Judaism and the Vatican: Part II

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“The mystery of the redemption of the human race was fulfilled in Christ’s Passioné.Consequently the prescriptions of the Law must have ceased then altogether through their reality being fulfilled. As a sign of this, we read that at the Passion of Christ ‘the veil of the temple was rent’ (Mt. 27:51).”

“This is really a new Kingdom of God to be transferred to a new nation and governed by a new set of rulers, although it is no less truly the continuation of the Kingdom of God under the Old Covenanté”

“éat the most basic level, John XXIII was responding to the Holocaust.”

“The Jewish wait for the Messiah is not in vain.” Such are the words attributed by the New York Times this January 17th to Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Chief Theologian of the Catholic Church and Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The Times claims to be quoting from a 200-page document released last November by the Pontifical Biblical Commission entitled “The Jewish People and Their Sacred Scriptures in the Christian Bible,” which, according to the Zenit wire, was in the works since 1997 and has recently been published by the Vatican Press.

The document is not yet available on the Vatican’s website, and, without seeing a copy, it is difficult to say exactly what the text declares or implies. But very often the political and diplomatic impact of such a study is based less upon what it actually says and more on how it is presented to the world through those “official interpreters of truth and history” é the media.

In both the Catholic and non-Catholic press, the document is being touted for making some rather extraordinary claims.

The Zenit wire quotes from Cardinal Ratzinger’s introduction to the study, in which he invites Christians to recognize “the Jewish reading of the Bible as a possible reading.” The wire further implies that prior to the publication of this document the Church did not adequately recognize the value of the Old Testament: “A new Vatican document says it is not possible to understand Christianity fully, without reflecting on divine revelation as contained in the Jewish Bible;” and “the document recognizes that ‘in the past, errors were committed by unilaterally insisting on the discontinuity’ that exists between the Jewish Bible (Old Testament) and the Christian Bible (Old and New Testament).” Most shocking is the suggestion by the wire report é evidently quoting directly from the document é that “light of the Scripture, the rupture between the Church of Christ and the Jewish people should not have happened.”

The New York Times, as might be expected, goes even further in drawing attention to the remarkable novelty of the study. The Vatican spokesman, in an interview also published on the 17th of January, is quoted as saying that for Jews, the expectation of the messiah is not an act of futility. The NYT story reads, “the new document also says Catholics must regard the Old Testament as ‘retaining all of its value, not just as literature, but its moral value,’ said Joaquén Navarro-Valls, the pope’s spokesmané’The expectancy of the Messiah was in the Old Testament,’ he went on, ‘and if the Old Testament keeps its value, then it keeps that as a value, too. It says you cannot just say all the Jews are wrong and we are right'” (emphasis mine).

To her credit, the NYT reporter tries to put Navarro-Valls on the spot: “asked whether that could be taken to mean that the Messiah may or may not have come, Dr. Navarro-Valls said no. ‘It means it would be wrong for a Catholic to wait for the Messiah, but not for a Jew,’ he said.”

The Vatican spokesman’s suggestion that it is perfectly acceptable for the Jews to continue to await the messiah can only be understood in the context of complete relativism. Only in a world of philosophical meaninglessness and civil indifference to religion does it make sense to hear someone suggest that something that is true for one group can easily be not true for another. What is most disturbing about the statement, however é though perhaps not all that surprising, is that it comes from the Vatican.

There are all kinds of possible excuses that come to mind as to how the Dr. Navarro-Valls could get away with saying such a thing. (1) The New York Times fabricated the interview. Well, it’s possible, but not likely. Most unlikely because the spokesman’s words are very believable in light of 40 years of Jewish-Catholic dialogue, and even the New York Times has to maintain a degree of credibility if it is going to remain an effective instrument of propaganda. (2) Navarro-Valls is ignorant of the Catholic Faith. This too is possible, given the overall intellectual and educational standards of the modern world. But the man speaks officially on behalf of the Vatican, the Headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church. Ignorance is hardly an excuse. (3) The Dr. knows exactly what he said, and counting on the receptiveness of the modern mind to the general notion that “my truth doesn’t have to be your truth,” he figured on taking advantage of the opportunity to do his part toward eliminating the centuries-old antagonism between the Church and the Jews. This option seems highly likely, for, if the new document is anything close to what the press is advertising it to be, it seems merely to be the most recent of a long history of concessions, statements, declarations, and events on the part of the Church or its Pontiff to appease Jewish angst over the decidedly anti-Jewish é religiously speaking é stance of the Church since She was founded in 33 A.D.

It may be a worthy cause, but there is no doubt that the traditional means of mitigating Jewish-Catholic tensions é the conversion of the Jews to the Faith é has been more or less abandoned. In place of that traditional means has been placed, it would seem, the more palatable é though nearly impossible and decidedly more suspect from the standpoint of motive é attempt to reconcile Catholic teaching with Jewish sentiments.

That the Biblical Commission’s recent document is yet another step toward that larger goal seems more and more obvious in light of what the document allegedly says. Let’s look at a few of the points in detail.

