Friday, February 19, 2010

Are You Anti-Semitic?

Every month or so, I get an e-mail from one "Diego Milagro", aka "Mark Taormino", aka "Mark Verse", aka "Yitzhak Goldberg", aka "John Apostolico", etc. Always they highlight some evil thing that some Jewish person or group has done or said. To that end, I suppose they prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jews, like the rest of us, are inheritors of Original Sin and therefore are (gasp!) sinners. But what they're intended to prove is that the Real Problem with the world is Jewish influence, Jewish control and, of course, Jews themselves. And apparently some of us Catholics share the blame, so says Joseph Bellinger: "They persist in these outrages because they consider Christians to be spineless milquetoasts - and for the most part, they are. So realistically speaking, expect their behaviour to become more egregious in the future. Christians EMPOWER them when they refuse to act" (e-mail of 30 Oct 2009). And according to Dr. Edgar Suter, (who sometimes "follows up" on these e-mails and who, for all I know, may actually be "Diego", et al.), certain Jews behave in anti-Christian ways because, "change agents like you encourage them in their anti-Christ Torah religion" (e-mail of 28 Oct 2009). Other tender tidbits from Suter include this blast in the wake of Pope Benedict XVI's promulgation of a new Good Friday prayer:

Certainly the synagogue of Satan is quite experienced in the combined arts of shadow play and managed opposition. Of course Foxman will not be truly happy unless the Noachide Laws can be enforced so that we "idolators" who worship "that man" will be liable for execution. I find no satisfaction that Foxman is not yet in a position to ensure that "the best of the Gentiles should all be killed." [Sopherim 15, rule 10]. As for those impostors "who say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie," Jesus was quite clear about their parentage at John 8:44, was He not? Abraham and Moses, but not the sons of the devil, are my elder brothers. (e-mail of 7 Feb 2008.)
Now judging by their private and public missives, these are the sort of fellows to whom you would reply, "What would you want us to do, burn down a synagogue or two to keep them in line?", to which you almost expect them to reply, "Well, it'd be a start......" What makes it a real laugh-riot (if such a topic can be funny) is that these fellows would vociferously deny that they are anti-Semitic. How do they pull this off? They insist that the notion of anti-Semitism is purely genetic, that you can only be anti-Semitic if you hate Jewish people because of their blood-line. Since they don't hate Jews because of their genetics—but just for their religious identity as "anti-Christs", "the synagogue of Satan" and seemingly everything they think, do, and say—then they're not anti-Semitic.

That's one extreme.

The other is the tendency to throw the anti-Semite card at the least provocation. So for example, Rush Limbaugh was recently accused by Abe Foxman of the ADL of "borderline anti-Semitic" remarks after Limbaugh stated, quite factually, that for certain "prejudiced people", the word "banker is a code word for 'Jewish'". So by some, even if you simply state the views of other people who may indeed be anti-Semitic, you're branded with the same label. But Norman Podhoretz, in his defense of Limbaugh, counters Foxman in part by noting that it's hard to find "so loyal a friend of Israel as Rush Limbaugh", which brings up another facet in the ever-expanding umbrella of what it means to be anti-Semitic. You see for some, unless you are an ardent and indeed sycophantic fan of everything the nation of Israel does, you're anti-Semitic. So when Hedy Epstein, a Jewish survivor of the Shoah, spoke out concerning alleged human rights abuses against Palestinians, she was automatically branded as anti-Semitic:

The mainstream, organized Jewish community, both locally and in other places, have called me anti-Semitic, a self-hating Jew. I'm not anti-Israel, but you're not allowed to criticize Israel or else you're anti-Semitic, and if you're Jewish you're a self-hating Jew. I don't hate myself. You're allowed to criticize every other country, including the U.S., but not Israel, why is that? ("Holocaust survivor explains why she became Palestinian rights activist").
The same thing happened to another Jewish survivor of the Shoah, Dr. Hajo Meyer. After speaking out about his beliefs concerning Israeli actions in Gaza, "His comments sparked a furious reaction from hardline Jewish lobby groups, with Dr Meyer branded an ‘anti-Semite’ and accused of abusing his position as a Holocaust survivor" ("Auschwitz survivor: ‘Israel acts like Nazis’").

