The Day Today

I was listening, on and off, to Today this morning. Somewhere in a news bulletin I thought I heard:
“US President Barack Obama has condemned the shooting of two American airmen. He described it as an “outrageous act”, and pledged to “ensure that all the perpetrators are brought to justice”
I’m sure they will leave no turn unstoned to discover the motive.
Then I heard Evan Davis discussing the Pope’s extraordinary decision to forgive the Jews. More on that later.
I avoided Jeremy Bowen. The programme ended with Justin Webb’s interview with a glottal-stopping expert on ‘gigs for despots’ by the likes of Beyonce who get zillions of dollars for two-song sets for sons of sheikhs. Say that wiv your teef out. To his credit, Justin mentioned double standards, where celebs “Make a lot of fuss about playing in Israel.” Then he said, I thought somewhat reflectively, “It’s cooler to play for an Arab dictator than it is to play in Israel.”

For reasons that I won’t go into, my late father always felt deeply uncomfortable about the Catholic church’s theological condemnation of the Jewish race. So I had more than a passing interest in the latest decision by Pope Benedict to reinterpret the matter. Oddly, this item is omitted from the Today website running order, so I’ve transcribed the whole thing and posted in the comments field so as not to bore you with it here.

This issue has always troubled people particularly because, as even the Guardian acknowledges

“Anti-Jewish Catholic doctrines such as the claim that the Jews murdered Christ were said to have ideologically underpinned nazism. Vatican officials allegedly helped Nazis escape Europe after the war.”

So. No small matter. At the end of the piece, Evan asks, ‘ if the Pope is able to ‘reinterpret’ such a thing theologically, how could such a big mistake have been made for a couple of centuries?’

Now we’re getting somewhere, I thought. But no. We aren’t going to get a straight answer to that, especially with such gentle questioning.

There is, however, another question this papal uturn begs. If it’s so easy for a Pope to turn such a fundamental theological matter upon its head, what’s to stop another Pope reverting to default position at some future date? This was touched upon in the Guardian piece.

“Disquiet that the apology was a beautiful gesture but a theological mistake bubbled to the surface last week.

Echoing widespread concern from liberal as well as conservative theologians, the Bishop of Como, Alessandro Maggiolini, said: “In whose name, exactly, is the holy father asking pardon? He is relying on a group of experts, but tomorrow another group of experts might come up with different examples.”

And how well will it go down with the other antisemites of the world?

“Other churchmen said the gesture would be seen by Muslims as a sign of weakness and by secular enemies as a cue to launch further attacks.”

What is my point? I’m not sure. It’s all verbal chip paper anyway, all forgotten by the next day.

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21 Responses to The Day Today

  1. sue says:

    This is my transcript from 0.51:50

    Evan: Pope Benedict has written a book called Jesus of Nazareth and it marks a very significant moment because it exonerates the Jewish people of collective guilt for the death of Jesus. It’s not the first comment from the Catholic Church along those lines, but it is the most detailed from a Pope. We’re going to discuss this, and this is going to sound like te beginning of a joke, a Rabbi and a priest have walked into the studio, Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner from Alyth synygogue and father Joe Evans, chaplain at King’s College, good morning to you.

    Evan: Rabbi Laura, is this a weight off your shouldeers, I mean you’re not a follower of the Pope so does it make any difference?

    Rabbi L:It does make a difference to millions of Catholics. It’s a great thing. I’s lovely. it’s lovely it’s clear, and it’s lovely it’s argued thoeologically. A weight off my shoulders? I don’t feel the weight on my shoulders. I feel the weight of concern at the ramifications of this accusation for thousands of years. But I don’t carry around the weight on my shoulders. I feel guilty for lots of things, and concerned about lots of things,  but this is not one of them. So I’m really thrilled this has happened. As a theologian I love arguing in theological language about things, and this is a clear statement and it’s wonderful, but I never felt burdened about this – the only thing I felt is worried.

    Evan: About what other people would interpret this collective responsibility to mean, and to use it as an excuse to persecute, or to..

    Rabbi L: Just the idea of collective responsibility of a whole people for something that happened and has different versions of what happended and how happened thousands of years ago.

    Evan: Well father Joe, is this a significant change because there had been from the Vatican some sense that it wasn’t really the entire Jewish people that had been responsible for the death of Christ?

    Father J: Absolutely, yes. From the  there was a very important meeting of the church in the 60s  called the Second Vatican Council, a sort of universal council of the church, which made it very very clear that there can be no collective responsibility for the Jews for the death of Christ. Now that was a landmark moment and subsequent Popes have followed in that line. Obviously of course particularly John Paul the second with some symbolic gestures like going to a synygogue, something which Benedict himself has done. What makes this statement particularly interesting is, as Laura has said, is the theological deepening. We understood that you can’t collectively blame the Jews. But there wasn’t a deep rationale behind it.


