The same national group that labeled this blog “anti-Catholic” because of my advocacy on behalf of women in the church has now claimed that the “Passion of the Christ” won’t win an Oscar because Hollywood is controlled by Jews. Frank Rich reports in the New York Times:
Will it be the Jews' fault if "The Passion of the Christ," ignored by the Golden Globes this week, comes up empty in the Oscar nominations next month? Why, of course.
"Hollywood is controlled by secular Jews who hate Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular," William Donohue, president of the Catholic League, explained in a colloquy on the subject recently convened by Pat Buchanan on MSNBC. "It's not a secret, O.K.?" Mr. Donohue continued. "And I'm not afraid to say it. That's why they hate this movie. It's about Jesus Christ, and it's about truth." After the show's token (and conservative) Jewish panelist, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, pointed out that "Michael Moore is certainly not a Jew" and that Scorsese, Coppola and Lucas are not "Jewish names," Mr. Donohue responded: "I like Harvey Weinstein. How's that? Harvey Weinstein is my friend."
How’s that? Weird. Sad. Another example of the anti-Jewish sentiment stirred up by this film. Why anyone takes the Catholic League seriously is a mystery to me. Unfortunately, they have become a leading champion of conservative Catholics.
When the film was released Father John T. Pawlikowski, Professor of Ethics and Director of the Catholic-Jewish Studies Program at the Catholic Theological Union and Rabbi David Sandmel, Crown-Ryan Chair of Jewish Studies at the Catholic Theological Union, wrote:
Gibson has embellished the Gospel text in order to intensify Jesus' suffering. But in so doing, he draws on his own imagination and a variety of non-canonical sources, including the visions of a 19th century German nun who lived at a time when anti-Semitic homilies were a common tool for rallying mobs against the Jews.
The Holocaust compelled many Christians to examine the historic role of churches in fomenting anti-Semitism. Christian sensitivity in these areas has fostered significant changes in traditional church doctrine and practice on the part of both Roman Catholics and Protestants, such as those stemming from the Second Vatican Council's landmark Nostra Aetate (1965), and the Declaration of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to the Jewish Community (1994).
A primary focus of this investigation is a single verse in Matthew (27:24-25): "So when Pilate saw that he could do nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took some water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, 'I am innocent of this man's blood; see to it yourselves.' Then the people as a whole answered, 'His blood be on us and on our children!'" (NRSV)
In the history of Christian anti-Semitism, this verse serves as biblical warrant for holding all Jews at all times responsible for the death of Jesus. Augustine, John Chrysostom, Thomas Aquinas, and Martin Luther all use it in this way. Yet the verse occurs only in Matthew. It is not found in Mark, Luke, or John, and is thus not essential in depicting Jesus' death.
After a group of Catholic and Jewish scholars objected to the presence of the verse in an early script, Gibson said he would take it out. But the film as screened on Tuesday, January 21, 2004 here in Chicago and the following night in Orlando includes the verse, thus repeating for millions of movie-goers around the world a classical indictment of the Jewish People for deicide….
Important Christian leaders such as Pope John Paul II have forcefully condemned anti-Semitism as a sin. The release of Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ challenges Christians to address this topic frankly from the pulpit. Christians, especially, must honestly confront the history of anti-Judaism that is tied to the Passion. This challenge must be at the forefront of any evaluation of Mel Gibson's film.
Donahue’s words are a clear reminder that anti-Semitism is alive and well within some Christians (Catholic and Protestant). His words and the actions of the Catholic League must be condemned in the strongest possible terms.