Monday, 27 April 2009

Adelaidians avert your eyes: Jewish joke alert!

I keep hearing about Archbishop Wilson of Adelaide's most recent pastoral letter.

Unfortunately it doesn't seem to be on the net, so if anyone has a copy please do send it to me...

What is in it?

The first I read of it was over at the Priory, with a complaint about something inappropriate to Good Friday being read out during the liturgy, and leading to a joke debate about what should replace the word 'Yahweh' in assorted trashy hymns.

The second was someone upset at what appeared to be me on the face of it at least (based on the report only, I haven't seen the document itself) to be skating dangerously close to syncretism, with injunctions to give appropriate reverence to Scripture in the same way that various other (named) religions do.

The third person who told me about it had never even heard the word Yahweh before (having clearly fled the guitars of the 1970s where hymns using the tetragammaton reigned free). She thought that a ban on Jewish jokes was, well a bad joke, and was upset because, predictably, the injunction was having the opposite effect to that intended on the talkback shows....

Jewish joke ban?

And now Cath News has alerted us all to the story on the ABC :

"The Archbishop of Adelaide has told Catholics they should not tell Jewish jokes or use the Jewish name Yahweh in readings and songs.

In a pastoral letter to priests, Archbishop Philip Wilson has asked for a substitute word such as Lord to be used instead of the Jewish sacred name.

Archbishop Wilson says Catholics must be respectful and sensitive towards Jewish people.

"In the letter it says that what will happen is people who are involved as experts in these areas will make changes so there will be appropriate words that can be used," he said.

"It won't be confusing if you use the word Lord as a substitute or another word as a substitute, then that will work really well.

"My sense about this is we have to be especially careful about the way that we talk about the Jewish people because of the way that they've been persecuted and treated for over a thousand years, and especially during the Holocaust in the Second World War," he said."

Now as I haven't actually seen the text, it is difficult to make any comments. But on the face of it, no problem in banning 'Y...h' - traditionally it has never been used by Catholics, and if it gets rid of of some of those 70s classics, all the better! But as for the rest...

Warning: Jewish joke...

So for everyone outside the Archdiocese of Adelaide, I googled Catholic Jewish jokes, and the first site that came up was Fisheaters, the first one listed was this:

"A rabbi, a priest and a minister walk into a bar. The bartender looks up and says, "What is this, a joke?"

Are jokes of this kind really a threat to interreligious relations?


Peter said...

Bishop Philip,

very proper, wot!


Son of Trypho said...

I don't think those are the sort of Jewish jokes that the Abp has in mind.

To be honest, I think alot of this ties back to the Williamson debacle and the ugly expressions which were expressed openly within the Catholic community by his defenders rather than a problem with Adelaide per se.

Whatever the case, it would be prudent to avoid any jokes or comments which disgrace the one who speaks them!

Terra said...

Son of Trypho,

A joke is a joke is a joke. If he meant jokes that were in excessively bad taste he could have said so.

The whole Williamson affair has been blown way out of proportion in my view, as if it tainted all catholics. It doesn't.

I'm not sure what you mean by Williamson's defenders - most people tried to make an appropriate distinction between the reasons Williamson was excommunicated (and that was revoked), and
his views on the holocaust. Sure there are always a few loonies, but the overwhelming response from within the Church was to reaffirm the Church's condemnation of anti-semitism.

If interreligious relations really are this fragile, then there is something deeply amiss. I don't believe that is the case.

In any case, a bishop writing a pastoral letter is writing about the implications of things for his own diocese. So I'd really like to know just what has been going on over there...otherwise, such a letter just looks like another dig at the Pope.

Son of Trypho said...


We will have to agree to disagree on the nature of jokes - I think you can discern different intents in jokes; some have no negative effect and others are inspired by malice - it depends on the situation, context, audience etc.

As to Williamson's defenders - I'm talking about the extremists who identify themselves as Catholic who effectively shut down threads on Catholic sites (eg. Rorate Caeli, WDTPRS etc) when moderators had to step in to stop the propagation of hate ideology in their sites. I believe you had similar problems yourself IIRC?

In terms of proportion - yes it was blown out of proportion but it did I think raise some valid questions about the state/beliefs of the conservatives/traddies. The Church's reputation was damaged by association, despite its sterling effort to repudiate such views.

As to the letter - it probably is a dig at the Pope rather than a genuine admonition of Adelaide faithful's behaviour.

Tony said...

You can find the letter at

It seems entirely reasonable to me and very much in accord with PB16.