And of course if one simply upholds traditional Catholicism and its belief in the universality of salvation through Christ, that's considered anti-Semitic too. So, when Pope Benedict XVI promulgated a new Good Friday prayer for the traditional Roman Rite, that was immediately denounced in certain Jewish circles:

Around the world, millions of Catholics are celebrating Good Friday, when they commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. But for many Jews, this year's ceremonies leave a bitter aftertaste, due to a controversial new version of a prayer that many claim is anti-Semitic. ("Leading German Rabbi Condemns Pope's Good Friday Prayer")

So I'm sure that by the über-broad definition I too would be considered anti-Semitic. I firmly uphold the belief that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is for all men, Gentile and Jew, and that all men are called to embrace Christ for the salvation of their souls. And I don't consider myself a Zionist, being quite agnostic about whether Jews have any divine right to the land of Israel but downright certain that, even if they do, such a right could never excuse Israel from the requirements of morality and international law. I agree with Mark Shea when he said:

Now I believe in the natural right of a people to a homeland, so I have always supported the right of the Jewish people to theirs. (For the same reason, I think Palestinians should have a homeland.) I also believe the Jewish people remain Chosen and that the Old Covenant, though not salvific, can only be fulfilled in Christ, not abolished by man . . . . But I do not believe it follows that the State of Israel is therefore granted supernatural status. And I think the tendency of many conservatives to do just this is a very good example of the pernicious effects of treating a tradition of men as Divine Revelation.

So when I ran the link along with my reader’s outraged note, I remarked

This is the sort of thing that makes me wonder how long American Evangelicals (and even some Catholics) can be snookered by the notion that Israel is something other than a secular nation-state. The Golden Calf appeal to Money, Sex, and Power evident in the commercial is perfectly representative of typically debased postmodern secular culture and has nothing to do with ‘fulfillment of prophecy’. Israel has the rights and responsibilities of any secular nation-state, but to concoct some notion that it gets special privileges as God's Chosen State is rubbish. (http://www.mark-shea.com/tradmen.html)
The bottom line is that it is indeed all too easy to throw the label around and doing so without adequate justification just cheapens the currency of anti-Semitism. More mainstream definitions of anti-Semitism include these:

Oxford English Dictionary: Theory, action, or practice directed against the Jews. Hence anti-'Semite, one who is hostile or opposed to the Jews; anti-Se'mitic.

American Heritage Dictionary: 1) Hostility toward or prejudice against Jews or Judaism. 2) Discrimination against Jews.

Webster's Collegiate: Hostility toward or discrimination against Jews as a religious, ethnic or racial group.
And according to those reasonable definitions, the fact remains that there is such a thing as anti-Semitism, just as there is such a thing as anti-Catholicism. Some readers of this blog may be aware that I have added my voice to many Catholic apologists who have found the writings of Robert Sungenis to contain a significant amount of material that can only reasonably be labeled as anti-Semitic (see here and here). But I suppose that one man's "prejudice" and "discrimination" might be another man's reasonable criticism or opposition. So by what standard would a Catholic arrive at the conclusion that a fellow Catholic's words or actions are anti-Semitic? By the only standard that really matters, the Golden Rule. Cutting through all the bandying about of definitions, we really only need to ask ourselves: If we were to substitute the words Catholic/Catholics/Catholicism into various writings that address Jew/Jews/Judaism, would we find them anti-Catholic?

In Sungenis' case, the answer is unfortunately very clear. I would say that the same is true of some of the writings of E. Michael Jones. And because of the research I've done lately as a result of this controversy, I've seen more and more of this sort of anti-Jewish material gaining ground in certain Catholic circles. One does not want to be needlessly naïve—there are many adversaries of the Catholic Church and indeed some of them are Jewish. And there are any number of really disgusting displays of generally anti-Christian and specifically anti-Catholic bigotry involving Jewish people and we should raise our voices in protest and do what we can to keep this a level playing field—no one should get a pass on bigotry simply because he's Jewish.

At the very least I want to be clearly on record here: there's nothing traditional or Catholic about bigotry and Catholics should denounce it when they see it—but especially in their fellow Catholics. Charity begins at home.

"All things therefore whatsoever you would that men should do to you, do you also to them. For this is the law and the prophets."

18 comments:

M. Forrest said...

People on both of these extremes seem determined to try to turn anything into a galactic "us vs. them" crisis, an ultimate test of loyalties or some such. It just seems like a more intense version of the kind of adolescent ugliness I despised in junior high cliques - as though one's identity and worth can only be established in contrast to the *other*.....he's not one of us....

