Dear readers, I’d like you to join me in rising for a slow clap for German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
I think we know her best for rejecting the shoulder-rubbing bonhomie of our Worst President Ever. But this week she took on another autocratic, oblivious, right-wing Christian imperialist, Pope Benedict XVI. Yes, a few weeks after the Pope welcomed back an excommunicated Holocaust-denying bishop, Ms. Merkel phoned him personally to call bullshit. In a joint statement, the German government and Vatican said the phone call was a “very constructive conversation” in which they agreed to respect each other’s opinion. To me, that sounds like the many conversations I’ve had with my father where he gets defensive and breaks out the “I’m sorry you’re so upset.” In other words, “I’m backed into a corner here, so I acknowledge your righteous anger without actually, y’know, apologizing for what caused it.” For all the polite politico-speak, Merkel clearly wasn’t buying, saying: “I do not believe that sufficient clarification has been made” about the Pope’s views: i.e. Benny, you are a fucking embarrassment to the German people and you need to completely repudiate this anti-Semitic nutjob and his ravings. She’s joined in her outrage by the Church’s German bishops, whose spokesman says that “there must be consequences for those who are responsible for this”–a fairly revolutionary statement aimed directly at the Pope, who is, BTW, a former member of the Hitler Youth.
Will it make a difference? Fuck no. This is just another episode in the Church’s long history of “one step forward, two steps back” with the Jewish community. And Benedict, like nearly every Pope before him, does not give a damn what a secular authority like Angela Merkel says. She is, after all, elected by the people, whereas he believes himself to be God’s elect. Oh, and he has a penis and she doesn’t. Case closed. I don’t think he’ll be apologizing anytime soon, and certainly not to her.
Still, what a leadership moment. Germany is slowly crawling out from under the shadow of their genocidal past, and having a German pope tacitly condone Holocaust denial does not help. Instead of trying to ignore the issue, or sweep it under the carpet, Merkel, a doctor of quantum chemistry turned political powerhouse, went on the offense.
For taking her righteous indignation public, for rejecting an ugly history and an ugly institution, for real moral leadership, we name Angela Merkel an Honorary Harpy.
*I also would like to give her kudos for this, however un-feminist that may be. Rock on!