Edited Under Fr. Leonard Feeney M.I.C.M. — Saint Benedict Center
THE CHURCH MILITANT AND THE JEWS
Some Front-line Reports
Late last month, Harvard University settled down to its academic year number three hundred and twenty. Although statistics are not yet available on the student body, we have it from an exceptionally reliable source that the University’s faculty is still more than fifty per cent Gentile.
This measured majority of non-Jewish instructors, however, is in no sense calculated to make the Jewish student uneasy — nor does it. For all of Harvard’s Gentile faculty members are well-schooled and long-practiced in giving their annual courses the anti-Christian, and thus inevitably the Jewish, slant.
One such Harvard Gentile is Doctor Gordon Allport, professor of psychology, champion of UNESCO, and pride of the University’s recent and bulging Social Relations Department. Among Doctor Allport’s more eloquent classroom lectures is the one which deals with the “anti-Semitism of the Saints.” In 1954, he incorporated this material in his book, The Nature of Prejudice, and got Paul Blanshard’s publisher to distribute it for him.
At the risk of minor scandal, we shall be bold enough to say that in one aspect of his argument, Doctor Allport is not entirely wrong. He points out that it is in no sense exceptional with the Catholic Church’s Saints to “slip from piety into prejudice.” Since by prejudice Doctor Allport here means anti-Jewishness, we are bound to agree. In fact we have determined to illustrate the matter at some length this month, with pertinent stories and quotes from our files. The miscellaneous items which now follow, expanding the theme of “our anti-Jewish Saints,” may reveal even to Doctor Allport the enormity of the truth which, however clumsily, he managed to stumble upon.
The most exalted of the Church’s Saints are, of course, her martyrs. And the very first martyr, as every parochial school student knows, was the deacon Saint Stephen.
After hearing Stephen’s denunciation of the Jews in Chapter Seven of the Acts of the Apostles, and after seeing the vengeful Jews stone him to death in the same chapter, a Catholic child is hardly surprised to learn that the chief of the Apostles, Saint Peter, was constantly preaching against the Jews, reprimanding them for killing Our Lord, and that Saint Paul, who gloried in his title “The Apostle to the Gentiles,” complained in his First Epistle to the Thessalonians that the Jews “both killed the Lord Jesus, and the prophets, and have persecuted us, and please not God, and are adversaries to all men; prohibiting us to speak to the Gentiles that they may be saved, to fill up their sins always: for the wrath of God is come upon them to the end.”
Similarly, Saint John, Our Lord’s favorite Apostle, refers to the Jews as those “that say they are Jews and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan” — a statement which echoes the words of Our Lord Himself Who, in Saint John’s Gospel, tells the Jews they are the children of the devil.
Knowing that such precedents have been set by the Church’s very first Saints, Catholic children (and those who have become as little Catholic children) are prepared for what follows: the example of canonized Catholics, all down the Christian centuries, whose lives further illustrate, with an overwhelming variety of detail, that Saints and Jews just don’t mix!
California’s mission church of San Juan Capistrano — dear to American folklore as a romantic haven to which the swallows annually and melodiously come back — is dedicated to a fifteenth century Franciscan friar known during his life and since as “the scourge of the Jews.”
How Saint John Capistran came by his admiring title is a record of fiery sermons, assiduous labors, and incidental remarks — for instance, his unfollowed but unforgotten suggestion to the city of Rome that it round up all its Jews, herd them aboard ships, and deport them overseas.
When a Sacred Host was desecrated in the Polish city of Breslau, Saint John Capistran persuaded the King of Poland to revoke the pro-Jewish ordinances he had allowed and to order all Jews in Breslau imprisoned until the culprits be identified. Ultimately, 58 Jews were found guilty of the Host desecration and executed; whereupon the local rabbi hanged himself.
The Universal Jewish Encyclopedia (a work concocted at the expense of the U. S. Government, as a project of the WPA) pays a tribute to Saint John Capistran’s efforts by including him in its select list of the greatest anti-Semites of all time.
