In a recent letter to the pope, Rabbi Giuseppe Laras—the former head of the Italian rabbinic assembly and an important figure in Jewish-Catholic dialogue—called the pontiff to task for the presence in his preaching of “an undercurrent . . . of resentment, intolerance, and annoyance on the Christian side toward Judaism, a substantial distrust of the Bible, and a subsequent minimization of the Jewish biblical roots of Christianity.” Matthew Schmitz explains:
In his morning homilies, Pope Francis has been offering increasingly frequent and bitter denunciations of Catholics who oppose his push to give communion to the divorced and remarried. Sometimes he has portrayed these people as effeminate and womanish. More usually he has portrayed them as rigid legalists—as Pharisees who “sit in the chair of Moses and judge.”
Of course, his opponents don’t like to be insulted. As it turns out, the people he stereotypes in order to insult his opponents (vain, clothes-mad women; bitter, rule-obsessed Jews) don’t like it, either. . . . Laras is aware of and grateful for recent improvements in Catholic understanding of Judaism—but he laments that these seem to be lost on Francis. . . . Laras says that “it is saddening . . . that those who raise objections, perplexities, concerns, and indignation . . . must always be Jews . . . and not instead in the first place authoritative Christian voices that right away and much sooner should assert themselves with a bold and frank ‘no.’”
Too many authoritative Christian voices—both bishops and theologians—have greeted Pope Francis’s anti-Jewish rhetoric with silence, smooth excuses, or applause. When will they speak out with the boldness of Rabbi Laras?