Rehabilitating the Old Testament. The January 17th NYT article says that “the Rev. Albert Vanhoye, a Jesuit scholar who worked on the commission, said the project sees Scripture as a link between Christians and Jews, and the New Testament as a continuation of the Old, though divergent in obvious ways.” This is obviously supposed to be taken as exciting news. Otherwise, why bother with a 200-page three-year study? The problem is that is decidedly not news. The old Catholic Encyclopedia effectively sums up the teaching of the Church on the Old Testament:

It is a fact of history that in the time of Christ the Jews were in possession of sacred books, which differed widely from one another in subject, style, origin and scope, and it is also a fact that they regarded all such writings as invested with a character which distinguished them from all other books. This was the Divine authority of every one of these books and of every part of each book. This belief of the Jews was confirmed by Our Lord and His Apostles; for they supposed its truth in their teaching, used it as a foundation of their doctrine, and intimately connected with it the religious system of which they were the founders. The books thus approved were handed down to the Christian Church as the written record of Divine revelation before the coming of Christ.

So it cannot be that the Church has recently “discovered” the value of the Old Testament. The Old Testament has always been considered to be divinely inspired and a part of Revelation. There must, therefore, be more to it than that.

Reinterpreting the Old Testament. There is more to it than that. It may very well be that the point of the “rediscovery” is to understand the Old Testament in a new way. There really isn’t any other logical explanation. For the credence which Catholics have traditionally given to the Old Testament is that it made reference to the Messiah that historically did come é none other than Our Lord Jesus Christ é and was essentially about Him. Because

éthe Biblical literature is pre-eminently one. Its two sets of writings are most closely connected with regard to doctrines revealed, facts recorded, customs described, and even expressions used. Above all, both collection have one and the same religious purpose, one and the same inspired character. They form the two parts of a great organic whole the centre of which is the person and mission of Christ. The same Spirit exercised His mysterious hidden influence on the writings of both Testaments, and made of the works of those who lived before Our Lord an active and steady preparation for the New Testament dispensation which he was to introduce, and of the works of those who wrote after Him a real continuation and striking fulfillment of the old Covenant.

Any of the Jewish prophets, patriarchs, and fathers who were saved were saved not because of their expectation of a generic messiah, but rather because “The holy Fathers, by doing works of justice, merited to enter into the heavenly kingdom, through faith in Christ’s Passion, according to Heb. 11:33: The saints ‘by faith conquered kingdoms, wrought justice,’ and each of them was thereby cleansed from sin, so far as the cleansing of the individual is concerned” (emphasis mine). St. Thomas elsewhere further explains that the faith that the Old Testament believers had is the same faith which we have a Catholics, with the simple difference that we were born, respectively, on different sides of the historical coming of the Redeemer: “the unity of faith under both Testaments witnesses to the unity of endéYet faith had a different state in the Old and in the New Law: since what they believed as future, we believe as fact.

There is a sense to Dr. Navarro-Valls’s words that would indicate that he is not suggesting the faith of the Old Testament is valid insofar as it views the coming of the Redeemer from a point in history before His arrival. The impression is that the expectation of the messiah continues today in a perfectly legitimate and valid way. “The expectancy of the Messiah was in the Old Testament, [é] and if the Old Testament keeps its value, then it keeps that as a value, too.” The only possible context of such a statement is one in which we are being asked to accept the Jewish perspective as one which, in this era of tolerance, understanding, and relativism, we recognize as just as valid as our Truth. Cardinal Ratzinger, according to the Zenit release, encourages such a view: he invites Christians to recognize “the Jewish reading of the Bible as a possible reading.” And what is the Jewish reading if not the expectation of a future messiah é “future” as in one who has not yet come? This complete absence of any sense of the historical reality that Christ has already come is evident in the interpretive comments made by Andrea Riccardi, the founder of the Sant’Egidio Community: “In the past, we’ve talked about an ancient, common heritage,” he said, “but now, for the first time, we’re talking about our future waiting for the Messiah and the end of time.” And Navarro-Valls’s own words provide the key to the essentially relativistic outlook: “[the document] says you cannot just say all the Jews are wrong and we are right.”

Dispensing with traditional wisdom. We are further told that the text in question “affirms that it is mistaken ‘to use as a pretext for anti-Judaism’ the ‘warnings’ that the Christian Bible addresses to Jews.” But what, we may be permitted to ask, is anti-Judaism? It is vaguely summarized for us in a document prepared by the Vatican’s Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews:

éthe prevailing mentality down the centuries penalized minorities and those who were in any way “different”. Sentiments of anti-Judaism in some Christian quarters, and the gap which existed between the Church and the Jewish people, led to a generalized discrimination, which ended at times in expulsions or attempts at forced conversions. In a large part of the “Christian” world, until the end of the 18th century, those who were not Christian did not always enjoy a fully guaranteed juridical status. Despite that fact, Jews throughout Christendom held on to their religious traditions and communal customs. They were therefore looked upon with a certain suspicion and mistrusté

In a climate of eventful social change, Jews were often accused of exercising an influence disproportionate to their numbers. Thus there began to spread in varying degrees throughout most of Europe an anti-Judaism that was essentially more sociological and political than religious.

Summarizing, We Remember defines anti-Judaism as “long-standing sentiments of mistrust and hostility.” As vague as sentiment of “mistrust and hostility” might be, it is hard to see how to square the new document’s condemnation of anti-Judaism with the traditional teaching of the Church é and with common sense.

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At this point, two major questions come to mind. First, what is it that would prompt or encourage the continued flow of documents and announcements from Rome evidently designed to convince the world and the Jewish people that the Church no longer officially opposes Judaism? And second, can it be maintained, in light of both history and theology, that such a “truce” is either licit or prudent?

