The Church and Jewish Ideology

(Reprinted from SOBRAN'S, May 1999, page 4)

The prevalent Jewish myth today is not the founding myth of Abraham or 
Moses on Sinai, but the story of Jewish persecution. In our time the 
Jews are defined less by ancestry than by "anti-Semitism," which is 
cited for many purposes, including the legitimation of the state of 
Israel. Most Zionists no longer claim that God gave the Holy Land to the 
Jews; instead they contend that the Jewish state is necessary as a haven 
for world Jewry.

According to this modern myth, the Jews are in no way responsible for 
their own unpopularity from ancient times. What, then, is the source of 
such persistent hostility to this fundamentally innocent people? Why, 
the Catholic Church, of course!

Many Jewish scholars find the seed of anti-Semitism in the Gospels of 
Matthew and John, where the Jews are depicted as engineering the 
Crucifixion, with the assistance of Romans who "know not what they do." 
Some Jews have even demanded that the offending passages be deleted from 
the Scriptures, not realizing (or caring) that Christians regard their 
holy books as off-limits to human editing. Others persist in blaming 
Pius XII for failing to condemn Nazism more strongly for its persecution 
of the Jews of Europe. The Catholic Church in particular has been 
targeted as the historic matrix of anti-Semitism; and unfortunately, 
many churchmen have accepted the role of defendant against accusers who 
will never acquit the Church or drop the case.

In recent years the Vatican has tried, as far as possible, to appease 
Jewish objections. The Second Vatican Council, mindful of Nazi crimes, 
proclaimed that today's Jews don't share the guilt of the Jews who 
conspired to murder Christ. Pope John Paul II has been especially eager 
to cultivate good relations with the Jews, even making an unprecedented 
visit to a Roman synagogue a few years ago. He has gone so far as to 
name Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List as one of his favorite films - 
though it contains scenes of nudity and simulated intercourse.

In this spirit, the Vatican last year promulgated We Remember, a 
statement of repentance for the failures of the Church and the mass of 
Christians during the Holocaust (or Shoah, the Hebrew word that has 
become current lately). Its theme was that "erroneous and unjust 
interpretations of the New Testament" have contributed to anti-Semitism; 
and that the Church, though never a party to persecution, should have 
done more to oppose the "unspeakable tragedy" of the Shoah, which "can 
never be forgotten." The statement also affirmed the Church's "very 
close bonds of spiritual kinship with the Jewish people" and the "Hebrew 
roots of [Catholic] faith."

Many Jews resented the statement's exculpation of the Church for the 
Shoah itself. The document distinguished sharply between regrettable 
Christian attitudes toward the Jews throughout European history (it made 
no reference to Jewish attitudes toward Christians) and the virulent 
nationalist and racialist anti-Semitism that arose in the nineteenth 
century. Predictably, a Jewish historian has rejected this distinction.

In an article in the April issue of Commentary, "The Pope, the Church, 
and the Jews," Robert S. Wistrich, professor of modern Jewish history at 
the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, attacks We Remember for defending 
Pius XII and for minimizing the Church's guilty role in fostering anti- 
Semitism through the ages. Wistrich belittles Pius's efforts to protect 
Jews as not only insufficient but lacking in "moral courage." As for the 
nineteenth-century anti-Semitic ideologies, they "presupposed a cultural 
framework that had been fashioned by centuries of medieval Christian 
theology, ecclesiastical policy, and popular religious myth."

This is nothing new for Commentary, which has previously carried 
articles blaming Christianity itself for the Holocaust. Wistrich doesn't 
cite, though he might as well have, the charge of the Jewish scholar 
Jules Isaac that "the permanent and latent source of anti-Semitism is 
none other than Christian religious teaching of every description, and 
the traditional, tendentious interpretation of the Scriptures." Isaac's 
work and influence helped shape the Second Vatican Council's statement 
about the Jews.

By such reasoning as Wistrich's, it would be easy to blame the Jews for 
bringing persecution on themselves. After all, they have been unpopular 
not only in Christian countries, but in pagan and Muslim lands. Cicero, 
Tacitus, Juvenal, and other Roman authors inveighed against them. They 
have repeatedly migrated to Christian countries and have been repeatedly 
expelled, for reasons that have usually had little to do with theology - 
though the obscene blasphemies against Christ and his mother in the 
Talmud, unique in religious literature, besides reflecting oddly on 
Jewish demands for Christian tolerance and for the cleansing of 
offensive passages in the Gospels, have done nothing to endear the Jews 
to Christians.

