Anti-semitism in the Roman Catholic Church
1st to 20th Century CE
During the 1st and 2nd century CE:
Circa 30 CE, the primitive Christian movement was
one of about two dozen different Jewish religious/political movements, along
with the Sadducees, Pharisees, Essenes, Zealots, followers of John the
Baptist, etc. The immediate followers of Jeshua of Nazareth (Jesus Christ)
looked upon themselves as a reform movement within
Judaism. Confrontation between the early Christians and various Jewish
groups are recorded in the Christian Scriptures (aka New Testament). There
are references to instances of persecution of Jewish Christians and Pauline
Christians by Jewish groups. The Gospels, particularly the Gospel of John,
contains many passages in which the authors condemn "the Jews" as
sons of Satan and accuse them of murdering Jesus.
Justin Martyr (circa 100 to 165 CE) and Irenaeus of Lyon (circa 130 to
200 CE) developed the concept of "supercessionism." This is
sometimes called the "theology of displacement" or
"replacement theology." They taught that
the Jews were partly responsible for Jesus' execution. Through this act, and
by rejecting Jesus' teachings, the Jews were seen as losing their favored
position as God's chosen people. Christianity replaced Judaism in God's eyes
as the chosen people. The Christian Church became regarded as the 'true'
or 'spiritual' Israel.4 Later, Milito of
Sardis (circa 160) "through his misreading of the gospels still more
bluntly than Justin held the Jews responsible for the death of Jesus..."
|Two Church teachings became the foundation stones for
centuries of oppression of Jews by the Church:|
||Supercessionism: (a.k.a. Replacement Theology): The
belief that God had rejected the Jews,
unilaterally cancelled his covenants with them, and now favored
Christians as the new chosen people.
||Translated responsibility: Holding all Jews, from the first
century onwards, responsible for Jesus' execution circa 30
CE. This includes Jews who lived throughout the Roman Empire in
the first century CE who never heard of Jesus, and Jews who were born
as much as 19 centuries after
During the 4th century CE:
From 315 CE, (when the Roman Empire extended freedom
of religion to Christians) to 395 (when Christianity had become the state
religion) Christians were able to initiate programs of discrimination and
oppression against Jews. Some early examples were:
||306 CE: The church Synod of
Elvira banned marriages, sexual intercourse and community contacts
between Christians and Jews.
||315: Constantine's Edict of Milan terminated
many Jewish rights.
||325: The Council of Nicea decided to
separate the celebration of Easter from the Jewish Passover. They stated:
"let us have nothing in common with this odious people..."
||337: The marriage of a Jewish man to a Christian
woman ecame punishable by death.
||339: Conversion to Judaism became a criminal offense.
||367 - 376: St. Hilary of Poitiers referred to Jews as
a perverse people who God has cursed forever. St. Ephroem referred to
synagogues as brothels.
||379-395: Emperor Theodosius the Great permitted the destruction
of synagogues if it served a religious purpose.
||380: The Bishop of Milan initiated the destruction of
a synagogue, which he referred to as "an act pleasing to God."
During the Middle Ages and Renaissance:
During this period, there were dozens of other instances of persecution of Jews by
the church, including exiling Jews from cities, dioceses and entire
countries; destruction of synagogues; denial of the right to own land or to
hold office; and their reduction to serfdom and slavery. Perhaps the worst
instances during these centuries were genocides during the Crusades.
Hundreds of thousands of Jews were murdered in cold blood by Christian
armies on their way to and from Palestine.
Some of the other acts of oppression included:
1205: Pope Innocent III wrote to the archbishops of Sens
and Paris that "the Jews, by their own guilt, are consigned to
perpetual servitude because they crucified the Lord...As slaves rejected
by God, in whose death they wickedly conspire, they shall by the effect of
this very action, recognize themselves as the slaves of those whom
Christ's death set free..." i.e. they would be slaves of Christians.
||1227: The Synod of Narbonne required
Jews to wear an oval badge -- reminiscent of the Star of David that
the Nazis required Jews to wear.
||1478: The Spanish Inquisition was organized by the
Church in order to detect insincere conversions of Jews to Christianity.
||1516: Venice forced Jews to live only in one parish,
called the "Ghetto Novo."
||1555: A Roman Catholic Papal bull, "Cum nimis absurdum,"
required Jews in Vatican controlled lands to wear badges, and be confined
to ghettos. Over 3,000 people were crammed into about 8 acres of land. The
public health problems were horrendous.
||1648-9: Massacres of Jews occurred in Nemirov, Polonnoye,
Tulchin, Volhynia, Bar, Lvov, and other cities in Ukraine. About
100,000 Jews were murdered and 300 communities destroyed.
