The controversy stems from an article that Rabbi Arthur Waskow, director of the Shalom Center, wrote for The Huffington Post criticizing the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Vatican for adamantly opposing federal government policy requiring certain religious institutions to cover birth control for their employees.
"For these men, 'religion' happens only in the genitals -- not in a hungry belly, an inquiring mind, a cancerous throat, a troubled soul," Waskow wrote, referring to church leaders.
Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League and a staunch defender of the Vatican, blasted the article in a private email to Waskow. He said Waskow had waded into an area that was not his concern.
"Ed Koch, my friend, once said that Jews had better not make enemies of their Catholic friends since they have so few of them. Think about that the next time you feel compelled to attack my religion," he wrote.
Waskow issued a news release labeling that statement as anti-Semitic and said that "the official church has moved far enough to the right that Donohue now speaks for its mainstream. Now we will find out whether that includes threatening Jews for disagreeing with the Church hierarchy."
The release also included a comments from Koch, claiming his remarks were taken out of context.
Not to be outdone, Donohue wrote a blog post on the Catholic League's website claiming that Waskow has a Catholic problem. He stated that Waskow claimed U.S. bishops were trying to impose Islamic law on the country and that Pope Benedict "was a villain before he became Pope, and he is a villain still."