Will Pope Francis Take Jewish-Catholic Relations to the Next Level?
As has been widely reported, Pope Francis began his papacy with an already strong relationship with the Jewish community. Yet only time will tell if this pope will put the final nail in the coffin of Christian anti-Judaism: namely, an official end to the absurd notion that Christian faith produces more compassion and mercy in the human heart than does the Jewish faith.
It is worth noting that in addition to his expressions of solidarity with Argentina’s Jewish community, Pope Francis, while archbishop of Buenos Aires, participated in a Jewish-Catholic Tzedaka service; a charity effort where Jewish and Catholic volunteers went out – together – distributing aid to the poor and downtrodden of Buenos Aires.
Arguably, inter-faith Tzedaka-like service programs could be a template for a healthy, and I would argue very necessary, reform of Catholic religious life: specifically, the kind of reform that would help to end the utter fiction that Christians are more loving and compassionate than Jews.
Of all the teachings of Jesus that Christians are capable of summarily jettisoning, this one might take the cake:
Be on guard against performing religious acts for people to see. Otherwise expect no recompense from your heavenly Father. When you give alms, for example, do not blow a horn before you in synagogues and streets like hypocrites looking for applause. You can be sure of this much, they are already repaid. In giving alms you are not to let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Keep your deeds of mercy secret, and your Father who sees in secret will repay you. (Matthew 6: 1-4)
I’ve often wondered why those outside the Christian faith, including Jews, seem to do better with this instruction of Jesus than do some Christians. Many people seem to know, instinctively, that ostentatious displays of mercy are linked to ulterior motives. Yet it is nothing short of tragic that millions upon millions of Catholics still drink the Kool-Aid that gets them to believe that those individuals who show off their “good works” and use those “good works” as a source of power, status and influence are doing the will of God, as opposed to what they are actually doing: creating social, ecclesiastical, political and oftentimes, monetary, capital for themselves.
That the founder of the Christian faith, Jesus Christ, warned against the dangers of false mercy – performing good deeds for no other purpose than to pursue power, status, and adulation, namely all the spokes of a dis-equilibriated ego – is the mother of all ironies. I will leave it to religious historians to debate how we got from A) Jesus who expressly warned against such practices to B) Christians who routinely incorporate such activities into their social domination stratagems.
Though the Second Vatican Council greatly advanced Catholic-Jewish relations, specifically by revoking the violence-inducing charge of deicide against the Jewish people, the legacy of Christian moral supremacy lives on in Catholicism, and indeed all of Christendom.
An inter-faith Tzedaka-like reform of the Catholic Church’s religious orders could help end that nearly two millennia-old absurdity that simply believing in Jesus as the son of God – even if that belief could be outwardly verified, which of course it cannot – makes a person a more loving, caring, and all-around more moral, human being than not believing that Jesus is the son of God.
It is that false belief that is the very bedrock of historic Christian anti-Semitism.
Mercy is a work of the human heart, and it can come from any one of God’s children. It is by no means the province of just one faith. By issuing a papal decree that all non-worship, non-evangelization programs and activities by Catholic religious orders – namely works of charity and mercy – must pro-actively strive to incorporate men and women from all religious backgrounds, Pope Francis could help throw the aforementioned poisonous Kool-Aid down the drain where it belongs.
As Jesus Christ so clearly warned his flock, there is a vast gulf between the authentic mercy of the human heart, and false “mercy” that is so commonly used by human beings to advance their own interests, particularly religious status, power and influence.
As I touched upon in this article, too many children have had their lives torn apart by sexual abusers in the Catholic Church who deliberately used false mercy as their source of raw power and influence over others.
Too many Jews have been murdered throughout the centuries because Catholic priests and prelates taught that Jews were less capable of love and compassion for other human beings simply because they were not Christian.
My hope, for Catholics and Jews, and indeed all people whose lives have been adversely affected in some way by Catholic religious, is that Pope Francis will end the scourge of false mercy and articulate this most basic truth: Authentic mercy is from the human heart itself, and cannot be annexed by anyone.
For any Christian to assert, or imply, that their faith in Jesus Christ provides them with a more merciful heart than Jews, or others who are not Christian, is nothing more than an expression of the human will to dominate others. It has nothing to do with love.
Indeed, it is just another form of human cruelty.