Thursday, April 11, 2013

Anti-Semitism is neither traditional nor Catholic

In recent days, Dawn Eden, Mark Shea, and Simcha Fisher have been writing about anti-Semitism, especially a form of loud Internet anti-Semitism that tends to be associated with self-described Traditional Catholics.

Please note the careful phrasing of the above.  Just because some people who describe themselves as Traditional Catholics say rather disgusting things about the Jewish people does not in any way mean that all who are drawn to the Extraordinary Form Mass hold these opinions, or that anti-Semitism is somehow a component of traditional Catholic beliefs.  I am not saying either of these things, nor should those who love the Extraordinary Form but rightly reject all anti-Semitism feel as though this post is still somehow directed at them.  It isn't.

Here are some things the Church has said that are relevant to this topic:

From the Council of Trent:
Besides, to increase the dignity of this mystery, Christ not only suffered for sinners, but even for those who were the very authors and ministers of all the torments He endured. Of this the Apostle reminds us in these words addressed to the Hebrews: Think diligently upon him that endured such opposition from sinners against himself; that you be not wearied, fainting in your minds. In this guilt are involved all those who fall frequently into sin; for, as our sins consigned Christ the Lord to the death of the cross, most certainly those who wallow in sin and iniquity crucify to themselves again the Son of God, as far as in them lies, and make a mockery of Him. This guilt seems more enormous in us than in the Jews, since according to the testimony of the same Apostle: If they had known it, they would never have crucified the Lord of glory; while we, on the contrary, professing to know Him, yet denying Him by our actions, seem in some sort to lay violent hands on him. [...]

Furthermore men of all ranks and conditions were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. Gentiles and Jews were the advisers, the authors, the ministers of His Passion: Judas betrayed Him, Peter denied Him, all the rest deserted Him. 

From Nostra Aetate:

True, the Jewish authorities and those who followed their lead pressed for the death of Christ;(13) still, what happened in His passion cannot be charged against all the Jews, without distinction, then alive, nor against the Jews of today. Although the Church is the new people of God, the Jews should not be presented as rejected or accursed by God, as if this followed from the Holy Scriptures. All should see to it, then, that in catechetical work or in the preaching of the word of God they do not teach anything that does not conform to the truth of the Gospel and the spirit of Christ.

Furthermore, in her rejection of every persecution against any man, the Church, mindful of the patrimony she shares with the Jews and moved not by political reasons but by the Gospel's spiritual love, decries hatred, persecutions, displays of anti-Semitism, directed against Jews at any time and by anyone.


From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

Divisions among the Jewish authorities concerning Jesus
 
595 Among the religious authorities of Jerusalem, not only were the Pharisee Nicodemus and the prominent Joseph of Arimathea both secret disciples of Jesus, but there was also long-standing dissension about him, so much so that St. John says of these authorities on the very eve of Christ's Passion, "many.. . believed in him", though very imperfectly.378 This is not surprising, if one recalls that on the day after Pentecost "a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith" and "some believers. . . belonged to the party of the Pharisees", to the point that St. James could tell St. Paul, "How many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed; and they are all zealous for the Law."379
 
596 The religious authorities in Jerusalem were not unanimous about what stance to take towards Jesus.380 The Pharisees threatened to excommunicate his followers.381 To those who feared that "everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation", the high priest Caiaphas replied by prophesying: "It is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation should not perish."382 The Sanhedrin, having declared Jesus deserving of death as a blasphemer but having lost the right to put anyone to death, hands him over to the Romans, accusing him of political revolt, a charge that puts him in the same category as Barabbas who had been accused of sedition.383 The chief priests also threatened Pilate politically so that he would condemn Jesus to death.384
 
Jews are not collectively responsible for Jesus' death
 
597 The historical complexity of Jesus' trial is apparent in the Gospel accounts. The personal sin of the participants (Judas, the Sanhedrin, Pilate) is known to God alone. Hence we cannot lay responsibility for the trial on the Jews in Jerusalem as a whole, despite the outcry of a manipulated crowd and the global reproaches contained in the apostles' calls to conversion after Pentecost.385 Jesus himself, in forgiving them on the cross, and Peter in following suit, both accept "the ignorance" of the Jews of Jerusalem and even of their leaders.386 Still less can we extend responsibility to other Jews of different times and places, based merely on the crowd's cry: "His blood be on us and on our children!", a formula for ratifying a judicial sentence.387 As the Church declared at the Second Vatican Council:
. . . [N]either all Jews indiscriminately at that time, nor Jews today, can be charged with the crimes committed during his Passion. . . [T]he Jews should not be spoken of as rejected or accursed as if this followed from holy Scripture.388
And since this blog is primarily concerned with the social justice teachings of the Church, here is another relevant passage from the Catechism:

I. RESPECT FOR THE HUMAN PERSON
 
1929 Social justice can be obtained only in respecting the transcendent dignity of man. The person represents the ultimate end of society, which is ordered to him:
What is at stake is the dignity of the human person, whose defense and promotion have been entrusted to us by the Creator, and to whom the men and women at every moment of history are strictly and responsibly in debt.35
1930 Respect for the human person entails respect for the rights that flow from his dignity as a creature. These rights are prior to society and must be recognized by it. They are the basis of the moral legitimacy of every authority: by flouting them, or refusing to recognize them in its positive legislation, a society undermines its own moral legitimacy.36 If it does not respect them, authority can rely only on force or violence to obtain obedience from its subjects. It is the Church's role to remind men of good will of these rights and to distinguish them from unwarranted or false claims.

1931 Respect for the human person proceeds by way of respect for the principle that "everyone should look upon his neighbor (without any exception) as 'another self,' above all bearing in mind his life and the means necessary for living it with dignity."37 No legislation could by itself do away with the fears, prejudices, and attitudes of pride and selfishness which obstruct the establishment of truly fraternal societies. Such behavior will cease only through the charity that finds in every man a "neighbor," a brother. 

From all of the above, it should be easy to see that any hatred of or contempt toward the Jewish people is not compatible with the Catholic faith.  This hatred or contempt may take many forms: denying or minimizing the Holocaust, for example, or whispering about secret Jewish financial or economic conspiracies designed to control the world in some way, or a tendency to believe that powerful Jewish men and women are secretly engaged either in "infiltrating" the Church or in openly attacking Christianity through various political means.  I myself have heard and seen some of these ideas expressed at various times and in various places; when they are openly expressed it is both right and relatively simple to combat them by instant and complete repudiation of such notions.

There is nothing traditional or Catholic about harboring unjust discrimination against a group of one's neighbors; to do so is to treat human beings like objects, denying them their intrinsic dignity and worth as "other selves" and seeing them instead as some shadowy and less-than-human enemy.  It cannot be said clearly enough that this is wrong, and must not be permitted to continue.

1 comment:

  1. I didn't need to hear John Paul II refer to the Jews as our elder brethren in the faith. Any anti-Semitism is illogical, since salvation comes from Jews as Jesus, the Jewish carpenter told the Samarian woman and displays the theological fact that Jesus came to die for all of us sinners. It's pathetic to hear any self-professed Catholic or Christian express this ignorant hatred of the Jews.

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