The Vatican on Muslims and Jews

The pope has offended some followers of other faiths but ..

By Justin Ewers, US NEWS

[..] Benedict, after all, since taking over from his predecessor, John Paul II, has stumbled spectacularly several times over his own pointed, occasionally inflammatory, references to other faiths. In 2006, while giving a speech at the University of Regensburg in Germany, Benedict offended many Muslims when he quoted a 14th-century Byzantine emperor’s harsh description of the prophet Muhammad: “Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new,” Benedict quoted the emperor saying, “and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.” The pope’s comments were met with outrage in parts of the world: Pakistan’s parliament voted to condemn him, and Lebanon’s top Shiite cleric demanded an apology. After saying he was “deeply sorry,” the pontiff seemed to stumble again less than a week later, this time over the church’s relationship with Judaism, when he quoted St. Paul in another speech describing the crucifixion as a “scandal for the Jews.”

His comments might have been dismissed as momentary gaffs, experts say, if they hadn’t been accompanied by more subtle shifts in the language emerging from the Vatican. Last year, Benedict permitted the use of an old Good Friday liturgy, shelved since the early 1960s, that had anti-Semitic overtones, calling for the conversion of the Jews, in their “blindness” and “darkness,” to Christianity. Benedict has raised eyebrows among some Christian leaders, as well, with his renewed emphasis on the centrality of the Eucharist and the apostolic succession. To be fair, Benedict has also tried to ease some of the religious tension he has created: He agreed to remove the questionable references from the Good Friday prayer this year, and, after his comments at Regensburg, he made a point of reaching out to Muslims by praying with the imam of the Blue Mosque in Turkey and organizing a series of dialogues with leading Muslim scholars.

Still, experts say, there seems to be little doubt that this pope, in both style and substance, has proved to be a decisive departure from his sunny, hands-across-the-Vatican predecessor. “Since Benedict’s pontificate, some of the rhetoric [coming out of the Vatican] has seemed to be sharper, and that has caused some concern and dissatisfaction on the part of other churches and faiths,” says the Rev. Thomas Rausch, a Jesuit priest and professor of theological studies at Loyola Marymount University. Benedict may have chosen his words poorly in Regensburg, and his formal, stilted locution may be part of the reason he has occasionally been misunderstood. But experts inside and outside the church still believe Benedict’s comments reflect a shift in the Vatican’s relationship with other faiths—and offer a glimpse into the new direction Benedict intends to take the church.

Benedict is the head of a church that has been grappling for decades with how it should treat other religions. After the reforms of the 1960s, the Vatican moved, at least rhetorically, into a much more liberal era, recognizing publicly that all religions represented some form of fundamental truth, seeming to leave some of its more conservative theology behind. John Paul II, for one, carried this rhetoric into his papacy, meeting not just with Jewish and Muslim leaders but with members of the Eastern Orthodox Church, as well, while writing and speaking about the activity of the “spirit” beyond the confines of the church itself and implying that other religions, too, might offer a path to some form of salvation. CONTINUE

Ted Belman

While I agree he is going in the right direction in challenging Islam, I am against his position of wanting the building of churches in the Islamic countries. Were they to agree to this they would take greater license in our country.

But what I am really against is set out in Dominus Jesus which re-emphasizes the primacy of the Catholic Church, and Jesus Christ, among faiths. The worst offenders in demanding primacy are the Moslems and then come the Catholics. Even the Evangelicals want to spread the Word believing that they are doing a service to mankind.

How can there be equality of faiths when some faiths by their doctrine think they are superior.

Judaism, on the other hand, truly accepts other faiths. Judaism claims no superiority. Some will disagree pointing to the doctrine of being “chosen”. The Jews were chosen by God to follow his laws. That’s all it means. If anyone wants to follow his laws, they can convert. But Judaism imposes no obligation on anyone else to follow his laws.

April 19, 2008 | 17 Comments »

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  1. Today, it is only fundamentalist Muslims who murder and maim in the name of their religion.

