Why the Jews Are Not the Enemies of the Church

It is not true, in any sense, that the Jews are the enemies of the Church, and the characterization of them as enemies… (is) unjust. It is worthwhile explaining why this is so, because (it was) once widely held, and is still found in some circles.

In a recent talk in Canada, Bishop Bernard Fellay, a member of The Society of Saint Pius X (FSSPX), stirred controversy by remarking that the Second Vatican Council was looked on favorably by the Jews, Freemasons, and Modernists, who are all enemies of the Church, and that this was a reason for objecting to the council itself. One should not read too much into Bishop Fellay’s remark itself, since it was a brief aside, and since he has never in the past expressed anything more than the basic Christian claims about Jews. The remark should, nonetheless, not have been made, and should now be corrected. It is not true, in any sense, that the Jews are the enemies of the Church, and the characterization of them as enemies is thus unjust. It is worthwhile explaining why this is so, because the belief that the Jews are enemies of Catholics was once widely held, and is still found in some circles. Priests will thus find it helpful to have a fairly comprehensive account of why the belief is wrong.

To show that the Jews are not the enemies of the Church requires an examination that addresses all the principal attacks on Jews that arise in discussion of this question.

One such attack maintains that the Jews are enemies of the Church in virtue of their religious beliefs. The religious beliefs in question are those of Rabbinic Judaism, which has been the dominant form of Jewish religious belief for the past two millennia. Rabbinic Judaism developed as a result of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in A.D. 70, which removed the center of Jewish religious life. Some replacement for the Temple was required if Jewish religious existence was to continue. In the century or so after the destruction of the Temple, the study and observance of the Jewish Law was developed as this replacement.

The fundamental idea of the new structure of Jewish religion was that, in addition to the written law in the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament or the Torah: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy), Moses received an unwritten law from God on Mt. Sinai, which was passed down by word of mouth through a succession of rabbis. This unwritten law was then supposed to have been committed to writing in the Mishnah—the collection of rabbinic traditions which supplements and systematizes the commandments of the Torah—which was completed around 200 A.D. The Mishnah contains laws on agriculture, festivals, marriage, civil and criminal law, ritual laws, and purifications. It is essentially an attempt to record and perpetuate the religious and legal views held by the scribes and Pharisees prior to the destruction of the Temple, together with inevitable covert extensions of these views. The difficulties of the Mishnah led to the composition of an authoritative commentary on it, the Gemara, completed in the 5th century, which exists in both Palestinian and Babylonian versions. The Mishnah and Gemara together make up the Talmud; the Babylonian version is the one generally used.

The reason why Rabbinic Jews are not enemies of the Church can be put briefly. Such Jews do not seek to convert Christians to Judaism, or to prevent non-Jewish Christians from exercising their faith. They only refuse to become Christians themselves, which does not suffice to make them “enemies” of the Church.

This can be seen by contrasting Rabbinic Jews with Muslims. It is a tenet of Islam that Christianity has been replaced by the message of Mohammed, and that Christians should convert to Islam. It is a duty for Muslims to impose sharia law on the whole of humanity, by force if necessary. (Sharia law, according to Muslims, is a moral code and religious law.) This law systematically discriminates against Christians in a way that is designed to induce them to convert to Islam. This Muslim position does constitute Muslims as “enemies” of the Church, because it commits them to actively working for the destruction of Christianity. This purpose of destruction is what constitutes being an enemy, and it is not present among Rabbinic Jews.

Although this brief explanation suffices to prove its conclusion, it is helpful to expand on it by addressing in detail the various arguments that have been offered for the Jews being the enemies of the Church. The principal arguments are the following.

1. The Scriptures state that the Jews are enemies of the Church.

This argument was made by “Ennemond,” an informal lay spokesman for the The Society of Saint Pius X, who is active in presenting the SSPX view on various internet forums. Ennemond based his claim on St. Peter’s statements as recorded in Acts 2:22-23 and Acts 7:52-53, and on St. Paul’s statement in 1 Thess 2:14-16: “For you, brothers, have become imitators of the churches of God that are in Judea in Christ Jesus. For you suffer the same things from your compatriots as they did from the Jews, who killed both the Lord Jesus, and the prophets, and persecuted us; they do not please God, and are opposed to everyone, trying to prevent us from speaking to the Gentiles that they may be saved, thus constantly filling up the measure of their sins. But the wrath of God has finally begun to come upon them.” Ennemond argues that since this passage describes the Jews as adversaries of all men, it follows that they are adversaries of the Church.