  2. sue says:

    Evan: And what is, because it has been part of catholic theology, what is the theological change, what is the argument that the Pope is using to say that it is no longer going to be seen that way?

    Father J: Okay. Well, it all hinges round the gospel of Matthew 27 25, where the crowd at the time of the condemnation of Jesus, are reported as saying “His blood be on us and on our children” and, you know, for centuries people have always understood that as a curse, or they accept a curse upon themselves. But of course what the Pope explained that he, I won’t go into all the theological details, but he makes references to other parts of scripture. And blood being upon someone can be understood in different ways, it can be understood as a curse, or it can be understood as blood for forgiveness.

    Evan: Right.

    Father J: The Pope has a sentence which is ten words. I think if those words had been said earlier history would have been different. These are the words, literally ten words. He’s talking about the blood being on us and on our children. He says ‘These words are not a curse, but rather redemption, salvation so Jesus’s blood is a blood of forgiveness.

    Evan: Rabbi Laura?

    Rabbi L: I think we need to move on from curses. To blessings. So how can we work together to move away from this, very very tortuous in many ways, theology, to positive action, because what concerns me is when I hear Matthew being quoted at me I feel rather queesy, and concerned, and I want to say these words ‘curses’ to do with a whole group of people, are pernicious and have been extremely destructive.

    Evan: It’s gone. it’s done. With the ten words it’s no longer a curse, it’s been reinterpreted by the top man, and that’s it. Isn’t it?

    Rabbi L: That would be wonderful. Let’s hope that we can move away from this language, to more action. To more interfaith action in Britain, obviously we’re in Britain. What will happen now so that catholics and Jews move together more?

    Evan: But father Joe, how could such a big mistake have been made for a couple of centuries in which it was interpreted as a curse when a new Pope says it isn’t a curse after all?

    Father J:It’s a blessing. I want to thank Laura for what she said; we’ve got to get beyond language of curse. It’s a blessing,  words of forgiveness, words of reconcilliation. I think it’s like ideas of genius, you know, somebody says something and you think why didn’t I think of that? You know, why didn’t I think of that? It’s so simple……

    Evan: Maybe the Pope should apologise for..

    Rabbi L:Yes

    Evan:For a couple of millenia of…

    Father J: Well John Paul the second did. At the turn of the milenium John Paul the second, in a very brave gesture, issued a public apology on behalf of all the times Catholics have mistreated Jews.

    Evan: Time is upon us. Rabbi Laura, last reflection.

    Rabbi L: Every single time this is mentioned there should be some form of atonement and some form of apology.


  3. Demon1001 says:

    “Rabbi L: Every single time this is mentioned there should be some form of atonement and some form of apology.”

    Not convinced about this sentence at all.  It has been mentioned and made public.  It is now to be held in reserve and quoted whenever appropriate, but as a genuine apology has been made it would be totally counter-productive to demand an aplogy every time as that would lead to resentment, and resentment’s direction is not a pretty place. 


    • sue says:

      I’m not religious, so am not particularly sympathetic towards pick’n’mix ‘tortuous’ interpretations of holy scriptures which always seem to be used to justify or rationalise preconceived ideas.

      I don’t think there’s such a thing as the definitive reason for antisemitism amongst the non-religious, but amongst Muslims it appears to emanate from the Koran, which some say can be interpreted in whatever way takes your fancy; as, apparently, can the gospel according to Matthew.

      Perhaps one day, if Islam decides to modernise itself by reinventing some of Allah’s more controversial edicts, they’ll take it all back and say sorry too.

      However, the damage that has been done deserves a bit more than a sorry folks, we got it all wrong for a couple of millennia.

      Some people have been hurt as individuals by injustices stemming from this ‘mistake’, quite apart from the behaviour of the church during WWll.
      Not that it should be quoted meaninglessly every single time this is mentioned in a counterproductive manner, but I feel that some genuine, less tokenistic gesture from the Vatican would be appropriate.


  4. La Cumparsita says:

    So much to be depressed about – am I wrong to be faintly hopeful about this forthcoming BBC2 series?

    BBC2 has unveiled plans for a landmark series called The History Of The Jews, to be written and presented by historian Simon Schama, and produced by Oxford Film and Television.
    The five-part series, will explore 4,000 years of Jewish history from the Ancient Israelites and the origins of the Hebrew Bible to the impact that Jewish people have had in creating the world we live in today – through culture, money, science and entertainment.
    The History Of The Jews is due to air in 2012; the executive producer is Nicholas Kent. Executive producer for the BBC is Cassian Harrison.
    The series has been commissioned by Martin Davidson, commissioning editor for BBC History and Business. He says: “The history of the Jewish people is fundamental in the history of civilisation. I am delighted that Simon Schama, with his expertise, is returning to BBC2 to present such an important and wide-ranging authored series.”
    Simon Schama said: “From the invention of the single faceless God to the invention of psycho-analysis, the Jewish story brims with illumination; ordeal and cultural revolutions; with poetry, politics and picturing. Coloured by passion and pathos, populated by troublemakers and visionaries, I’ve always wanted to bring this story to a contemporary audience and since Jews have shaped the world as much as they have been shaped by it, their experience will, I hope, be part of everyone’s story.”