The search for a motive. Only God can search hearts and minds, but we can examine on the natural plain what may be driving modern Churchmen in their evident rush to convince the world, and the Jewish people particularly, that Rome no longer harbors its ancient antagonism é both theological and practical é towards those whom it formerly accused of complicity in the murder the Son of God.

The Church under fire. While it is true that since at least 1789 the Church has not lead the opinion polls in the “most tolerant and modern institution” category, She never seemed to care much about that fact before roughly 1960. A true sign of contradiction, as the world fell more and more out of step with Our Lord, the Church é His Divine Spouse é came to expect more and more that She would be reviled and despised just as the Bridegroom was during his life. The fifth identifying mark of the Church, it is casually but illustratively said, is persecution. But lately Her ministers seem to be awfully concerned with what the newspapers and the TV reporters are saying, and how modern and up-to-the-minute She seems to be in the eyes of the political, academic, and journalistic leaders of opinion.

Maybe it is not an accident, in this context, that those very same leaders of opinion seem to be either members of or sympathetic to that very religion é Judaism é which is so much talked about in Vatican documents these days. For Jewish historians, politicians, and journalists, and their non-Jewish academic, political, and journalistic colleagues have recently spun into high gear in an attempt to convict the Church, and its wartime Pope, Pius XII, of not just inaction during the “Holocaust,” but of sponsoring and fostering the mindset which actually caused it.

James Carroll’s Constantine’s Sword, published in January of last year, is one such attempt to convict the Church of encouraging a deep-seated hatred of the Jews that would erupt in Germany in the 1940s. Of the reforming efforts of John XXIII, he says that “the Church’s failure in relation to Adolf Hitler was only a symptom of the ecclesiastical cancer Pope John was attempting to treat.” The reviewers, of course, are wild about his book. A glance at amazon.com’s reviews page reveal such reserved praise as: “A triumph, a tragic tale beautifully toldé”; “Whatever the solution, in the end, understanding the conflict is half the battle. It’s a battle Carroll wins in this historical tome;” and “For two thousand years Jews have been longing for a Christian who would understand their experience.” Andrew Sullivan writes, illuminatingly, in the New York Times, that Carroll’s “deepest insightéis to see in John Paul II’s transforming papacy a deep grasp of how central the Jewish question is to the current state of the church (sic).”

September of last year saw the appearance on the scene of yet another contribution to recent “scholarship” purporting to demonstrate roughly the same thesis: The Popes Against the Jews: The Vatican’s Role in the Rise of Modern Anti-Semitism,

Finally we have Daniel J. Goldhagen’s A Moral Reckoning: The Catholic Church During the Holocaust and Today, due to be published this fall. Goldhagen already distinguished himself by asserting, in Hitler’s Willing Executioners, that those who perpetrated the “Holocaust” were ordinary Germans acting on sentiments of anti-Semitism that had permeated German society for over a hundred years prior to World War II. Going even further in his newest book, Goldhagen suggests, in a recent interview with the London Times, that “he is taking Cornwell’s ‘moral reckoning’ even further, treating Pius not only as a Nazi sympathizer but as the very symbol of Christianity’s ‘dishonorable past.'” A dishonorable past that has been examined for us by Messrs. Carroll and Kertzer.

What’s the connection? If it is true that history repeats itself, we may possibly be witnessing the sequel to de Poncins’s Judaism and the Vatican. All of this ground was covered 40 years ago in the run-up to the Vatican’s Declaration On The Relation of the Church to non-Christian Religions. The history of the machinations which took place relative to Nostra Aetate is related in Chapters 3, 13, and 15 of de Poncins’s book. Jules Isaac é who would maintain in his 1948 work Jesus and Israel that St. Matthew’s account of the Passion is “tendentious” and “not based on solid historical foundations” é along with B’nai B’rith and the American Jewish Conference played a large part in pressuring Vatican officials to consider (or, more properly, reconsider) the Church’s relationship with the Jews in the period before and during the Second Vatican Council. Count de Poncins summarizes the events as follows: “The whole affair had been hatched in semi-secrecy and with supreme skill by Cardinal Bea, Jules Isaac and a small group of progressives and Jewish leaders, whose antagonism to traditional Christianity was veiled under appearances of Christian charity, ecumenical unity and common biblical relationship.” And his summary is merely a more detailed version of one that appeared in an article in Look magazine on January 25, 1966. Not surprisingly, Carroll makes a warm reference in Constantine’s Sword to John XXIII’s June 1960 reception of Jules Isaac (“who traced the Church’s anti-Semitism to the Gospels,” Carroll says) and John XXIII’s resultant commitment to ensure that the Council “take up the Church’s relations with Judaism as a matter of priority.”

The meeting with Isaac, and the Council generally, seems to have confirmed authoritatively a process which began over 50 years ago and seems now to have a momentum of its own. For the last 40 years the Vatican has nearly fallen over itself to appear appropriately sensitive to the question of the Church’s relationship with the Jews, to the tune of some dozens of official statements, declarations, and instructions coming either from Vatican offices directly or from the various national bishop’s conferences. Documents range from the instruction on implementing Nostra Aetate, which suggested that Catholics who dialogue with Jews should have “respect for [their] faith and [their] religious convictions”; to We Remember, which reminds us that the Jews continue to bear “their unique witness to the Holy One of Israel and to the Torah (II)” and which exhorts us to “build a new future in which there will be no more anti-Judaism among Christians (V)”; to Memory and Reconciliation which, itself quoting We Remember, reprimands Christians because, during the “Holocaust,” “‘the spiritual resistance and concrete action of other Christians was not that which might have been expected from Christ’s followers.’ This fact constitutes a call to the consciences of all Christians today, so as to require ‘an act of repentance (teshuva)'”; to the Holy Father’s exhortation that “a fresh mutual and sincere attempt must be made at every level to help Christians and Jews to know, respect and esteem more fully each other’s beliefs and traditions” as “the surest way” to overcome anti-Semitism.

