Monday, April 04, 2005

The Pope as a post-War phenomenon

Out of Step Jew writes:
Pope John Paul II contributed to Judaism in general and religious Judaism in particular in ways that are often overlooked. He was the most influential and the last in a group of superior religious thinkers and leaders that came to prominence after WWII. These thinkers and leaders faced the challenges that freedom and modernity brought to faith with courage, honesty and integrity. Jewish thinkers such as R. Yosef Soloveitchik and Abraham Joshua Heschel, Protestants like Reinhold Niebuhr and Catholics like Pope John Paul II were able to identify not only the evils of totalitarianism but the nihilistic tendencies of materialistic ethics that developed from unfettered freedom.
These leaders and the Pope as the leader with the largest following paved the way for a life of faith in a free materialistic society. How much of the growth of Orthodox Judaism in the United States can be attributed to the moral and intellectual climate created by religious Christians, whose greatest and most eloquent spokesman was the Pope? Could acculturated Orthodox Judaism have really thrived in an atmosphere where the choices were an anti-modern fundamentalism or a radical secularism?...
Had the Pope given in to the liberation theology that was the intellectual "in thing" in the Catholic Church at the time or had he reverted to an unthinking conservatism and not dared to challenge communist totalitarianism on the one hand and ideological secularism on the other, it is difficult to imagine that a modern, rationalist Orthodox Judaism would have left the confines of Yeshiva University (if it was there at all) and a handful of neighborhoods in Jerusalem. His work in spreading Catholic teachings based on reason and faith (see Fides et Ratio) helped create a framework for Judaism to do the same.
For this alone we ought to mourn the death of Pope John Paul II.

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