    • sue says:

      La Cumparsita,
      I do hope you’re not wrong. I’d trust Schama with the history of the Jewish people, but not necessarily with recent history / the creation and survival of Israel.
      The audience will probably go away admiring 4,000 year-old Jews, but still loathing Israelis and present day Jews (apart from some of their best friends)


      • David Preiser (USA) says:

        I’d be willing to give Schama the benefit of the doubt regarding telling the history of the Jews, as long as I don’t have to actually listen to him talk.  His demeanor is nearly as annoying as Peston’s.


    • Demon1001 says:

      I’m sure Schama will be OK right up to 1947 and the UN vote to allow Jews to return to their homeland.  Schama’s extreme left-wing views will probably, from that point, emphasise the negative aspects.  The moral of his tale will no doubt be “How can this wonderful people who have been at the forefront of civilisation and invention become a load of racist Zionists.” 

      I know he is a Jew, but a left-wing BBC Jew is at least as anti-Israel as a left-wing BBC non-Jew. 


  5. David Preiser (USA) says:

    Nobody wants to discuss how this relates to the resurgence of virulent anti-Semitism in Britain and Europe?  Does Evan Davis really think it was only a mistake made for a couple centuries?  Is this for real?  I suppose Davis and the Today producers think that the Hildegard von Bingen’s writing about Christ killers and accusations of blood libel against Jews in Trent in 1475 (for example) was just good old fashioned prejudice, nothing to do with the Church’s position on Jews?

    I wonder if even the female thoroughly modern Reform rabbi (the Rabbi of London’s number erased from BBC address book in favor of the most liberal one going, I suppose?) has a clue about this. She claims to have felt “worried”, but not “burdened”.  I don’t think she understands how that sounds.  It’s also pretty bad for her to demand an constant stream of apologies. Yeah, that always works for reconciliation.  I’m embarrassed at this representation of Jews. I don’t care if she runs the largest shul in Golders Green or whatever.  It’s a piss-poor performance.

    “Thousands of years ago”? Sloppy thinking.

    John XXIII apologized, ableit not so publicly, as did Juan Pablo Dos (as they call him in my neighborhood), so why would Davis think the new boy should apologize yet again?  He obviously had no idea, and needed to be corrected.  Very poor preparation by his producers, but it’s too be expected when the topic doesn’t involve pet issues.

    It’s not a “papal u-turn”, either.  Benedict XVI reached out to Jews in his inaugural (for lack of a better term) speech.  No other pope has ever attempted to connect with Jews like he has, yet Rabbi Laura acts as if he’s just words and no action.  Juan Pablo II was a showman; his gesture towards Jews had no substance.  The Pope now has quite a job ahead of him to convince the Italians, sure, but it’s not fair or correct to dismiss this out of hand.

    It’s also lame for Davis to play it as being all wrapped up, but I suppose he’s just playing devil’s advocate to enable discussion.  This segment left a bad taste in the mouth.


    • David Preiser (USA) says:

      Clarification of something I said above:  Hildegard was writing about Jews as Christ killers in the 12th Century, nothing to do with Trent and 1475.  Sloppy construction on my part.


      • J J says:

        However many Popes, even from the middle ages, have stressed that violence against Jews is unacceptable.

        Also this is not a fundamental theological doctrine.


        • David Preiser (USA) says:

          I’d say, “some” rather than “many”, but you’re right that it was never official doctrine or anything.  A Christian version of oral tradition, maybe?


  6. deegee says:

    These group apologies leave me cold. I prefer concrete evidence of a change of attitude with regard to the living not the dead. 

    Personally I’d swap a Papal apology for Catholic persecution of the Jews that he personally had nothing to do with  for an apology for the ‘Kairos Palestine’ document issued in his name.


    • RGH says:

      The Kairos Palestine document was not issued in the Pope’s name, but was prepared as a submission by the local Christian communities.

      The Kairos Palestine document runs foul of the Vatican position as given on the Vatican’s own website:

      67. On the theological level, according to the teaching of Nostra aetate, no. 4, the religious bond between Judaism and Christianity, based on the inherent link between the Old and New Testaments, needs to be explained to our faithful to prevent political ideologies from spoiling relations. A distinction between politics and theology needs to be carefully done. At the same time, the Bible should never be used for political purposes nor politics for theological ends.


