Edited Under Fr. Leonard Feeney M.I.C.M. — Saint Benedict Center
THE CATHOLIC CHURCH AND THE JEWS
Traditional Policy Toward the Haters of Christ
Every day there are new reports of friendly relations between the Catholic and Jewish communities here in the United States.
In support of Brotherhood Week, Archbishop Cushing of Boston has been photographed holding hands with a local rabbi. His Excellency, as a further gesture of good-will to the Jews, made a thousand-dollar contribution to World Zionism … The noted Jewish propagandist, Dr. Mortimer Adler, has been listed as a guest speaker at every kind of Catholic meeting from a women’s bridge club to a seminary conference … Jewish converts to Catholicism have been widely publicized for their efforts to bridge the gap between Talmudic Judaism and the Catholic Faith … There have been several recent reports of joint Catholic-Jewish festivities to mark the Christmas-Hanukkah season … The Catholic Biblical Association has publicly thanked the American Jewish Committee for its “assistance in the preparation of material on Jews and Judaism” for use in American Catholic schools … The National Conference of Christians and Jews has intensified its activities, with many presentations of awards to Catholic and Jewish members for their promotion of “inter-group harmony” … From Chicago have come news-stories of a series of lectures given there to Catholic teaching nuns by Mr. Hans Adler, prominent Jewish Mason of the B’nai B’rith Lodge … And also from Chicago there have been lengthy accounts of the pro-Semitism of His Excellency, Bishop Bernard J. Sheil. It was he who established the $50,000 scholarship fund to send Catholic boys to study at Brandeis, America’s new Jewish university. Bishop Sheil has likewise received newspaper acclaim for his participation in Jewish religious festivals in Chicago and for his appearance as an honorary pallbearer at the funeral of the late Rabbi Goldman.
Reports like these faithfully reflect the attitude of American Catholics toward the Jews. And though few would dare to challenge or question this attitude, or submit it to any kind of examination, the incontestable fact is that this attitude is flagrantly un-Catholic. It is a shrieking contradiction of all that the Church has ever taught, counseled, or decreed in the mater of Catholic dealings with the Jews.
One of the most ancient and basic principles of traditional, normal Christian society has been violated and cast aside. For nineteen centuries it has been the Catholic Church’s constant and deliberate policy to keep leashed, muzzled, and set apart, that people which she has universally taught is a cursed race — cursed for its crucifixion and rejection of Jesus Christ. Throughout the Christian ages, the Popes, the Saints, and all Catholics in civil authority, have taken upon themselves, as one of the necessary burdens of Catholic allegiance, the responsibility of holding back the Jew — of keeping him well distinguished from the rest of the community, with no opportunity to carry out the treacheries he was planning against the Church of Christ.
For anyone who may be doubtful as to the Church’s authentic and unswerving attitude toward the Jewish people, we are presenting the following itemization, taken from the decrees and practices of the Popes, Bishops, Saints, Councils, and civil rulers of our glorious Catholic history.
1. His Holiness, Pope Alexander III, in his decree forbidding Catholics to work for Jewish employers, made the following summary statement of the dangers of Catholic-Jewish intermingling: “Our ways of life and those of the Jews are utterly different, and Jews will easily pervert the souls of simple folk to their superstitions and unbelief if such folk are living in continual and intimate converse with them.”
2. The Church’s Council of Elvira, held in Spain early in the fourth century, passed several censures aimed at the Jews, including an absolute prohibition against marriage with them (Canon 16), and a decree against all close association with them (Canon 50).
3. Christians were at all times prohibited from praying for the salvation of Jews who had died unconverted. Saint Gregory the Great, who was Pope from 590 to 604, wrote in this regard, “We can no more pray for a deceased infidel than we can for the devil, since they are condemned to the same eternal and irrevocable damnation.”
4. One of the most successful means for segregating the Jews was found in the institution of the ghettos. These were not formally ordered by the Papacy until the sixteenth century, though they had been adopted earlier in many Catholic localities. In Spain, for example, the Castilian Ghetto Edict was passed in the year 1412.
