Jews are prominent in the present highly visible culture-war assault on the Catholic Church in America, from the quite recent vilification of Pope Pius XII for “not doing enough” to help Jews in World War II to the entertainment industry’s open bias against the Catholic Church and all it stands for. Many Catholics try to avoid noticing. The current assault on the memory of Pius XII is particularly instructive.
In the aftermath of the horrors of World War II Jews from Albert Einstein to Gold Meir were outspoken in their praise of the Pontiff for his efforts to help Jews during the Nazi persecution. Not a Jewish voice was raised in criticism of the war-time Pope. And these were people who had personally experienced the horrors of the war. Yet today scarcely a Jewish voice is heard in his defense as a claque of calumnators hack away at his memory and reputation. Amazingly, there are no new revelations to justify this attack, just “reinterpretations” of known facts. The recent controversy about access to the Vatican World War II archives only served to expose the bias of the Jewish scholars involved. They openly asserted that the records will reflect badly on the Pope - in the absence of a single shred of new evidence. One may well wonder how this remarkable change came about.
It will be said that not all the critics of the Pope are Jews and this is correct. The ranks of his attackers include several disaffected Catholics with agendas quite beyond the Pope’s relations with the Jews. But one must recognize that Jews are now virtually unanimous in their condemnation of Pius XII. The history of this sorry affair is well set out in Ronald Rychlak’s book, Hitler, the War and the Pope. This meticulously documented, scholarly book (and others like it) has been ignored by an “establishment” media which gleefully publicized the attacks.
No one knows all this better than Dr. William Donohue, head of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, the spunky, confrontational organization which meets what it sees as anti-Catholic bias in public life, head-on, up-front and directly. As Donohue often says, “Anti-Catholicism is the last ‘acceptable’ prejudice in our culture”. The Catholic League is in the trenches of the culture-war, much more so than the Catholic hierarchy who often shy away from public controversy. It is of course much more than “political”. In the past, anti-Catholicism always existed in “intellectual” circles. (Peter Vierek once said that “anti-Catholicism is the anti-semitism of the intellectuals”.) Today it is part of every day popular culture, in the media and entertainment fields particularly, and is openly expressed by many who would have refrained from doing so in the past.
Dr. Donohue does not hesitate to point out his opponents’ misstatements of fact and bias and he does so “on the merits”, with facts and figures. He often succeeds in extracting retractions, whether those are sincere recognition of the validity of his complaints or commercial fear of annoying Catholics who, after all, are the largest religious group in America. Although many of his targets are Jews, he scrupulously avoids confronting them as Jews. From his standpoint this is undoubtedly wise and in any case the most egregious offenders are usually not religious Jews. Were he to even mention the obvious facts he would bring down on himself and his organization the now damning accusation of “anti-semitism”. The mere suspicion of such a charge, no matter if unfounded, would cause many of his timid Catholic supporters to depart him with speed. Consider the reaction of Jews to the assertion that Soviet communist leaders were disproportionaltely Jewish - a fact. A charge of “anti-semitism” is the price for such assertions.
To illustrate, note how Pope Pius XII has been attacked as “anti-semitic” merely for having once said in passing that certain individual communist agitators in pre-war Germany were Russian Jews and unpleasant characters, a fact which no one questions. This is the basis for the charges of his “anti-semitism”, despite the many actions by the Pontiff in aid of Jews during the war.
Perhaps this also helps one understand why Donohue and the Catholic hierarchy in general studiously avoid any question about “the Holocaust”, and in fact, often join in the din of anti-intellectual shouting, denouncing anyone who expresses any doubt about any facet of the dogma as “deniers”, etc.! Many Catholics who read this will recognize what I’m saying but others may be surprised. The intimidation and desire to be politically correct is powerful.
Of course in the real world differences of opinon about religious beliefs are understood and expected. Many Jews are “anti-Catholic” like some non-Jews. And of course no one is compelled to accept Catholic religious doctrine and belief. Honest Jews are willing to admit and discuss these differences of religious views. Donohue has trouble with the subject and tries to ignore it, presumably on the theory that his specialty is only defending the Church against calumnies as he sees them.
The fact is that Jews not only reject Christ as the Messiah as a matter of religious belief but the Talmud vilifies Christ in often loathsome, sometimes scatological passages. Many Catholics are ignorant of or at best uncomfortable with these things and try to avoid thinking about them. American Catholics dearly like to be seen as just like everyone else. The Catholic hierarchy is also influenced by the praiseworthy efforts of the present Pope to reach out a hand of friendship to Jews including apologies for past anti-semitic actions of Catholics.
Historically, open hatred of the Christian Catholic Church was an accepted practice among pious Jews and is an unpleasant if ignored part of the ancient history of Christian-Jewish animus. In other words, past nastiness between Christians and Jews was far from one-sided, although this is rarely mentioned today. Today the prevailing orthodoxy even in Christian circles is that modern-day Jewish animus toward the Church is a justifiable result of past (and sometimes undeniable) Christian persecution. But this is only partly an explanation.