The latest of these attempts to assure the Jewish people that Catholics recognize the validity of their own, present-day religious experience é as opposed to merely appreciating the historical way in which the Old Testament looks forward to the Redeemer é is the Biblical Commission’s study, with Cardinal Ratzinger’s Introduction and the Vatican Spokesman’s spin. The parallels to Isaac’s interaction with John XXIII are too similar to discount.

Generally, we may be permitted to speculate that the continued indirect yet very public pressure put on Rome by the likes of Carroll, Cornwell, and Kertzer help to ensure that John Paul doesn’t ever experience a change of heart regarding his “deep grasp of how central the Jewish question is to the current state of the church [sic].”

Specifically, we may be permitted to note the overwhelming coincidence between Carroll’s recommendations for the way in which the Church should be reformed and the spin being placed on this latest release of the Biblical Commission. In Constantine’s Sword Part Eight é A Call for Vatican III, Carroll demands, as the first of his imaginary council’s agenda items, that the Church reinterpret the New Testament, recognizing, among other things, that: (1) the Gospel narratives were “invented,” (2) the coincidence between Our Lord’s life and the Old Testament messiah prophecies is a result of “inventing” details of Our Lord’s life to force conformity with the Old Testament, and (3) that the anti-Jewish texts of the New Testament are a “betrayal” of the message of Jesus. Carroll further fantasizes about the ideological implications of such recognitions by Rome: (1) an eventual Vatican-III acceptance of the faith of modern Judaism as still valid (“The Jews remain the chosen people of God. The Jewish rejection of Jesus as the Son of God is an affirmation of faith that Christians must respect.”); (2) a Vatican-III recognition that “the Kingdom of God is unfinished,” and the resultant expectation “among Jewséinforms messianic hope, but among Christiansétakes the form of faith in the second coming of the Lord;” and (3) a Vatican-III repudiation of the “slander” that Jews were responsible for the death of Jesus, a slander which caused “incalculable” damage to the Jews through the centuries. Can it be an accident that these blasphemous suggestions directly parallel what is being clamed by the press of the Biblical Commission’s new document? (1) Cardinal Ratzinger’s introduction invites Christians to recognize “the Jewish reading of the Bible as a possible reading;” (2) The document itself tells us that “Like the [Jews], we also live in expectationéThe difference is in the fact that for us the One who will come will have traces of that Jesus who has already come and who is present and active among us.” (3) The document “apologize[s] for the fact that certain New Testament passages that criticize the Pharisees, for example, had been used to justify anti-Semitism.” The correspondence between the document, and the way it has been received in the press, and Carroll’s demands, is both striking and scandalous.

That Carroll had some kind of official or semi-official involvement with the preparation of the Biblical Commission’s document we do not attempt to prove é though often truth is indeed stranger than fiction. That Carroll has serious connections to an Establishment that would like nothing better than to see the Church abandon Her theological commitment to Her Redeemer is, however, beyond question. The son of an Air Force general who headed the Defense Intelligence Agency, Carroll received several awards for his writing on religion and politics from 1972-1975. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; he was a Shorenstein Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University where he researched the “Holocaust,” and a Fellow at the Center for the Study of Values in Public Life at the Harvard Divinity School where he lead a seminar entitled “The Cross at Auschwitz. ” He is a member of the Advisory Board of the International Center for Ethics, Justice, and Public Life at Brandeis University; and as a Harvard Fellow, he participated in the Jewish-Christian theological dialogue at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem in 1998 and in 2000. His biography at Brandeis University labels him “a novelist and a journalist whose writings on politics, religion, and culture have challenged thinkers and government leaders in America and elsewhere.

Could it be that some of those “thinkers” are in the Vatican? The Biblical Commission’s recent study would make it seem quite possible.

Politics and religion. The leaders of the religion on behalf of which Carroll does most of his lobbying these days are quite pleased that the Church é seemingly é has decided to take his recommendations to heart. Chief Rabbi Joseph Levi of Florence told the Italian press that the document “is a total novelty,” and that he is “especially pleased with the objective of the document: to manifest officially ‘the amazing force of the spiritual ties that unite the Church of Christ with the Jewish people'” (emphasis mine). And referring to the overly “retrograde” document Dominus Iesus, which dared to vaguely imply that Christ and His Church is in some way necessary for salvation, Rabbi Piattelli calls the Biblical Commission’s study “a step forward” in closing, according to the NYT, “the wounds opened by that earlier document.” “It recognizes the value,” the Rabbi said, “of the Jewish position regarding the wait for the Messiah, changes the whole exegesis of biblical studies and restores our biblical passages to their original meaning.” And according to an Associated Press report, “Tullia Zevi, an Italian Jewish leader who lives in Rome, said the document, part of an ongoing attempt by the Vatican to improve relations with the Jews, ‘is very noble in a certain sense. It carries weight.'”

