Bernard Henri-Levy, a well-known French philosopher, has come to the defense of Benedict XVI on the issue of anti-Semitism. His defense is all the more interesting for being published at the Huffington Post, not known for its fondness towards the Holy Father.
Known for both his atheism and his narcissism, Henri-Levy comes from a family of Sephardic Jews in Algeria. One magazine famously said of him, “God is dead but my hair is perfect.” He has been targeted for assassination by Islamic extremists.
Henri-Levy notes that from the beginning of his pontificate, Benedict XVI has been maligned as an “ultraconservative,” a “pro-Nazi,” an “Adolph II,” and the pope’s travels, gestures, and texts have been consistently misrepresented and twisted by the media.
After the furor over Benedict XVI’s recent trip to the synagogue in Rome, Henri-Levy decided it was time to speak out:
And now, this is the record, I was going to say the limit, with this visit to the synagogue in Rome, following visits to other synagogues in Cologne and New York: the same chorus of disinformers scarcely waited for him to cross the Tiber before announcing, urbi et orbi, that he had failed to find adequate words, hadn’t made the appropriate gestures and, thus, hadn’t quite pulled it off.
The attacks on Benedict XVI in Europe have been way over-the-top for the past several weeks. It’s a relief that someone of Henri-Levy’s stature has come to his defense. But the philosopher will find himself in a turmoil of his own for his additional comments about Pius XII, who most European intellectuals take for granted did not do enough to protect Jews during World War II.
I shall go back over the case of Rolf Hochhuth, author of the famous work, The Deputy, the genesis of the polemic regarding the “silences of Pius XII”, in 1963.
And I shall go back over the particular fact that this burning dispenser of justice is, as a matter of fact, a negationist, often condemned as such (notably by Paul Spiegel, the now-deceased former president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany), whose last provocative act consisted of defending David Irving, who denies the existence of gas chambers, in an interview with the extreme right wing weekly Die Junge Freiheit five years ago.
For the time being, I would just like to recall (as has Laurent Dispot in La Règle. du Jeu, the review I edit), that in 1937, when the terrible Pius XII was still just Cardinal Pacelli, he co-authored the. encyclical With Burning Anxiety, which today still remains one of the firmest and most eloquent of anti-Nazi manifestos.
For the time being, we owe it to historical accuracy to point out that, before engaging in clandestine action, opening — without saying so — his convents to Roman Jews hunted by the fascist bullies, the silent Pius XII made a number of speeches broadcast by radio, in particular at Christmas of 1941 and 1942.
It’s important that Henri-Levy mentioned the authorship of Pius XI’s encyclical, published in German, “With Burning Anxiety (Mit Brennenger Sorge). Critics of Pius XII, and of the Church in general, never seem to mention this encyclical or the fact it was read from every pulpit in Germany on Palm Sunday, 1937.
Watch for Bernard Henri-Levy to be targeted as a self-hating Jew for his response to the critics of Benedict XVI and Pius XII.