Thursday, January 17, 2008

Catholic Persecution of the Jews

A non-Candy blog recently posted a link to an article from Restoration Ministries, which discusses how the Catholic Church was responsible for eradicating the "Hebraic roots" in Christianity.

This was put forth as a "really great article" especially suited for those who are "unfamiliar with historic accounts." Yet, when I looked up the historic accounts, I found a few errors. Here are a few points I would like to correct.

Up until as recently as the early 1960's a prayer that cursed the
Jews was read aloud by priests annually on Good Friday.

What exactly is this person's definition of cursing? It is a prayer
for conversion, not a curse. The prayer states:

"Let us pray also for the faithless Jews: that Almighty God may remove
the veil from their hearts [2 Corinthians 3:13-16]; so that they too
may acknowledge Jesus Christ our Lord. ('Amen' is not responded, nor
is said 'Let us pray', or 'Let us kneel', or 'Arise', but immediately
is said:) Almighty and eternal God, who dost not exclude from thy
mercy even the faithless Jews: hear our prayers, which we offer for
the blindness of that people; that acknowledging the light of thy
Truth, which is Christ, they may be delivered from their darkness.
Through the same Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with thee in
the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever. Amen."

Another problematic passage:

Convening the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215, Pope Innocent III
reinstituted all the dreaded anti-Semitic laws that the Christianized
Roman Empire had formulated almost a millennium earlier. For example,

• Jews were ordered to separate from Christians; they could no longer
even live near one another.
• Jewish holy books were torched. Rabbinical schools were closed,
again reinforcing the Jewish home as the center for learning and
religious instruction.
• All Jews were required to wear a badge of distinction, a yellow
circle. (This would be the precursor of the yellow Star of David to be
worn by all Jews under Nazi tyranny.)

This is the only canon that seemed relevant to those charges from the
Fourth Lateran Council:

"In some provinces a difference in dress distinguishes the Jews or
Saracens from the Christians, but in certain others such a confusion
has grown up that they cannot be distinguished by any difference. Thus
it happens at times that through error Christians have relations with
the women of Jews or Saracens, and Jews and Saracens with Christian
women. Therefore, that they may not, under pretext of error of this
sort, excuse themselves in the future for the excesses of such
prohibited intercourse, we decree that such Jews and Saracens of both
sexes in every Christian province and at all times shall be marked off
in the eyes of the public from other peoples through the character of
their dress. Particularly, since it may be read in the writings of
Moses [Numbers 15:37-41], that this very law has been enjoined upon

Moreover, during the last three days before Easter and especially on
Good Friday, they shall not go forth in public at all, for the reason
that some of them on these very days, as we hear, do not blush to go
forth better dressed and are not afraid to mock the Christians who
maintain the memory of the most holy Passion by wearing signs of

This, however, we forbid most severely, that any one should presume at
all to break forth in insult to the Redeemer. And since we ought not
to ignore any insult to Him who blotted out our disgraceful deeds, we
command that such impudent fellows be checked by the secular princes
by imposing them proper punishment so that they shall not at all
presume to blaspheme Him who was crucified for us."

I see special dress, but no yellow circles, ghettos, or burning
holy books mentioned in the canons. It is possible that these things did happen, but you cannot say that they were legislated through the Fourth Lateran Council, because it isn't there.

Now, Christians and Jews share the same "Holy Books" because their scriptures are our Old Testament. This is a flag to me, because why would the Church forbid study of books that they consider canonical? The simple answer is that they didn't. I believe this article is referring to the Talmud, which is the Jewish oral Law in written form.

The Jewish Virtual Library gives an account of persecution of the Talmud, and it is successive, not all at one time or specifically related to the Forth Lateran Council. They list Pope Gregory IV as ordering the burning of the Talmud in 1239, and Pope Eugenius IV prohibited the study of the Talmud following the Council of Basle in the early 1430's.

The Talmud in particular was targeted because of some passages which
Christians felt related to the death of Jesus. It said that he was
stoned because he practiced sorcery and seduced Israel away from God.

You can read the passages here.

So, I don't think whoever wrote this really great article actually WAS
very familiar with historical accounts. Certainly, books have been written on the treatment of Jews in the Middle Ages. However, blaming everything on Pope Innocent and the Fourth Lateran council is, at best, an oversimplification.


Faithful Catholic said...


I saw that too and I thought the same thing. I wanted to go back and post the "actual" prayer and inquire about the cursing issue. I hadn't yet gotten to the stuff about the Fourth Lateran Council.

Again, I believe that it is just a matter of people being willing to propagate false information and others willing to accept it on faith without doing any research into the validity of it.

Oh well, that is, I guess, a natural outcome if one is looking for "bad" information to support erroneous beliefs.

motherofmany said...

