T O P I C
Developed from the church of Constantine 1 and recognised by Theodosius 1 as the church of the Roman empire it established itself as the only Christian church in Europe. It developed a strong hierarchy headed by the Pope in Rome. The East–West Schism of 1054, sometimes known as the Great Schism, divided it into the Eastern (Greek) (the Eastern Orthodox Church) and the Western (Latin) churches
Pope Urban II In 1095, called for a Holy War against the Muslims so that Jerusalem could be regained for the Christian faith (the Crusades). Defeat by the Moslems saw Papal concentration directed at Europe.
To preserve its position as the only church it developed the concept of heresy to eliminate others having different beliefs. For example in the 13th century the Cathars were seen as a direct challenge and denounced as "the Church of Satan" causing the death of up to 1.000,000 people. Later, the Pope established the Inquisition. Spain, Portugal, and the Papal States of Italy established their own Inquisition which lasted for about 600 years. Opposition to Catholicism in Europe led to to the establishment, and later, warfare with the Protestants
The attitude of Catholicism to the Jews was determined by Papal ideas. Anti-Jewish results are shown in issued bulls, some of which are listed below. The Jews were only one of the non-Catholic groups who suffered (see Christianity).
In 1998 the Commission reported on the responsibility, if any, the Church bore for the slaughter of millions of European Jews during World War 2.
Over the past century, the number of Catholics around the world has more than tripled, according to a study by the Pew Research Center. As of 2010, there are nearly 1.1 billion Catholics, up from an estimated 291 million in 1910 (livescience.com)
Catholics comprise 50 percent of all Christians worldwide
and 16 percent of the world’s total population.
In 2010, the majority of the world’s Catholics were to be found in the Latin American/Carribbean region (39 percent, or 425 million). In 1910, two-thirds of Catholics (65 percent) lived in Europe. By 2010, only about a quarter of Catholics
(24 percent) live in Europe.
The country with the largest Catholic population in the world, Brazil was 65 percent Catholic in 2010, down from 74 percent in 2000.
The country with the second-largest Catholic population, Mexico,
dropped from 89 percent in 2000 to 85 percent in 2010.
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Who Was Count Emicho?
Jews and the First Crusade
Dr. Henry Abramson, 2015 (50.27)
R E A C T I O N
A C T I O N
STORY OF THE JEWISH PEOPLE
The earth was created about four billion years ago. Man appeared about one hundred thousand years ago. With it appeared the need to pray for a good future in this and in their life after death. From this appeared religion and the concept of God who would make their wishes come true. Initially this was idol worship (polytheism) with a God for virtually everything. This gradually changed to an invisible single god (monotheism). The first monotheistic religion was Judaism which appeared about 1800BCE (see Answers for a detailed answer). Then about two thousand years ago an offshoot of Judaism called Christianity appeared centred on Christ. In 380CE the Roman Emperor Constantine made this the official religion of the Roman Empire. In the 7th century another offshoot, in Arabia, Islam the religion of “allegiance to God” appeared with the prophet Muhammad.
The history of the Catholic Church begins with the teachings of Jesus Christ, who lived in the 1st century AD in the province of Judea of the Roman Empire. The contemporary Catholic Church says that it is the continuation of the early Christian community established by Jesus. Its bishops are the successors to the Apostles of Jesus, and the Bishop of Rome, also known as the Pope, is the sole successor to Saint Peter, who was appointed by Jesus Christ to be the head of the church in the New Testament who ministered in Rome. By the end of the 2nd century, bishops began congregating in regional synods to resolve doctrinal and policy issues. By the 3rd century, the bishop of Rome began to act as a court of appeals for problems that other bishops could not resolve.
Christianity spread throughout the early Roman Empire, despite persecutions due to conflicts with the pagan state religion. In 313, the struggles of the Early Church were lessened by the legalisation of Christianity by the Emperor Constantine I. In 380, under Emperor Theodosius I, Christianity became the state religion of the Roman Empire by the decree of the Emperor, which would persist until the fall of the Western Empire, and later, with the Eastern Roman Empire, until the Fall of Constantinople. During this time (the period of the Seven Ecumenical Councils) there were considered five primary sees (jurisdictions within the Catholic Church) according to Eusebius: Rome, Constantinople, Antioch, Jerusalem and Alexandria, known as the Pentarchy.
After the destruction of the western Roman Empire, the church in the West was a major factor in the preservation of classical civilization, establishing monasteries, and sending missionaries to convert the peoples of northern Europe, as far as Ireland in the north. In the East, the Byzantine Empire preserved Orthodoxy, well after the massive invasions of Islam in the mid-7th century. The invasions of Islam devastated three of the five Patriarchal sees, capturing Jerusalem first, then Alexandria, and then finally in the mid-8th century, Antioch.
The whole period of the next five centuries was dominated by the struggle between Christianity and Islam throughout the Mediterranean Basin. The battles of Poitiers, and Toulouse preserved the Catholic west, even though Rome itself was ravaged in 850, and Constantinople besieged. In the 11th century, already strained relations between the primarily Greek church in the East, and the Latin church in the West, developed into the East-West Schism, partially due to conflicts over Papal Authority. The fourth crusade, and the sacking of Constantinople by renegade crusaders proved the final breach. In the 16th century, in response to the Protestant Reformation, the Church engaged in a process of substantial reform and renewal known as the Counter-Reformation. In subsequent centuries, Catholicism spread widely across the world despite experiencing a reduction in its hold on European populations due to the growth of Protestantism and also because of religious scepticism during and after the Enlightenment. The Second Vatican Council in the 1960s introduced the most significant changes to Catholic practices since the Council of Trent three centuries before.
TO THE MIDDLE AGES
By the Middle Ages the Catholic church was the only church in Europe and one that fought against ‘alternatives’ so as to maintain its power
It taught that the Catholic Church was founded by Jesus Christ and interpreted the Confession of Peter as acknowledging Christ's designation of Apostle Peter and his successors to be the temporal head of his Church. The Catholic Church claimed legitimacy for its bishops and priests via the doctrine of apostolic succession and authority of the Pope via the unbroken line of popes, claimed as successors to Saint Peter.
The period between Christ's death (circa 30CE) and the Edict of Milan (313CE) when the Roman Empire legally recognized Pauline Christianity was characterised by different interpretations of Christianity creating sects. Bitter argument between them was overlaid by state persecution. In 325CE Constantine called a Conference at Nicea of Roman Empire Bishops. There was no central authority and he wanted them all to follow the same rules. To take two examples
The date of Easter is very important as it relates to Christ’s death and resurrection. The Gospels do not record a date, there are differences between the Gospels and it was held at different times The date was agreed and also that it be moved from the Jewish (lunar) to the Roman/Christian calendar (solar).
Arianism had created a split. Agreement was required as to whether it should be accepted or rejected. After a debate it was rejected.
In 380CE, the Catholic church was the only church in Europe and all Christians belonged to it. It became the state religion under Emperor Theodosius I. This lasted until the fall of the Western Empire and until the fall of Constantinople in the Eastern Empire.