On the political front, the success is the same. A letter to the editor of the New York Times from Seymour D. Reich, chairman of the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations, is straightforward in its praise of the Vatican’s decision to publish the study:

The document by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the pope’s theologian, acknowledging that the Jewish concept of a future Messiah does not conflict with the Christian belief in Jesus is a historic one. It should go a long way to clarify church doctrine and counter the confusion over the earlier Dominus Iesus, the study released in the cardinal’s name last year that appeared to some to assert that salvation for the Jewish people was possible only through the church. The latest statement reflects remarkable progress in the 55-year Catholic-Jewish dialogue.

History repeated. Regardless of the intentions of those currently running the Vatican, there can be no doubt that the series of documents which we have glanced at briefly é starting with Nostra Aetate of 1965 and culminating in the current study é have successfully created the impression that the Church has now officially recognized the modern Jewish religion as “just as valid” as Her own. Regarding the Conciliar declaration, John M. Oesterreicher writes “Even though it is not spelled out in the text that Judaism is a living force, it is implicit in these recommendations of the Council. It is not to the Israel of old that the Church extends her brotherly é or if you prefer, sisterly é hand, but to the Jews here and now.” And Dr. Eugene J. Fisher, Associate Director of the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs for the U.S. Catholic Bishops, says that the elimination of the Good Friday prayers for the Jews signals that the Church hopes not for the conversion of the Jews, but merely that they continue in “faithfulness to the Judaism given them by divine revelation.”

The wisdom of allowing such a consensus to form is, however, another issues entirely. In 1967 Count Leon de Poncins posed this rhetorical question regarding the Council Fathers of Vatican II, “Doubtless [they] are well acquainted with the biblical Judaism of the Old Testament, but what do they know of contemporary talmudic Judaism?” The same question may be asked of those leading the Church today, who, in falling over themselves to sanction all things Jewish, foster the opinion that the recent document is an attempt “to question the validity of past attitudes of the Church, and seems an attempt to move [Jews and Christians] closer to together.” Even the astute and by no means overly skeptical Vittorio Messori suggested that though the John Paul II is “inspired and has his reasonséhe seems to say [in these apologies that] the Church itself has been wrong in its teaching.”

Do the modern Churchmen know that expressing appreciation é on Jewish terms é for the Old Testament and the value that it retains is not to reverence it insofar as it heralds the coming of Our Lord? That the Jews do not see in the Old Testament the expectation of a personal Messiah that the faithful Fathers and Prophets saw? Let it be made clear here, at least.

For Catholics, and in truth, both theologically and historically, “the death and resurrection of Jesus fulfilled the ancient types and prophecies concerning Him (cf. Luke, xxiv, 26, 27).” We Catholics “see realized and harmonized in Our Lord all the conflicting Messianic hopes, all the visions of the prophets. He is at once the Suffering Servant and the Davidic King, the Judge of mankind and its Saviour, true Son of Man and God with us.”

For the Jews, meanwhile, any attachment to the idea that the Christian religion is a fulfillment and continuation of the Old Covenant is noxious and unacceptable: “It is the obstinate Christian claim to be the sole heir to Israel which propagates anti-Semitism. This scandal must terminate sooner or later; the sooner it does, the sooner the world will be rid of the tissue of lies in which anti-Semitism shrouds itself.” Not to mention that the messiah which the Jews of the Christian era continue to anticipate is distinctly not Our Lord Jesus Christ, as the ex-Rabbi Drach makes clear:

The just of the Old Law did not attribute to the Messiah they expected, as does the modern synagogue, the mission of restoring our nation to Palestine, and bestowing upon it glory and the goods of this world, but that of winning spiritual salvation, as in the point of fact Our Lord Jesus Christ has doneé

The Messiah, whose coming the Jews obstinately expect, in spite of the fact that he on his side obstinately refuses to appear, is to be a great conqueror who will reduce all the nations of the world to the condition of slaves of the Jews. The latter are destined to return to the Holy Land in triumph, laden with the riches taken from the non-Jews. Jerusalem is to have a new temple.

History bears this point out. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, “Pharisaism became practically synonymous with Judaism” and the result of both the Machabean wars and the conflicts with Rome (A.D. 66-135) “was to create from the second century onwardéthe type of Judaism known to the western world.” And for this type of Judaism, the messianic notion was one which “looked to the establishment on earth of the Kingdom of God under the Son of David, the conquest and subjugation of the heathen, the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Temple, and the gathering in of the Dispersed.”

Finally, repeated calls for Catholics to respect and admire the religion of the Jews are not at all what they seem to be to those who utter them (or are they?). The Faith in Christ Our Lord which the prophets and the patriarchs possessed is hardly that which the leaders of the Jewish nation possessed nor what modern Jews avow. According to Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange, “In the time of our Lord, the Talmud was not yet written, but its spirit already animated the doctors of Israel.” So much for affinity with the religion of the Old Testament.

To continue our questioning:

On the socio-political front, do those leading the Church realize that to preach against anti-Semitism é on Jewish terms – is not to condemn irrational hatred based on race or creed? That the Jews see rather in a condemnation of anti-Semitism both a complete vindication of their efforts throughout history to secularize the world and also a corresponding renunciation of past Christian attempts to defend themselves and their Faith from those efforts? Let us also be clear on this point.

David Kertzer, in his book The Popes Against the Jews, intends to remind modern readers that “The church played an important role in promulgating every one of [the] ideas that are central to modern anti-Semitismé. Every one of them had the support of the highest church authorities, including the popes.” Among these central ideas Kertzer enumerates “the beliefs that the Jews plotted to control the world, that they were evil conspirators against the public good, that they maliciously controlled the banks and the press and that they were behind political movements like Bolshevism.” An apology from the Church for anti-Semitism, therefore, is bound to appear as é and may even be é an apology for all that was done throughout the history of Christendom to combat these unfortunate Jewish tendencies, which Kertzer accurately é if unwittingly é identifies.

