachings of the Second Vatican Council and the Catholic Church's subsequent liturgical reform could lead to a "new phase of discussions" over possible reconciliation with Rome.

The society released its statement June 14, a day after the Vatican presented its superior general, Bishop Bernard Fellay, with an evaluation of the society's position on a series of doctrinal questions and a draft document proposing that the society become a personal prelature.

Bishop Fellay, who was accompanied by an assistant, met with U.S. Cardinal William Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop Luis Ladaria, congregation secretary, and Msgr. Guido Pozzo, secretary of the Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei."

The SSSPX statement said that Bishop Fellay listened to Cardinal Levada's "explanations and clarifications" and offered the cardinal an explanation of the "doctrinal difficulties" that Vatican II and the subsequent reform of the Mass present for the traditionalists.

"The desire for further clarifications could lead to a new phase of discussions," the SSPX said.

A few hours before the society released its statement, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, told reporters that "the ball is in the society's court" to accept the Vatican's response and clarifications. 

During the June 13 meeting, Bishop Fellay was given the Holy See's evaluation -- including the opinion of Pope Benedict XVI -- of the society's April response to a "doctrinal preamble" that the bishop would need to sign in order to reconcile the society with the rest of the church, the Vatican said in a statement.

"The subsequent discussion offered an opportunity to provide the appropriate explanations and clarifications" on both sides, it said. "Bishop Fellay illustrated the current situation" of the society and promised to give the Vatican a response "within a reasonable lapse of time," the Vatican said.

Also, Bishop Fellay was given a draft document "proposing a personal prelature as the most appropriate instrument for any future canonical recognition of the society," it said.

A personal prelature is a church jurisdiction without geographical boundaries designed to carry out particular pastoral initiatives. It is headed by a prelate, who is appointed by the pope; currently the church's only personal prelature is Opus Dei.

When asked whether giving Bishop Fellay a formal proposal of a prelature was a sign the Vatican had approved the bishop's response to the doctrinal preamble, Father Lombardi told journalists that all doctrinal differences had to be resolved before any formal recognition could be made.

"However, evidently (the prelature proposal) was presented so that if the doctrinal issue is resolved, the canonical part is ready," he said.

The discussion process is "still open," the Vatican spokesman said, but it seems the Vatican and the SSPX are "drawing closer to agreement in the formulation and presentation of the doctrinal questions" at hand.

The Vatican statement said, "The hope was expressed that this additional opportunity for reflection would also contribute to reaching full communion between the Society of St. Pius X and the Apostolic See."

Father Lombardi said the Vatican is showing its willingness and availability to reach an agreement, but that now it is up to Bishop Fellay to respond to the Vatican's position.

The Vatican spokesman said the society would be holding its general chapter in July, which would be "an occasion for reflection and exchange" of ideas concerning its next step.

The statement reiterated that the Vatican would be dealing with the society's three other bishops "separately and singularly," and Father Lombardi confirmed that only Bishop Fellay was actively engaged in discussions with the Vatican.

While Bishop Fellay has been generally positive about the possibility of reconciliation with Rome, leaked letters show that the society's three other bishops have had strong objections to such a move.

Pope Benedict's recent efforts to bring about reconciliation with the traditionalist group began when he lifted the excommunications incurred by Bishop Fellay and the three other SSPX bishops after they were ordained without papal permission. The pope also established a Vatican committee for doctrinal talks with society representatives in 2009. In September, the Vatican gave Bishop Fellay the "doctrinal preamble" to explain the "minimal, essential" elements on which the society would have to agree for full reconciliation, Father Lombardi had said.

When the Vatican's doctrinal discussions with the society began in 2009, both sides said the key issues to be discussed included the concept of tradition in general, as well as the Second Vatican Council's teaching on the liturgy, the unity of the church, ecumenism, interreligious dialogue and religious freedom.

The society's founder, the late French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, who rejected some teachings of the Second Vatican Council and the modernizing reforms instituted in its wake, was excommunicated for ordaining Bishop Fellay and the three other bishops without papal permission in 1988.

In April, Bishop Fellay submitted to the Vatican his second official response to the "doctrinal preamble" outlining what the Vatican said were "some doctrinal principles and criteria for the interpretation of Catholic doctrine necessary to guarantee fidelity" to the formal teaching of the church, presumably including the teachings of the Second Vatican Council.

The bishop's reply was studied by the cardinal-members of the doctrinal congregation and, ultimately, by Pope Benedict.

The cardinals and the pope had said Bishop Fellay's first response, which was submitted in January, was "not sufficient to overcome the doctrinal problems that are at the basis of the fracture between the Holy See and the society."


Ed Miliband: ‘My Jewishness is Intertwined with my Britishness’

23 May 2012

From The Huffington Post; Weblink

Ed Miliband has described the importance of his Jewishness to his own identity, saying it is "intertwined" with his Britishness.

In a highly personal article for the New Statesman, the Labour leader said he felt a growing "duty" to discuss the traumatic experiences of his family during the Holocaust.

