William A. Donohue, president of the conservative Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, said of the tsunami disaster in South Asia: "In one strange sense, then, what's happening to these poor Asian people is their gift to the world." Donohue's comments came after MSNBC host and former U.S. Representative Joe Scarborough (R-FL) asked him about "the Catholic church's take" on the disaster.
From the January 6 edition of Scarborough Country:
DONOHUE: The fact of the matter is that what -- we can't figure out exactly, as mortal human beings, what is exactly at work. Job certainly didn`t understand it in the New Testament. Talk about Murphy's Law. Everything that could have gone wrong for that guy went wrong.
But what did it do to his faith? He kept his faith in God. There are strange things that happen. But we do know one thing: that Catholicism in particular is a theology of suffering, as Cardinal [John] O'Connor once said. Cardinal O'Connor once stunned the Jewish community by saying that the great gift of Judaism was the Holocaust. He didn't mean that to insult Jews.
What he was saying was this: There is no greater suffering than what Christ did. He died on the cross, but that's a source of optimism. That`s a source of redemption. So, I think we have to look at this in a positive sense. In one strange sense, then, what's happening to these poor Asian people is their gift to the world. It makes us think about our mortality and about salvation and about redemption. That's what we should be thinking about.
O'Connor did once characterize the Holocaust as Judaism's "gift" to the world, as the Associated Press reported on May 4, 2000, following O'Connor's death. But the AP also noted O'Connor's admission, during a January 1, 1997, New York Times interview, that he said "some dumb things" to the press on occasion: "The press could have asked me about satellites to Mars and I would have given them an answer." The AP also noted that on Yom Kippur, 1999, O'Connor "sent a letter to Jewish leaders expressing 'my own abject sorrow for any member of the Catholic Church, high or low, who may have harmed you or your forebears.' Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel published the letter in a Sunday Times advertisement, saying: 'For the prince of the church to say the things he does, it's very strong.'"
Donohue also incorrectly referenced the Bible: The Book of Job is in the Old Testament, not the New.