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The Nerve Touched and Not Released

I was hoping to move on from the general spat centering around some comments that Instapundit made regarding Vatican anti-Semitism. However, a couple hours ago, I noticed that he'd upped the ante, as it were, by linking to a post by Meryl Yourish. As one whose main objection was that Mr. Reynolds referred to Vatican behavior "lately" with only a photo from last April for justification, citing Yourish's evidence — to be charitable — moves the discussion to a new level at which any sort of accord becomes less likely.

Most of Yourish's points can be addressed, in part, by reading the links that she provides. Overall, however, not one of the instances is from after the Church of the Nativity debacle. Furthermore, many of the controversies, such as apologies, canonizations, and crosses at Auschwitz, seem to me inextricably submerged in an environment of misunderstandings and mutual suspicion that is to be expected after centuries of discord. Indeed, Yourish writes:

But you don't turn around centuries of institutionalized bigotry in a few years. Glenn Reynolds is right to call those actions anti-Semitic.

This is the point where she and I agree and then disagree. Mr. Reynolds didn't call "those actions anti-Semitic." He specifically referred to recent actions, and none of Yourish's points qualify. Her only point addressing current events is the Vatican's "[i]ssuing statement after statement in support of the Palestinians while also issuing statements against Israeli." This, however, overlooks statements condemning terrorism and suicide bombing specifically, which can be found even among the links that she provides.

If there is a story of what's happened "lately" between the Vatican, Israel, and Jews, it is positive and indicative of further progress. For this reason, I scrapped a point-by-point response to Yourish that I'd spent a few hours putting together. I don't think it is worth arguing over; in fact, I think it counterproductive and recalcitrant. It is much better, in my opinion, to look at recent happenings. Here's one from early December, when the Pope met with Israeli President Moshe Katsav:

"God bless you; God bless Israel," the pope told Katsav at the end of the meeting.

The Israeli president wished the pope "a strong continuation" of his papacy and the pope replied, "I hope so." ...

The Israeli Embassy said that during the private meeting Pope John Paul told Katsav he hoped the encounter would be a "turning point in the relations between Israel and the Vatican."

The embassy also said the pope told the president "that Judaism and Christianity have common prophets and that the Old Testament is the cornerstone of the Christian faith. He condemned anti-Semitism and terror and indicated that he intends in the near future to speak out against both phenomena."

Condemning anti-Semitism and saying "God bless Israel" are not indicative of hatred for Jews. But any Catholic knows that part of reconciliation is admission of sins, and toward that end, in February, the Vatican released its archives from the controversial period leading up to World War II. Certainly, the picture that emerges will be good and bad, from the Catholic perspective, but at least it may be addressed:

Rabbi Michael Signer, a professor of Jewish thought and culture at the University of Notre Dame, said the document is significant to the extent that it showed that the Vatican was sending its concerns to Germany and asking for its diplomats there to intervene.

But he noted that, according to other documents, the head of the German Bishops' Conference had three days earlier resisted a local plea for intervention after the Nazis issued a boycott of Jewish businesses.

Lastly, today there was an historical meeting that resulted in joint condemnation of terrorism:

The joint statement was issued following unprecedented talks last week between Vatican officials and a delegation of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, an Orthodox Jewish body.

The Vatican said the talks over five days in Grottaferrata, outside Rome, were held in an atmosphere of "friendship and mutual trust" and they agreed to continue their dialogue. ...

The Vatican has held talks with rabbis around the world, but it was the first such talks with a delegation from Israel's Chief Rabbinate, which was headed by Rabbi Shar Yishuv Cohen.

Of Yourish's links, Mr. Reynolds says, "I thought that most people in the blogosphere knew all this stuff, but maybe not." Well, since nobody cited these more recent events, I guess even fewer knew about them.

Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:51 AM EST