After the destruction of the western Roman Empire, the church in the West became a major factor in preserving classical civilization, establishing monasteries by sending missionaries to convert the peoples of northern Europe. In the East, the Byzantine Empire preserved Orthodoxy, well after the massive invasions of Islam in the mid-7th century.
The next five centuries were dominated by the struggle between Christianity and Islam throughout the Mediterranean Basin. The battles of Poitiers, and Toulouse preserved the Catholic west, even though Rome was ravaged in 850, and Constantinople besieged. In the 11th century, strained relations between the primarily Greek church in the East, and the Latin church in the West, developed into the East-West Schism, partially due to conflicts over Papal Authority. The fourth crusade, and the sacking of Constantinople by renegade crusaders proved to be the final breach.
In doing this it developed a hierarchical organisation structure with a Pope at its head and underneath him cardinals, archbishops, bishops and priests This equated to a military hierarchy going from Field Marshal to private. It also adopted the common organisational feature of trying to eliminate competition and created the concept of ‘heresy’, (from Dictionery.com)
The East–West Schism of 1054, sometimes known as the Great Schism, divided the State church of the Roman Empire into Eastern (Greek) and Western (Latin) branches, which became known as the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church.
In 1095, Pope Urban II at Clermont in France called for a war against the Muslims so that Jerusalem was regained for the Christian faith. In his speech he said:
"Christians, hasten to help your brothers in the East, for they are being attacked. Arm for the rescue of Jerusalem under your captain Christ. Wear his cross as your badge. If you are killed your sins will be pardoned."
The French word croix means cross and the word changed to "croisades" or crusades. The fight against the Muslims became a Holy War. The First Crusade was in 1096 and the eighth was in 1270.
Two main factors were piety and poverty. Piety killing non-Christians in defense of the faith would earn them forgiveness for their sins. Poverty and greed also played their role. There were many landless younger sons of nobles who seized the opportunity to win lands and forgiveness for their sins.
While marching an undisciplined mob known as the Peasants' Crusade, gained followers . Their supply problems often erupted into violence as they turned to pillaging for food. This was often turned against local Jews, since they were non-Christian and this was a "Holy War". Thousands of them were either killed or forced from their homes. Local populations and rulers would also turn against them
Protestant success led by Martin Luther posed a threat to the Catholic Church so it went through its own Catholic Reformation, also known as the Counter Reformation, to mount a counter-offensive against the Protestants.
In 1536, Pope Paul III established a fact-finding commission to find out the protest and what could be done about it. The report, Advice on the Reform of the Church, blamed the Church for many of its problems and called for reforms .
The Church, responded attacking its enemies. In 1542, the Pope brought the Inquisition into Italy, giving the Inquisitor general authority over all Italians. This restored the Pope’s authority over the whole peninsula. In 1543, the Inquisition published the first Index of Prohibited Books, the first full-scale effort to limit or destroy the free expression of ideas through the press. This included the ‘Advice on the Reform of the Church’ as it was seen as giving solace to the Protestants and their ideas. Further reforms came with the Council of Trent (1543-63) and Ignatius Loyola and the Jesuits
In the 16th century, in response to the Protestant Reformation, there was substantial reform and renewal known as the Counter-Reformation.
In subsequent centuries, Catholicism spread widely across the world though with a weaker hold on European populations due to the growth of Protestantism and religious scepticism during and after the Enlightenment. The Second Vatican Council in the 1960’s introduced the most significant changes to Catholic practices since the Council of Trent three centuries before.
The Thirty Years War (1618-48) arose from the religious and political tensions which had polarized Europe into two camps defined largely, but not exclusively, by religion. The Protestant camp consisted of German Protestants, Denmark, the Dutch Republic, England, Sweden, Catholic Venice, and Catholic France. The Catholic camp had German Catholics, Spain, Austria, the Spanish Netherlands, Naples, Milan, the Papacy, and Poland.
The local church/cathedral and its services became the communities central point. The clergy played a critical role in peoples lives including birth, marriage and death. They went to them for help with literacy and how they would be treated in the afterlife (see The church service and ‘advice’ given by the clergy was central to peoples lives.
Pope Damasus I commissioned Saint Jerome, in 382, to revise the Vetus Latina, the compendium of all biblical texts, translated into Latin and became known as “versio vulgata’ or ‘common version’. Used most often throughout Western Europe from 400 to about 1530 it is still the only official Bible of the Catholic Church. The King James translators used it as one of their primary guides.
With few exceptions, Latin was only understood by the Church and only spoken in church ceremonies. It was the international language of the church. Only priests could teach it though this was rarely done as knowledge is power and the Catholic Church had both. For about 1,000 years the only other languages it could be written in were biblical Hebrew and ancient Greek which were almost dead and so little used. Anyone wanting to translate it into another language was strongly admonished by the Pope.
To emphasiss their authority the clergy wore specified clothing which increased with magnificence the higher their rank.
In addition to leading the Roman Catholic church the Pope was also the ‘ruler’ of the Papal States in central Italy where they ruled from 754 until 1870. Given to the papacy by Pepin the Short it reached its maximum size in 1859. Today it is the part of Rome and called the ‘Vatican City’. It became a separate state within Italy by the Lateran Treaty of 1929.
Their task was seen as maintaining supremacy by subjecting other groups to ‘penalties’ such as extra taxation, separating them, for example in ghettoes, creating hysteria that led to pogroms and so on. This was directed at any ‘non catholic’ group such as the Cathars (a Christian movement in some areas of Southern Europe, particularly northern Italy and southern France, between the 12th and 14th centuries). Thought of as a direct challenge to the Catholic Church it was denounced as "the Church of Satan". Approximately 1,000,000 were killed in its suppression
The church was involved in politics at all levels. To take the following examples
1. The sermon of Pope Urban II at Clermont 1n 1095 echoed across the world and continues to echo still. His bloodcurdling call to arms, legitimising the suppression of political and religious opposition, established a creed that has served the interests of dictators and tyrants ever since. Though it was an oration and not strictly a document at all, contemporary chroniclers ensured that its message would serve the architects of the Holocaust and modern ethnic cleansers as surely as it launched the First Crusade.
Men volunteered on the spot to cries of ‘God wills it’ there was hardly a living people who did not make every effort to join them. The Clermont address (thus) elevated coercion into an instrument of religion. The pilgrims began their journey to Jerusalem with massacres of Jews in German cities. (From ‘The Sunday Times - Pages From History - Eleventh Century’)
2. The conflict between Boniface VIII and Philip IV (also called Philip the Fair and Phililppe le Bel) of France came at a time of expanding nation states and the desire to consolidate the power of increasingly powerful monarchs. The increase in monarchical power in the rising nation states and its conflicts with the Church of Rome were only exacerbated by the rise to power of Philip IV of France. Their feud reached its peak in the early 14th century when Philip launched a strong anti-papal campaign against Boniface. On November 18, 1302, Boniface issued one of the most important papal bulls of Catholic history: Unam sanctam which declared that both spiritual and temporal power were under the pope's jurisdiction, and that kings were subordinate to the power of the Church. Following French action Boniface died (probably murdered?) in October 1303 (see Wikipedia) Philip was going to denounce Boniface as a heretic who in retaliation would have excommunicated Philip. The Papal action would have nullified all treaties the French had signed. Trade in and out of France would have ceased. French citizens abroad would have been subject to arrest or harm, ships seized, cargo taken (see ‘Requiem’ p328 by Robyn Young)
3. The Avignon Papacy From 1309 to 1377 seven Popes resided in Avignon, in France, rather than in Rome due to the conflict between the Papacy and the French crown.
