Pope Benedict XVI and former Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau at Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial on May 11, 2009 in Jerusalem.
Memo to Susan Sarandon, vis-a-vis your “Nazi pope” comments this weekend:
Joseph Ratzinger was a victim of the Nazi horror.
When he was a young boy his family was forced to relocate due to his father’s outspoken criticism of the Nazis. Surreptitiously listening to Allied radio broadcasts behind closed doors and drawn curtains—strictly forbidden, of course—Ratzinger and his family learned what was really happening in the war, contrary to German propaganda.
At 14 Ratzinger was briefly conscripted into the Hitler Youth—membership was compulsory—but he refused to attend meetings.
At seminary, a Nazi professor urged him to attend the Hitler Youth just once to get documentation for a tuition reduction—but when he saw Ratzinger’s unwillingness to go even once, he relented and helped Ratzinger get the reduction without attending even once. Eventually Ratzinger was able to get a dispensation from Hitler Youth activities by arguing that it was incompatible with his pre-seminary life.
In 1943, while in seminary, he was conscripted into an antiaircraft unit, but eventually deserted, ending the war as a POW.
In a Jerusalem Post article defending Ratzinger against the slur of Nazi complicity, Sam Ser wrote:
As prefect of the Doctrine of the Faith, Ratzinger played an instrumental role in the Vatican’s revolutionary reconciliation with the Jews under John Paul II. He personally prepared Memory and Reconciliation, the 2000 document outlining the church’s historical “errors” in its treatment of Jews. And as president of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, Ratzinger oversaw the preparation of The Jewish People and Their Sacred Scriptures in the Christian Bible, a milestone theological explanation for the Jews’ rejection of Jesus.
Jewish support for Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict, has been considerable. Rabbi Israel Singer, vice president of the World Jewish Congress, called the newly elected pope “an old friend in new white robes,” adding,
“He was the one who gave the theological underpinnings to the gestures of Pope John Paul. He has already thought through the theological implications of what he says.”
None of this, of course, has prevented ignorant anti-Catholics from bashing Benedict with the Nazi slur—most recently Susan Sarandon, who, speaking to an interviewer at the Hamptons Film Festival this weekend, followed up praise for Pope John Paul II by adding, “The last [pope], not this Nazi one we have now.”
When interviewer Bob Balaban tried to bracket the comment, Sarandon repeated it—to laughter from the audience.
Not laughing: the Anti-Defamation League, which criticized Sarandon’s “disturbing, deeply offensive and completely uncalled for attack on the good name of Pope Benedict XVI,” and called on her to apologize “to the Catholic community and all those she may have offended.”
In a statement on Monday, ADL National Director Abraham H. Foxman said:
We hope that Susan Sarandon will have the good sense to apologize to the Catholic community and all those she may have offended with this disturbing, deeply offensive and completely uncalled for attack on the good name of Pope Benedict XVI.
Ms. Sarandon may have her differences with the Catholic Church, but that is no excuse for throwing around Nazi analogies. Such words are hateful, vindictive and only serve to diminish the true history and meaning of the Holocaust.
What makes Sarandon’s already appalling comments even more atrocious is the effort to drive a wedge between “good” Pope John Paul II, whom she reflexively approves of, and “bad” Pope Benedict XVI. Obviously Sarandon has no clue of how formative Ratzinger’s work was for John Paul II, and the importance that he placed on it.
It was John Paul II who put Ratzinger in his key role as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith—and kept him there long after Ratzinger would have preferred to step down.
In fact, John Paul II’s confidence in Ratzinger, and the close relationship and affinity between the two men, were major factors in Ratzinger’s election to the chair of Peter. No one was a more natural successor to John Paul II than he.
For a privileged Hollywood actress who has never hidden in the dark from stormtroopers or informants, who never had to stand up to the pressure of the Nazi machine, to use that word to vilify this pope, is beyond obscene.