The teachings and preachings of Saint Ambrose, fourth century Bishop of Milan, have so impressed the Church with their holy brilliance that he has been long designated one of the four Great Latin Doctors.
Among the utterances of this most learned teacher there are, not surprisingly, some stringent words concerning the Jews. “The very conversation with them is a great pollution,” is one of the Ambrosian aphorisms.
Once, in a sermon at Milan, Saint Ambrose thundered so mightily against the synagogue, calling it “a house of impiety, a receptacle of folly which God Himself has condemned,” that his Milanese parishoners, on leaving the Cathedral, hurried over to the nearest Jewish temple and burned it to the ground. When a delegation of the city’s Jews and their friends protested the deed to Saint Ambrose, he brought them up short with the following notice:
“I declare that I set fire to the synagogue, or at least that I ordered those that did it, that there might not be a place where Christ was denied. If it be objected to me that I did not actually set the synagogue on fire here, I answer that it began to be burnt by the judgment of God.”
On another occasion, when the Emperor Theodosius ordered a Bishop in the East to pay for the rebuilding of a demolished synagogue, Saint Ambrose, seeing Theodosius present in his Cathedral, refused to start Mass until the Emperor had promised to rescind the order.
If any of our current candidates for public office would like to know what qualities the Church thinks a ruler should have, he will find them exemplified in the canonized king for whom the city of Saint Louis, Missouri, is named.
Ruling France from 1226 to 1270, King Louis IX stood as a beacon in the brightest of all Catholic centuries. The wisdom and justice of his public acts, together with his personal valor and devotion (he led the armies of the last two Crusades) are the legacy and legend of his country.
In his solicitude for both the earthly and eternal welfare of his subjects, Saint Louis was, of course, a confirmed enemy of the Jews. His first recorded act against them was a decree, in 1230, prohibiting Jewish usurers from pursuing their lucrative occupation. Later he followed this up by prescribing that all French Christians who were indebted to Jews should slice one-third from the amount they owed.
In June of 1242, Saint Louis set the style for other Catholic monarchs by ordering, at Paris, Europe’s first official public burning of the Talmud. Additional copies of the Jewish book were confiscated and burned by order of the King in 1244 and in 1248.
Even more blazingly expressive than his Talmud-fueled fires, however, is Saint Louis’ forthright advice to the laity of France regarding disputations with Jews: “I say to you,” he told them, “that no one, unless he be a very good cleric, should argue with them; but the layman, when he heareth the Christian law reviled, should not defend it but by his sword, wherewith he should pierce the body of the reviler as far as it will go.”
The Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Boston, the Church of the Holy Redeemer in Detroit, and Saint Alphonsus Church in New Orleans are three of the more than one hundred beautiful churches throughout the country which are staffed by the priests of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer. These Redemptorist Fathers, as they are popularly called, belong to an order which was founded in Italy in the eighteenth century by an Italian Bishop and Doctor of the Church, Saint Alphonsus Maria de Liguori. And to the embarrassment of the more liberal Redemptorists, Saint Alphonsus Maria is true to traditional form on the question of the Jews.
In previous issues we have cited Saint Alphonsus’ prohibitions against Catholic patronage of Jewish physicians, and against Catholic support of Jewish candidates for public office. But like all the Church’s official theologians, Saint Alphonsus lashes out against the Jews for that supernatural, New-Testament reason: their betrayal and crucifixion of Our Lord. The Saint treats extensively of this betrayal in his book, The Passion and Death of Jesus Christ, and we quote the following passage from page 198 of Father Eugene Grimm’s authorized translation, bearing the Imprimatur of the late Cardinal Hayes, Archbishop of New York.
“Saint Luke says that Pilate delivered Jesus into the hands of the Jews that they might treat Him as they pleased. Jesus was delivered up to their will. (Luke xxiii, 25). This is what really happens when an innocent man is condemned. He is given over to the hands of his enemies, that they may take away his life by the death which is most pleasing to them. Unhappy Jews! you then said, His blood be upon us and upon our children. (Matthew xxvii, 25). You have prayed for the chastisement; it has already come. Your nation bears, and shall bear to the end of the world, the punishment due to the shedding of that innocent blood!”
