Catholicism and Antisemitism


The Disputation of Barcelona

Contrary to what we grew up hearing, Catholic-Jewish relations “have been far better than most people think” as Rabbi David G. Dahlin wrote [1].  In his book, The Myth of Hitler’s Pope, Rabbi Dahlin employs several popes by name, i.e. Saint Gregory the Great, Martin V, Leo X, Paul III, Julius III, Leo XIII, Blessed Pius IX, Saint Pius X, Pius XI and Venerable Pius XII to name a few who either wrote letters against the harassment of Jews, forced baptisms, confiscation of their property, closing of their shops, destruction of their homes and outrageous accusations of blood libel and/or had Jewish friends and employed Jews as their personal physicians.

The first pope Rabbi Dahlin mentions is Saint Gregory the Great who wrote Sicut Judaeis which was a treatise against the maltreatment of Jews on the part of Christians.  In this letter he wrote Christians must not infringe upon the rights of Jews and “[w]e forbid to vilify the Jews”, and even stating that they may “live as Romans” having “full authority over their possessions.”  He wrote another letter to the bishop of Naples mentioning an “excessive act of religious zeal” on the part of some Christians who violently disturbing Sabbath services by confiscating synagogues along with Jewish homes and schools [2].

Callixtus II wrote a similarly named letter, stating that “[w]e grant them [the Jews] the shield of our protection.”  He included with a condemnation of any attempt to coerce Jews “by violence to come to baptism”, that they must not be disturbed “in the celebration of their own festivities” and that violating this decree was punishable “by the vengeance of excommunication”.

Gregory X spoke fiercely against blood libel, even saying that “Jewish witnesses must also appear” [4] in a court case made by Christians against Jews to prevent false witness and paranoia.

Clement VI rebuked Christians who accused Jews of poisoning wells to cause the Black Death, mentioning that “the supposed instigators of the plague” [5] also fell victim to the plague as did Christians.

Martin V desired that “every Christian treat the Jews with a humane kindness” and “the fullest possible intercourse between Jews and Christians”; he even refuted the “hypocritical religious zeal” of those select few Christians who pestered their Jewish neighbors [6].

Sixtus IV “refused to canonize Simon of Trent as a holy martyr” [7] due to his affiliation with anti-Jewish conspiracy theories of blood libel which promoted violence against the Jews.

The infamous Alexander VI welcomed Sephardi Jews from Spain and Portugal during the Inquisition [8].  The same can be said for Paul III [9].

While “Protestants everywhere condemned the papacy for the Dreyfus Affair” [10], Leo XIII defended Cpt. Alfred Dreyfus, a French-Jewish military officer who was falsely accused of treason.

In spite of Saint Pius X’s rejection of support for a Jewish state, his response was cordial, saying that “[t]here are more bonds than religion” between Christians and Jews such as “social intercourse, . . . and philanthropy” [11].

Rabbi Dahlin includes that “Hitler did have one loyal cleric within his entourage”, however this cleric “was not the pope” but rather “Hajj Amin al-Husseini, the viciously anti-Semitic grand mufti of Jerusalem” [12].  Husseini was a major Islamic cleric who frequently preached against the Jews and gave support to Hitler, even providing large numbers of Bosnian Muslims to be trained in battle.  The rabbi mentions the Islamic source of anti-Judaism coming straight from the Quran, the sunnah the hadith [13].  Ironic how the Church’s haters for a large part are silent about Islamic hatred of the Jews though they clash their cymbals about Christian anti-Judaism.

[1] Dahlin, David G. The Myth of Hitler’s Pope. Washington, D.C.: Regnery Publishing, Inc. 2005. Print. p. 17

[2] Ibid, p. 19

[3] Synan, Edward. The Popes and the Jews in the Middle Ages. New York: Macmillan. 1965. Print. pp. 231-232

[4] Blumenkranz, Bernhard. “Gregory X”. Encyclopedia Judaica. Vol. 7. Jerusalem: Keter Publishing House. 1971. Print. p. 920

[5] Dahlin, David G. The Myth of Hitler’s Pope. Washington, D.C.: Regnery Publishing, Inc. 2005. Print. p. 21

[6] Ibid

[7] Ibid, p. 23

[8] Ibid

[9] Ibid, p. 28

[10] Ibid, p. 33

[11] Ibid, p. 35

[12] Ibid, p. 16

[13] Ibid, pp. 127-145


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