Defusing Vatican-Jewish Tensions
Amid the strains and ructions in Catholic-Jewish relations these past few weeks, an Orthodox Jewish Rabbi has been at the Vatican, offering a viable, though less trodden, way to lessen the tensions.
Rabbi Yehuda Levin, spokesman for the Union of Orthodox Rabbis of the United States and Canada, visited senior curial officials last week to lobby the Church's support in opposing a gay pride march to be held in Jerusalem later this year. He hopes the Vatican and the apostolic nuncio to Israel can help him build a coalition of other religions and denominations to block the march.
A straight-talking, no-nonsense New Yorker, Levin has a missionary's zeal for defending the pro-life cause. Speaking at the Rome offices of Human Life International Jan. 29, he says he firmly believes that when it comes to Jewish-Catholic relations, defending life and the family should supersede controversies such as the denial of the extent of the Holocaust by Lefebvrite bishop, Richard Williamson.
"Our children are being given a case of moral AIDS," says Levin, a father of nine. "I'm not saying there isn't a place for that [discussion over Williamson] but we should be asking ourselves 'What can we do together to save babies and save young children's minds so that they know right and wrong on life and family issues?'"
He gives his full backing to Benedict XVI over the recent controversy. "People who are saying that Pope Benedict is anti-Semitic and insensitive -- that's ridiculous," he says. "He [the Pope] has a decades-long track record of anti-Nazism and sympathy for the Jews." Levin also says he understands what the Pope is trying to do in reaching out to traditionalists as they have some "very important things" to contribute to Catholicism.
"I absolutely support him. Why? Because he understands the big picture, which is that the Catholic Church has a problem with a strong left wing that is doing immeasurable harm to the faith." The Left, Levin says, "are helping to destroy and corrupt the values of the Church and that has a trickle-down effect on every religious community in the world." He points out that a Church of 1.25 billion members cannot be easily ignored. "When you [Catholics] sneeze," he warns, "the rest of us get a cold – we are affected by what happens."
Rabbi Levin also apologises for the reaction of some of his fellow Jews. "My guys have not acted with great sophistication," he says. "If he [the Pope] inadvertently includes somebody who's prominent in that movement and who says some strange things, is that a reason to throw out the baby with the bathwater and start to condemn Pope Benedict right away?" he asks. "Absolutely not." He also believes the Vatican should do a "better job" in conveying how far the Church has come in relations with Jews and, on the Pope Pius XII controversy, the Church should stress that "the Jewish community wouldn't want to be told what we should do and who we should venerate."
Rabbi Levin, who every year takes part in the March for Life in Washington, has little time for the new U.S. administration. He warns of the "Obamafication" of society -- meaning President Obama's efforts to try to reach consensus on all sides of the abortion debate.
Obama, he says, "doesn't get it." A woman cannot be "a little bit pregnant," nor is it possible to agree to a "little bit of homosexual marriage" and then argue against homosexual marriage. "You can't be all things to all people," Rabbi Levin says. "He [Obama] is prostituting godly values and, as an American, I'm offended. He thinks we're dumb."