He said he was "not religious" and that his relationship with his Jewishness was "complex".

But he said it had defined how his family had been treated, his father - the Marxist historian Ralph Miliband - coming to Britain in 1940 to avoid Nazi persecution and his mother in 1947 after spending the Second World War under an assumed name.

"It explains why we came to Britain. I would not be leader of the Labour Party without the trauma of my family history," he wrote.

"For me, my Jewishness and my Britishness are intertwined. My parents defined themselves not by their Jewishness but by their politics. They assimilated into British life outside the Jewish community.

"There was no bar mitzvah, no Jewish youth group; sometimes I feel I missed out."

He said his mother got him interested in Woody Allen films and his father taught him Yiddish phrases.

He said that he and wife Justine broke a glass at their wedding last year.

"My family history often feels distant and far away. Yet the pain of this history is such that I feel a duty to remember, understand and discuss it - a duty that grows, rather than diminishes, over time," he wrote.

"As children we were only dimly aware of it but we caught glimpses. When I was seven, my family went to visit my grandmother in Tel Aviv. Pointing at a black-and-white photograph, I demanded to know who was 'that man in the picture'.

"I remember being taken swiftly out of the room and then being told quietly that he was my grandfather David, who had died in Poland long before I was born.

"It was only some years later that I realised my mum's father had died in a concentration camp, murdered by the Nazis for being Jewish."


‘Antisemitism is betrayal of the Christian faith’- Cardinal Koch stressed this at a convention on dialogue between Christians and Jews

16 May 2012

From the Vatican Insider; Weblink

“The scourge of anti-Semitism seems impossible to eradicate in today’s world; even in Christian theology the ancient Marcionism and anti-Semitism re-emerge with a vengeance and not just among traditionalists but also in the liberal currents within contemporary theology.” The President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and of the Holy See Commission for Religious Relations with Jews, Cardinal Kurt Koch said this, during the “Berrie lecture at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum).  The cardinal was invited by the John Paul II Center for Interreligious Dialogue , directed by Rabbi Jack Bemporad.  Cardinal Koch’s lecture was dedicated to the dialogue between Christians and Jews, based on the conciliar declaration on non-Christian religions.

Jewish-Catholic dialogue - Cardinal Koch said - will therefore never become stagnant, particularly on an academic level, and particularly since the new epoch-making course started by the Second Vatican Council on the Jewish-Christian relations is naturally put constantly to the test.” According to the prelate, “the Catholic Church is forced to declare that anti-Semitism and Marcionism are a betrayal of Christian faith itself and to recall that spiritual fraternity between Jews and Christians is firmly and eternally rooted in the Holy Scriptures.”

According to Koch, “the Second Vatican Council’s call for a fostering of mutual understanding and respect between Jews and Christians must continue to receive the focus it is due. This is an essential pre-requisite for ensuring that Christians and Jews do not start dangerously drifting apart again but that they stay aware of their spiritual affinity.” This way, a better understanding will develop between them so that “as the people of God they will be able to bring the word of peace and reconciliation to today’s non-conciliar world and be a blessing not just to each other but to all humanity.”


Benedict XVI welcomes first-ever Latin American Jewish delegation at Vatican

10 May 2012

From the World Jewish Congress Press Release; Weblink

Led by Latin American Jewish Congress (LAJC) President Jack Terpins, Jewish community leaders from 13 Latin American countries were today received in private audience by Pope Benedict XVI. Terpins underlined that the relationship between Jews and Catholics in the region was “an example not only of positive coexistence, but of friendship and cooperation.” Also present at the meeting – the first of its kind - were World Jewish Congress (WJC) President Ronald S. Lauder, who had previously met the Catholic pontiff in 2007 and 2010, WJC Secretary General Dan Diker, and leaders of the Jewish communities of Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Panama, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela. 

In his address to the Pope, Jack Terpins highlighted the close and fruitful cooperation between Catholics and Jews in almost all Latin American countries, saying: “Resorting to dialogue as a tool has helped develop models to get to know ourselves better and for the communities of faith to gain greater understanding. Agreement among religions is not the only prerequisite but certainly means a major step forward. Together, we can send out a strong message to society at large: i.e. working to help the neediest and defending family, pluralism and democracy, always under the umbrella of the common values revered by our religious traditions.” The LAJC president also expressed his appreciation at the fact that the Vatican had full diplomatic relations with Israel, “that 64-year-old, young state, in a changing world in which the old anti-Semitism is often disguised as anti-Zionism.” 

After the half-hour long meeting with Benedict XVI WJC President Ronald S. Lauder said: “Today, relations between Jews and Catholics are better than at any time over the past 2,000 years, despite the occasional disagreement here or there. This is especially true in Latin America which is overwhelmingly Catholic. The enormous efforts Pope Benedict and his predecessor have invested are now paying off, and they have reduced tensions noticeably. We appreciate the hand of friendship which the Pope has again extended to the Jewish people.”