Clement V, a Frenchman became Pope in 1305. He declined to move to Rome and in 1309 moved his court to the papal enclave at Avignon, where it remained for the next 67 years. This absence from Rome is sometimes referred to as the ‘Babylonian Captivity of the Papacy’. Sseven French Popes reigned at Avignon; under the influence of the French Crown. Finally, on September 13, 1376, Gregory XI abandoned Avignon and moved his court to Rome (arriving on January 17, 1377), officially ending the Avignon Papacy.
The breakdown in relations between the cardinals and Gregory's successor, Urban VI, gave rise to the Western Schism creating a second line of Avignon popes, now regarded as illegitimate. The schism ended in 1417 at the Council of Constance after two Popes had reigned in opposition to the Papacy in Rome.
4. Alexander VI was a Borgia or Borja from a Valencian (Spanish)-Italian noble family who became prominent during the Renaissance and has been accused of many different crimes including adultery, simony, theft, rape, bribery, incest, and murder (especially murder by arsenic poisoning).
On the death of Pope Innocent VIII there were three candidates for the holy seat. Including Rodrigo Borgia who had been appointed by his uncle, Pope Calixtus III as Vice-chancellor of the Church at 28. While there has been no substantive proof of simony (the ecclesiastical crime of paying for offices or positions in the hierarchy of a church), it was rumoured that he had succeeded in buying the largest number of votes and was elected Pope in 1492, taking the name Alexander VI .
Nepotistic appointments of this type were characteristic of the age and the position made him an extremely wealthy man. He became the father of seven illegitimate offspring, the most famous of whom were his son Cesare Borgia (the basis of Machiavelli's ‘The Prince’) and daughter Lucrezia.
Cesare, with his father's backing, tried to become the ruler of Italy. But in 1503, Pope Alexander died suddenly. (It was said that he and Cesare accidentally drank a bottle of their own poisoned wine, although malarial fever, which was spreading through Rome at the time, has also been suggested). Cesare's intrigues collapsed and he went off to Spain.
Saint Francis Borgia a grandson of Rodrigo through another son, Giovanni, entered the priesthood and became a Jesuit becomng the third Father General of the order.
Listverse: Shameful Moments in Catholic History
Indulgences are various degrees of the remission of punishments from sins that have already been forgiven. Indulgences are given, not sold, to anyone who performs a Christian act, especially doing a good deed for someone else, or for saying a prayer. This practice really isn’t that un-biblical, in itself, but the problem is that people immediately see it as a “Get Out of Jail Free” card. Sin all you want, then say a Hail Mary, and you’re good to go. It has never worked that way according to the Bible and official Catholic doctrine, and anyone who reads the Pauline Epistles will realize this.But certain Bishops of the Catholic Church saw indulgences as a very good way to get rich, and it worked magnificently. Threaten an ignorant person with eternal burning, and he’ll give you some money to feel safe again. It got ridiculously out of hand from about 500 until Martin Luther spoke against it in his 95 Theses, in 1517. One of the most notorious abusers of the practice was a man named Johann Tetzel, to whom is attributed this infamous couplet, “As soon as a coin in the coffer rings, a soul from purgatory springs.”These Bishops extorted people for years by horrifying them that they’re departed loved ones were currently frying in Purgatory, and would remain there for a very long time, unless their surviving loved ones paid the Church money. This money would atone for the dead persons’ sins, and they would then enter Heaven. Indulgences are not supposed to be sold. If they were, people with lots of money would be holier than thou art.Indulgences are still given in the Catholic Church – some which remit part of the punishment owed for sin, and some which remit all. The most recent indulgences were granted in 2007 by Pope Benedict XVI, for people who took part in pilgrimages to Lourdes.
From the NY Times According to church teaching, even after sinners are absolved in the confessional and say their Our Fathers or Hail Marys as penance, they still face punishment after death, in Purgatory, before they can enter heaven. In exchange for certain prayers, devotions or pilgrimages in special years, a Catholic can receive an indulgence, which reduces or erases that punishment instantly, with no formal ceremony or sacrament.
There are partial indulgences, which reduce purgatorial time by a certain number of days or years, and plenary indulgences, which eliminate all of it, until another sin is committed. You can get one for yourself, or for someone who is dead. You cannot buy one — the church outlawed the sale of indulgences in 1567 — but charitable contributions, combined with other acts, can help you earn one. There is a limit of one plenary indulgence per sinner per day.
It has no currency in the bad place.
There are partial indulgences, which reduce purgatorial time by a certain number of days or years, and plenary indulgences, which eliminate all of it, until another sin is committed. You can get one for yourself, or for someone who is dead. You cannot buy one — the church outlawed the sale of indulgences in 1567 — but charitable contributions, combined with other acts, can help you earn one. There is a limit of one plenary indulgence per sinner per day.
It has no currency in the bad place.
The History Learning Site, C N Trueman 17 Mar 2015. 20 Oct 2016.
The “rotteness” of the Roman Catholic Church was at the heart of Martin Luther’s attack on it in 1517 when he wrote the “95 Theses” thus sparking off the German Reformation.
At the start of the C16, the Roman Catholic Church was all powerful in western Europe. There was no legal alternative. The Catholic Church jealously guarded its position and anybody who was deemed to have gone against the Catholic Church was labelled a heretic and burnt at the stake. The Catholic Church did not tolerate any deviance from its teachings as any appearance of ‘going soft’ might have been interpreted as a sign of weakness which would be exploited.
WHY WAS THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH SO POWERFUL ?
Its power had been built up over the centuries and relied on ignorance and superstition on the part of the populace. It had been indoctrinated into the people that they could only get to heaven via the church.
This gave a priest enormous power at a local level on behalf of the Catholic Church. The local population viewed the local priest as their ‘passport’ to heaven as they knew no different and had been taught this from birth by the local priest. Such a message was constantly being repeated to ignorant people in church service after church service. Hence keeping your priest happy was seen as a prerequisite to going to heaven.
This relationship between people and church was essentially based on money – hence the huge wealth of the Catholic Church. Rich families could buy high positions for their sons in the Catholic Church and this satisfied their belief that they would go to heaven and attain salvation. However, a peasant had to pay for a child to be christened (this had to be done as a first step to getting to heaven as the people were told that a non-baptised child could not go to heaven); you had to pay to get married and you had to pay to bury someone from your family in holy ground.