5. Pope Innocent III (1198-1216) warned Christians against the perfidy of the Jews in his decree, Etsi Judaeos. His Holiness wrote, “They repay their hosts, as the proverb says, after the fashion of the rat hidden in the sack, or the snake in the bosom, or the burning brand in one’s lap.”
6. There were general laws, enforced throughout Christendom, which prevented any Jew from appearing in public during the forenoon of Sundays, during all feastdays, and during the entire Easter Season. Such laws were revived in Poland by the Society of Jesus in the sixteenth century. This Society, founded by Saint Ignatius of Loyola in 1534, long ago set down in its requirements for admission that Jewish lineage in an applicant is to be considered an impediment.
7. Just one hundred years ago in Italy, in the much-publicized Mortara case, the Holy See reaffirmed that ancient segregation principle. “Any Jewish baby that is discovered to be baptized must be taken from his unbaptized Jewish parents and brought up in a Catholic family.”
8. Saint Alphonsus Maria de Liguori (1696-1787), the founder of the Redemptorist Order, states explicitly in the section De Judaismo of his classic work, Theologia Moralis, that it is a mortal sin for a Catholic to mix socially with Jews, to go to their doctors, to work for them, to allow them to hold public offices, or to attend any of their festivals, weddings or synagogue meetings.
9. The Church has repeatedly legislated against the printing and distribution of the Jewish Talmud. In the year 1264, Pope Clement IV issued a bull ordering the confiscation and burning of all copies of the Talmud. A similar edict was promulgated by Pope Benedict XIII in the year 1415. Many other Popes have lashed out against the book, including Paul IV, Gregory IX, and Innocent IV, who condemned the Talmud as “containing every kind of vileness and blasphemy against Christian truth.”
10. Popes Gregory IX and Nicholas III, and the ecclesiastical synods of Breslau and Vienna, issued warnings that it is “incompatible with Christian practice” to allow the building of Jewish synagogues in Christian localities.
11. The famous papal decree of the Middle Ages, Cum Sit Nimis, reads in part, “We forbid the giving of public appointments to Jews because they profit by the opportunities thus afforded them to show themselves bitterly hostile to Christians.”
12. Jews were customarily taxed in all Catholic kingdoms. In Portugal, for example, there was a traditional tax, levied with the approval of the Bishops, whereby all Jews were required to pay an annual fee of thirty pieces of silver, “to remind them of their relation to the traitorous Judas.”
13. In the ninth century, the Bishops of the Council of Lyons protested the “weakness” of Charlemagne’s son who had advocated that certain privileges granted only to Christian citizens should be extended to the Jews in his kingdom.
14. Saint Thomas Aquinas, the Catholic Church’s honored theologian, in his instruction, De Regimine Judaeorum, gives the following principle to Christian rulers who have Jews among their subjects: “Jews, in consequence of their sin, are or were destined to perpetual slavery; so that sovereigns of states may treat their goods as their own property; with the sole proviso that they do not deprive them of all that is necessary to sustain life.”
15. The following general ordinances were enforced throughout Christendom, in order to guarantee that intercourse between Christians and Jews be kept at an absolute minimum: Jews were denied citizenship. They were forbidden to serve in the army, possess weapons, and attend the universities. They were excluded from public baths while Christians were there and were forbidden to frequent public pleasure places. Jews were never to give testimony as witnesses in court, and they were denied membership in all trade corporations and guilds of artisans.
16. By official decree, His Holiness, Pope Innocent III (1198-1216), extended to the whole Church the practice, then common in so many areas, of requiring the Jews to wear some distinctive dress so that Christians might easily recognize and avoid them. Catholic rulers everywhere adopted the custom. It was put into effect in Hungary, for example, in the year 1222 by King Andrew II. And the Catholic Empress Maria Theresa of Austria required in the eighteenth century that any Jew who did not wear a conspicuous beard must pin a large yellow badge on the left sleeve of his outer garment.