      • deegee says:

        I mistakenly thought the Special Assembly for the Synod of Bishops (Synodus Episcoporum) 10-24 October 2010 was the Kairos Document. My bad. the Kairos document, in particular its call for boycotts of Israel, was never formally endorsed by the Catholic church. It was never rejected by it either.

        The bulletin of Synodus Episcoporum was published in Italian, English, French, Spanish and Arabic by the Holy See Press Office. The Synod, set up by Pope Paul VI (?) to advise on ecclesiastical matters, was addressed by the current pope in the Vatican. I don’t think the Pope can dissociate himself from it and he certainly didn’t. Not from anything said.

        From Acrimony with Israel clouds close of Middle East Synod
        Among other things to complain about were the final press conference of Greek Melkite Archbishop Cyrille Salim Bustros.

        “We Christians cannot speak of the ‘promised land’ as an exclusive right for a privileged Jewish people,” Bustros said. “This promise was nullified by Christ. There is no longer a chosen people – all men and women of all countries have become the chosen people.”

        In perhaps the most incendiary bit of rhetoric, the final message said that “recourse to theological and Biblical positions which use the Word of God to wrongly justify injustices is not acceptable,” and that line came in the context of a paragraph on relations with Judaism – suggesting a bit of finger-pointing at Israel and traditional Jewish claims to the “Promised Land.”

        I think I pointed out the time that this was counter Nostra aetate, no. 4. My point is that the neither the Pope nor the Vatican was prepared to say the same thing.


  7. hippiepooter says:

    Mark 15:12-14 (KJV):-

    And Pilate answered and said again unto them, What will ye then that I shall do unto him whom ye call the King of the Jews? And they cried out again, Crucify him. Then Pilate said unto them, Why, what evil hath he done ? And they cried out the more exceedingly, Crucify him.

    Luke 23:20-23 (KJV):-

    Pilate therefore, willing to release Jesus, spake again to them But they cried , saying , Crucify him, crucify him. And he said unto them the third time, Why, what evil hath he done ? I have found no cause of death in him: I will therefore chastise him, and let him go And they were instant with loud voices, requiring that he might be crucified . And the voices of them and of the chief priests prevailed.

    Matthew 27:24-25 (KJV):-

    When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made , he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying , I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it. Then answered all the people, and said , His blood be on us, and on our children.

    I am a Christian, and as far as I’m concerned, any objective reading of these Scriptures leaves the simple conclusion to be drawn; the Jews killed Christ.  All that they have suffered since is their punishment.

    This is not to say that anyone who has persecuted and murdered Jews for the last 2,000 years has been doing God’s will, the exact opposite is true, but for killing His Son He left them almost completely to the mercy of Satan who wishes to see the Jews wiped out to prevent the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy.

    Now the Jews have returned to Zion and summer is near.


    • DP111 says:


      If Jews were not responsible for killing Jesus Christ, and if Jesus Christ had died a natural death, how do we arrive that Jesus died as expiation for our sins – a once off sacrifice.

      I for one cannot hold Jews responsible for the crucifiction of Jesus Christ, as that was ordered as a necessary sacrifice for our sins.

      However, the persecution of Christiians by Jews in the early period of Christianity is another matter.


      • David Preiser (USA) says:

        Then there’s the whole Gnostic trip about how Judas was all part of God’s plan as well.  Time for a drink.


  8. cjhartnett says:

    As ever,the BBC see no interest in reporting any religious news unless the Church is called upon to apologise as a default and reflex position and/or action to satisfy the gloating media with its polished jackboots to the fore.
    Benedict can say what he likes and he is right here..being Pope gives him that right. The history of antisemitism is indeed an evil.
    Now are they calling on Christian Dior to apologise for John Galliano-are the UK Fashion Council or whoever being callled upon to unreservedly say sorry for the antisemitic rant that they condone by default and reflex. Is Evan-a man who follows fashion in every sense-now refusing to feature ANY talk of UK?French Fashion until Galliano says sorry to him?
    Such is the facile glib response to antisemitism-wish the Beeb would say sorry for Jeremy Bowen and the other suckers for the religion of Peace.
    Say sorry to the Jews by all means-but do NOT let the BBC make you..the BBC have so much more to apologise for than the Catholic Church!


  9. George R says:

    “Support for Israel in U.S. at 63%, Near Record High”

     I don’t suppose that support for Israel in Britain is as high – not least because of INBBC’s permanently pro-Islam, anti-Israel propaganda.


    • J J says:

      I’m not exactly anti-Israel but I personally had no idea that the British right was anywhere near as bombastically pro-Israel as the yanks. This site however seems to be. Not a criticism but an interesting observation.