To go with this, you would pay a sum to the church via the collection at the end of each service (as God was omnipresent he would see if anyone cheated on him), you had to pay tithes (a tenth of your annual income had to be paid to the church which could be either in money or in kind such as seed, animals etc.) and you were expected to work on church land for free for a specified number of days per week. The days required varied from region to region but if you were working on church land you could not be working on your own land growing food etc. and this could be more than just an irritant to a peasant as he would not be producing for his family or preparing for the next year.
However, unfair and absurd this might appear to someone in the 1990’s it was the accepted way of life in 1500 as this was how it had always been and no-one knew any different and very few were willing to speak out against the Catholic Church as the consequences were too appalling to contemplate.
Do note, if you did not go to heaven then the likelihood was that your soul had been condemned to Hell. Heresy was visibly punished with public burnings which you were expected to attend. John Huss was accused of heresy and granted a safe passage to Constance in modern Switzerland to defend himself at trial. He never got his trial as he was arrested regardless of his guarantee of a safe passage by the Catholic Church and burnt in public.
The Catholic Church also had a three other ways of raising revenue.
Relics: These were officially sanctioned by the Vatican. They were pieces of straw, hay, white feathers from a dove, pieces of the cross etc. that could be sold to people as the things that had been the nearest to Jesus on Earth. The money raised went straight to the church and to the Vatican. These holy relics were keenly sought after as the people saw their purchase as a way of pleasing God. It also showed that you had honoured Him by spending your money on relics associated with his son.
Indulgences: These were ‘certificates’ produced in bulk that had been pre-signed by the pope which pardoned a person’s sins and gave you access to heaven. Basically if you knew that you had sinned you would wait until a pardoner was in your region selling an indulgence and purchase one as the pope, being God’s representative on Earth, would forgive your sins and you would be pardoned. This industry was later expanded to allow people to buy an indulgence for a dead relative who might be in purgatory or Hell and relieve that relative of his sins. By doing this you would be seen by the Catholic Church of committing a Christian act and this would elevate your status in the eyes of God.
Pilgrimages: These were very much supported by the Catholic Church as a pilgrim would end up at a place of worship that was owned by the Catholic Church and money could be made by the sale of badges, holy water, certificates to prove you had been etc. and completed your journey.
It was the issue of indulgences that angered Martin Luther into speaking out against them – potentially a very dangerous thing to do.
From ‘Introduction’ to ‘The Popes Against the Jews’ by David Kertzer, Vintage Books 2001
Edward Cardinal Cassidi, Australian head of the Vatican’s, Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, called in reporters to announce the long-awaited results of his investigation. -It Was March 16, 1998—eleven years after Pope John Paul II had asked the Commission to determine what responsibility, if any, the Church bore for the slaughter of millions of European Jews during World War 2; For the Church, a more explosive subject could hardly be imagined- It had been thirty-five years since Rolf Hochhuth’s play The Deputy raised the charge of papal complicity in the Holocaust, triggering- Catholic outrage worldwide. Yet the suggestion that the Vatican bore responsibility for what had happened to the Jews continued to grate on Catholic sensibilities. And so nervousness mixed with curiosity as the report was finally released to a public sharply divided between those worried- that it might criticize the Church, and those who feared it would not.
Heightening the drama and underlining the significance of the event, the Pope himself wrote an introduction to the report. John Paul II hailed the Commission document—"We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah” —as an important part of Church preparations for the upcoming millenial celebrations.
To properly observe the jubilee, the Pope wrote, the Church’s sons and daughters must purify their hearts by examining responsibility they bore for sins committed in the past. He voiced the hope that by providing an accurate account of past evils, the Commission would help ensure that such horrors as the Holocaust would never be repeated.
The report’s preamble echoed this theme, not only stressing the Pope's commitment to repentance for past sins, but also linking the proper understanding of the past to the building of a brighter future.
At the heart of the problem, as the Vatican commissioners recognized, was the fact that the Holocaust had taken place "in countries of long-standing Christian civilization." Might there be some link, they asked, between the destruction of Europe’s Jews and "the attitudes down the centuries of Christians toward the Jews”?
Those who feared that the report might criticize past popes or past Church actions were soon relieved to learn that the Commission’s answer to this question was a resounding "no.” True, the report admitted, Jews had for centuries been discriminated against and used as scapegoats, and, regrettably, certain misguided interpretations of Christian teachings had on occasion nurtured such behavior. But all this regarded an older history, one largely overcome by the beginning of the 1800s.
In the Commission's view, the nineteenth century was the key period for understanding the roots of the Holocaust and, in particular, the reasons why the Church bore no responsibility for it. It was in that turbulent century that new intellectual and political currents associated with extreme nationalism emerged. Amid the economic and social upheavals of the time, people started to accuse Jews of exercising a disproportionate influence. "There thus began to spread,” the Commission members argued, “an anti-Judaism that was essentially more sociological and political than religious.” This new form of antagonism to the Jews was further shaped by racial theories that first appeared in the latter part of the nineteenth century and reached their terrible apotheosis in the Nazis’ glorification of a superior Aryan race. Far from supporting these racist ideologies, the Vatican commissioners asserted, the Church had always condemned them.
And so, according to the report, a crucial distinction must be made. What arose in the late nineteenth century, and sprouted like a poisonous weed in the twentieth, was "antisemitism, based on theories contrary to the constant teaching of the Church.” This they contrasted with “anti-Judaism,” long-standing attitudes of mistrust and hostility of which “Christians also have been guilty,” but which, in the Vatican report, had nothing to do with the hatred of the Jews that led to the Holocaust.
When I read the news story of the Vatican press conference, and later read the text of the Commission report, I knew that there was something terribly wrong with the history that the Vatican was recounting. It is a history that many wish had happened, but it is not what actually happened. It is the latter story, sometimes dramatic, sometimes hard to believe, often sad, that I try to tell in the pages that follow.
Just how little this history is known was driven home to me by reader reactions to my recent book 'The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara'. The book tells of a six-year-old Jewish boy in Bologna, Italy, who, in 1858, was taken from his family on orders of the local inquisitor. Having ' been secretly baptized by a servant—or so it was claimed—the boy, the inquisitor argued, was now Catholic and could not remain in a Jewish household.
"You mean there was still an Inquisition in 1858?” readers asked. "I thought the Inquisition was back in the 1500s or 1600s." I also kept "hearing—especially from non-Jewish readers—how amazing it was for them to learn that forcing Jews to wear yellow badges and keeping them locked in ghettoes were not inventions of the Nazis in the twentieth century, but a policy that the popes had championed for hundreds of years.
NY Times Review by Garry Wills on September 23 2001
The Jews -- eternal insolent children, obstinate, dirty, thieves, liars, ignoramuses, pests and the scourge of those near and far . . . managed to lay their hands on . . . all public wealth . . . and virtually alone they took control not only of all the money . . . but of the law itself in those countries where they have been allowed to hold public offices . . . [yet they complain] at the first shout by anyone who dares raise his voice against this barbarian invasion by an enemy race, hostile to Christianity and to society in general.''