I thought you might have been upset enough to also post here as you had said you do at times, so I thought I would break my own rule this once and find out.

First, I think your ‘Catholic radar’ went off ;) and prevented you from really seeing that they were blaming EVERYONE for what happened. There were many Jews who had come to accept the Messiah who silently allowed their people to be treated so. There were also many small home-church groups that were practicing Messianic Judaism, but were secretive about it. There is not simply a finger-poiting at the Roman decrees. I am guilty of anti-semitism in the area of religious fundamentalism as well, having bought into the replacement thology, so I am guilty as well. Rather than get mad at anyone who points it out, however, I accept it as an opportunity to tell others what happened so that we can change the future treatment of what have always been and will always be Yahweh’s Chosen People.

However, I do agree that the grit of what would become the Holocaust started after the Fourth Lateran Council. It is in many history books that the practical side of ‘working out’ the new decrees of different dress included the yellow circle. But even if you don’t want to say that was when it specifically started, the decrees of Innocent III began the process that would take us right up to the Second World War. For proof of this, look at the decrees of the Council of Narbonne (1227), Council of Arlis (1234), Council of B├ęziers (1246), Council of Albi (1254), and MANY others (Nimes, Vienna, etc.) up to 1900. The Synod of Breslau (1267) started the ghettos, which were continued in 1294 in France and Bern, and in the 1300-1400’s Jews were expelled from so many countries they were continually wandering around Europe (hence the term Wandering Jew). In 1275 Jews were forbidden to charge interest on loans in England. All of these are direct results of the decrees by Innocent III in 1215, and they followed very quickly on the heels of that Council’s decisions. In other words, they decided the Jews needed to be dressed differently, and after the meeting, they had to determine what ways that would be carried out. The point was that this was a crux in the relations between the world (which was in much part a church-state answering to the Pope) and Judaism. The reason Catholicism seems so prominent in this ‘guilt’ timeline is because of that church-state status.

There were also many stories of Catholics who tried to defend the Jews, including popes and priests, and of those who risked their lives from the time of the fall of Jerusalem to the present day in some countries, to protect the lives of those that would be considered their ‘spiritual enemy’. The point of the article was how the church has wandered away from it’s Hebraic roots. There was not a plan to establish a new church, but to offer anyone who would accept Yeshua the chance to be grafted into the Hebraic lineage (Romans 11). Protestants are also in error to believe they have been made the ‘new’ Israel.

In a similar vein, the prayer used on Good Friday originated at the time of the ‘Christ-Killers” and the wording was offensive that they were unfaithful, veiled, and the fact that all the other petitions were done kneeling while this one was done standing and was not given the traditional ‘Amen’ response. Despite the explanations as to why the differences, it is hard not to see this as a discrimination of the Jews, especially considering the timeframe in which it was written and the wording that declares them as being in darkness (which was customarily a curse). Even when it was changed, the Pope admitted it was anti-Semitic language, even if the intent was not necessarily so.

And burning or banning Jewish books, INCLUDING the Torah in their own language, began all the way back in 521 AD with Justinian and continued through to the Holocaust.

I will not come back to read your responses, so you will have to come to me if you want me to see them. I hope you know me well enough to know I would not believe or print something that blames one group for the guilt of the entire world. ;)

Love ya!

Elena said...

I find it incredibly fascinating to read the blogs of Protestant Christians going back to their "Jewish" roots, yearning for tradition, scripture, and in a way liturgy! The very things Protestants eschewed when they left the Catholic church to begin with.

I am guilty of anti-semitism in the area of religious fundamentalism as well

You're also guilty of anti-Catholicism dear. Kelly has the patience of a saint to put up with you. I certainly don't.

Tracy said...

Excellent post Kelly.. Elena is right.. you do have the patience of a saint.. I just don't have the patience to deal with such anti Catholic rhetoric but I'm certainly glad you do have that patience.. someone needs to point out the truth!

Kelly said...

I'm going to post my long response on Amy's blog, but I wanted to say that I also have found the Messianic Jewish blogs very interesting.

Back in the 80's there were several groups of fundamentalists who studied themselves into either the Catholic or Orthodox church. In the end, they decided on Orthodoxy. I believe that the unconscious reason is that they just couldn't overcome their indoctrination against the Catholic Church, and deciding on Orthodoxy, without a Pope or all that Western cultural baggage, was an easier decision.

I theorize that this is a new wave of people who are so close to the Truth, but in the end, choose to find some other plausible truth so that they don't have to bite the bullet and become Catholic.

I've asked both Amy and Stephanie many questions, and they have found many of what I consider the flaws in protestant theology. Their Messianic theology has offered another answer to those questions, but one that isn't Catholic. Because clearly, the Catholic Church is wrong. If you start from there, there must be another explanation.