The fact of the matter is that as recently as 1912 the Catholic Encyclopedia would explain, and justify as appropriate defensive measures, some of the social and legal disabilities which European Jews suffered until these various proscriptions, described by the Encyclopedia below, were eliminated throughout the 18th and 19th centuries:

Church legislation against Jewish holding of Christian slaves can be easily understood: as members of Christ, the children of the Church should evidently not be subjected to the power of His enemies, and thereby incur a special danger for their faithé

The obligation of wearing a distinguishing badge was of course obnoxious to the Jews. At the same time, Church authorities deemed its injunction necessary to prevent effectively moral offences between Jews and Christian women. The decrees forbidding the Jews from appearing in public at Eastertide may be justified on the ground that some of them mocked at the Christian processions at that time; those against baptized Jews retaining distinctly Jewish customs find their ready explanation in the necessity for the Church to maintain the purity of the Faith in its members, while those forbidding the Jews from molesting converts to Christianity are no less naturally explained by the desire of doing away with a manifest obstacle to future conversions.

It was for the laudable reason of protecting social morality and securing the maintenance of the Christian Faith, that canonical decrees were framed and repeatedly enforced against free and constant intercourse between Christians and Jews, against, for instance, bathing, living, etc., with Jews. To some extent, likewise, these were the reasons for the institution of the Ghetto or confinement of the Jews to a special quarter, for the prohibition of the Jews from exercising medicine, or other professions. The inhibition of intermarriage between Jews and Christians, which is yet in vigour, is clearly justified by reason of the obvious danger for the faith of the Christian party and for the spiritual welfare of the children born of such alliances. With regard to the special legislation against printing, circulating, etc., the Talmud, there was the particular grievance that the Talmud contained at the time scurrilous attacks upon Jesus and the Christians (cf. Pick, “The Personality of Jesus in the Talmud” in the Monist, Jan., 1910), and the permanent reason that

“that extraordinary compilation, with much that is grave and noble, contains also so many puerilities, immoral precepts, and anti-social maxims, that Christian courts may well have deemed it right to resort to stringent measures to prevent Christians from being seduced into adhesion to a system so preposterous” (Catholic Dictionary, 484).

Condemning anti-Semitism on Jewish terms is to condemn all of these measures which the Catholic Encyclopedia calls at least “more or less justified.” A condemnation of anti-Judaism along the lines that we have noted earlier in the new document, and as it is defined in We Remember, is in both the theological and practical sense a departure from tradition.

Furthermore, the ideas to which Kertzer refers as “central to modern anti-Semitism” are, in many cases, founded on historical fact and even admitted by Jewish writers. The Jewish mentality was and remains opposed to all that Christendom fundamentally was.

Writing in 1958, Joshua Jehouda, would identify “the Renaissance, and Reformation, and the Revolution” as “three attempts to rectify Christian mentality by bringing it into tune with the progressive development of reason and science.” Most revealing are his suggestions that (1) had the Renaissance been allowed to run its creative course, the world would have been unified by the “doctrine of the Cabala”; (2) the Reformation was a revolt against the Church, “which is already a revolt in itself against the religion of Israel”; and (3) the anti-religious Revolution continues, “through the influence of Russian Communism, to make a powerful contribution to the dechristianisation of the Christian world.”

Alfred Nossig admitted that “it is universal socialism which represents this highest development of humanity towards which Israel must guide us.” An 1883 article in The Jewish World confessed unabashedly anti-pluralist sentiments, despite modern protestations to the contrary: “The great ideal of Judaism is éthat the whole world should be imbued with Jewish teachings, and that in a universal Brotherhood of nations é a greater Judaism in fact é all the separate races and religions shall disappear.” Zionist Bernard Lazare, writing in 1894, would identify the Jewish revolutionary tendency as an essential part of the Jewish character and founded upon Jewish theology:

Having no hope of future reward the Jew could not resign to the misfortunes of life; it was only at a very late date that he could console himself in his misfortunes by dreaming of celestial happiness. To the scourges befalling him he replied neither with the Mohammedan’s fatalism, nor with the Christian’s resignation, but with revolt. As he possessed a concrete ideal, he wanted to realize it, and whatever retarded its advent aroused his wrath.

Unless we are willing to dismiss Dostoievsky as a hopeless “anti-semite,” it is useful to note that he, too, identified the consequences of unchecked Jewish social activity as long ago as 1877:

Judaism and the banks now reign over all, as much over Europe as over education, the whole of civilization and socialism, especially over socialism, for with its help Judaism will root out Christianity and destroy Christian culture.

