By Fr. Thomas Corbishley, S.J.
IN the light of an article -Iwhich appeared in last Sunday's Observer, it is timely to re-examine the attitude of Catholics towards the Jewish people as a whole.
It seems unlikely that Catholics as a body are markedly more prone to antiSemitism than any other Gentile group.
What we may have to confess is that, to some extent, a latent anti-Semitism may well be made explicit by what may be called the conventional interpretation of one or two Scripture texts. to say nothing of memories of now abandoned liturgical phraseology.
The historical origins of what we call anti-Semitism are not altogether clear. but it seems probable that they pre-date the Christian era.
There is sufficient evidence to suggest that. in the pagan Roman Empire, the Jews were treated with contempt and hostility, whilst the phenomenon of the " pogrom " was certainly not unknown in the Levant before Christianity had • become established there.
What is unfortunately true is that Christians, instead of remembering that. in the words of Pius XI, " spiritually we are all
Semites," exacerbated the situation.
This was. no doubt, partly due to the early persecution of Christian by Jew, with the cornmon human reaction on the part of Christians, when they came into power. Accusation and counter-accusation built up a regrettable spirit of mutual hatred, and the Christians, on their side, sought to justify an unjustifiable attitude by appealing to Scripture.
" His blood be upon us and upon our children." they quoted.
to suggest that the whole Jewish nation, having called down upon themselves this terrible curse, were naturally doomed to suffer till the end of the world.
But, apart altogether from the fact that Our Lord Himself prayed for forgiveness for his executioneers — Romans, primarily, though with Jewish connivance — it is unhistorical to argue that the Mob who howled for Our Lord's crucifixion necessarily represented the Jewish nation.
Why should they be taken as more representative than the
group of women who wept for Him, than the Galilcans who remained faithful, than the thousands who, within weeks of the Crucifixion, joined the Church.
More and more, scholars are coming to recognise the strong Jewish element in early Christian teaching and practice, It is high time we recognise our debt to Judaism, fully and frankly, and abandoned for ever any lingering traces of resentment or selfishness,
Against the text quoted above from St. Matthew, we should set St. Peter's words. spoken on the first Pentecost : " This promise is for you and for your children and for all those, however far away. whom the Lord our God calls to himself."
And again, echoing Our Lord's prayer for pardon, he says : " I know that you. like your rulers, acted in ignorance."
If we claim to have the spirit and the truth of Christ, if we desire to maintain our loyalty to the teaching of the Apostles. we must lead the way in a movement for complete fellowship with the Jews, to whom we owe so much.
Anti-Semitism is not merely a betrayal of our origins; it is a denial of Christ Our Lord and His Blessed Mother. who were. and are, in every sense of the word, the purest of Jews,