These passages cannot, however, be understood as applying to all Jews. The statements of St. Peter condemn those Jews who were themselves personally involved and responsible for the death of Christ in bringing about his crucifixion. The term “adversary,” that is used by St. Paul, is applied to the Jews who sought to prevent the first Christians from preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles. It is this attempt to prevent the preaching of the Gospel that constitutes the Jews as “enemies” of all men in St. Paul’s eyes since they are trying to prevent the message of salvation from reaching the rest of the human race. Since Rabbinic Jews make no effort to prevent the preaching of the Gospel to Gentiles, and the founders of Rabbinic Judaism lived some time after the death of Christ, these condemnations cannot be applied to them.

2. “The denial of the divinity, and the Messianic status, of Christ is the central idea of Rabbinic Judaism. Since Rabbinic Jews work to deny the divinity of Christ, they work to destroy the Catholic Church, which manifests his divinity.”

This argument is also made by Ennemond. Its first statement is inaccurate. Denial of Christ’s divinity and messianic status was not, and could not have been, the center of Rabbinic Judaism, because the founders of Rabbinic Judaism had little contact with Christians, and knew very little about them. When the Mishnah was completed in 200 A.D., Christians were still a small, illegal community with no profile in the Roman Empire. They lived predominantly in the Greek-speaking cities of the Empire, and used Greek as their language of communication. The founders of Rabbinic Judaism wrote in Hebrew and Aramaic, generally had little or no knowledge of Greek, and took little part in the life of the Hellenistic cities where the Christians were active. They were not seriously confronted with the Christian message, and were not concerned with it. The Jewish communities that were active in opposing Christians, and that were referred to by St. Paul in the passage quoted above, had been almost totally destroyed by the Romans in their suppression of the Jewish revolts in Palestine, Alexandria, Cyprus, and Cyrene between 70 and 136 A.D. – which killed between 90 and 100% of the Jewish populations in those areas.

This is why there are very few references to Christ and Christianity in the Talmud, and those references that exist are brief and inaccurate. They are scurrilous and abusive, but they make no reference to Christ’s claims to divinity or messianic status, and it seems unlikely that the authors of the Mishnah knew about these claims. It seems certain that they would have denounced Christ’s claims if they had heard of them. There would have been no obstacles to their doing so, since the Christians were still an illegal and persecuted group, who could not have posed any sort of threat. The scurrilous remarks about Christ in the Talmud seem to have been inherited, secondhand, from the earlier group of Jews, who were Christ’s determined opponents, rather than originating in any real understanding of who Christ was, and what he did and said. In subsequent centuries, Rabbinic Judaism developed attacks on Christ and Christianity to counter the missionary efforts of Christians, but opposition to the claims of Jesus played no part in its formation. The contrast with Islam is again instructive.  The denial of Christ’s divinity is one of the central ideas of Islam. The Koran contains explicit attacks on the Trinity and the Incarnation, and on the Old and New Testaments, which establish these doctrines. No such attacks are to be found in the Talmud.  

The claim that Rabbinic Jews work to deny the doctrine of the divinity of Christ is, therefore, misleading. They deny it themselves, and seek to prevent Jews from accepting it, but they do not work to make non-Jews deny it, and do not work to prevent Gentiles from accepting it. Nor do they seek to destroy the Church in order to oppose it. The idea that they would seek to do so is a misunderstanding of the attitude of Jews to Gentiles before the time of Christ, and during the centuries in which the Talmud was produced. The Jewish belief was that, with a few praiseworthy exceptions, adherence to religious error was in the nature of Gentiles. The idea of getting Gentiles, as a whole, to reject religious error was thus considered unfeasible, and prior to the coming of Christ, was never entertained by any Jews. The Jews. who made up the first Christians, thought that with the coming of Christ, Gentiles had been given the opportunity to reject religious error and idolatry, and embrace the truth (see e.g. Gal 4:3-9). But in subsequent centuries, those Jews who did not believe in Christ, did not think that Gentiles had been given this opportunity and, hence, did not expect them to do anything except follow false religions, Christianity (in their eyes) included. The Jews, who tried to prevent the apostles from preaching to the Gentiles, were thus inconsistent with Jewish tradition, in one respect, and Rabbinic Judaism abandoned this inconsistency. It is likely that this inconsistency was the fruit of personal opposition to Christ, and on the part of the Jewish leaders and their followers, who instigated Christ’s crucifixion,.  

