Welcome! I am Rabbi Jonathan Biatch of Madison, Wisconsin. "Pulpit Perspectives: My Observations as a Congregational Rabbi" is published every two weeks to reflect my observations about life in my congregation and with my members. The opinions expressed here are solely my own. I invite you to join the dialogue!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

‘It’s Hard to Be the Pope’

About the recent scandal regarding the reinstatement of a bishop who has denied the Holocaust, the Pope asked that his clergy and his faithful “support the very delicate and weighty mission of the successor of the Apostle Peter, who is custodian of the unity of the church.”

I guess it’s hard to be the Pope।

“There were certainly management errors on the part of the curia, I want to be clear about that,” said Cardinal Walter Kasper, director of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and liaison for Vatican-Jewish relations. He underscored that he was not consulted before the pope’s decision was announced.

Fifteen months ago, at a meeting at the Vatican, I met Cardinal Kasper along with other Catholics and Jews who toil at strengthening Catholic-Jewish relationships.

At that time, Pope Benedict XVI had ascended to his position, and the influential United States bishops who appreciate and take part in Catholic-Jewish dialogue were able to convince Kasper to arrange for us to visit the Vatican, explore the thorny issues that have an impact on Catholic-Jewish relationships, and sit on the ‘bimah’ when the Pope held his weekly audience. We were all on a very optimistic trajectory.

In the last few weeks, however, the rich potential for broadening Catholic-Jewish relationships was almost destroyed by Benedict’s action to repair a breech within the Catholic church. The unintended consequences of rehabilitating Bishop Richard Williamson brought embarrassment to an institution already beset with many other problems.

The Pope had not anticipated affecting the sensibilities of the world-wide Jewish community. Yet he learned that the ‘private’ opinions of a bishop, even an excommunicated one, matter. And the fact that Benedict has instructed Bishop Williamson to recant his Holocaust denial is already going a long way to maintain the integrity of his office and his Holy Self.

It may be difficult to be the Pope, but even more difficult may be admitting to and moving beyond mistakes that we make as human beings. And in that, Pope Benedict XVI succeeded.