Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Cardinal Pell and the Jews

I'm looking at articles about Pell's  Q and A comments regarding Jews.

I want to know what he meant by the Germans suffering the most.    

So far I've looked at two articles and one blog entry.  None of them give an explanation. They just say Pell apologized. 

Oh....good.   I went to a fourth article and this one provides an explanation.

Thank you!

It's from an Aussie-Kiwi Jewish online news thing.  

They have a quote from Pell.

He says, At the back of my mind I was thinking about an answer the Jewish writer David Berlinski gave to atheist Sam Harris on why God did not prevent the Holocaust. Referring to the incredible destruction and loss of life that the Allies inflicted on Germany in the course of the war which Germany started, Berlinski observed that ‘if God did not protect his chosen people precisely as Harris might have wished, He did, in an access of his old accustomed vigor, smite their enemies, with generations to come in mourning or obsessed by shame.

That does make some sense to me.  And I think in some ways, descendants of Nazis have a bigger cross to bear than descendants of European Jews. Well...I can say, personally, that I'd rather be the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors (or non-survivors) than be the granddaughter of Nazis. But I am neither, and very glad to have been spared both trials.

Still, though. As a whole, I think Jews have suffered more than Germans. It's hard for me to imagine an intelligent person thinking otherwise. If they're not anti-Semitic and/or Holocaust deniers, I'd assume they were having a bit of a brain fart. It happens sometimes.

All three articles and the blog entry, also talk about the other controversial stuff Pell said about the Jews.

On the show he said,  It’s no good, say, my asking everyone in the congregation will you would do something. Normally you go to a busy person because you know they'll do it and so for some extraordinary reason God chose the Jews. They weren't intellectually the equal of either the Egyptians or the...  

Although I agree with his busy-person plan, it sounds a bit like another brain fart.

But I don't think Pell was being anti-Semitic.

I personally understood what he was trying to say.  Or at least I think I do.

I thought he just used the wrong word—Intellectual.

I thought what he meant to say is that their civilization was less advanced. (and now I'm seeing that, in the Jewish Aussie-Kiwi article, he somewhat confirms this).  

I don't think Aboriginal Australians, back in the 1700's, were intellectually inferior to British people.   I think their brains and intellectual abilities were equal.  But I do think their civilization was less advanced.   That's not to say the Aborigines weren't thriving in a wonderful way and that advanced civilization is necessarily better than a more simple civilization.  

In my eyes, Pell was just saying that other societies in the Biblical bygone days were more powerful.  They maybe had more fruits-of-their-labor to show off.

Tony Jones gave Pell a hard time over his opinion.

I liked Pell's response.  The people, in terms of sophistication, the psalms are remarkable in terms of their buildings and that sort of thing. They don't compare with the great powers. But Jesus came not as a philosopher to the elite. He came to the poor and the battlers and for some reason he choose a very difficult but actually they are now an intellectually elite because over the centuries they have been pushed out of every other form of work. They’re a - I mean Jesus, I think, is the greatest the son of God but, leaving that aside, the greatest man that ever live so I’ve got a great admiration for the Jews but we don't need to exaggerate their contribution in their early days.

That makes sense to me. I think, by here, Pell's brain fart had ended. Or at least that particular one. 


  1. Pell is one of the scariest people in Australia. He has immense power both in Australia and Rome. Words are his business and I don't believe he at times 'chooses' the wrong words.

  2. Andrew,

    I won't debate you on the scary-bit. I don't know enough about the guy to know if I'd agree with you or not.

    As for the other bit though.

    You and I are both very prolific bloggers. So we could say words are OUR business. You and I both sometimes choose the wrong words.

    Of course we're not powerful in Rome, Australia...or anywhere. So there's a difference.

    I'm not sure where Pell gets his power; but I don't think it comes from high intelligence or charisma.

    From what I saw on the show; I don't think he's the type of person whose way with words make him influential.

    Do you think he's anti-Semitic? I imagine he might be mildly so. But I think his stick-his-foot-in-the-mouth problem outweighs his anti-semitism.

