Saturday, April 17, 2010

An Israeli Jewish Catholic Priest?

Father Paul

I miss him. You can find him in New Jersey now. He was ordained in Washington, DC and was once a Deacon at the Cathedral in Washington, DC. He is an Israeli Jew, with an accent. He's lovely. He also is a self-identified Catholic, and now a fully consecrated ordained Catholic Priest. He used to love showing movies off the Papal official favorite list of the top hit parade of movies with a profound spiritual message in a conference room in the Cathedral in their antiquated audio-visual equipment fidgetting with the screen projector and sound-adorable. (Note to anyone who wants to donate upgraded systems for the Cathedral call Monsignor Jameison at Saint Matthews.)

These life stories are important to recall when the PR is running in the opposite direction with the Catholic -Jewish relational divide. It's hard enough to convince Jewish people that Catholics don't think that they all collectively killed Christ without some whack-a-doodle early Alzheimer British priest forgetting everything Winston Churchill said and did- so here is another bit of news that was most welcome and refreshing: The church excommunicated Catholics in Germany who joined up with the Nazi.

They deserved it.
I don't like excommunication of anyone generally as a proposition because I operate under the premises that the biggest sinners need Jesus all the more and he never turned himself away from anyone seeking him when he walked the planet in life- but if they are going to excommunicate anyone it makes sense that they would to turn-coats who became Nazis. Nazi-ism ran centrally counter to catholic theology at its core. First, at it's core, anything anti-Jewish from a theological perspective is anti-thetical to Catholicism because Jesus came first to save the Jews then to the Gentile, he was a Jew, all his early followers and martyrs who died for their beliefs were largely first Jews (people we now call early Saints and Martyrs were Jews-Saint Stephen being the first), theologically it is based on and presumed to be the fulfillment of the jewish scripture and a next chapter in the Jewish story regarding it's Jewish Messiah. That is why any anti-semitism in the church is mind-bogglingly ignorant of what the faith is about and just anti-thetical theologically to it teachings at their core.

There are many priests and hard core christian protestant evangelists who actually were also killed by Nazis, who tried to hide and protect Jews from destruction, and who fought the Nazis at the cost of their lives. Deitrich Bonhoffer's life story is illustrative and deeply moving. He refused to back down from his biblical understanding in the face of Nazi persecution as a German preacher-pastor educator in a seminary and was captured and killed in a Nazi prison for objecting to the regime's blasphemies. There is an international movement called the Shoenstadt movement after a priest who similarly was captured and held, as well as famous Martyred Priests who died in the camps.

The Catholic world, I have found, in spite of the discipline it seeks to impose top down, is not always a monolith, which surprises the onlooker outside. There are more liberal factions and more conservative factions- as was witnessed in the health care debate in this country where you had republican catholics pushing for no abortion funding and liberal catholics pushing for a public option and any reform at all, with the liberal ones, I might add, being far more gracious and felicitous to the name calling republican ones whose screed was often ugly, calling them fake catholics because they didn't either like or understand them- tinged with the sexist rant against the uppidy liberal sisters who just weren't having it from the men in dresses any longer. It is easy to see that the catholic world of Germany in the 30s would likely have been no different.

The official line of the church, however, would have to stick with it's own Doctrine, which would have compelled that anyone adopting political views wildly contrary to it's core, which Naziism was, should be put out so I don't doubt the veracity of this document. The church puts out people rudely here now (sometime for ridiculously ignorant reasons-some have been screaming to excommunicate Nancy Pelosi for years), so it is no shock it would be aggressive about it if it thought that it's core teachings were being violated and adopted by Catholics. The Nazi's would have been considered engaging in what the church calls "unjust war" or illegitimate killing- murder which is unrepentant mortal sin.

The Nazi movement tried to co-opt and consolidate religions and make a national religion by consolidating the Lutheran Synods and making Hitler head of the church the way the Queen of England is the head of the Anglican church in Great Britain (figurehead or not.) This would be directly against what the Catholic Church was about and a direct challenge to the Papacy. It makes total sense that anyone who was a Nazi would be excommunicated because it would be a direct affront and challenge to the Pope's authority.

There is a new movie coming out about the Pope who was in office during the Holocaust which should be interesting- there is a lot that we don't know about regarding how the clergy protected and hid Jews in catholic schools and monasteries, gave them (as an official program) fake ID, fake birth and baptismal certificates to foil the Nazis and escape countries, and tried to co-operate with allied forces. It is an intriguing story and the jury is still out- so before we hang all the catholics in the court of public opinion, we should look at all the evidence carefully.

And talk to Father Paul.
Catholics and Jews are Family.

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