Monday, April 5, 2010

A Jewish perspective on the Pope, pedophilia and Passover

This time of year always brings up a number of intersections between Judaism and Catholicism. For starters, there's the obvious Passover/Easter connection (despite all those Last Supper portraits with leavened bread - come on, Leonardo, you couldn't get the hang of painting matzoh?). And both holidays incorporate pagan fertility symbols, from roasted eggs to baby chicks made out of marshmallow.
But this past week we were treated to a less charming Jewish/Catholic link, when the pope's pastor gave a homily likening the media furor over molesting priests (and the Pope's involvement in transferring one) to anti-Semitism. It was a slap in the face to real victims of religious discrimination all over the world. Granted, my experience in that area is limited to crying when I read the Diary of Anne Frank, realizing that my dad's family could have been in danger if Hitler had invaded Baltimore, and, as the only Jewish kid in 4th grade, explaining to clueless classmates that Hanukah was not a holiday celebrating potato chips. But it was still uncomfortable - and ironic - to hear those kinds of defensive, offensive, remarks made during Holy Week.
Plus I have my own personal interfaith intersection, since as a freelance musician, I play wherever they hire me. This year, I booked a series of Easter masses, so I ended up reading about the papal homily on Good Friday, and then sitting at the piano while I listened to the traditional 'Prayer for the Conversion of the Jews'. (I felt somewhat like a musical prostitute - outraged and disgusted, but not too outraged to accept the check.)
And on a different level, the connection between children and sex is also prominent in my household because I have 3 boys (2 teenagers and a husband) whose sense of humor makes South Park look like Erma Bombeck. Needless to say, the whole subject brought up a barrage of 'that's what she said' jokes and pretty good imitations of the pedophile character from Family Guy. Normally, I try to keep from laughing at their inapproriate humor (and usually fail, if only because their laughter is so contagious), but under the circumstances, it just wasn't as amusing. The thought of some trusted religious adviser molesting my child makes me as irate as a Republican congressman the day they passed health care reform.
Fortunately, the media conspiracy has brought so much to light that even the Vatican apologized for the remarks (in that 'I'm sorry if you were offended' way that politicians use to excuse off-color racial slurs and trips to the Appalachian Trail, but for the Vatican it was progress). And it was a great 'teaching moment' to talk to my kids about anti-Semitism, the Holocaust, child molestation, and unloading the dishwasher properly. (Hey, as long as I was in lecture mode!)
I have 8-1/2 months to recover some of my own equilibrium before I play Christmas masses during Chanukah. (So far the only awkward moment I've had during that holiday combination was explaining to my kids, when they were younger, that Christmas actually wasn't a celebration of the birthday of Santa Claus . . . )

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