Last week, when the Chronicle reported on the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, we quoted Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein, director of interfaith affairs at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, as warning that the next pontiff could harbor anti-Semitic beliefs.
“If the nod goes to someone in South America, we could be in even deeper trouble,” he said. “There are too many incidents in the public writings of people who are not friendly with the Jewish people,” he said.
Now, unfortunately, we know that Adlerstein’s warning was more than idle speculation.
Following Benedict’s announcement, a short list of possible successors made the rounds in the media, which included Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras.
In a letter to the editor of the Miami Herald, Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz said Maradiaga has made extremely anti-Semitic remarks — to put it mildly.
“He has blamed the Jews for the scandal surrounding the sexual misconduct of priests toward young parishioners!” Dershowitz wrote. “He has argued that the Jews got even with the Catholic Church for its anti-Israel positions by arranging for the media — which they, of course, control, he said — to give
disproportionate attention to the Vatican sex scandal. He then compared the Jewish-controlled media with Hitler, because they are ‘protagonists of what I do not hesitate to define as a persecution against the church.’ ”
JTA confirmed such an incident, reporting Sunday that Maradiaga, in a May 2002 interview with the Italian-Catholic publication 30 Giorni, claimed Jews influenced the media to exploit the current controversy regarding sexual abuse by Catholic priests in order to divert attention from the Israeli-Palestinian crisis.
The cardinal later apologized for the remark in a conversation with Anti-Defamation League National Director Abraham Foxman, but the damage was already done.
To be sure, short lists, which are always circulated when it comes time to select a new pope, are unreliable. Much of the time the College of Cardinals confounds the speculators by choosing a surprise candidate, such as in 1978 when John Paul II became the first non-Italian pope in 455 years.
Still, the mentioning of Maradiaga as a possible successor to Benedict, who like John Paul, worked hard to improve Jewish-Catholic relations, should give us all pause.
And it should serve as yet another reminder of how rampant anti-Semitic messages are in the global media, and how little this problem is addressed by American media outlets.
In this week’s Chronicle, you will read a column by Moshe Baran, president of the local Holocaust Survivor’s Association, in which he reports on a story in the Iranian media, which is as shockingly outlandish as Maradiaga’s claim. The story says the Jews were behind the shootings at Sandy Hook.
Fed up with such hate speech, and the mainstream media’s unwillingness to tackle the issue; Baran has begun blogging about hate speech. His online journal can be found at NotComplacent.wordpress.com and we encourage you to take a look at it.
Some would argue that the best way to deal with hate speech is not to deal with it at all, to ignore it. After all, those who deal in venomous language want media exposure. Cut off their exposure to it, and they’ll drift away.
We disagree. The hate mongers are not going away. They are stretching out their 15 minutes of fame. Sometimes, they even find their way into legitimate conversation, just like Cardinal Maradiaga did.
Hate speech, and its sources, must be confronted, and refuted. Let the Maradiaga incident be a warning to us all.