    We are not just talking of a handful of Muslim terrorists, but a very great many thousands. When we speak of the Muslim fundamentalists who support these Muslim terrorists and from whom these terrorists draw their increasing numbers, we are speaking of between 130 million to 300 million Muslims, depending on which estimates are considered more valid.

    If these evil Muslims find words and inspiration in Islam to do their evil in the name of Islam, we Westerners had better take them at their word as to what Islam means to them and those who support them.

    The critical point that Mark is ignoring is that it is irrelelvant as to whether one can point to words in Christian or Jewish writings that inspired Christians to do evil in the name of their religion long ago. Christian did do evil in the name of their religions however that monstrous Christian evil is over. Some vestiges of it remains in their anti-semtism, but that is not nearly as it was and rarely if ever since the end of WWII results in the death of Jews.

    It is very debateable Jews ever did evil in the name of their religion. I would hold not.

    If they did however, it would not have been done in any concerted and sustained way as the Christians did long ago and as a large number of Muslims do today.

    Therefore if one measures relative evil inspired by religion, the Jewish evil in the name of their religion is hardly worth a mention when compared to the evil of Christians committed long ago in the name of their religion.

    The only thing however worth mentioning and taking heed of today is the evil fundamentalist Muslims have done and continue to do in the name of their religion.

  2. Mark;

    One quote in the Koran I find interesting is this one: “That was why We laid it down for the Israelites that whoever killed a human being, except as a punishment for murder or other wicked crimes, should be looked upon as though he had killed all mankind; and that whoever saved a human life should be regarded as though he had saved all mankind.

    this taken verbatim from Talmud. Judasm makes no Universal concept here only those Jews or non Jews that have moral merit. The rest can burn!

    “eye for an eye”

    Judaism says: “an eye for an eye” principle only applies to exemplary punishment in the very specific situation. In such rare cases, reciprocal corporal punishment could be feasibly carried out.

    The lawgiver makes his intention known by starting the Laws section (Exodus 21) with rules about Hebrew slaves. Now, that’s exceedingly strange. Judaism is about laws and justice, and the Laws section is a centerpiece of the Book of Exodus, literally the central (middle) chapter of the scroll. We would expect the laws to start with major themes, such as life and murder. But eleven opening verses of the Laws detail the rights of Hebrew slaves.

    Those rights were exceedingly generous even by the nineteenth century C.E. norms, let alone the ancient world’s habits. Slavery of Hebrews was limited to six years. Slave girls were to be treated on par with wives.

    What’s the point? In the opening lines, the Laws immediately shock the reader into the entirely different moral reality. The Hebrews must isolate themselves from the old habits: from barbarity of neighboring tribes, brutality of Egypt, even from the inbuilt human egoism. At this point, Hebrews are commanded to abandon the natural human behavior of exploiting their compatriots to the utmost extent feasible. They are told to care about the most vulnerable members of their society, Hebrew slaves.

    It is not that caring of Hebrew slaves is the major civil law, but it relates the major legal principle, “Love your [Hebrew] neighbor as thyself.” That principle is not merely a moral piece, but a fully actionable law.

    The old saw of we are judged by the company we keep I believe applies to Obama more than most as he is aspiring to become the President of the USA. This makes it imperative that we know and understand as much as possible about him especially that almost no one knows him , what he thinks personally and where he intends to lead if elected.Torah Judaism mandates collective guilt and makes an individual equally guilty if he does not intercede to stop an evil or crime. I am not referring specifically to religion but to values. I believe in the end our values are what define us, even would be Presidents.

    finally your last paragraph re: differences of three religions.