The challenge is to maintain one's balance and not be forced or tricked into this dangerous "game" that has the unmistakeable stench of sulfur about it. I think articles like this are very helpful to that end.

poetcomic1 said...

As a Jewish convert to Catholicism I think you are being more than fair in your assessments. I have never known anything but traditional Catholic observance and have never even seen a New Mass. Sometimes things people say not knowing my background hurt and I try to be forgiving. It has made me aware of that little frisson of pleasure one gets hating anyone, especially if the object of hate is 'richly deserving' and one can smugly hate along with a simpatico fellow hater. I say this because God knows I do it too and as St. Bernard says 'its not mete for Christians to be newsbearers'.

Hans-Georg Lundahl said...

Your test does not quite work out according to Golden Rule:

"By the only standard that really matters, the Golden Rule. Cutting through all the bandying about of definitions, we really only need to ask ourselves: If we were to substitute the words Catholic/Catholics/Catholicism into various writings that address Jew/Jews/Judaism, would we find them anti-Catholic?"

Problem is that some things are truthfully said on the J words that would be untruthful about the C word series.

An allegation such as "Jews were in the Middle Ages prominent as money-lenders, no Jewish population is known to have totally refrained from money-lending for usury" is truthful (substitute interest for usury if you like, at the interest rates tolerated as maxima by Christian Kings, we can hardly call it anything BUT usury) but if we would for same period look at Catholic populations, only some few had no shame when taking interest (Lombards, notably).

Hans-Georg Lundahl said...

Or the matter of giving freedom to sons and daughters in life choices, there are some things there where Christians (notably Catholics) do know a thing or two that some Jewish traditions neglect at peril of destroying lives of their own offspring.

ThePalmHQ said...

[ Problem is that some things are truthfully said on the J words that would be untruthful about the C word series. ]

Hans, I would say that if something is actually true, there is probably a way to say it charitably without falling into "anti". So what you outlined above may be true (indeed, I believe it was a prudential mistake for the Popes to allow usury to the Jews after, rightly, denying it to Christians. It ended up causing all sorts of very bad feelings.)

If, for example, someone simply speaks truthfully about the serious difficulties we've had here in the U.S. with sexual scandals and clergy, that's not anti-Catholicism. It's when the broad brush comes out and our whole faith gets branded as actually producing sexual deviancy that we rightly decry it as bigotry.

I think the same dynamic holds for Judaism or any other religion. Hence the applicability of the Golden Rule.

Hans-Georg Lundahl said...

There is a problem with your parallel: Catholics* do not consider clergy taking sexual advantages over choir boys OK. Jews usually do consider taking interest from Goyim OK.

They claim the OT is still valid, in it Moses wrote "when you lend to your brother, take no interest, but from the stranger ..." (Jews still typically take no interest when lending money to Jews) and that was accepted both by their own authorities and by some Christian ones as indicating they could take interest from the hristians they did not regard as their brothers.

*I do not consider as Catholic the kind of networks some of these clergy are in, heavily pro-homosexual, after what I have read.

ThePalmHQ said...

Well Hans, I would just say that there can never be any injustice in accurately representing an opponent's viewpoint. If rabbinic Jews do consider taking usury from the goyim to be okay, if that is an accurate representation of their position, then it's not "anti" anything to say so. The Moslems are scandalized by the dogma of the Blessed Trinity, but it's not "anti-Catholic" for them to object to our belief in it, so long as they don't misrepresent it. If they claim that our belief is blasphemous because we worship three gods, well then that's a blatant falsehood. But if they advance arguments as to why we should not hold to what we do actually hold, there's nothing anti-Catholic or bigoted about that. Same in the example you cited, I think.

Ben said...

The problem when you're talking about anti-Catholicism is that the term is so vague. Does it mean: opposition to Catholicism? Hatred of Catholics? Criticism of Catholics/Catholicism? Verbal abuse of Catholics? Violence against Catholics? It could cover one or all of these ideas.

For example, if I rejected the Real Presence it would be true to say that when Catholics worship "mere bread" that they are committing idolatry. It would therefore be true to say that the Catholic religion is a satanic & idolatrous one. Is this statement anti-Catholic? In one sense, yes, in another, no. It is a negative criticism of the Catholic religion, but wouldn't entail hatred towards "poor deluded Catholics".

So let’s apply the Golden Rule and “substitute the words Catholic/Catholics/Catholicism into various writings that address Jew/Jews/Judaism and see if we would find them anti-Catholic”.

