Catholic Culture Solidarity
Catholic Culture Solidarity

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Influential Chicago priest: Benedict’s theology contributes to Holocaust controversy February 16, 2009

Father John Pawlikowski, director of the Catholic-Jewish Studies Program at the Catholic Theological Union, says that Pope Benedict’s “ahistorical ecclesiology” has contributed to the controversy surrounding the lifting of the excommunication of Bishop Richard Williamson.

“Pawlikowski isn’t so sure Benedict fully comprehends the concerns of Jews who suspect Pius XII ignored their plight,” writes Chicago Tribune religion reporter Manya Brachear. Father Pawlikowski adds that the pontiff “views the Holocaust as a pagan, anti-human phenomenon but doesn’t really want to deal very clearly and explicitly with the Christian complicity that was also there … His vision of the church is very ahistorical. Really, the essence of the church is not within history. It’s transcendental and is not really impacted as such by the realities of human history ... He sees the church primarily as a victim of the Nazis and not in any way a collaborator.”

Brachear appears ignorant of Pope Benedict's most recent remarks on the controversy. On February 12, Pope Benedict said:

The Church is profoundly and irrevocably committed to reject all anti-Semitism and to continue to build good and lasting relations between our two communities. If there is one particular image which encapsulates this commitment, it is the moment when my beloved predecessor Pope John Paul II stood at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, pleading for God’s forgiveness after all the injustice that the Jewish people have had to suffer. I now make his prayer my own: "God of our fathers, you chose Abraham and his descendants to bring your Name to the Nations: we are deeply saddened by the behaviour of those who in the course of history have caused these children of yours to suffer, and asking your forgiveness we wish to commit ourselves to genuine brotherhood with the people of the Covenant" (26 March 2000).

On February 15, Brachear wrote:

Benedict’s approach contradicts that of his predecessor John Paul II who, among other gestures during his journey to Jerusalem, inserted a note into the Western Wall asking forgiveness for Christian persecution of Jews throughout history. The contrast puts the current pope in a bit of a quandary. While he wants to pursue friendly relations with religious leaders just as John Paul II did, he doesn’t see the point of inter-religious dialogue if no one intends to change their position.

To back up her assertion-- which flies in the face of Pope Benedict’s words three days earlier-- the religion reporter quotes Pawlikowski, who donated $204 to the Democratic National Committee in 2003 and $300 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2008:

"People who’ve met with him personally say he’s very engaging and very positive," Pawlikowki said. "This desire for good interpersonal relations conflicts with his basic doctrinal position," which assigns virtually zero value to inter-religious conversations. It’s hard to have relations when you don’t talk and even harder when you don’t listen.