Cardinal Pell’s statement on Q&A
Cardinal George Pell, head of the Catholic Church in Australia, was a member of a two man panel on ABC TV’s Q&A on Monday night. He has issued a statement on remarks he made about the Jews being made the Chosen People…later in the program he made a statement that the German people suffered the most in the Holocaust. His statement and the text from the program follow:
Cardinal Pell was fielding questions from the audience along with fellow panelist Richard Dawkins.
Cardinal George Pell has issued the following statement in which he clarifies his viewpoint:
“On ABC1’s “Q & A” program on Monday night, I tried to make a point about the unique place of the Jewish people in human history as the first to receive the revelation of the one true God, while I was being regularly interrupted and distracted by the chairman.
“Why did the Lord choose the Jewish people and lead them to a Promised Land between the greatest military and cultural powers of the era? Human thinking assumes that if something needs to be done, you go to the powerful. But God did not choose Egypt or any of the Eastern nations, Assyria, Chaldea or Persia, the great powers of the day. Instead he went to a people who at the time of Abraham, were nomads and shepherds, making them over time a great nation. “Historically” or “culturally” unequal might have been more appropriate than “intellectually”. My reference to “morally” was interrupted, but as I would never describe the Jewish people at any stage as morally inferior to their pagan neighbours, I was attempting to establish a counter poise to my earlier comment when interrupted.
“I also made some remarks about the way the German people were punished for the Holocaust, which is a crime unique in history for the death and suffering it caused and its diabolical attempt to wipe out an entire people.
“At the back of my mind I was thinking about an answer the Jewish writer David Berlinski gave to atheist Sam Harris on why God did not prevent the Holocaust. Referring to the incredible destruction and loss of life that the Allies inflicted on Germany in the course of the war which Germany started, Berlinski observed that ‘if God did not protect his chosen people precisely as Harris might have wished, He did, in an access of his old accustomed vigor, smite their enemies, with generations to come in mourning or obsessed by shame’.
“This is not to deny the enormous sufferings that the Germans caused to the other peoples of Europe. But Berlinski’s thoughts point us to the mysterious ways in which great crimes are sometimes brought home to those who have committed them.
“My commitment to friendship with the Jewish community, and my esteem for the Jewish faith is a matter of public record, and the last thing I would want to do is give offence to either. This was certainly not my intention, and I am sorry that these points which I tried to make on Q&A on Monday did not come out as I would have preferred in the course of the discussion.”
The text from Q&A:
At about 18 minutes into the program.
Pell: “Normally if you want something done you go to a busy person because you know they’ll do it. And so for some extraordinary reason God chose the Jews. They weren’t intellectually the equal of either the Egyptians or the….
Jones: “How can you know intellectually?”
Pell: “Because you see the fruits of their civilization. Egypt was the great power for thousands of years before Christianity. Persia was a great power, Chaldea. The poor, the little Jewish people, they were originally shepherds. They were stuck, they are still stuck, between these great powers.”
Jones: “But that’s not a reflection of your intellectual capacity, is it, whether or not you’re a shepherd.” (Applause)
Pell: “Well, no it’s not. But it’s a recognition, a reflection, of your intellectual development. Like many people are very, very clever and not highly intellectual. But my point is….”
Jones: “Can I just interrupt you there. Are you including Jesus in that, who obviously was Jewish and was of that community?”
Jones: “So, intellectually, not up to it?” (Laughter, followed by applause)
Pell: “That’s a nice try, Tony. The people in terms of sophistication, the Psalms are remarkable. In terms of their buildings and that sort of thing, they don’t compare with the great powers. But Jesus came not as a philosopher to the elite. He came to the poor and the battlers, and for some reason he chose a very difficult…but actually they are now, intellectually elite, because over the centuries they have been pushed out of every other form of work. Jesus I think is the greatest, the son of God, but leaving that aside the greatest man that ever lived. So I’ve got a great admiration for the Jews but we don’t need to exaggerate their contribution in their early days.”
At about 52 minutes into the program:
Pell: “Probably no people in history have been punished the way the Germans were. It’s a terrible mystery”.
Jones: “There would be a very strong argument that the Jews of Europe suffered worse than the Germans”.
Pell: “Yes, that might be right. Certainly, the suffering in both…with the Jews there was no reason why they should suffer”
The executive director of The Executive Council of Australian Jewry Peter Wertheim told J-Wire: “’There has been an ongoing discussion between the ECAJ and Cardinal Pell’s office following our expression of serious concern about some of the statements he made on ‘Q & A’ which are deeply problematical from a Jewish perspective, and more generally, and which do not reflect landmark statements affirming the Jewish people and the continuing vitality and validity of Judaism that have emanated from the Catholic Church over many decades. We welcome as a first step Cardinal Pell’s clarifying statement that he did not intend any offence, and his expression of continuing friendship with the Jewish community and esteem for the Jewish faith. The ECAJ will be following this up in our ongoing discussions with Cardinal Pell and the Catholic bishops. ”
Yair Miller, President of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies added: “We welcome Cardinal Pell’s clarification concerning some of his remarks. We look forward to the ECAJ’s ongoing dialogue with the Cardinal and Catholic Bishops to clear up those matters still not completely addressed.”