Wistrich mentions none of this. Nor does he mention one of the principal 
incitements to anti-Semitism in this century: Jewish participation in 
Communism, with its terrifying persecution of Christians. Where is the 
corresponding statement of Jewish leaders repudiating and repenting the 
Jewish role in a cause whose crimes dwarf those of Hitler? Did major 
Jewish spokesmen or organizations condemn Communism as it devoured tens 
of millions of Christians? Did a few brave Jews in the Soviet Union and 
the other Communist-ruled countries act, at personal risk, to shield 
Christians from arbitrary arrest and murder? Even today, how many Jews 
condemn Franklin Roosevelt for his fondness for Stalin, as they would 
condemn him if he had shown the slightest partiality to Hitler?

Further, might the Talmudic imprecations against Christ and Christians 
have helped form the Bolshevik Jews' anti-Christian animus? Did the 
Talmud help form the "cultural framework" for the persecution of 
Christians, and for the eradication of Christian culture in America 
today? If so, will Jews make an effort to expunge the offending passages 
from the Talmud? How many rabbis speak of their "spiritual kinship" with 

The answers to these questions are only too obvious. The Jews, with 
honorable but ineffectual exceptions, judge Christians by a standard 
that doesn't seem to apply to themselves. Or rather, their single 
standard is "Is it good for the Jews?"

As shepherd of the Catholic Church, Pius XII was bound to be guided 
chiefly by the question "Is it good for the Church?" He was not a Jewish 
leader, after all, but a Catholic one - a somewhat neglected point in 
these controversies. His first duty was to protect the Church amid the 
madness of a world war, knowing that its deadliest enemy was not Nazism 
but Communism (which, with American assistance, conquered several 
Catholic nations in Eastern Europe by the war's end). He did what he 
could to protect Jews and others too, and the most eloquent testimony to 
his efforts is the conversion of Israel Zolli, chief rabbi of Rome, to 
Catholicism. Zolli even took the baptismal name Eugenio in honor of 
Pius, who was born Eugenio Pacelli; he would hardly have done this if he 
had seen Pius as indifferent to the persecution of Jews.

Yet Wistrich complains that "in confronting the Shoah, Pius XII's chief 
concern was less with the ongoing annihilation of the Jews than with the 
interests of the Church." Think of that: a Pope putting the Church 
first! Nowadays even the papacy is to be judged in terms of Jewish 
interests. Self-absorption can go no further.

It's some consolation that even the treacherous Roosevelt is now being 
criticized for doing too little to save Jewish lives. Jewish critics 
argue that he might have ordered the bombing of railroads leading to the 
concentration camps. But the chief effect of such a practice would 
surely have been to starve the camps' inmates.

The smear of Pius XII - and of the Church - persists, and will no doubt 
continue indefinitely, in the endless campaign to make Christianity and 
anti-Semitism synonymous. Wistrich barely acknowledges that the 
diplomatic Pius may have feared that a more explicit condemnation of 
Nazism would have backfired not only against the Church, but against the 
Jews themselves. Besides, if papal condemnations of Communism had failed 
to deter the persecution of Christians, how could Pius expect papal 
animadversions against Nazism to be any more efficacious?

Even American Jewish groups refrained from denouncing the Shoah during 
the war, for fear that speaking publicly about it might do more harm 
than good. This policy of silence has resulted in bitter recriminations 
between American and European Jews, but it has discouraged few Jews on 
either continent from blaming Pius for saying too little.

The prevalent attitude of Christians toward the Jews has been (and 
remains) not so much hatred as fear. The Acts of the Apostles tells how 
the early Church was forced to take various precautions "for fear of the 
Jews." Few deny, or doubt, that this is historically accurate; the 
tolerance recommended to Christians has never been a salient trait of 
the Jews themselves, when they have held power. On the contrary, the 
state of Israel is based on an ethnic supremacism that would be roundly 
condemned as anti-Semitic if it were enforced against Jews by gentiles. 
Yet most Jews hotly resent any suggestion that Zionism is "racist." (A 
United Nations declaration to that effect was eventually repealed in 
response to American pressure.)