Here’s a reworked version of John Chrysostom, now about Catholics: “But what is the source of this hardness? It comes from gluttony and drunkenness. When brute animals feed from a full manger, they grow plump and become more obstinate and hard to hold in check; they endure neither the yoke, the reins, nor the hand of the charioteer. Just so Catholics were driven by their drunkenness and plumpness to the ultimate evil; they kicked about, they failed to accept the yoke of God, nor did they pull the plough of his teaching. One prophet hinted at this when he called the Catholics "an untamed calf". Although such beasts are unfit for work, they are fit for killing. And this is what happened to the Catholics: while they were making themselves unfit for work, they grew fit for slaughter. You Catholics should have fasted then, when drunkenness was doing those terrible things to you, when your gluttony was giving birth to your ungodliness-not now. Now your fasting is untimely and an abomination”.

Ben said...

Is this anti-Catholic? Pretty obviously! Indeed, if you read how harshly innumerable Popes and Church Fathers attacked both Jews and Judaism, you would no doubt come to the conclusion that they are anti-Semitic. Frankly, I think that if you delivered St. John Chrysostom’s Eight Sermons against the Jews unexpurgated from a modern pulpit in Germany, the government would land you with a heavy fine or imprisonment you for hate speech. So if you wonder where people like Robert Sungenis & traditional Catholics get their (supposedly?) anti-Semitic style of rhetoric, read some fairly typical samples: Hebraeorum gens of Pius V, A Quo Primum of Benedict XIV, the readings from St. Augustine for Matins on Good Friday, Cum Nimis Absurdum of Paul IV, a casual mention in Post Tam Diuturnas of Pius VII. Some more positive mentions are Gregory X’s protection of the Jews.

If you go through Church history there are, exactly parallel to these statements on Jews, extremely negative statements regarding heresy and heretics, whether anti-Arian, anti-Protestant, or whatever.

What you must keep in mind is that non-Catholic religions are literally evil, since they contain privations of various goods (truth) that has been revealed by God. This is the definition of evil. And we should always hate evil, but not the person promoting the evil. It is therefore entirely appropriate to hate Arianism or Judaism, but not Arians or Jews personally.

thepalmhq said...

Ben, a couple of thoughts. First, I would say that the quote that you recast from St. John Chrysostom is indeed anti-Semitic in its original form. It clearly violates your correct closing sentences: "And we should always hate evil, but not the person promoting the evil. It is therefore entirely appropriate to hate Arianism or Judaism, but not Arians or Jews personally."

Just because someone is a saint doesn't mean we are compelled to emulate everything he says and does and in my opinion, in this case, St. Chrysostom clearly went beyond the bounds of charity.

It's frankly hard for me to believe that such rhetoric would have good effect in any historical context. But especially in our present historical context it seems to me that someone would have to have a serious lack of prudence to become convinced that this approach is really going to advance the end which all Catholics should desire, namely, that Jews embrace Christ and come into His Catholic Church.

You stated, "So if you wonder where people like Robert Sungenis & traditional Catholics get their (supposedly?) anti-Semitic style of rhetoric, read some fairly typical samples" and then listed out various Catholic sources. Actually, it's pretty clear that Sungenis did not get his anti-Jewish rhetoric from such Catholic sources but rather from such non-Catholic sources as Mohr, Pranaitis, Dilling, Hoffman, Journal of Historical Review, Storm Front, National Vanguard, Ted Pike, et al. At least those are the sources he cites--and frequently plagiarizes.

Hans-Georg Lundahl said...

Sorry for missing an answer for long, but here comes:

If rabbinic Jews do consider taking usury from the goyim to be okay, if that is an accurate representation of their position, then it's not "anti" anything to say so.

A good observation.

But it has been considered anti-Jewish to note how Jewish money-lenders took 60 percent to 150 percent per year.

The Moslems are scandalized by the dogma of the Blessed Trinity, but it's not "anti-Catholic" for them to object to our belief in it, so long as they don't misrepresent it.

Even if a Soorate calls believers in Holy Trinity or Holy Trinity itself, I have seen both versions in translation, impure? (It is question of a Soorate where impure things are enumerated).

For example, if I rejected the Real Presence it would be true to say that when Catholics worship "mere bread" that they are committing idolatry. It would therefore be true to say that the Catholic religion is a satanic & idolatrous one. Is this statement anti-Catholic? In one sense, yes, in another, no. It is a negative criticism of the Catholic religion, but wouldn't entail hatred towards "poor deluded Catholics".