Those words appeared in 1880 in Civilta Cattolica, the journal Pope Pius IX had ordered the Jesuits to publish in Rome as the informal organ of the Vatican -- every article was cleared before publication by the papal secretariat of state. The words were written by a founding editor of the paper, Giuseppe Oreglia, S.J., who was responsible for three dozen more articles in this vein during the 1880's. The articles were typical of Civilta Cattolica, and Civilta Cattolica was typical of Roman Catholic periodicals all over Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
David Kertzer, a professor of history at Brown University, has undertaken the sickening task of compiling a sampler of such material issuing from church-sponsored newspapers. He earlier wrote ''The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara,'' which told how Pius IX took a 6-year-old boy away from his Jewish parents because the Inquisition had decided that the boy had been secretly baptized by a Christian servant working in the Mortara household. ''The Popes Against the Jews'' is even more disheartening than ''The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara,'' besides being a more formidable scholarly achievement, since it traces, over a stretch of two centuries, the Vatican's endorsement of things like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, or the guilt of Alfred Dreyfus or the charge that Jews regularly commit ritual murders of Christian children. Pope John Paul II's document on the Holocaust, ''We Remember,'' said that the Catholic church in the past objected to Jews only on theological grounds, not racial ones. Kertzer easily destroys this falsehood. To quote again Oreglia's article, cleared by the Vatican secretariat of state:
''Oh how wrong and deluded are those who think Judaism is just a religion, like Catholicism, Paganism, Protestantism, and not in fact a race, a people, and a nation! . . . For the Jews are not only Jews because of their religion . . . they are Jews also and especially because of their race.''
Kertzer has done a staggeringly thorough job of tracing Catholic statements on the Jews, and in using the Vatican archives to show what support was given to the people making these statements. From this he argues that the debate over what Pius XII might have done during the Holocaust is a distraction from a more important question -- what did the Catholic church do to help bring on the Holocaust in the first place? It did a great deal. The anti-Semitic campaign against Alfred Dreyfus, the French military officer convicted of treason in 1894 on forged documents, was largely driven by a fanatical band of Catholics denouncing Dreyfus for his perfidious Jewishness. The Assumptionist Fathers made this a special mission of their daily newspaper, La Croix. Owen Chadwick, the author of the excellent ''History of the Popes: 1830-1914'' (1998), says of this campaign that it ''was the most powerful and extreme journalism ever conducted by an otherworldly religious order during the history of Christendom.'' Pope Leo XIII, though he criticized the paper for other reasons, never objected to this rabid effort. He said in 1899, ''I love La Croix.'' And no wonder. His own official newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, had also prejudged Dreyfus's guilt. Later, it defended anti-Semitic mobs resisting a reversal of his rigged conviction: ''The Jewish race, the deicide people, wandering throughout the world, brings with it everywhere the pestiferous breath of treason.'' Kertzer brings the story down to the late 1930's, when Pius XI's attempt at writing an encyclical condemning Nazi antisemitism was sabotaged by the superior general of the Jesuits (a Polish aristocrat) and the editor of Civilta Cattolica. For that matter Pius XI himself, who served as a papal diplomat in Poland during World War I, dismissed reports of pogroms there as inventions of Jewish propaganda. He wrote to the Vatican secretary of state: ''One of the most evil and strongest influences that is felt here, perhaps the strongest and the most evil, is that of the Jews.''
None of the modern Piuses comes off well. Pius X favored a high official in his secretariat of state, Monsignor Umberto Benigni, who became one of the two principal distributors of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion in Italy. Pius also refused to intervene in the 20th century's most famous trial of a Jew on the ritual murder charge, a trial conducted in Kiev in 1913. After a Catholic priest testified to the court that such murders were an established fact of history, British Jews asked the Catholic Duke of Norfolk to request from the pope a denial of the libel. Pius X's secretary of state would not deny the myth, or send information about false uses of it directly to the presiding judge. As Kertzer notes, ''by not taking this step, the pope allowed the Catholic press, including that part of it viewed inside and outside the church as communicating the pope's true sentiments, to continue to tar the Jews with the ritual murder charge.'' This is the pope canonized by Pius XII in 1954.
Pius IX's record was far worse, even apart from his kidnapping of the Mortara child. In 1867, he canonized Peter Arbues, a 15th-century inquisitor famed for forcible conversion of Jews, and said in the canonization document, ''The divine wisdom has arranged that in these sad days, when Jews help the enemies of the church with their books and money, this decree of sanctity has been brought to fulfillment.'' (Kertzer somehow misses the story of this St. Peter -- it can be read in Chadwick's ''History of the Popes.'') Pius IX not only gave the Cross of Commander of the Papal Order to a man famous for a book endorsing the myth of Jewish ritual murders, but established the feast of a boy ''martyr'' who was supposedly the victim of such a rite. In 1871, addressing a group of Catholic women, Pius said that Jews ''had been children in the House of God,'' but ''owing to their obstinacy and their failure to believe, they have become dogs'' (emphasis in the original.). ''We have today in Rome unfortunately too many of these dogs, and we hear them barking in all the streets, and going around molesting people everywhere.'' This is the pope beatified by John Paul II in 2000.
Kertzer lays out this revolting record with admirable calm, not giving way to the indignation that most readers must feel. A Catholic will especially wonder why John Paul II was so determined to beatify Pius IX. Determined he certainly was. The board of experts established to examine Pius IX's credentials did not include the man who knows most about him, Giacomo Martina, S.J., the author of the definitive three-volume life of him. Why was this? Probably because, when Kenneth Woodward of Newsweek asked Martina if, after decades of studying the man, he thought Pius IX a saint, Martina answered ''No, I do not.'' Owen Chadwick said that there was only one pope who would have canonized Peter Arbues -- Pius IX. I am afraid, in the same way, that there was only one pope who would have beatified Pius IX -- John Paul II.
Garry Wills is the author of ''A Necessary Evil: A History of American Distrust of Government'' and ''Papal Sin.'
Explanation of terms:
"Jus Gasaga" - a corruption of "Jus Chazaka" - the law of the right of tenancy of Jews, usually in ghetto homes.
Catechumen - a person being taught the Catechism, a new convert. The Bulls called for a special tax on Jews, to be used to support the catechumens. The house of Catechumens in Rome was used as an instrument for forced conversion, and its victims included the chief Rabbi of Rome.
Neophyte - a new convert.
The sources generally do not distinguish between Bulls, encyclicals and other documents of more limited circulation.
Following is a partial list of Papal Bulls and other relevant documents regarding the Jewish question, illustrating both the partial protection offered the Jews at different times and the institutionalization of Anti-Semitism.
Where protection was offered, it was often done in a condescending manner, asserting the Christian duty to have mercy on the Jews even though they were collectively guilty of killing Jesus (or in modern times, "forgiving" the Jews for killing Jesus) or was simply rescinding previous decrees. Catholic persecution of Jews - and protection - began in the Middle Ages, but the persecution continued and was intensified well after the Middle Ages, notably in the Inquisition and in the formation and regulation of ghettos, which began in the 1500s, well after the end of the Middle Ages. The Papal bulls and encyclicals that advanced and supported anti-Semitism included the following sorts of decrees:
Special badges or dress for Jews
Special taxes for Jews
Forcing Jews to remit debt of Christians
Banning, confiscating or burning Jewish law books and other writings.