    The Ten Commandments are the Jewish Constitution. They develop the two declarative principles. Love for God is clarified in practical terms as abrogation of other worship and divine images and reserving a weekly spot, Shabbat, for contemplation. The rejection of harming neighbors is likewise clarified: they should not be murdered or robbed, falsely testified against, and should not become objects of jealousy. One’s obligations to aliens are more limited: they should not be murdered or robbed; that’s about the maximum that normal human beings could practically accord to aliens. Obligations to parents – the closest neighbors – are more extensive: they should be respected.

    Torah is a compendium of Jewish laws. They are based on the Constitution (the Ten Commandments) and, like all laws, could be theoretically changed, but contenders must overcome a huge burden of proof that the laws are either obsolete or (God forbid) initially erroneous. Torah represents eternal truth unless in particular instances definitely proven otherwise. For example, the laws against zoophilia, incest, and homosexuality develop the constitutional commandment which prohibits adultery.

    Talmudic rules could be likened to executive orders. They make the laws actionable. While largely correct, Mishna and especially Gemara are open to change with the current situation in mind. Talmudic sages adapted the laws of Judaism to their circumstances; for example, they over-regulated due process and made capital punishment practically impossible because, living in the Diaspora, they could not enforce death sentences, anyway. Modern Jews are entitled to similar re-evaluation. Cavalier rejection of the Talmudic wisdom is wrong. It took five centuries to lay down the Talmud, and re-evaluation would also take time.

  3. Ted,

    Yamit: Mark has a good point here and if you can be tolerant of one form of racism or to be more exact antisemitism why not Sharpton?

    Ted: Mark’s question is stupid. I am against antisemites whether they are Christians or Muslims or individuals like Sharpton. No conflict there. I am against Islam because it wants to enslave me or kill me.

    If Yamit is seeing this point as having some merit, then maybe it isn’t “stupid.” It was a question about tolerance of racism, and whether we are using a double standard on morality here. It wasn’t about criminals and seeking justice for their crimes – that’s a different issue.

    One quote in the Koran I find interesting is this one: “That was why We laid it down for the Israelites that whoever killed a human being, except as a punishment for murder or other wicked crimes, should be looked upon as though he had killed all mankind; and that whoever saved a human life should be regarded as though he had saved all mankind.”

    Time and National Geographic on the “enslavement” or “murderous” nature of Islam in Sep 2001:,9171,1101011001-175987,00.html

    Each religious text – whether it’s the Bible, Torah and Koran – are complex enough to have passages that appear to be peaceful or vengeful. The Bible has “turn the other cheek” as well as an “eye for an eye.” None of these tomes are internally consistent. And they were composed in an era and culture that doesn’t look like ours. People who have political or other axes to grind will always be able to find passages in each of these texts to make their point. I could say that “eye for an eye” is the justification why I gouged out the eye of a doctor who messed up my Lasik surgery. Or some other act of revenge that is illegal under law. Does that mean my religion is a violent one, because I’ve found a passage in there to justify it? Christians have used the Bible & Christianity as their reason for the Crusades, or found enough in it to be antisemitic (the deicide charge, et al) – does that mean that the Bible or Christianity is where you should direct your ire? You give Catholicism a pass because it isn’t oriented that way now. But the the book hasn’t changed one bit – just what’s politically acceptable has. So direct your ire against those who want to kill you without making that logical jump to the religion itself.

    Given their similar roots, I don’t see any of the 3 Abrahamic religions as being any more peaceful or murderous than each other. I’m no scholar of comparative religion, but I think that’s a reasonable position unless someone shows me research indicating otherwise.


  4. Yamit

    Mark has a good point here and if you can be tolerant of one form of racism or to be more exact antisemitism why not Sharpton? Islam is much closer to Judaism(not reformed kind) than is Christianity, that said right now most Christians today are not trying to kill me as the Muslims but are more insidious they support to a large extent those Islamists who are! I do not think the being critical if supported about any subject should be limited here but that is of course your prerogative.

    I do not think that this is what Mark meant.

    The reason I don’t want a theological discussion of the falsity of Catholicism is that it is their right to believe what they want in terms of Jesus or God. What I am open to, is criticism of their doctrines which diminish Jews and Judaism and have lead to antisemitism. I am also open to criticisng what anyone or religion does that is harmful to Jews.

