He’s Anti-Semitic, Too

Having thoroughly pissed off the Muslim community, Benedict proceeded to make it clear he doesn’t like Jews, either.

Yet minutes after saying he was “deeply sorry” about the reaction to his earlier remarks, he cited a passage from the New Testament highlighting the gulf between Christian and Jewish attitudes to Jesus’ crucifixion.

The pontiff appeared to risk causing fresh controversy during his speech on Sunday when he cited a passage from St Paul that risked being interpreted as hostile — not by Muslims, but by Jews. It described the crucifixion of Jesus as a “scandal for the Jews”.

It’s easy for people whose knowledge of turn-of-the-first-millennium-BCE Judea comes from the New Testament to think that Jesus brought a message of love in a society that only really cared about behavioral quirks like dieting and was full of hate.

In reality, the Pharisees were a fairly liberal and populist group, compared with the more dogmatic Saducees. And even if Jesus existed, which he probably didn’t, he was nothing more than a run-of-the-mill reformer. The modern equivalent of what happened would be if Marxism triumphed in the world, and two thousand years from now everyone believes that the main enemy of yore was the liberals, the group most directly responsible to the oppression of the working class.

Media fawning such as “risked being interpreted as hostile” aside, Ratzinger really is hostile. Just like Bush, he can’t grasp the concept of making alliances. To be perfectly honest, saying things like that Jewish Holocaust victims were “themselves bit players – bystanders at their own extermination. The true victim was a metaphysical one” fills me with schadenfreude more than outrage.

One of the very few useful concepts to come out of ethnic studies is this of the capacity to oppress. In short, it’s not that white Americans are more prejudiced against black Americans than the other way around; it’s that since those in power are white, white racism has the capacity to oppress black people, whereas black racism has no capacity to oppress whites.

Benedict doesn’t have the capacity to oppress a single Jew. Enough religious fanatics in Europe like him that he can oppress Muslims, but there’s nothing he can do to impoverish Jews, promote greater intolerance of Jews, or encourage anti-Semitic legislation. The European extreme right is pretending to like Jews since they’re potential allies against Muslims, the American extreme right is too Protestant to give a damn about what the Pope says, and the Middle Eastern extreme right generally hates Christians and Jews equally.

6 Responses to He’s Anti-Semitic, Too

  1. Kian says:

    I got in an argument with my poli sci prof today (its becoming a regular thing for us) because I asked a question – why is anyone suprised to hear this? And isn’t this all being taken out of context?… I still hold firm that the answer for both questions are – well no one should be suprised, its not like this is the first time a leader of a group of people has said something stupid about another group of people and yes, its all being taken out of context … which may or may not change the meaning and general undertone.

  2. Ratzinger becomes easier to predict when you think of him as someone for whom, in some bizarre Platonic fun-house mirror, ideas are more real than people, places and things. His entire life – not vocational life, life life – has been about ideas in academia, in administrative pursuit of ideological purity. Ideas, even abstract ideas, to him are more real than your dinner might be to you. So he flourished as an “idea weed-puller” in the successor to the Holy Inquisition. You can double that effect when you add that it’s a German academic in a German university.

    His immediate predecessor did not have that trait; he had been an actor, a people person, an organizer.

  3. Alon Levy says:

    It raises the question of why Wojtyla made Ratzinger his right-hand man, then. Was it because they’re ideologically compatible, even if their personalities are as different as night and day?

  4. gordo says:


    I think ideology had a lot to do with it. Ratzinger’s ideology comes dangerously close, in my opinion, to the near-fascism of Pius XII. That means that he’s about as anti-communist as they come. Anti-communism defined Wojtyla’s early career, and he got to see communist persecution of Catholics first hand.

    In fact, with the exception of their view of eccumenism, they seemed to be on the same page with regard to just about every subject.

    And let’s not forget that their personalities were not polar opposites. Wojtyla may not have been quite as oriented toward the abstract, but he was also an academic who could talk for hours about finer points of liturgy and doctrine.

    It always seemed to me, though, that their relationship was as much professional as personal. And the fact is, Ratzinger was effective in his efforts to push the Church to the right.

  5. Axel says:


    1. “scandal for the Jews” seems to be part of 1 Corinthians 22-24:

    “For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” (King James-Bible translation)

    No further context is given in the linked article and I haven’t found another Internet source that handles the topic. Has the quotation some historical impact for Catholic anti-semitism? I don’t know.

    2. You wrote:

    “To be perfectly honest, saying things like that Jewish Holocaust victims were “themselves bit players – bystanders at their own extermination.”

    But Madeleine Bunting wrote: “As one commentator put it, he managed to claim that Jews were the “themselves bit players – bystanders at their own extermination. The true victim was a metaphysical one.” It’s true that some commentators were disappointed because they felt that he did not go far enough, he did not talk about the specific policy against the Jews and the prime responsibility of Germans — not only “Hitler and a ring of criminals” — for the Holocaust. I partly agree. But I found absolutely no indications for statements like “bit players” or “bystanders” in the abstract sense or “The true victim was a metaphysical one” (Forward, European Jewish Congress, ADL press release “The Pope at Auschwitz: A Missed Opportunity “ and ADL press release “ADL Welcomes Pope’s Clear Condemnation Of Anti-Semitism”)

  6. Mariah Masso says:

    Many thanks for your helpful tips. You discover a little something regularly.

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