  3. I don’t particularly like what Pell stands for. I was raised a Catholic and what I was taught has a profound influence on what I think and what I try to do, but very few of my elders or teachers were dogmatic. Despite being taught a lot of rules built around the word ‘must’, I was always encouraged to question everything. There is a line in the movie Yentl where a Rabbi says ‘it is by their questions that we choose our students’ – it strikes a chord with me.
    Pell is dogmatic. He didn’t advance so high on the church ladder by speaking against the party line. There’s a fine line between dogmatism and extremism, but both are isms and therefore scary.
    I doubt he is anti-Semitic [though exactly what that means is a whole ‘nother question]. The party line [Matthew 5:17] is that Judaism is the heritage of all Christians [i.e. Catholics]. Monotheism, the Ten Commandments, or ideas like ‘an eye for an eye’ are all part of that.
    When we start discussing ideas we necessarily start with a whole heap of assumptions about what is not in question. If Pell was talking about German suffering he was doing what many of us do, which is trying to distil 20 volumes of assumptions into a 30 second statement. It might not have been a brain fart so much as a conclusion trying to breathe outside of its huge context. I know that behind the words advanced or civilised you are not hiding a belief that Aboriginals were inferior – their way of life was sophisticated in terms of the resources available before colonisation. Some comments we take as a brain fart are, metaphorically speaking, only the tip of an iceberg. [If I now make a joke about the Jewish ice-cream seller whose name was Iceberg does this make me anti-Semitic, or am I simply revealing a word association that just crossed my mind?]
    Shows like this are so frustrating precisely because ideas are reduced to a simplistic level, and it is at a simplistic level that isms spread and become a powerful force for evil.
    In relative terms I agree with Andrew that Pell has enormous power. On the other hand, religion in general or even Christianity in particular has little political clout in Australia compared to the U.S. or many other countries.

    Does god ‘allow things to happen’ or actively punish crimes? The party line is that humans have free will, and that we are responsible for our own actions. If not, what is the point of being told how to behave, what is right or wrong, or to try harder.
    What we call ‘Acts of God’ are out of our control but I like Rabbi Kushner’s idea that god is not actively inflicting earthquakes or tsunamis on people, the universe is still forming [cf the simplistic idea that in the past god ‘made’ the world and the process is finished.] As the universe continues ‘being made’, random events are inevitable.
    The idea that god is listening or actively intervening in even our most petty problems strikes me as arrogant [or even deluded]. As Lily Tomlin says, ‘why is it that when I talk to god I am praying, but when he talks to me I have schizophrenia?’

  4. Fruitcake,

    Was their really an ice-cream vendor named Iceberg? That would be so cool. And hey that pun just now was a total accident. Even more cool.

    I'd wonder if he went into the ice-cream business because of his name.

    I like the Lily Tomlin quote.

    I'm not sure how to talk about the Aborigines in the 1700's without being offensive. I feel like I'm walking on the politically correct tightrope.

    I don't think they were inferior.

    I guess it's rude to say they were less sophisticated. And it wouldn't be the truth, since they had very sophisticated language, customs, spiritual beliefs, artwork, laws, etc.

    Can I say they were less technologically advanced? The white people had bigger boats, fancy weapons, and farming.

    Since the Aborigines thrived for thousands of years without all this white people technology; I definitely can't conclude that their ways were inferior.

    I think you're right about people trying to express themselves in a short bit of time.

    When they say something offensive, it's hard to know what's going on.

    Did they mean it the way we imagine; and they just let it slip. Then they imagine they can fix it later with a simple apology?

    Or did they mean one thing and say something else?

  5. I think that quite often people mean one thing and it just sounds like they mean something else. This is part of the reason being politically correct actually is a tightrope.
    Hence my comment on your comment about Aboriginals. I know where your heart is. It's just too easy [and rude] to pounce on the way people say something instead of hearing what they are really meaning. I think that is what happened to Pell.
    Mr Iceberg's first name was Giovanni - he really only sold gelati. I made that up but thank you for your 'cool' response.