    Mark’s question is stupid. I am against antisemites whether they are Christians or Muslims or individuals like Sharpton. No conflict there. I am against Islam because it wants to enslave me or kill me.

  5. Gary
    It is one thing to condemn a faith as a whole as I do regarding Islam for the reasons you suggest or to single out a single thing about Catholicism which is divisive which I did.

    That is not to say that Catholicism for most of its existence should not have been condemned as we do Islam today. They both spread their religion under the sword. Even so there is a distinction to be made. Islam’s founding document, the Koran, mandates violence whereas Catholicism was more a case absolute power corrupting absolutely.

    What drove Catholicism to kill so much was the belief in superiority and mission.

    This idea of mission, call it spreading the Word or jihad, can come to no good. At least the Christians aren’t using violence anymore.

    That is not to say that I accept missionizing by word only. I don’t. It is offensive to Jews who as a group do not want to be subject to it and resent the attempt of Christians to single out the weak among us for conversion. It shows no respect and has no place in co-existence. Many Evangelical groups understand this and have committed themselves to refrain from missionizing in Israel.

    Judaism has no such mission. It has no claims on the other. In the beginning the idea of God was in conflict with idol worship. So Judaism developed a doctrine of separation. This the world hates them for. The world says we are not allowed to have a Jewish state. Why not?

  6. Ted: Although I think that most every religion should be at least tolerated, seen in a positive light, studied, debated and understood, I think that you minimize the good contributions that you and others make to Israpundit by saying,

    “Over the years I have followed a policy of tolerance to all faiths except Islam.”

    In fact, most of the writers on these pages are tolerant and would never bother to criticize Islam were they not targeting themselves and others with violence, terrorism, war and false propaganda at this time.

    The Catholic Church, which cannot in any way be compared with Islam, should not get a free pass either when they pray for the conversion of others and make it seem that theirs is the supreme dominant belief system.

    If religion is partially about seeking truth and justice, then all religious belief must come under scrutiny at times. The fact that Islam is presently the biggest threat to truth and attacking other people and religions (without any words of caution and even less action on the part of the Muslim people to actually stop it) is the reason why Israpundit readers feel a need to emphasize that real change needs to occur, it is not because of any unwarranted prejudice or bias as your statement might suggest.

    If other religions (especially Islam) were prepared to concentrate on internal matters of faith rather that external matters of conquest and conversion, then the world would be a much better place.

  7. Over the years I have followed a policy of tolerance to all faiths except Islam. Please stop using scriptures for your arguments and stop knocking Catholicism. This is not the place for it.

    I see no philosophical difference between being critical of Catholicism, Islam or any other faith, belief, ideology or philosophy of any group especially when it pertains to how they interacted with Jews and Israel past, present and future. sunstartmt reflects his and another billion or so Christians non Catholics and supports his position using Their own scripture. As you once said we don’t have to read his scriptural presentations do we? You should spend some time on Christian blogs sometime to see how they really feel about the Jews and ea. other very illuminating and educational.

    Mark has a good point here and if you can be tolerant of one form of racism or to be more exact antisemitism why not Sharpton? Islam is much closer to Judaism(not reformed kind) than is Christianity, that said right now most Christians today are not trying to kill me as the Muslims but are more insidious they support to a large extent those Islamists who are! I do not think the being critical if supported about any subject should be limited here but that is of course your prerogative.

    Re: current Pope:

    Joseph Ratzinger’s claims about the Hitler Youth are not true. Compulsory membership was first defined in 1936 and reinforced in 1939, not in 1941 as he says. Ratzinger also says that he was “still too young” at the time, but he was 14 in 1941 and not too young at all: between the ages of 10 and 14, membership in the Deutsche Jungvolk (a group for younger children) was mandatory. Yet there is no mention of Raztinger belonging. If he had managed to avoid the required membership in the Deutsche Jungvolk, why did he suddenly join the Hitler Youth in 1941?