During these centuries, there were a few attempts by various popes to reduce
the impact of the church's policies against the Jews. They were largely ignored.
None had any lasting impact.
During 19th and first half of the 20th century CE:
In earlier centuries, persecution by church and state was directed at
followers of Judaism. The Church believed that some Jews must be allowed to
live, because the biblical book of Revelation indicated that they had a role
to play in the "end times." However, since the
Church at the time believed that all Jews were responsible for Jesus' death
-- past, present and future -- then it was acceptable to make Jews' lives
quite miserable. Jews could escape oppression by giving up their religion,
converting to Christianity, and being baptized.
Subsequent attacks against Jews were mostly racially motivated, and
perpetrated by Christian, governmental and secular groups and individuals.
The Jewish people were viewed as a separate race more than as followers of
a different religion.
||1806: A French Jesuit Priest, Abbe Barruel, had
written a treatise blaming the Masonic Order for the French
Revolution. He later issued a letter alleging that Jews, not the Masons
were the guilty party. Beliefs in an international Jewish conspiracy to
control the world came from this source; they continue today.
||1846 - 1878: Pope Pius IX restored all of the previous
restrictions against the Jews within the Vatican state. All Jews under
Papal control were confined to Rome's ghetto - the last one in Europe
until the Nazis recreated ghettos in the 1930s. Pius IX was beatified
in the year 2000 -- the last step before sainthood.
||1881: The assassination of Alexander II of Russia
was incorrectly blamed on Jews. About 200 individual pogroms against the
Jews followed. ("Pogrom" is a Russian word meaning "devastation"
||1894: French Captain Alfred Dreyfus was framed by
antisemitic officers, found guilty and was given a life sentence. The
church, government and army united to suppress the truth. Ten years
later, he was declared totally innocent. The Dreyfus Affair became
world-wide news for years.
||1903+: Anti-Jewish pogroms continued in Russia,
causing hundreds of thousands of deaths during the first two decades of
the 20th century.
||1905: The Russian secret police wrote a piece of
fiction, the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion." A Russian
Orthodox priest, Sergius Nilus, published them publicly in 1905. It was
promoted as the record of "secret rabbinical conferences whose aim
was to subjugate and exterminate the Christians." The forgeries are
still being circulated. They appear from time to time in Muslim media.
Wal-Mart stocked them in their online bookstore until 2004-SEP.
||1930s: Some American clergy used their their radio programs
to attack Jews. Father Charles E Coughlin was one of the best known. "In
the 1930's, radio audiences heard him rail against the threat of Jews to
America's economy and defend Hitler's treatment of Jews as justified in
the fight against communism." 3
||1933: Hitler becomes the chancellor of Germany.
||1936: The Nazi government passed the anti-Jewish Nuremberg
Laws, which paralleled earlier Church laws against Jews.
||1936: Cardinal Hloud of Poland urged Catholics to
boycott Jewish businesses.
||1938: Hitler brought back various century-old
church regulations, ordering all Jews to wear a yellow Star of David as
||1940: The Nazis confined Jews to inner-city ghettos, another
technique of the church.
||1941 to 1945: The Nazi Holocaust resulted in the execution of over 6 million Jews, a similar number of non-Jews
-- such as Soviet
prisoners of war, Polish intellectuals -- about a half million Roma (Gypsies). Also killed were a
few thousand Jehovah's Witnesses and
an unknown number of homosexuals. Of these victims, only the Jews and Roma were marked for total
The Roman Catholic Church
reversed its theology later in the 20th century and
is now a strong supporter of religious tolerance towards Jews.
"Saving our souls," The Southern Shofar, Birmingham, AL, at:
Gérard Vallée, "The shaping of Christianity," Paulist Press, (1999), Page 37.
Read reviews or order this book
safely from the Amazon.com online bookstore
J. Hill & R. Cheadle, "The Bible tells me So," Doubleday, New York NY (1996), Pages 20 to 24.
Read reviews or order this book
"History of the Holocaust," Holocaust Memorial Center, at:
Copyright © 2001 to 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2001-JUL-25
Latest update: 2008-FEB-06
Author: B.A. Robinson