Finally, a modern, Russian-born Israeli journalist, Israel Shamir, wrote very recently that even the early 20th-century leaders of Zionism were themselves harshly critical of some of the less palatable characteristics of some secular Jews of the West:

éthe first Zionists were very strict with the Jews they knew. For them, a plethora of Jewish lawyers, porn dealers, currency traders, lobby activists, bankers, media lords, real estate moguls, [and] liberal journalists were “an undesirable, demoralizing phenomenon,” in the words of [Chaim] Weizmann [the leading Zionist and first president of Israel]é

HoweveréDiaspora Jewishness turned out to be a winning strategy in the Mammon-worshipping West. The named lawyers and media lords captivated America’s mind and became the model for many Americans, Jewish and Gentile. Still, it does not mean that [the] “anti-Semitic” diatribes of the early Zionists were all wrongé

Good PR. It is a masterstroke of propaganda to claim that “anti-Semitism” does not mean what common sense would have it to mean é hatred of a man for his Jewish race or religion, and to claim rather that “anti-Semitism” refers generally to any ideological, social, or legal attempt by Christian societies to prevent their own destruction and secularization. In order to accomplish this feat of re-definition, it was and is necessary to substitute one focal point of the discussion for another.

For Catholics the focal point is the Truth, and its historical Incarnation, life, death, and resurrection from 1 to 33 A.D. Once men grasp that Truth, and become prepared to live it integrally, Christian social institutions and a whole Christian social order follow as a natural consequence. This is more or less the history of Western civilization. A precondition for the development of the West was an opposition to pluralism and a commitment to the absolute and objective nature of the Faith, revealed through the Church, and incarnated in Christian society. Public, legal, economic, and social structures that express that Truth cannot spring from a culture which skeptically concedes that one truth is as valid as its opposite, particularly when more often than not the numerous “truths” that are sanctioned are radically opposed to the True Law of God.

Now insofar as the Jews reject the Divine Sonship of Our Lord, they naturally remain unable to recognize as a positive development the culture which flowed from an uncompromising recognition of, and attachment to, Him. They are opponents of Christian civilization insofar as they are unable to confess adherence to an Objective Truth, and to an Objective Moral Law, which was incarnated in that civilization. They are, however, “a tenacious race,” and their own commitment to pluralism does not countenance the socio-political supremacy of a essentially anti-pluralist creed founded on a Man whom their theologians consider to be a common blasphemer. Hence their unwavering commitment to revolutionary “progress” and the various phases of its triumph, such as the Renaissance, the Reformation, and the Revolution of 1789.

Today, however, the majority of the program of “liberation” for which the Jews have struggled for centuries is accomplished. There is no need to make a ruckus about the right to vote, the value of democracy, the freeing of women and minorities from social oppression, the “right” of the citizen to be free from both government insistence that the press tell the truth and the guild’s regulation of the economic order on behalf of just wages and fair prices. What remains to be done, however, in the push for the complete secularization of society and the ultimate triumph of indifferentism é what remains to get worked up about é is the source of that ancient Christian civilization which, though battered and beleaguered, is not quite extinguished: the Church and Her Christ. Our Lord and His Church remain “unto the Jews indeed a stumbling block” (1 Corinthians i, 23) and unto skeptics in the tradition of Pilate a mystery. Since pluralism is logically incapable of persuasion in the face of the religion that Evelyn Waugh described as “a coherent philosophical system with intransigent historical claims,” there remains only one option: slander.

The “H” word. Everything that Catholic Society did to the Jews in the name of defending the Faith and its citizens, regardless of how “unpleasant,” “mean,” or “insensitive” it sounds to modern ears, does not sound quite bad enough to ensure with any degree of certainty that the Church will remain humiliated and politics remain forever free of religion. Not unless it can be demonstrated that all of those things led to the breathtaking, shocking, and gut-wrenching extermination of European Jewry in the 1940s. That event, dubbed the “Holocaust,” is the focal point for the Jews insofar as it can be used to ensure that Christian civilization will never rise againébecause of the unacceptable and allegedly unavoidable consequences of its previous existence.

Never mind that a furious debate rages within the Jewish community over the uniqueness of Jewish suffering during that period. Never mind that it is not at all a forgone conclusion that Hitler’s attempt to rid Europe of the Jews was necessarily a fruit of those historical measures against them that the Catholic Encyclopedia defends and explains. The sheer magnitude of suffering é six million gassed and incinerated human beings, which was an alleged result of Christendom’s intolerance, is sufficient to stop all rational discussion, to silence all debate, and, most importantly, to shift the focus from the question of allegiance to Christ and the civilization which Faith in Him produced, to one of ensuring that pluralism triumphs indefinitely as the only means of guaranteeing that the “holocaust” happens “never again.”

Just a few illustrations will suffice. On the political front, the Church will never be able to apologize enough for its numerous “crimes” against pluralism. It is a historical fact é one to the credit of Catholics é that the Church did not willingly surrender in the war to preserve the union of Church and State. But it is also a fact which will never be forgotten é will never cease to be a source of resentment é for those whose ultimate goal is the exclusion from public life of all influence of the True Religion. A Jewish columnist for The New Republic writes recently, in response to the papal apologies of March, 2000, that “the outrages to which the pope refers were the direct consequence of the Church’s holy alliance with the state; and it is worth recalling that it was modern politics, liberal politics, secular politics, and not anything that the Church said or did, that dissolved this unholy association of religion and power.” Commenting on the ultimate relevance of his book which claims to demonstrate that the Church’s anti-Jewish stance paved the way for the “Holocaust,” Kertzer said in a recent interview that “the theme of his bookéis still relevant and embraces far more than the tragic relationship between the Catholic Church and the Jews. It is about the importance of religious plurality: of respect for others’ beliefs. ‘I think the book shows that religions always become dangerous when people start to think they have unique access to God’s message, and possess the power to enforce it.'”