Encouraging or forcing conversion of Jews
Expelling Jews from Papal territories or forcing Jews to live in ghettos.
Inquisition for backsliding converted Jews,
Many believed and hoped that Catholic persecution of Jews had ended in the period of Pope John XXIII. Recent Bulls and Encyclicals of Pope Benedict XVI that reinstate anti-Semitic prayers and Catholic societies do not augur well.
Pius V was perhaps the worst of the anti-Semitic Popes. He was nonetheless canonized and the canonization was not rescinded.
In addition to the actual regulations depriving Jews of livelihood or home or forcing conversions, the Bulls often were prefaced with language of racist incitement that indicated the attitude of the Catholic Church to Jews.
The Bull Cum Nimis Absurdum ("How completely absurd") of Paul IV, 1555, which created the ghetto of Rome, began with these words:
As it is completely absurd and improper in the utmost that the Jews, who through their own fault were condemned by God to eternal servitude,
The Bull Hebraeorum gens ("The Jewish Race") 1569, of Saint Pius V, which expelled Jews from some of the Papal states, began with these words:
"The Jewish people fell from the heights because of their faithlessness and condemned their Redeemer to a shameful death. Their godlessness has assumed such forms that, for the salvation of our own people, it becomes necessary to prevent their disease. Besides usury, through which Jews everywhere have sucked dry the property of impoverished Christians, they are accomplices of thieves and robbers; and the most damaging aspect of the matter is that they allure the unsuspecting through magical incantations, superstition, and witchcraft to the Synagogue of Satan and boast of being able to predict the future. We have carefully investigated how this revolting sect abuses the name of Christ and how harmful they are to those whose life is threatened by their deceit. On account of these and other serious matters, and because of the gravity of their crimes which increase day to day more and more, We order that, within 90 days, all Jews in our entire earthly realm of justice -- in all towns, districts, and places -- must depart these regions."
The above is quoted in modern anti-Semitic works, including Catholic publications and the Stormfront Website.
To the modern reader, the Papal bulls seem to present a conflicting picture. Sometimes privileges were revoked and sometimes extended. Often the same Pope would order protection of the Jews from bodily harm but enact discriminatory laws of various kinds. Thus, the church would encourage hatred of Jews, but then it would discourage violence against Jews. For Catholic theology there was no contradiction. The role of the Jews was to serve as an example of the wages of sin to Christians. Therefore, the Jews must be tortured and ridiculed, but never killed.
The documents listed below are Papal Bulls unless otherwise noted. The Bulls get their titles from the initial words, generally the first three words, of the text of the document, which are known as the incipit. Note that there may be several Bulls with the same title by different Popes, and on entirely different subjects.
Gregory I Sicut judaeis non 598 A letter, supplemented by others, provided limited protection of Jews.
"Just as no freedom may be granted to the Jews in their communities to exceed the limits legally set for them, so they should in no way suffer through a violation of their rights"
The letter contained the phrase "Sicut Judaeis" - and thus to the Jews. Gregory forbade Jews to have Christian slaves, and encouraged conversions. The measures of protection along with limitations and persecution, and even the wording of Sicut iudaeis were repeated in subsequent bulls and letters of various popes. It became the model for treatment of Jews.
Calixtus II Sicut Judaeis c. 1120 Probably the first formal version of Sicut Judaies. Reiterates protection of the Jews in the wake of the persecutions of the first Crusade.
Innocent III Post miserabile Aug. 1198 Addressed to prelates of Europe and dealt with the need for another Crusade. Suspended payment of interest and principal to Jewish lenders for crusaders. Since many did not return, the debt was effectively cancelled.
Innocent III Etsi non displiceat 1205 Addressed to King of France. Accuses Jews of usury, blasphemy, arrogance, employing Christian slaves and murder. Urges king to put an end to the "evils."
Honorius III Sicut judaeis non debet esse licentia Nov. 7, 1217 Forbids forced baptism of Jews or molestation.
Honorius III In general consilio 1218 To archbishop of Toledo, requires enforcement of 4th Lateran Council decisions that Jews must wear special clothing and pay tithes to the local churches.
Honorius III Ad nostram Noveritis audientiam April 29, 1221 Jews are obliged to carry a distinctive badge and forbidden to hold public office.
Gregory IX Sufficere debuerat perfidioe judoerum perfidia March 5, 1233 Jews forbidden to employ Christian servants.
Gregory IX Etsi Judeorum 1233 To prelates of France, urged prevention of physical violence against Jews.
Gregory IX Si vera sunt 1239 To kings and prelates of Spain and France - orders seizure of Talmud and other Jewish books and examination for blasphemy against Jesus. These books were regularly burned or censored.
Innocent IV Impia judoerum perfidia May 9, 1244 French King ordered to burn the Talmud. Jews forbidden to employ Christian nurses.
Innocent IV Lachrymabilem Judaeorum 1247 To German prelates; orders an end to persecution of Jews and declares that the blood libel accusation is false.
Clement IV Turbato corde July 26, 1267 Christians forbidden to embrace Judaism
Gregory X Turbato corde March 1, 1274 (Identical to previous.)
Nicolas III Vineam Sorec Aug. 4, 1278 Addressed to orders of friars - Preaching to the Jews is encouraged and friars are to be specially trained for this purpose. Also known as Vineam Soreth.
Nicolas IV Turbato corde Sept. 5, 1288 Christians who embrace Judaism
John XXII Ex Parte Vestra Aug. 12, 1317 Relapse of converts.
John XXII Cum sit absurdum June 19, 1320 Converted Jews need not be despoiled.
Clement VI Quamvis Perfidiam September 26, 1348 Tries in vain to dispel the superstition that Jews are responsible for Black Death by poisoning the wells
Urban V Sicuti judaeis non debet June 7, 1365 Forbidden to molest Jews or to force them to baptism.
Benedict XIII (Anti-Pope) Etsi doctoribus gentium 1415 A collection of anti-Jewish church legislation that served as an inspiration to other Popes.
Martin V Sedes apostolica June 3, 1425 Jews obliged to wear distinctive badge.
Eugene IV Dudum ad nostram audientiam Aug. 4, 1442 Forbade Jews to live with Christians or fill public functions, etc.
Calixtus III Si ad reprimendos May 28, 1456 Confirmed the preceding Bull of Eugene IV forbidding Jews to live with Christians.
Sixtus IV Numquam dubitavimus 1482 To Ferdinand of Aragon, to appoint inquisitors to extirpate heresy and investigate backsliding of Jewish converts to Christianity. The Spanish Inquisition and expulsion of the Jews from Spain followed.
Paul III Cupientes judaeos March 21, 1542 Privileges in favor of neophytes (a new convert to a religion).
Paul III Illius, qui pro dominici Feb. 19, 1543 Establishment of a monastery for catechumens and neophytes.
Jules III Pastoris aeternivices Aug. 31, 1554 Tax in favor of neophytes
Paul IV Cum Nimis Absurdum July 14, 1555 Jews forbidden to live in common with Christians, to practice any industry, etc.