And yet it is anti-Catholic, and if the first impulse towards Catholics migh be a generous one, a second, when these "poor deluded Catholics" refuse to be converted to purely symbolic views of the Eucharist has been other than generous. From time to time, including from the very start of Protestantism.

Hans Lundahl said...

such non-Catholic sources as Mohr, Pranaitis

Pranaitis was a Catholic priest and he was killed by Communists.

Father Pranaitis, if you please!

Good for Sungenis to read him, so did I when I had access to "the Talmud unmasked".

Hans Lundahl said...

And he was a professor of Hebrew too.

So, what he wrote about the Talmud is either truth or lie.

Here is Father Justinas Pranaitis

Ben said...

Sorry for taking so long to respond!

My question is: is negative language, indeed even abuse, necessarily a form of hatred? This is like bowing before a statue: you can only determine if it's idolatry/hatred based on the inner sentiments. Did Jesus hate the Pharisees during his tirade in Matthew 23?

Out of respect for the fathers, I'm not disposed to consider St. John anti-Semitic, though I don't reject the possibility.

"it seems to me that someone would have to have a serious lack of prudence to become convinced that this approach is really going to advance the end which all Catholics should desire, namely, that Jews embrace Christ and come into His Catholic Church." Naturally you're right, since you catch more flies with honey than vinegar. But this wasn't Chrysostom's purpose, since he was preaching to an entirely Christian audience to dissuade them from joining in Jewish feasts, fasts, circumcision etc., which he calls the Judaizing disease. Hence his attacks on Jews, rather than kind words.

thepalmhq said...

Hans,

I must apologize that your comments above took so long to post. Blogger recently instituted a new "spam" guard and some comments get routed into that folder.

I did indeed miss that Fr. Pranaitis was a priest and so should be addressed as Father. Thanks for the correction. On the other hand, the very Wikipedia article you referenced shows that Fr. Pranaitis's testimony in the "blood libel" case was thoroughly discredited: "His credibility rapidly evaporated, however, when the defence demonstrated his ignorance of some simple Talmudic concepts and definitions, such as hullin, to the point where 'many in the audience occasionally laughed out loud when he clearly became confused and couldn't even intelligibly answer some of the questions asked by my lawyer'."

He may indeed have been professor of biblical Hebrew, but that does automatically translate into proficiency with the very different rabbinic Hebrew of the Talmud. His work on the Talmud is really just a rehashing of many long-discredited criticisms of that work. To be sure there are some horrible things in the Talmud, especially about our Lord and our Lady. But the sweeping distortions and caricatures of the Talmud that exist in so much anti-semitic literature are themselves highly problematic.

thepalmhq said...

Ben, my own apologies for a long delay here. You wrote:

"Naturally you're right, since you catch more flies with honey than vinegar. But this wasn't Chrysostom's purpose, since he was preaching to an entirely Christian audience to dissuade them from joining in Jewish feasts, fasts, circumcision etc., which he calls the Judaizing disease. Hence his attacks on Jews, rather than kind words."

At the very least when St. John Chrysostom was speaking/writing, it would be understandable for him to consider that his message was narrowly directed and not for everyone. He would have a reasonable expectation that it would be Christians hearing it and not Jews. Still, I would still say that adopting extreme rhetoric like St. John's would, unfortunately, naturally foment hatred in those Christians who heard/read his words. There have to be better ways to warn Christians away from Judaizing that to broadbrush the entire Jewish people as loathsome and evil, an approach which, again, we would find completely repugnant if it were directed toward Catholics.

In more recent examples, however, a big difference is that certain Catholics broadcast their anti-Jewish material--often filled with demonstrable untruths, slanders, etc.--across the Internet for all audiences to read. This exacerbates the scandal and harm it can cause.

Hans-Georg Lundahl said...

Pranaitis might have been wrong on sufficient detail to loose the case.

Eyewitnesses in same affirmed, while retracting their original statement "the secret police confused us".

Does not show him wrong on all of his research.

He does for instance state that in Talmud Christendom is known as Esau. That harmonises pretty well with the fact that the Church of Jerusalem fled to Pella, East of Jordan River in time to avoid the destructions anno 70. Thereafter they obviously came back - from the areas of Edom (=Esau), Moab and Ammon (=all of which together=Jordania)

thepalmhq said...

Father Pranaitis, if you please!

;o)