The late Israel Shahak, an Israeli academic, in his book Jewish History, Jewish Religion, discusses the historic, cultural and political burden of Jewish xenophobia or hatred of non-Jews. His later book, “Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel” (with Norton Mezvinsky) also explores the subject. He makes a case that this is far from ancient history and that it informs the policies of the State of Israel today, a state which rather openly practices “official” discrimination against non-Jews. Needless to say this makes Shahak unpopular among pro-Israel American Jews in particular. He survived intellectually in Israel, which is more open in discussing such matters. It is doubtful he would have survived professionally in America. He is not alone in his views however in spite of atttemps to shut him off. I have no idea whether Shahak is even known to Dr. Donohue. He never mentions him.
In any event all of this is the background to where many Catholics are in A merica today.
What has all this got to do with the historic event which has since circa 1967 become known as “the Holocaust” ? Let me explain.
As noted above, Dr. Donohue, the vigorous Catholic defender, avoids the “800 pound gorilla” of the the Jewish angle to modern cultural anti-Catholicism for the reasons mentioned above. But he has other reasons. He is well aware that in view of his interests he is always treading on dangerous ground, risking an untrue but potentially fatal ADL charge of “anti-semitism” if he even hints a whiff of criticism of Jews. Donohue does from time to time point out the hypocricy of some Jewish anti-Catholics who do not recognize the bias in their own attacks on the Church which would be anathema if applied to actions of Jews. In this he is like Shahak, even if he doesn’t mention him.
In our times “the Holocaust” has become a quasi-religious matter for many Jews (and some others), in fact, for many the central feature of American Jewish consciousness and self-identity. Some Jews recognize this. See for example, Peter Novick’s The Holocaust in American Life. Anyone questioning even the slightest part of the accepted dogma will be met with a devastating attack, politically, personally, and professionally. Knowledge that this is the case has effectively silenced many who have doubts about “the Holocaust” stories.
What better way for the leading “Catholic defender” to demonstrate his lack of “anti-semitism” then by joining the mob of the “everyone knows” crowd on the subject of “the Holocaust”! It’s so easy and there are “no enemies to the left”! Too easy.
I know that this sounds as though I’m accusing Donohue of cynical temporizing. Actually I don’t think that is the entire problem. Donohue is an intelligent, educated man, an academic, and undoubtedly a decent person. However, like many other American Catholics, he is unfortunately ignorant of the inroads which revisionism has made in the cult of “the Holocaust”. (By the way, I refer to “the Holocaust” in quotes since I agree with the analysis of Norman Finkelstein who in his book The Holocaust Industry adopts the same convention in order to distinguish between the real event, which he calls the “Nazi holocaust” or persecution of Jews, and the gaggle of “war stories” and lies which constitute the canonical “Holocaust” in the popular mind.). I would characterize the view of the average American Catholic about “the Holocaust” as a dim suspicion that “not all the Holocaust stories are true - but who cares? After all, they suffered so much. And what can I do anyway? Back to the TV”.
I don’t know if Donohue (of whom I at least expect more) has read Novick, Shahak or Finkelstein. On the basis of what he writes one must assume that he isn’t aware. He certainly never discusses it and would probably say there is no need to do so, given his own agenda. Nevertheless, he seems to have bought into every war-time propaganda story on the subject of “the Holocaust”. For example, some time ago he recommended with enthusiasm to his readers on the subject of “the Holocaust” a magazine article on the topic which was a farrago of mostly 60 year old war-time propaganda, including as just one example the absurd claim that Rommel’s target in his North African campaigns was to “get at” the Jews in Palestine - even years before the creation of the Zionist state and contrary to the then aim of Hitler to drive Jews into Palestine - among other such nonsense in the recommended piece.
As for real “Holocaust” revisionsists - forget it! I doubt that Donohue has ever read anything on the subject - The Journal of Historical Review, the Committee for Open Debate of the Holocaust, Arthur Butz’ seminal The Hoax of the Twentieth Century and the others. The mere mention of these things seems to upset him and his way of dealing with it seems to be to retreat into familiar blasts of “everyone knows” conventional wisdom. Like many people of his generation he was brought up to believe in every story and apparently this is enough for him. In this sense he is frozen in time, around 1947.
And it protects him from certain attacks.
This recalls my own correspondence with that otherwise splendid magazine, The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, who, while regularly critical of Israeli actions and policies for their abuse of Palestinians (unlike Donohue, who avoids this subject), also find it convenient to bash “Holocaust” revisionists and accused them of being people who “deny that anything bad happened to the Jews in World War II”. I have challenged them many times to produce evidence of a single revisionist who said that. I never got an answer.
More honest is Norman Finkelstein (by the way, also a critic of revisionists) who said in his book The Holocaust Industry,
“Articulating the key Holocaust dogmas, much of the literature on Hitler’s Final Solution is worthless as scholarship. Indeed the field of Holocaust studies is replete with nonsense, if not sheer fraud.”
The point is that there are Catholics who have a better informed viewpoint about “the Holocaust” than folks like Dr. Donohue, who, after all, is only typical of the current Catholic clerical leadership and the Catholic “flock” ( an unfortunate, but perhaps accurate description) . These better informed Catholics have to overcome their timidity and the intimidation of the “politically correct” to speak out in their own Catholic circles. I sense that this is happening, ever so slowly. “The mills of the gods grind slow, but they grind exceeding fine”. And the World Trade Center disaster is causing a lot of people to think about first causes.