Paul IV Dudum postquam March 23, 1556 Tax in favor of neophytes
Pius IV Cum inter ceteras Jan. 26, 1562 Bull relative to monastery of catechumens.
Pius IV Dudum e felicis recordationis Feb. 27, 1562 Bull confirming that of Paul IV.
Pius V Romanus Pontifex April 19, 1566 Bull confirming that of Paul IV
Pius V Sacrosanctae catholicae ecclesiae Nov. 29, 1566 Bull relating to convent of neophytes
Pius V Cum nos nuper Jan. 19, 1567 Jews are forbidden to own real estate
Pius V Hebraeorum gens Feb. 26, 1569 Accuses Jews of many evils including magic. Orders expulsion of Jews from Church States except Rome and Ancona.
Gregory XIII Vices ejus nos Sept. 1, 1577 Obligatory preaching of Christian sermons to Jews;. Creation of college of neophytes.
Gregory XIII Antiqua judaeorum improbitas July 1, 1581 Against blasphemers.
Gregory XIII Sancta Mater Ecclesiae Sept. 1, 1584 Obligatory preaching of Christian sermons to Jews;100 men and 50 women must be sent every Saturday to listen to conversion sermons delivered in a church near the ghetto.
Sixtus V Christiana pietas Oct. 22, 1586 Privileges granted to Jews by relief of former edicts. These were reversed. by Clement VIII.
Clement VIII Cum saepe accidere Feb. 28, 1592 Jews of Avignon forbidden to sell new goods.
Clement VIII Caeca et obdurata Feb. 25, 1593 Confirmation of the Bull of Paul III. Jews forbidden to dwell outside of Rome, Ancona, and Avignon.
Clement VIII Cum Haebraeorum malitia Feb. 28, 1593 It is forbidden to read the Talmud.
Paul V Apostolicae servitutis July 31, 1610 Regulars (of monks) obliged to learn Hebrew.
Paul V Exponi nobis nuper fecistis Aug. 7, 1610 Bull concerning the dowries of Jewish women.
Urban VIII Sedes apostolica April 22, 1625 Concerning heretical Portuguese Jews.
Urban VIII Injuncti nobis Aug. 20, 1626 Privileges granted to the monastery of catechumens
Urban VIII Cum sicut acceptimus Oct. 18, 1635 Obligation to feed poor Jews imprisoned for debt.
Urban VIII Cum allias piae March 17, 1636 Synagogues of the Duchies of Ferarri and Urban, to pay a tax of 10 ecus.
Alexander VII Verbi aeterni Dec. 1, 1657 Bull relating to rights of neophytes regarding jus gasaga.(rights of tenancy in the ghetto)
Alexander VII Ad ea per quae Nov. 15, 1658 Jus Gasaga (rights of tenancy in the ghetto)
Alexander VII Ad apostolicae dignitatis May 23, 1662 Concordat between the college of neophytes and German college.
Alexander VII Illius, qui illuminat March 6, 1663 Privileges favoring the fraternities of neophytes.
Alexander VIII Animarum saluti March 30, 1690 Bull relating to the neophytes in Indies.
Innocent XII Ad radicitus submovendum Aug. 31, 1692 Abolition of special jurisdiction
Clement XI Propagandae per unicersum March 11, 1704 Confirmation and extension of Paul III regarding neophytes.
Clement XI Essendoci stato rappresentato Jan. 21, 1705 Powers of Vicar of Rome in jurisdiction of catechumens and neophytes
Clement XI Salvatoris nostri vices Jan. 2, 1712 Transfer to "Pii Operai" the work of the catechumens.
Innocent XIII Ex injuncto nobis Jan. 18, 1724 Prohibits sale of new objects.
Benedict XIII Nuper, pro parte dilectorum Jan. 8, 1726 Establishment of dowries for young girl neophytes.
Benedict XIII Emanavit nuper Feb. 14, 1727 Necessary conditions for imposing baptism on a Jew.
Benedict XIII Alias emanarunt March 21, 1729 Forbidding the sale of new goods.
Benedict XIV Postremomens Feb. 28, 1747 The baptism of Jews
Benedict XIV Apostolici Ministerii munus Sept. 16, 1747 Right of repudiation of neophytes.
Benedict XIV Singulari Nobis consoldtioni Feb. 9, 1749 Marriages between Jews and Christians.
Benedict XIV Elapso proxime Anno Feb. 20, 1751 Concerning Jewish heretics.
Benedict XIV Probe te meminisse Dec. 15, 1751 Baptism of Jewish children
Benedict XIV Beatus Andreas Feb. 22, 1755 Martyrdom of a child by Jews.
A blood libel concerning the murder of the child Andreas Oxner or Anderl von Rinn (Andreas of Rinn ) by Jews that supposedly took place in 1462 in Rinn near Innsbruck. Confirms the blood libel as factual. The Bull reviews the cases of ritual murder by Jews, which it explicitly upholds as a fact, and establishes the beatifcation but not the canonization of Andreas of Rinn and Simon of Trent
The Catholics are the biggest Christian church with 1.229 billion members in 2014 (from http://cara.georgetown.edu/caraservices/requestedchurchstats.html) more than 40% of whom live in Latin America. Its attitude to other religions has changed as it has to live with them. Corruption still exists ‘In June 2013, Pope Francis sent shockwaves through the Church with comments made about the state of the administration of the Catholic Church itself. “In the Curia,” the Pope said, “there are holy people, truly, there are holy people. But there’s also a current of corruption — there’s that, too, it’s true … The reform of the Roman Curia is something that almost all the cardinals sought in the congregations before the Conclave. I sought it myself.” (click here for more detail)
From BBC (March 12, 2006)
Pope John Paul II has publicly asked God's forgiveness for the sins of Roman Catholics through the ages, including wrongs inflicted on Jews, women and minorities. List of apologies made by Pope John Paul II to 2001
The unprecedented gesture by the spiritual leader of the world's one billion Catholics is one of the first major events of the Vatican's year-long celebrations marking the beginning of the new Christian millennium.
"We are asking pardon for the divisions among Christians, for the use of violence that some have committed in the service of truth, and for attitudes of mistrust and hostility assumed toward followers of other religions," said Pope John Paul II, dressed in the purple robes of Lent.
The phrase "violence in the service of truth" is an often-used reference to the treatment of heretics during the Inquisition, the Crusades, and forced conversions of native peoples.
The Pope's homily at The Day of Pardon Mass in St Peter's Basilica in the Vatican did not mention specific groups.
Christians will acknowledge the sins committed by not a few of their number against the people of the Covenant
But confessions of sin made by five Vatican cardinals and two bishops, each with a response from the Pope, did ask for forgiveness for named wrongs.
Cardinal Edward Cassidy, raising the issue of the treatment of Jews, said: "Christians will acknowledge the sins committed by not a few of their number against the people of the Covenant."
"We are deeply saddened by the behaviour of those who in the course of history have caused these children of yours to suffer, and asking your forgiveness we wish to commit ourselves to genuine brotherhood," the Pope respond ed.
The Roma, or Gypsy people, were also mentioned as having suffered.
