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Anti-semitism in the Roman Catholic Church

Repudiation during the 20th century

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Quotation:

bullet"We would risk causing the victims of the most atrocious deaths to die again if we do not have an ardent desire for justice, if we do not commit ourselves to insure that evil does not prevail over good as it did for millions of children of the Jewish people...Humanity cannot permit all that to happen again." Pope John Paul II. 1

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Overview:

Discussing the Nazi Holocaust, Hans Küng -- once a leading Catholic theologian, but now banned from teaching by the Church -- wrote that "Nazi anti-Judaism was the work of godless, anti-Christian criminals. But it would not have been possible without the almost two thousand years' pre-history of 'Christian' anti-Judaism..." 2

Two Church teachings became the foundation stones for centuries of oppression of Jews by the Church:
bulletSupercessionism (a.k.a. Replacement Theology): This is the belief that because most of the Jews in the first century CE did not adopt the teachings of Jesus, God rejected the Jews, unilaterally cancelled his covenants with them, and now favored Christians as his chosen people.
bulletTransfer of sin: This is the belief that all Jews, from the first century onwards, are responsible for Jesus' execution circa 30 CE. This includes Jews who lived in the Roman Empire in the first century CE but had never heard of Jesus or of his teachings. It includes Jews who were born in the 19 centuries following Jesus' death.

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Current teachings of the Roman Catholic Church:

As stated above, there were two beliefs of the Roman Catholic Church which formed the foundation for centuries of crimes against humanity, directed against the Jewish people. Both foundations have been abandoned:
bulletSupercessionism: This is the concept that, in the first century CE, God had rejected the Jews and revoked his covenants with them. The Church taught that God did this in response to the rejection of the Gospel by most Jews during Jesus' life and after his execution. Although many Jews formed the Jewish Christian movement centered in Jerusalem, most continued to favor the Torah and the religion of their ancestors, that God had called them to honor.

Under the topic "The Church and non-Christians," the Roman Catholic Catechism now acknowledges the special and irrevocable relationship between God and the Jewish people. 3 Section 839 states that Jews were "the first to hear the Word of God." The Jewish faith "is already a response to God's revelation...To the Jews 'belong the sonship, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ...for the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable." [Emphasis ours].

However, the Catholic Church does not accept Judaism and Roman Catholicism as equal paths to salvation. They teach that only Catholics can be assured of salvation. A church document Dominus Iesus, states that members of other religions, including Judaism, are "gravely deficient" relative to members of the Church of Christ who already have direct access to "the fullness of the means of salvation." 4
bulletTranslated responsibility: This was the principle that all Jews, from the first century onwards, share responsible for Jesus' execution. This concept was rejected by the church's Second Vatican Council during the 1960s. The Council's "Declaration on the relation of the Church to non-Christian religions: Nostra Aetate," states: "True, the Jewish authorities and those who followed their lead pressed for the death of Christ;...still, what happened in His passion cannot be charged against all the Jews, without distinction, then alive, nor against the Jews of today." 5

Unfortunately, this passage is followed by a statement that seems to suggest that belief in supercessionism is not quite dead in the Church: "Although the Church is the new people of God, the Jews should not be presented as rejected or accursed by God, as if this followed from the Holy Scriptures." [Emphasis ours].

Nostra Aetae continues with an unconditional denunciation on those who promote Antisemitism and persecutions of Jews, in unusually direct language: "Furthermore, in her rejection of every persecution against any man, the Church, mindful of the patrimony she shares with the Jews and moved not by political reasons but by the Gospel's spiritual love, decries hatred, persecutions, displays of anti-Semitism, directed against Jews at any time and by anyone." 5

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References:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Pope John Paul II, "Address on the Occasion of a Commemoration of the Shoah," 1994-APR-7, 1994, 3: Insegnamenti 17/1, 1994, 897 and 893.
  2. Hans Küng, "On Being a Christian,"  Doubleday, Garden City NY,(1976), Page 169.
  3. "Catechism of the Catholic Church: The Profession of Faith: Section Two, at: http://www.christusrex.org/
  4. Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI), "Dominus Iesus on the unicity and salvific universality of Jesus Christ and the church, " Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, (2000). See: http://www.vatican.va/
  5. "Declaration on the relation of the Church to non-Christian religions: Nostra Aetate," Proclaimed by Pope Paul VI, 1965-OCT-28. See: http://www.vatican.va/

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Site navigation:

 Home > Christianity > Christian groups > Catholic Church > Anti-semitism > here

or Home page > World Religions > Judaism > Anti-semitism > here

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Copyright © 2001 to 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2001-JUL-25
Latest update: 2008-FEB-06
Author: B.A. Robinson

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