    Resistance: Both Joseph Ratzinger and his brother, Georg, have said that “resistance was impossible” at the time and, therefore, it’s not surprising or morally culpable that they also “went along.” This is also not true. First, it’s insulting to the many who risked their lives to resist the Nazi regime, both in organized cells and on an individual basis. Second, there are many examples of those who refused service in the Hitler Youth for a variety of reasons.

    Whatever the Ratzinger family did and whatever Joseph Ratzinger’s father did, it wasn’t enough to be arrested or sent to a concentration camp. It doesn’t even appear to have been enough to warrant being detained and questioned by the Gestapo.

    Military: Although it is true that Ratzinger deserted the military rather than continue fighting, he didn’t do so until April 1945, when the end of the war was quite close.


    There is absolutely no reason to think that Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, is now or has ever been secretly a Nazi. Nothing he has ever said or done even remotely suggests the slightest sympathy with any of the basic Nazi ideas or goals. Any claim that he is a Nazi is implausible at best. However, that is not the end of the story.

    While Ratzinger was not a Nazi in the past and Benedict XVI is not a Nazi now, there is more than enough reason to question his handling of his past. It appears that he hasn’t been honest with others — and probably not honest with himself — about what he did and what he could have done.

    It’s simply not true that resistance was impossible at the time. Difficult, yes; dangerous, yes. But not impossible. John Paul II participated in anti-Nazi theater performances in Poland, yet there is no evidence of Joseph Ratzinger even doing this much.

    Ratzinger may have done more than many others to resist, but he also did far less that some. It’s certainly understandable that he wouldn’t have had the courage to do more and, were he any average person, that would be the end of the story. But he isn’t an average person, is he? He’s the pope, a person who is supposed to be the successor of Peter, head of the Christian Church, and symbol of unity for all Christendom.

    You don’t have to be morally perfect to hold such a position, but it’s not unreasonable to expect such a person to have come to terms with their moral failings, even the moral failings that occurred in youth when we don’t usually expect a great deal. It was an understandable mistake or failing not to do more against the Nazis, but still a failing that he hasn’t come to terms with — it sounds rather like he is in denial. In a sense, he has yet to repent; yet he was still considered the best of all the candidates for the papacy.

  8. Ted:

    Over the years I have followed a policy of tolerance to all faiths except Islam.

    Does that mean you would consider it moral for others (let’s say Sharpton) to say the same thing about Jews? I’m curious.

  9. sunstartmt

    Over the years I have followed a policy of tolerance to all faiths except Islam. Please stop using scriptures for your arguments and stop knocking Catholicism. This is not the place for it.

  10. sunstar,

    this has been common knowledge for a while. I’m not sure why it’s all over the news now. Perhaps to lessen the stigma of being associated with nazis perhaps; to get to a point in society where ‘being a nazi’ is no longer such a bad thing, like being an antisemite (which certainly hasn’t harmed Obama’s associates).

    This is my very skeptical view; I could be wrong…

  11. Steve,

    Can you send me your reference to “Benedict served in the Hitler Youth?” Where did you get that information because that is truly a good bombshell!

    I apologize for my comments to you made earlier – I just can’t stand stupid people sometimes. However, I can tell you have an ounce of some intelligence – so share with me what you know about Benedict’s HITLER YOUTH.

  12. James Carroll

    What Benedict Hasn’t Said About the Holocaust

    Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to a synagogue in New York this week will evoke his visit to the oldest synagogue in Germany nearly three years ago. On that occasion, addressing leaders of Cologne’s Jewish community, Pope Benedict properly addressed the question of the Shoah. He deplored Hitler’s campaign to eliminate the Jewish people, and he condemned Nazi antisemitism – words which still need to be spoken. That this Catholic leader is himself a German, having had his own youthful glimpse of Hitler’s death-regime, made his remembrance of that history all the more compelling.