The ultimate relevance of the “Holocaust” as a means of forcing the reconciliation between the Jews and the Church é in order to ensure that the ideological roots of Christendom are never again available for its historical reconstruction é is apparent on the religious front. The essence of Carroll’s project, in Constantine’s Sword, is to examine “the core tragedy of Western Civilization, which is, after all, what became apparent at Auschwitz.” And for him, as for his fellow ideologues, the singular institution responsible for the sins of Western Civilization is its Faith: “an inquiry into the origins of the Holocaust in the tortured past of Western civilization is necessarily an inquiry into the history of Catholicism.” The key factor in ensuring that the West will never again be the same, is ensuring that the Old Faith will never be the same é which is why he calls for a Vatican III which will condemn the anti-Judaism of the New Testament, bless democracy and pluralism, and repeal the dogmatic definition of infallibility as an obvious é in light of the “Holocaust” é mistake. Carroll can afford to hope that this ultimate liquidation of the old Faith will take place precisely because the pressure for it to occur springs directly from the use that the twin pillars of academia and the media make of the “Holocaust” – the convenient and useful fruit of a corrupt, anti-Semitic, Christendom. “The reforming impulse [of Vatican II] refuses to die,” Carroll says, perhaps revealing more that he intends to, “because the event that set it moving has only continued to grow in force in the conscience of the West.”

Regardless of Carroll’s rather candid admission of his intentions, modern Churchmen seem to be fairly responsive to pressure from him and his colleagues. The Biblical Commission’s new text “hopes to foster love toward the Jews in the Church of Christ,” following the “abominable crimes” of which they were the object during World War II. Hardly a novelty, this hope is merely a follow-on to what was expressed in the official Catholic commemoration of the “Shoah.” “We pray,” the document reads, “that our sorrow for the tragedy which the Jewish people has suffered in our century will lead to a new relationship with the Jewish people. We wish to turn awareness of past sins into a firm resolve to build a new future in which there will be no more anti-Judaism among Christians or anti-Christian sentiment among Jews, but rather a shared mutual respect, as befits those who adore the one Creator and Lord and have a common father in faith, Abraham.”

***

This chronicle of the modern Church’s attempt to satisfy Jewish demands that She once and for all renounce Her Messiah and commit irrevocably to a pluralism which will enshrine the divorce of religion and politics, and thereby ensure the permanent disappearance of Christian civilization, is a sad story indeed. But all is not lost. There is ultimately the Faith, and no matter how much spin Navarro-Valls places on Cardinal Ratzinger’s latest attempt to placate those demanding that the final nail be driven into the coffin of the West and its Religion, there can be no undoing of history. Christ was here, and He spoke. He spoke personally, assuring us that though “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away” (Lk. 21:33). And He spoke through his Church, which teaches us definitively, on the subject of His exclusive role in the history of our redemption, that

when the fullness of time came in God’s Divine Providence, the only-begotten Son of God became man, and in behalf of mankind made most abundant satisfaction in His Blood to the outraged majesty of His Father and by this infinite price He redeemed man for His own.

And the same Church teaches us no less definitively that

The Kingdom of God as described and founded by Jesus has an historical name. It is the Christian Church, which was able silently to leaven the Roman Empire, which has outlived the ruin of the Jewish Temple and its worship, and which, in the course of centuries, has extended to the confines of the world the knowledge and the worship of the God of Abraham, while Judaism has remained the barren fig-tree which Jesus condemned during His mortal life.

There is also to console us the sense and awareness of doing our duty, during this unprecedented time in history when the West is under assault from every internal quarter. Part of that duty consists in holding on to what we have had the Grace to receive, a gesture that is, strangely enough, one of true ecumenism with the Fathers and the Prophets of the Old Testament who longed so desperately for the arrival of Our Lord. “Our faith in Christ is the same as that of the fathers of old,” St. Thomas tells us. But he further reminds us that we stand on the opposite historical side of the Incarnation; a fact which dictates that an act of religious solidarity with them will necessarily be a vigorous practice of our own Catholic Faith.

ésince they came before Christ, whereas we come after Him, the same faith is expressed in different words, by us and by them. For by them was it said: “Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son,” where the verbs are in the future tense: whereas we express the same by means of verbs in the past tense, and say that she “conceived and bore.” In like manner the ceremonies of the Old Law betokened Christ as having yet to be born and to suffer: whereas our sacraments signify Him as already born and having suffered. Consequently, just as it would be a mortal sin now for anyone, in making a profession of faith, to say that Christ is yet to be born, which the fathers of old said devoutly and truthfully; so too it would be a mortal sin now to observe those ceremonies which the fathers of old fulfilled with devotion and fidelity.

The confidence of the enemies of the Catholic West demand our attention. Of the tendencies toward reform in the Church, Carroll would remark smugly: “there are forces at work here that transcend the power of any party in the Church to stop them.” There is also, therefore, our social duty, insofar as God gives us the means and the opportunity to carry it out:

Finally, let us not fear the epithet “anti-Semite.” For Lazare himself admits that the term ultimately signifies the partisans of Catholicism in “the struggle between the feudal state, based upon unity of belief, and the opposite notion of a neutral and secular state, upon which the greater number of political entities are at present based.” He asserts that the Christian anti-Semite has for his dream the restoration of the state which “had its foundations in theological principles.” If such is the case é as both history and logic demonstrate even to this very day é may we all then have the courage to respond with the words of Fr. Fahey: “In that sense, every sane thinker must be an anti-Semite.”

Mr. John Sharp is the Editor of The Legion of St. Louis.

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