Goldblog says that Benedict XVI's eviceration of the toxic myth that the Jewish people were somehow collectively responsible for the death of Jesus is news. The scope and strength of the condemnation may be stronger than in the past (Jim Martin says it is), and if it serves as a reminder of the pathology in the era of Galliano, Qaradawi and Gibson, so much the better. But, as Jim notes, the Second Vatican Council made this clear long, long ago in Nostra Aetate, a document whose anniversary was recently commemmorated by the US Congress. The Council has more authority than the Pope - something non-Catholics also sometimes forgivably fail to understand. But this leaked quote from Benedict is admirably clear:
Now we must ask: who exactly were Jesus’ accusers? Who insisted that he be condemned to death? According to John it was simply “the Jews.” But John’s use of this expression does not in any way indicate as the modern reader might suppose the people of Israel in general, even less is it “racist” in character. After all, John himself was ethnically a Jew, as were Jesus and all his followers. The entire early Christian community was made up of Jews. In John’s Gospel this word has a precise and clearly defined meaning: he is referring to the Temple aristocracy.
And just to make sure people get it: the Romans executed Jesus of Nazareth. That does not mean we should regard all modern Italians as somehow suspect, for Pete's sake. But anti-Semitism is not a rational impulse. And I regard it as shameful that it took decades after the Holocaust for the Church to take this important stand, especially since anti-Semitism was all but created by Christianity. Money quote from Nostra Aetate:
True, the Jewish authorities and those who followed their lead pressed for the death of Christ; still, what happened in His passion cannot be charged against all the Jews, without distinction, then alive, nor against the Jews of today. Although the Church is the new people of God, the Jews should not be presented as rejected or accursed by God, as if this followed from the Holy Scriptures. All should see to it, then, that in catechetical work or in the preaching of the word of God they do not teach anything that does not conform to the truth of the Gospel and the spirit of Christ.
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.
Besides, as the Church has always held and holds now, Christ underwent His passion and death freely, because of the sins of men and out of infinite love, in order that all may reach salvation. It is, therefore, the burden of the Church's preaching to proclaim the cross of Christ as the sign of God's all-embracing love and as the fountain from which every grace flows.
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