    Yet there was something troubling in what Pope Benedict said on that occasion. As it happened, I was in Cologne while the pontiff was there. With the filmmaker Oren Jacoby, I was at work on a documentary film based on my book “Constantine’s Sword: The Church and the Jews – A History.” We were filming in the Rhineland because so much of that history was centered there. Europe’s first pogroms occurred in the 11th century when mobs poured from the Cologne cathedral on Good Friday looking for “Christ-killers.” Blood libel charges arose there during the plagues of the 14th century. The Dreyfus family had its origins nearby, as did the German Catholic celebrations of the 1933 treaty between the Vatican and the Third Reich. Nazi antisemitism had its own diabolical character, but it built on the deep-seated contempt for Jews that had become second nature to Christians, and even a shallow acquaintance with German history (both Lutheran and Catholic) shows that…..

  13. Benedict served in the Hilter Youth. Unlike his savior, he was not willing to give his life for his principles, if he had any other than Jew-hating Nazism. The fact that this man authorizes Catholics to pray for the conversion of Jews to his idols speaks volumes.

  14. Comment by sunstartmf33: “In other words, the God of Abraham, Issac,, Jacob, David, and Solomon joined us in our human race through the Name of Jesus. Jesus is not on a second seat next to God as this would violate the Ten Commandments. Jesus was and is the God of Israel and the God of Israel IS THE EXCLUSIVE MESSIAH AND HOLY SPIRIT.”

    If this mortal was the Holy One of Israel, who was he praying to?

  15. The Pope needs to repent, take off his royal vestments, and remove all Catholic Churches from the Land of Israel as a sign of LOVE and PEACE. LOVE and PEACE can only come from TOLERANCE and Catholics must TOLERATE the belief that on the Land of Israel, Catholicism, like Islam cannot be tolerated. If the Pope wants to promote peace between Palestinians and Israel, then he needs to help Israel by removing Palestine off Israeli soil too!

    Yeah, the Catholic Church has a lot of MONEY. Yes, Catholic leaders blessed Hitler when he was in power; Catholic leaders blessed the Italian mafia mobsters; Catholic leaders blessed homosexual priests who molested little children; Catholic leaders all throughout medieval times oppressed the Jewish people and never helped the Jews settle back in the Land of Israel; and today, the Catholic Church is blessing the United Nations while having communion with their pagan sun god worship through the sun god wafer; the Catholic Church is promoting pagan tolerance; pagan unity; pagan peace; pagan love; and aren’t ALL RELIGIONS wonderful!
    I’ve got one Latin word for the Pope and I sing: KUM-BAY-YA!

    If the Pope seeks forgiveness, let him remove all idols from the soil of Israel and help Israel build the Third Temple on the Temple Mount, while removing all Catholic Churches from Israeli soil!

    Let all Israelis and Jews who are faithful to the cause of the Third Jewish Temple consider that CATHOLICISM has nothing to do with the God of Israel or anything to do with REAL CHRISTIANITY.

    Sure, the Pope can preach LOVE FOR THE POOR in America all he wants and promote the idea that SANCTUARY CITIES for ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS IN AMERICA is part of Catholic compassion, however, where is GOD’S SANCTUARY ON THE TEMPLE MOUNT? Of course illegal immigration is encouraged – the POPE RULES FROM ROME! He could hardly care less about America’s National Security!

    Cardinal Mahoney, who was up for the Pope’s seat, kicks the homeless away from his twelve story office building in Los Angeles! Quite contrary to their missions of mercy and love! And just what is the Catholic positions on ISRAEL’S RIGHT TO PRAY ON THE TEMPLE MOUNT AND BUILD THE THIRD TEMPLE? There is none.

    Get that Pope Mobile off of the God of Israel’s land and property please and send him right back to Rome where he can continue partaking of his sun god worship, who blesses those who curse Israel.