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Francis and Jews

Our friend quiaviderunt has something against Pope Francis because he has said that the Jews can be saved, and because he has been at a Jewish religious service; he tells us, as though it were something to be proud of, that no real Pope would do such things. I know that Chalcedon has written here on the early history of so-called Christian anti-Semitism, showing how complex it was, and how much it was bound up with the rivalry between the Christians and the Jews in places such as Alexandria, and I accept that. But once we reach Western Europe in the Middle Ages, the Jews were no such danger, and yet the Christians, by now in a position of great power, treated them abominably; nor is this stain Catholic alone, Luther had some pretty terrible views, and anyone who thinks that the teachings of the Churches about the Jews had no effect on twentieth century anti-Semitism reveals their ignorance.

The idea that John Paul II somehow betrayed Catholic tradition is an odd one, if that tradition was to hate Jews, then he did, as he did not hate them. It is revealing that just as the extremists in the Catholic Church criticise John Paul, so do extremist Jewish groups which see him as simply providing a more palatable way of repeating the old allegation of deicide. What John Paul did was to continue what Vatican II did, which was to cleanse the Augean stable.

There is a type of Catholic, just as there is a type of Baptist, who will scream loudly that his church has done nothing wrong; with such ignoramuses even education is unlikely to prevail; suffice it to say here that the Catholic Church itself has apologised for the attitudes some of its members have held towards the Jews, and in Nostra Aetate it did a very brave and necessary thing by clarifying once and for all the relationship which should subsist between the two Abrahamic faiths. The language, as ever with Vatican documents, is carefully chosen and it does not say that the Jews are saved. It does say that:

The Church … cannot forget that she received the revelation of the Old Testament through the people with whom God in His inexpressible mercy concluded the Ancient Covenant. Nor can she forget that she draws sustenance from the root of that well-cultivated olive tree onto which have been grafted the wild shoots, the Gentiles.(7) Indeed, the Church believes that by His cross Christ, Our Peace, reconciled Jews and Gentiles. making both one in Himself.(8)

We are told that ‘God holds the Jews most dear for the sake of their Fathers; He does not repent of the gifts He makes or of the calls He issues-such is the witness of the Apostle.’ It is unequivocal on one important issue:

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.

Ah, but I will be told, the Jews (which Jews we are never told) are against Christ and Christians. So what? Where does Jesus say that those who hate us we must hate back? I sometimes wonder where some of these extremist Catholics get their views on conduct from; not Jesus.

Of course, the extremists will say that Francis is no Pope and Vatican II no Council – well they are very welcome to stay with their vile views on Jews and at least the barmy bishop Williamson is honest when he admits he denies the holocaust; he may be the one honest man among them. Personally, I have no idea who will be saved, but know we are told that salvation comes only by Jesus. So if Francis believes otherwise, I believe he is wrong, but unless he was speaking ex cathedra that view is a personal one, and in that capacity he is not infallible.

But I prefer Francis’ attitude to the mean-minded medievalism of those who criticise him. But then I know a lot of Jews, and I doubt the critics get out much beyond their computer screen.