Famous French Philosopher Defends Benedict XVI

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.

Deal W. Hudson


Deal W. Hudson is ​publisher and editor of The Christian Review and the host of "Church and Culture," a weekly two-hour radio show on the Ave Maria Radio Network.​ Formerly publisher and editor of Crisis Magazine for ten years, his articles and comments have been published widely in publications such as the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, and U.S. News and World Report. He has also appeared on TV and radio news shows such as the O'Reilly Factor, Hannity & Colmes, NBC News, and All Things Considered on National Public Radio. Hudson worked with Karl Rove in coordinating then-Gov. George W. Bush's outreach to Catholic voters in 2000 and 2004. In October 2003, President Bush appointed him a member of the official delegation from the United States to attend the 25th anniversary celebration of John Paul II's papacy. Hudson, a former professor of philosophy for 15 years, is the editor and author of eight books. He tells the story of his conversion from Southern Baptist to Catholic in An American Conversion (Crossroad, 2003), and his latest, Onward, Christian Soldiers: The Growing Political Power of Catholics and Evangelicals in the United States, was published in March 2008. He is married to Theresa Carver Hudson, also a Baptist convert, and they have two children, Hannah and Cyprian who was adopted from Romania in 2001.

  • Sarah L

    Seriously, what is with the open-front shirt?! Sorry. I know I’m completely skipping over the point of this article, but . . . ew!

  • Pammie

    It’s a French thing of French men of a “certain age”. It is “ewww” and much, much more.

  • John Jakubczyk

    It is the old story. Promote the lie. Over and over again. Don’t confuse me with the facts. Give the haters of Christianity and of the pope all the “red meat” they want so they can continue to live in their delusional worlds.

    It is so important that we know history because those who oppose us will poison the well for our children if we do not teach what truly happened.

  • Stuart

    It has always puzzled me why so many in the Jewish establishment buy in to this notion that Pius XII did not do enough to save or speak out for the Jews and thus was somehow culpable for the Holocaust? I wonder if it’s anti-Catholicism on the part of some Jews who fear that any closer collaboration or dialogue with Catholics would lead some Jews to convert to Catholicism and so to avoid this from happening they bring up the spectre of “Hitler’s Pope”? Or is it because there are some out there who would like to bring this up time and again by people who want to smear the Catholic Church for reasons that have nothing to do with the Holocaust? These questions have always arisen in my mind whenever I hear of these charges made against Pius XII.

    There are many Jews, including some Holocaust survivors, who who are quite alarmed and disturbed by these attacks on Pius XII. In some ways, they are indirect attacks on the current Pope an his predecessors after Pius XII. Let us hope that one day the truth will come out, the question ends up being is whether anyone will believe it or continue the myth that has been perpetrated.

  • dymphna

    I can’t take a man seriously who is rocking the Liberace look in this day and age.

  • Sarah L

    It’s a French thing of French men of a “certain age”. It is “ewww” and much, much more.

    Thanks for the back-up. smilies/smiley.gif I’ve seen this look before, and it’s almost always as revolting as it is in the picture above.

    Aside from that, it seems a little odd to hear an atheist arguing for “historical accuracy,” but I do find it interesting that he would come to Pope Pius XII’s defense. I wonder if he’s genuinely convinced of Pope Pius XII’s innocence (and even heroism under the circumstances) or if he knows this position is unpopular and guaranteed to win him some attention–though some of it is bound to be negative. Let’s hope there’s a spark of something like a real hunger for truth somewhere in him–and not just attention-seeking narcissism.

  • Hantchu

    As an observant Jew, and a history buff, I have to say that I have not heard convincing evidence AGAINST Pacelli to the effect that he, of all people, did so little to save the Jews of Europe during the Holocaust, that he in partcular deserves our open disapproval.

    It seems rather out of place for us as Jews to single out Pope Pius XII as villain, or the Catholic Church as being, in the present age, particularly insensitive to issues of antisemitism or the Holocaust. Personally, I just don’t see it. The Church is a huge institution, and while we can always dredge up examples like Mel Gibson’s father, or the renegade Lefebrist “bishop”, they are clearly the exception and not the rule. And why specifically villify Pius XII? A better case could perhaps be made for rousing Jewish opprobrium of Franklin Roosevelt’s numbness to the cause of the European Jews, but I don’t see anyone protesting.

    It is particularly disturbing to see my brethren taking such a disproportionate interest in the internal issues of the Catholic Church as opposed to their own community. Hating Catholics does not make one a better Jew, although for some it is an easier form of “observance” than learning Torah or committing to a life based on its precepts. It is, in short, a cheap shot.

    It is particularly cheap and counterproductive to condemn Pope Benedict, a man who himself sufferred under the boot of Nazi persecution and who witnessed its philosophical perversion from within. It would be hard to be more essentially anti-Nazi than Ratzinger; the essence of his repugnance for Nazism has its roots in his deep, lifelong faith in God. Demanding of Pope Benedict to reject or universally condemn the Church or the behavior of all European Catholics during the Holocaust would not make him “pro-Jewish”.

    Bernard-Henri Levy is not my “rebbi”, although he has held and promulgated many significant political-philosophical issues in our time, most of them not at all PC. Definitely he should button the shirt; he looks like an Israeli cab driver.

    It’s hard to imagine Levy being singled out as a “self-hating Jew” merely for standing up for Ratzinger, who is after all, a fellow philosopher. At best, we might ask Levy to take a number and stand in line; there are so many prominent self-hating Jews out there who deserve to be lambasted before him.

    Mr Hudson, assure you that I am in no way unusual in my views of the situation as a religious Jew. Reflexive pre-emptive attacks on the current Pope or on the inner decisions of the Catholic Church regarding the canonization of Pius XII do nothing to benefit or defend the honor of the Jewish people. One would hope that you would strive to avoid the pre-emptive attack as such an attitude does no good for any of us.

  • Pammie

    Mr/Ms Hantchu your comments were refreshing to read and your viewpoints on the subject both sensible and wise. Good one about the Israeli cabdriver (Italian ones too), although I still maintain the French started that objectionable fashion! Ms Sarah L you brought up something many people noticed. Let us pray it isn’t all a media ploy, but I am happy that at least someone whom the popular culture seems to respect brought up the subject in a more reasonable manner.