There have been decades of debate over how the Vatican acted during WWII
Pope Francis’ planned visit to Auschwitz on Friday, to pray at the site of the Nazi concentration camp, is sure to be a sober occasion. The presence of the leader of the Catholic Church will once again call attention to one of the 20th century’s worst atrocities, and serve as a reminder of the terribly high stakes for those who would make peace in the world. As Pope John Paul II said in 1979 when he became the first sitting Pontiff to visit Auschwitz, “Not only those who directly bring about wars are responsible for them, but also those who fail to do all they can to prevent them.”
But, when it comes to the Vatican and the Holocaust, history lends an extra layer of meaning to Papal recognition of what Pope John Paul II called the “place built on hatred and on contempt for man.” (Pope Benedict XVI also visited the site in 2006.)
During World War II, the Vatican’s reaction to Nazi crimes was seen, at least by American media like TIME, in a positive light, especially considering the Vatican’s location within Axis-aligned Italy. TIME reported in 1942 that the late Pope Pius XI had called what the magazine euphemistically termed “anti-Jewish excesses” the “Sacrifice of our Father Abraham”—and that the current Pope, Pius XII, “neither understands nor approves” Nazi persecution of Jews. As the war wound to an end, in 1944, Pope Pius XII was praised by Rome’s chief rabbi for the work the Vatican did to help Rome’s Jews while the Nazis occupied the city.
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In the early 1960s, however, the German playwright Rolf Hochhuth brought Pius XII’s wartime actions back into the headlines with a new play, the title of which was rendered in English as The Deputy. In the play, Hochhuth put forward the argument that Pius actually saw Nazi Germany as an acceptable barrier between the atheist communist world and the Christian world, and that if he had truly wanted to stop Hitler from killing Jewish people he could have been perhaps the only man in the world who would have been capable of doing so with his word alone. TIME summarized the uproar thus:
[The] legitimate attacks on Hochhuth’s portrayal of the Pope sidestep the key question raised by his play: Why did Pius XII, who condemned the aerial bombing of civilian centers and the postwar aggressions of Communism, not explicitly attack the liquidation of Europe’s Jews? The issue has intrigued many modern historians, since Pius clearly detested Hitler’s totalitarianism as much as he loved the German people. He helped draft Pius XI’s encyclical Mit Brennender Sorge (With Burning Sorrow), which condemned Nazi racism in 1937. When the Germans organized a roundup of Roman Jews in 1943 and 1944, the Pope made no formal protest, but allowed convents and monasteries to take in refugees, and offered 50 kilograms of gold to ransom the lives of 200 Jewish leaders. In Hungary and Slovakia, both predominantly Catholic countries governed by Catholic Nazi puppets, his papal nuncios had some success in halting the deportation of Jews to Polish death camps.
Yet Pius ignored Allied pressure to speak out against Nazi genocide. In the autumn of 1942, Myron C. Taylor, Franklin Roosevelt’s personal representative to the Vatican, gave the Holy See evidence of the anti-Jewish campaign, and the U.S. Minister to Switzerland warned the Vatican that failure to condemn these atrocities ‘is undermining faith both in the church and in the Holy Father himself.’ Baron Ernst von Weizsaecker, who claimed that he tried to protect the Pope from Hitler’s wrath while serving as German envoy to the Holy See, cabled his Foreign Ministry superiors: ‘The Pope has not allowed himself to be forced into any demonstrative utterances against the deportation of the Jews.’
Jesuit Leiber admits that Pius ‘found it difficult’ to speak out clearly against the murders, but adds, ‘This was providential. Otherwise, I fear greater harm would have been the result.’ Catholics point out that after the Dutch bishops issued a joint pastoral letter attacking the deportation of Jews, the Nazis retaliated by arresting Catholic converts from Judaism. In 1942 Cracow’s Archbishop Adam Sapieha pleaded with the Vatican not to broadcast accounts of German atrocities since it would only make things harder for his people.
The best evidence of Pius’ own judgment is his 1943 letter to Berlin’s Bishop Konrad von Preysing: ‘We leave it to the pastoral leaders on the spot to weigh whether and to what degree the danger of retaliation and pressure in case of remonstration by bishops make it appear advisable to exercise restraint to prevent greater evil, despite the listed grievances. Here lies one of the reasons why we ourselves impose limitations on ourselves in our public utterances.’
Debates about the culpability of Pius XII continued for years. By 1976, TIME reported that at least six books had been written on the Pius question and that in response Pope Paul VI was overseeing the publication of the Vatican’s own history of its wartime actions. At the time, the latest volume was reported to showcase the Vatican’s “attempts in 1943 to help Jews in Rumania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Poland and Italy” but also not to answer all criticisms. “The conflicting views make only one thing clear: the facts have begun to fall into place, but there is as yet no consensus on the behavior of Pius XII,” the magazine noted. “If anything, [the new volume] has heightened the debate rather than resolved it.”
Meanwhile, however, the relationship between the current Church and the Jewish people generally improved.
In the early 1960s, the Vatican Council addressed an agenda chapter about Jews—which, as TIME reported, was introduced because a Cardinal wanted to prevent a repeat of the Nazi use of Christianity as a justification for persecution of Jews. The idea was the formally clear the Jewish people of any responsibility for the death of Jesus Christ. In 1965, the Vatican Council voted to approve a statement that said that: “What happened to Christ in his Passion cannot be attributed to all Jews, without distinction, then alive, nor to the Jews of today” and rejected “hatred persecutions, displays of anti-Semitism directed against Jews at any time and by anyone.'”
When Pope John XXIII was named TIME’s Person of the Year for 1962, his sympathy toward Jewish victims of Nazi violence was cited as one of the qualities that made him worthy of his mantle. In 1986, Pope John Paul II became the first sitting Pope to visit a synagogue—a visit during which he took care to specifically mention the Church’s “abhorrence” of the Nazi genocide. The following year, he further healed old wounds by issuing a papal letter on the topic of the Holocaust. “While the letter was ostensibly routine, its language was heartfelt,” TIME reported. “‘Christians approach with fearsome respect the terrifying experience of the extermination, the Shoah, suffered by the Jews during the Second World War,’ wrote the Pope, ‘and we seek to grasp its most authentic . . . meaning.’ He went on, ‘Before the vivid memory of the extermination . . . it is not permissible for anyone to pass by with indifference.’”
When conflict arose in the late 1980s over a Carmelite convent situated at Auschwitz—which TIME noted “struck Jews and even some Catholics as an insensitive intrusion into a setting that will forever symbolize the Holocaust”—and Poland’s Roman Catholic Primate issued a statement that was widely seen as anti-Semitic, John Paul II personally intervened to help resolve the conflict. (His replacement, Benedict XVI, however, “raised eyebrows” for what some saw as his painting the Holocaust as a crime against Christianity, and for failing to mention anti-Semitism during his speech on his own visit to Auschwitz.)
It may be impossible to ever fully settle the question of whether the Vatican did the right thing during World War II. But what the Church now thinks about Nazism is, especially this week, clear.
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THE JEWISH STORY