First up from the God Machine this week is a new controversy surrounding Catholic League president Bill Donohue, who has a penchant for making controversial remarks, but who "infuriated prominent Jewish leaders with a private email last week to Philadelphia Rabbi Arthur Waskow." BuzzFeed's Rosie Gray reported this week:
Waskow, a progressive rabbi involved in the Jewish Renewal movement, had criticized the Vatican and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in a Huffington Post op-ed for "attacking the religious freedom of millions of American women and the religious freedom of American nuns" over contraception.
Donohue responded with a note to Waskow that launched an email exchange that ended with a warning, forwarded to BuzzFeed by a source close to the rabbi, that "Jews had better not make enemies of their Catholic friends since they have so few of them" (Donohue writes that this is a saying of Ed Koch, the former mayor of New York). Donohue also includes a postscript saying, "I do not have a long nose."
Donahue also raised a recent child abuse scandal in Orthodox Jewish communities. "You need to do something about this epidemic right now," he told Waskow, who is not Orthodox, suggesting that Jews follow the Catholic Church's reforms in dealing with clerical abuse.
For the record, Koch told Gray he never made the comments Donohue attributed to him.
Prominent leaders in the Jewish community were taken aback by Donohue's angry missives, including Rabbi David Saperstein of the Religious Action Center, who called Donohue's email "disheartening."
Under the circumstances, that seems like a generous adjective. As Jeffrey Goldberg joked, Donohue may not realize "it's not 1492 and we're not in Spain."
Also from the God Machine this week:
* Glenn Beck this week continued to make his transition into a televangelist, arguing that he has personally "seen the finger of God." Beck added that if Americans fail to do what Beck thinks we should do, God will "withdraw his protection" over the country.
* New research from Gallup shows that only a third of Americans realize that President Obama is a Christian. Gallup also found that for the first time, a narrow majority of Americans said they'd consider voting for an atheist candidate for president (thanks to reader R.B. for the tip).
* In Philadelphia yesterday, in an important conviction, Msgr. William Lynn, a former archbishop's aide, was found guilty of "endangering children, becoming the first senior official of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States to be convicted of covering up child sexual abuses by priests under his supervision."
* The Southern Baptist Convention had a busy week, electing their first African-American president, adopting a new alternative name, and passing a resolution rejecting the idea that marriage equality is a civil rights issue (thanks to reader R.P. for the tip).