In intellectual life, Jews have been brilliantly subversive of the 
cultures of the natives they have lived amongst. Their tendencies, 
especially in modern times, have been radical and nihilistic. One thinks 
of Marx, Freud, and many other shapers of modern thought and authors of 
reductionist ideologies. Even Einstein, the greatest of Jewish 
scientists, was, unlike Sir Isaac Newton, no mere contemplator of 
nature's laws; he helped inspire the development of nuclear weapons and 
consistently defended the Soviet Union under Stalin.

Jews have generally supported Communism, socialism, liberalism, and 
secularism; the agenda of major Jewish groups is the de-Christianization 
of America, using a debased interpretation of the "living Constitution" 
as their instrument. When the Jewish side of an issue is too unpopular 
to prevail democratically, the legal arm of Jewry seeks to make the 
issue a "constitutional" one, appealing to judicial sovereignty to 
decide it in defiance of the voters. Overwhelming Jewish support for 
legal abortion illustrates that many Jews hate Christian morality more 
than they revere Jewish tradition itself. This fanatical antagonism 
causes anguish to a number of religious, conscientious, and far-sighted 
Jews, but they, alas, are outside the Jewish mainstream.

Today, in American politics, journalism, and ecclesiastical circles, 
fear of Jewish power is overwhelming. This is most obvious in the dread 
of incurring the label "anti-Semitic," in the way Christians shrink from 
calling this country "a Christian nation" (a phrase that enrages Jews), 
and in the groveling before Israel that has become a virtual requirement 
for anyone who aspires to high office. Nobody dares to point out the 
obvious, that Israel is inimical to the principles Americans profess to 
share; nearly everyone in public life pretends that Israel is a model 
democracy and a "reliable ally" of the United States, despite repeated 
episodes of Israeli spying and betrayal against its chief benefactor. 
Israel has not only refused to return the documents stolen by Jonathan 
Pollard; it continues to press the U.S. Government for his release from 
prison. In fact Israel exemplifies most of the "anti-Semitic 
stereotypes" of yore: it is exclusivist, belligerent, parasitic, amoral, 
and underhanded. It feels no obligation to non-Jews, even those who have 
befriended it.

Most Jews regard conversion to Christianity as the ultimate treason to 
Jewry and resent Christian attempts to convert them; never mind that for 
Christians, concern for the salvation of souls is the highest charity 
next to the adoration of God. In Jewish eyes, such charity is next door 
to persecution. Jews for Jesus, a convert group, is especially execrated 
among Jews, and in Israel Christian proselytization can be punished by 
law under various pretexts. (Even giving a copy of the New Testament can 
be construed as a "bribe.") Yet Christians, who may not claim a nation 
of their own, are taxed to support the Jewish state.

History is replete with the lesson that a country in which the Jews get 
the upper hand is in danger. Such was the experience of Europe during 
Jewish-led Communist revolutions in Russia, Hungary, Romania, and 
Germany after World War I. Christians knew that Communism - often called 
"Jewish Bolshevism" - would bring awful persecution with the ultimate 
goal of the annihilation of Christianity. While the atheistic Soviet 
regime made war on Christians, murdering tens of thousands of Orthodox 
priests, it also showed its true colors by making anti-Semitism a 
capital crime. Countless Jews around the world remained pro-Communist 
even after Stalin had purged most Jews from positions of power in the 
Soviet Union.

Clearly, it is futile for the Church to try to mollify a hatred so 
ancient and so deep as the Jewish animus against Christianity. Despite 
all the sentimental rhetoric to the contrary - such as pious nonsense 
about "the Judaeo-Christian tradition" - Judaism and Christianity are 
radically opposed over the most important thing of all: Jesus Christ, 
who commands us to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves, and to 
love our enemies, which does not mean mistaking them for friends.

This is not to suggest that true friendship can't exist between Jews and 
Christians as individuals. And there is much about the Jews, an 
immensely talented people, that a Christian can honor and delight in. 
But any concord based on lies, evasions, and partisan propaganda is 
false and should be rejected. We Remember is an honorable attempt to 
vindicate the honor of the Church. If only it had dealt more frankly 
with the real history of Jewish-Christian relations!

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