Letter to Alan Dershowitz on Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga

Alan M. Dershowitz
Professor of Law
Harvard Law School

Dear Alan:

Your recent campaign singling out Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras as a “notorious anti-Semite” has prompted us to revisit our files and history with him, particularly the controversy over his 2002 remarks in an Italian-Catholic magazine, where he implied that media coverage of the child sexual abuse scandal was part of a conspiracy by the Jewish-controlled American media.

After a careful review of the record, we were troubled to find that some of the events you are using to build your case against Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga, who is reportedly on the list as a possible successor to Pope Benedict XVI, have been misunderstood or taken out of context. I am especially troubled by your conclusion that he is an anti-Semite when, in fact, the record strongly suggests otherwise.

In May 2002, after his interview was published in the Italian-Catholic publication 30 Giorni, wherein he outlined a conspiracy by an alleged Jewish-controlled American media to exploit the controversy over sexual abuse by U.S. Catholic priests, ADL wrote letters to many of the top cardinals in the U.S. expressing outrage and calling for them to “immediately and forcefully” condemn his remarks. I immediately received a written response from Cardinal William Keeler, the then-Archbishop of Baltimore. We connected by phone, and eventually it came about that I had an opportunity to speak by phone with the Honduran cardinal himself.

You write that Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga “refused to publicly apologize or repent.” In fact, the cardinal apologized to me directly and reassured me that he understood why his remarks were so offensive. He indicated that they did not reflect the church’s views and promised that he would never say those words again. We made his apology public on our website, and consequently it was reported by the media. He has kept his word ever since. In the 11 years since this incident we are not aware of his once repeating the offense. Moreover, until this interview was brought to our attention, there was no record of Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga making anti-Jewish statements. We have other information in our records concerning him prior to 2002 that would seem to reflect on him positively. For instance, Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga was involved in interfaith dialogue as part of ADL’s Jewish-Christian outreach in partnership with CELAM, the bishops’ conference of Latin America.

In tagging him an “out and out Jew hater,” I believe you have done a disservice to Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga and to Catholic-Jewish relations. You build the case by suggesting, inaccurately and misleadingly, that Cardinal Maradiaga “blamed the Jews” for the scandal surrounding the sexual misconduct of priests, which is a vast overstatement. We re-read his interview. He never went that far.

Nothing can excuse what Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga did say in that interview, which was basically a rehash of the age-old conspiracy theory that Jews control the media. But it is nevertheless dishonest and unfair to tarnish this cardinal’s reputation based on this one incident. As I have always said, “One incident does not an anti-Semite make.” By our standards, we believe that Cardinal Maradiaga does not come anywhere near deserving of that label. I hope that you will recognize this as well, and reconsider your outspoken campaign against him and correct the record publicly.

Sincerely,

Abraham H. Foxman
National Director
Anti-Defamation League