Eric Giunta
Stop smearing Catholics with lies about Catholic/Jewish history
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By Eric Giunta
September 25, 2019


Mosaic magazine recently published an interesting essay by Gavin D'Costa, "The New Catholic Zionism." In it, D'Costa, professor of "Catholic" theology at the University of Bristol, proposes that the Catholic Church adopt as its own official doctrine a kind of Zionism, one which "views the foundation of Israel in 1948 as part of the biblical promise of land to God's chosen people, and views the ingathering of that people as a sign of God's fidelity to His promises," and expresses cautious optimism that the Church will one day do so.

Two days ago, Kevin J. Madigan, professor of ecclesiastical history at the Harvard Divinity School, published a response, titled "Can Traditionalist Catholics Really Accept Catholic Zionism?" Madigan is, to say the least, rather skeptical.

It is not D'Costa's theological speculations – or his interpretation of present-day Catholic doctrine – that I wish to discuss here; rather, I wish to kindly take Madigan to task for his essay's repetition of a common canard against ancient, medieval, and early modern Catholicity, namely that traditional Catholic teaching, prior to the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), held "that Jews remain collectively guilty of deicide." This claim is so oft-repeated in Jewish publications and by the official spokespersons of prominent Jewish organizations it has become something of a modern-day anti-Catholic analogue to the odious blood libels of old.

To be clear, I do not dispute that charges of collective decide have been leveled against Jews several times over the course of the last two millenia, and continue to be leveled in some truly radical reactionary Catholic or quasi-Catholic circles. I also do not dispute that throughout most of the last 2,000 years Jews living in Christian polities were second-class citizens, somewhat analagous to religious-minority dhimmis in Muslim polities. This unflattering history is well-known and well-rehearsed. What is less well-spoken is that before early modernity almost no one – including Jews themselves – subscribed to any brand of religious libertarianism. (Naturally enough, idolatry and blasphemy do not enjoy "equal rights" with orthodoxy and piety in the Mosaic Law.) Had Saint Constantine the Great converted to Judaism instead of Christianity, and Judaism become the established religion of a medieval European "Jewdom," Christians and other non-Jews almost certainly would not have enjoyed "religious liberty," at least not in as we modern Westerners understand the expression.

That said, while there is no denying that Jews and Jewish communities were repeatedly subjected to all sorts of injustices by Christian communities and governments until well into modernity, and the role these injustices played in making the Holocaust possible, cannot be denied, this does not justify misrepresentations of official Catholic theology. In point of fact, Catholic theology never held that all non-Christian Jews were personally guilty of the crimes committed against Jesus by Jerusalemite Jewish officialdom, and it's rather telling that while the charge of deicide-mongering are often leveled against the Church of old, no documentation of such a thing is ever put forward, precisely because it is non-existent. . . .

Catch the rest of the story over at Eric Giunta's blog, Laboravi Sustinens!

© Eric Giunta

 

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