17. Pope Innocent IV (1243-1254) issued in his own hand the following directive to the King of France: “We who long with all our heart for the salvation of souls, grant you full authority by these present letters to banish the Jews, either in your own person or through the agency of others, especially since, as we have been informed, they do not abide by the regulations drawn up for them by this Holy See.”
18. Banishment of the Jews is a remedy which Catholic rulers have always hesitated to use. Yet, at some time, and often more than once, every Catholic state in Europe has been forced to ask all Jews within its borders to leave. Here are a few examples: The Jews were expelled from Spain, by order of the Spanish Bishops, in the seventh century, and they were again expelled by the Spanish rulers, Ferdinand and Isabella, in 1492. From France they were expelled in 1182, again in 1306, again in 1394 and again, from southern France, in 1682. In accordance with a decree of Pope Leo VII, the Jews were exiled from Germany in the tenth century; they were again expelled in the eleventh century, and once again in the year 1349. They were made to leave Hungary twice in 1360 and again in 1582. From England, they were expelled in the year 1290. From Belgium, in 1370. From Austria, in 1420 and again in 1670. From Lithuania, in 1495. From Portugal, in 1498. From Prussia, in 1510. From the Kingdom of Naples, in 1540. From Bavaria, in 1551. From the Genoese Republic, in 1567. And from the Papal States, the Pope’s personal domains, the Jews were expelled in 1569 and, once again, in 1593.
19. It was to combat the perfidy of Jews who were pretending to be Catholics that the famous tribunal of the Inquisition was established by the Church. Every year on the seventeenth day of September Catholics still honor this glorious institution by celebrating the feast of Saint Peter Arbues, the first Chief Inquisitor of the Spanish Inquisition, who was martyred by the Jews for performing the duties of his office.
20. Other Saints who are especially remembered by the Church for their part in holding back the Jews include: Saint Thomas of Hereford, who was instrumental in having them exiled from England; Saint Henry II, King of Germany, who expelled them from his domains; Saint Louis IX, King of France, who did the same; Saint Cyril of Alexandria, who, upon becoming Bishop of that city, forced all the Jews to leave; Saint Pius V, who required that all Jews in Rome wear bright-colored hats to set them apart from Christians; Saint Virgilius of Arles, whose legislations against the Jews were adopted throughout most of the dioceses of France; and Saint Ambrose of Milan, who severely reprimanded the Emperor for rebuilding a Jewish synagogue which his soldiers had destroyed. Three of our Catholic Saints — Saint Vincent Ferrer, Saint John Capistrano, and Blessed Bernardine of Feltre — have been especially distinguished for their work in protecting the Church from the Jews. The Universal Jewish Encyclopedia (New York, 1944) has included these three Saints in its summary list of the fifteen greatest “anti-semites” of all time!
Universally, throughout the Christian ages, on both the civil and ecclesiastical levels, the Jews were a constant preoccupation to those whose desire and whose duty it was to protect the Church of Christ. This Catholic vigilance grew out of the Church’s repeated warning that the Jews are a cursed race, whose very presence is a fearsome thing in Christian society.
That the traditional Catholic attitude toward the Jews, and the vigilance which stems from it, should now be abandoned in America, is cause for grave concern. But there is this encouragement: the principle which guided the Church in all her decrees against the Jews is still being presented as authentic Catholic teaching in America’s Catholic schools.
On page 209 of the standard Bible History written by the late Bishop Richard Gilmore of Cleveland, published by Benziger Brothers, and used by parochial schools throughout the country, American Catholic children are still being taught:
“For 1800 years has the blood of Christ been upon the Jews. Driven from Judea — without country, without home — strangers amongst strangers — hated, yet feared — have they wandered from nation to nation bearing with them the visible signs of God’s curse. Like Cain marked with a mysterious sign, they shall continue to wander till the end of the world.”