Monday, February 23, 2009

Catholic Jewish Dialogue : A Practical Proposal

I am completely baffled by proponents of "interfaith dialogue". When Pope Benedict decides to make saints out of Pope Pius XII and Pope Pius IX it tells us a lot about him. Both are Popes with poor records on Jewish issues. Pius IX refused to hand over a Jewish child that was baptized and kidnapped by the Papal police. According to canon law he was Catholic. Neither pleading nor intervention by world leaders sufficed to move the Pope.

Pius XII presided over a church that included avowed Nazi priests such as Andras Kun of Hungary and Josef Tiso, the Catholic priest who became the ruler of the Nazi puppet state of Slovakia.

To me it seems downright undignified to ask the Pope to say he is sorry and that he should revise church teachings about Jews. All that is likely to happen is that the Catholic Church will say one thing through liberal bishops and another through conservative clergy. In Jerusalem, Catholic clergy works openly with enemies of Israel. The best thing for Jews to do is to print honest histories of the Jewish people in exile. A well documented history speaks for itself. Nazi priests are a historical fact. The silence of Pius XII is a fact. All we are likely to do by extracting grudging apologies from the Pope is to provide modern day enemies of Israel and the Jews with cover . Go to Yad Vashem. Bow your head. Look sad. Then hop in your stretch limo and go to Ramallah.

There is a practical area where Jews and Catholics should work together. In city after city, the Catholic church has set up networks of Catholic schools. How do they finance them? How do they organise them? In today's New York Post, Patrick McCloskey talks about the financial crisis facing Catholic schools in America. It is widely known that the church schools have a far better record of educating students than public schools. This is a major selling point in pitching the schools to charitable sponsors.

The McCloskey article brings up ideas that could well be employed to strengthen Jewish education. Consider for instance the following.

"The Diocese of Memphis has built up such a large endowment for its parochial schools - which serve some of the nation's poorest zip codes and where more than 90 percent of students aren't Catholic - that the system could weather a 10-year economic downturn without taking in another penny in donations or tuition.

"It's the mission that finds the money," superintendent Mary McDonald told me, explaining that she used her passion to educate disadvantaged students to develop a sophisticated, corporate approach to fund-raising."

The article came up with an additional example that could be very useful to struggling Jewish schools.

"The Diocese of Wichita found a different solution: It developed a culture in which all Catholic families contribute about 8 percent of their gross income to the diocese, which allows its 39 schools to operate tuition-free. It took Wichita 20 years to instill this ethos, but Catholic officials elsewhere could start by taking special Sunday collections to revitalize parochial education."

Anyone who wants to send their child to a religious school in America has to make sacrifices. There is a powerful lobby opposed to government support for religious schools. Catholics, Jews and members of other faiths face the same obstacles. We pay taxes to support public schools and then have to moonlight raising funds for our own schools.

Fighting for equality for religious schools along with the task of financing private educational institutions are matters of common concern to Jews and Christians. I would like to see Jewish leaders study the creative approach of Wichita's Catholics to keeping their schools afloat. A practical collaboration focused on strengthening religious institutions would benefit us all.

We have a fragmented educational non-system that costs too much to run and leaves too many people under served who have special needs or psychological problems. Even loose affiliation among Jewish schools could prove financially and administratively efficient.

We spend a great deal on Holocaust memorials. Jewish education is critical to keeping alive the people the Nazis wanted to wipe out. Raising a new generation of Jews is a fitting way to honour the fallen.

Let's not waste time talking about the New Testament with priests and getting our pictures taken with the Pope. Working together for a practical agenda could benefit us all. We've wasted too much time already. Let's get to work on our common problems. Sphere: Related Content

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