Thursday, February 6, 2014

So A Jew Walks Into A Catholic Hospital Reading Giulio Meotti's New Book on the Vatican

I have been thinking a lot about Giulio Meotti's new book The Vatican Against Israel: J'accuse. 

(Purchase here from Mantua Books.) 

Full disclosure:

I happen to love everything that Meotti writes, so when I was given an advance copy of the book I was absolutely delighted. I seriously love that guy. He's brave and a great writer. He's my favourite living Italian (I loved Oriana Fallaci, too, but alas, she passed away, G-d rest her soul.)

I am not going to mince words.

This was an exceptionally difficult and painful book to read. And I have no doubt that it was an exceptionally excruciating book to write. It is honest and discouraging at times, and impeccably researched. 

It may be difficult to get publicity for the book because it is so honest and it is devastatingly critical about the Catholic church and its relation to Israel and the Jews. But there is no point in hiding from the painful history and I salute Meotti for bringing the book to life.

I certainly learned a lot from it, particularly about some of the more painful theological issues between the two peoples.

But here's the thing, I remain optimistic. I admit to being pretty horrified by some of the institutional positions of the Church with respect to Israel.

But the good news is that my real life experience with Catholics has been very good, and positive. In fact, the Catholics that I know personally are among the most philosemitic, pro-Israel, pro-Jewish individuals that I have ever met!

They are kind, care about Jews, give to Jewish charities, and are pro-West, pro-Jewish and I value their friendship on an individual level and between peoples so very much.

So without ignoring the past, I believe that there are areas of common concern and common bond that our peoples should emphasize "going forward".

The institution of the Church is, in my view, behind the times with respect to the feelings of individual Catholics, who respect Jews and love Israel.

Now, this is my experience-I can only speak for myself.

But whenever I have been in a Catholic country, en route to Israel, or identify myself (immediately-I am not shy) as being Jewish, I have been treated with respect and showered with grace. Especially in Rome, where I was an especially strange, big hit with divinity students. (Story for another time...)

We may not agree on the divinity of Jesus, but we both believe in the G-d of Israel.

That's good enough for me, for now.

I'll tell you something else.

My father was treated at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto recently for something quite serious.

I was comforted, and not offended or scared by the religiosity of the hospital. I rather liked the statue of the archangel at the door.

As you may well know, Michael the angel is important to Jews as well.

I probably can't properly put into words how I felt in my gut, a respect for human life, for the sanctity of human life within that hospital. It simply emanated from within the walls.

I have never felt the same way in any other hospital and unfortunately, I have been in many.

I thought it was sad when one of the staff, on the phone, had to ask me if it was OK with me if she said "G-d bless you".

Of course it is OK. It's more than OK, it's what makes us human and brings us together, Christians and Jews. G-d bless us both!

St. Michael's is apparently the only hospital in the Greater Toronto Area that does not perform abortions. I like that also.

Belief in the G-d of Israel and for the sanctity of human life are two pillars that we can agree upon and work for.

That's good enough for me, for now.

So though Meotti's book is quite devastating, I will not let it interfere with the G-dly, good relations that I have personally with individual Christians, Catholic or not.

As a side note, I would urge you all to please consider giving blood.

My father needed blood and I felt the grace of G-d as I watched blood that some random stranger donated, dripping into him and giving him his life back. I quite literally watched this happen in front of my very own eyes, on the Sabbath night for Jews, in the Catholic hospital in Toronto.

I will be going to give blood next week.

Might you as well?

Therefore, for these reasons and many more, I remain an optimist, ever dedicated to the G-d of Israel and to life, l'chaim. 

"And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed (Genesis 12:3)"

G-d bless and thanks for reading.