“Marrano” is a Spanish word meaning swine. It is also a word used to identify that familiar figure of the Spanish Middle Ages: the Jew who had held his head over a Baptismal font and was pretending to be a Christian while remaining at heart a dedicated enemy of Christ.
So many were there of this breed, that during the early fifteenth century the professedly Jewish population of Spain dwindled from 5,000,000 members to 200,000. Except for the handful who were genuinely converted, the bulk of the four million-odd missing Jews had become Marranos. In the guise of Catholics, they crowded into, and crowded Gentiles out of, every phase of Spanish life. Not only were they the merchants and money-lenders of the country, its lawyers and physicians and apothecaries, they had finally come to dominate the royal court. Even the Church was beginning to buckle under the influence they exerted as monks, as priests, and, in ever-increasing numbers, as bishops.
Inevitably, Christian Spain awoke to the stark realization that the “converted Jews” in their midst had not been converted at all: that, indeed, they still hated the Catholic Church with the congenital fury of their race and longed to see her devastated — a work they were now terrifyingly equipped to accomplish.
In 1478, Queen Isabella of Spain (the same who later sent Columbus on his voyage to the New World), shaking off her Jewish councillors, petitioned Pope Sixtus IV to authorize the establishment of an Inquisition for the purpose of exposing secret Jews. The effectiveness of this Spanish Inquisition may be gauged by the frenzy with which the Jews have been denouncing it ever since.
Though the anti-Jewish Queen Isabella (who was eventually obliged, in 1492, to expel all Jews from Spain) has not been canonized, one of the first Inquisitors has been. He is Saint Peter Arbues, and so notably well did he do his job of finding and foiling the Marranos that they murdered him. A few weeks ago, on September 17, Catholic religious all over the world heard this commemoration read from the Roman Martyrology: “At Saragossa in Spain, of Saint Peter Arbues, first Inquisitor of the Faith in the Kingdom of Aragon, who was cruelly butchered by relapsed Jews for the sake of that Catholic Faith which he had so zealously protected by virtue of his office. Pope Pius IX added him to the list of martyr saints.”
Four hundred years before the brutal attack on Saint Peter Arbues, another Saint, Pope Gregory VII, had been forced into action against the Jews of Spain. In 1081, Saint Gregory wrote to King Alphonso VI of Castile, “You must cease to allow Jews to rule over Christians … For to allow Christians to be subordinate to Jews, and to be subject to their judgment, is the same as to oppress God’s Church and to exalt the Synagogue of Satan. To wish to please the enemies of Christ means to treat Christ Himself with contempt.”
We neglected to say at the outset of this issue that when Harvard’s Doctor Allport was looking around for a particular saint to illustrate his “piety and prejudice” theme, he chose that giant among the Church’s theologians, Saint John Chrysostom.
Ever since the early fifth century, John Chrysostom has been a name to terrorize the very boldest Jew in the ghetto. The Jewish Encyclopedia includes a special article on him, accusing him, among so many other things, of saying that the “holy ark” which Jews now have in their synagogue is “no better than any wooden box offered for sale in the market.”
The quotation from Saint Chrysostom which Doctor Allport selected for his book is a more famous one. It is taken from the Saint’s Six Homilies Against the Jews, as found in Migne’s Greek Patrology.
From this work we reprint the passage on “the synagogue” — a striking summary of the Catholic position, and a fitting conclusion for our miscellany of “holy bigotry.”
“The synagogue is worse than a brothel … it is the den of scoundrels, and the repair of wild beasts, the temple of demons devoted to idolatrous cults … a place of meeting for the assassins of Christ … a den of thieves, a house of ill fame, a dwelling of iniquity, a refuge of devils, a gulf and abyss of perdition … Whatever name even more horrible could be found, will never be worse than the synagogue deserves.”