3. “Rabbinic Judaism is not the religion of the Jews of the Old Testament, but is, instead, a new religion that is based on hostility to Christ.”

The role of Christ in Rabbinic Judaism is addressed above. As for the claim that it is a new religion, the first point to be made is that much of the Talmud is not really religious in character at all, but is essentially a code of civil law that covers such things as inheritances, commercial transactions, and criminal law. This code is justified by the claim that it was all received by Moses from God on Mount Sinai. However, it is really a legal code devised by rabbis to provide a basis for the Jewish community after the destruction of the Jewish state. It is a good legal code by the standards of the 2nd to 5th centuries, when it was devised. For example, it differs from the Roman law, which was codified over the same period, in that it allows no role to torture in juridical processes—a form of investigation that Roman law made compulsory. As a legal code, the Talmud is largely a new development; but, it is not an intrinsically religious development. In religious matters, as noted above, the Talmud is an attempt to preserve the beliefs and practices of the scribes and Pharisees of the latter part of the Second Temple era (the era from 530 B.C. to 70 A.D., when the second Jewish Temple was in existence). It contains some inaccuracies and expansions of these beliefs and practices, but not enough to constitute Rabbinic Judaism as a new religion, or even as a substantially new form of an older religion. Catholics who accuse Rabbinic Judaism of being a new religion often also apply the Biblical condemnations of the Jews to it, as cited above. But this is inconsistent. The New Testament was written before Rabbinic Judaism existed. If Rabbinic Judaism was really a new religion, it could not be the religion of any of the Jews referred to in the New Testament, and none of these condemnations could be applied to it.

It should be mentioned that Kabbalah is popular among Rabbinic Jews, which is a form of Gnosticism, which is not compatible with monotheism. It can thus rightly be described as a new religion that differs from the belief of Jews prior to the time of Christ. It is, however, a medieval development that is not part of Rabbinic Judaism as such. 

4. “The Talmud permits Jews to behave immorally towards Gentiles.”

This claim is supported by quoting a number of Talmudic texts as, for example, a text that says that even the best of the Gentiles should be killed. These texts are, however, taken out of context, and their use reflects a misunderstanding of the way that the Talmud works.

A typical Talmudic discussion will run along the lines of: “Rabbi X ruled that the law commands so-and-so, Rabbi Y contradicted him for these reasons, and Rabbi Z argued that both Rabbi X and Rabbi Y were wrong.” The point of such discussions is to get the student to understand the reasons for a ruling by following the legal disputes that led to it. A quotation lifted out of context will not give the actual decision arrived at. In the case of the text about killing the best of the Gentiles, for example, the context is a discussion of Jewish conduct in war, with the text claiming that Gentile soldiers, fighting against Israel, should be killed, even if they happen to be personally good individuals.

The nature of Talmudic discussions means that, in practice, rabbis are not trained simply by study of the Talmud, because such study on its own is too difficult. Instead, they study the standard legal codes and commentaries on the Talmud (principally those of Maimonides, Rashi, and Joseph Karo), which give an organized presentation of the conclusions of Talmudic discussions. None of these codes and commentaries make the immoral assertions that are ascribed to the Talmud, and no Rabbinic Jew is free to disagree with their consensus.

5. “Because Rabbinic Jews deny the doctrine of the Trinity, they do not believe in the same God as the Christians.” 

The claim makes the mistake of inferring the psychological state of the believer from the logical consequence of his beliefs. It is true that since God is necessarily a trinity of persons, it necessarily follows that any being that is not a trinity of persons is not God. However, it is not true that every believer accepts all the logical consequences of his beliefs, simply because they do not always draw these logical consequences; and, indeed, are not capable of drawing all of them, since these consequences will be infinite in number. In the particular case of inferring that no being who is not a trinity of persons is the true God, it is only Christians who are capable of making this inference; the belief that God is necessarily a trinity of persons is needed to make it, and this belief can only be acquired through an act of Christian faith. Thus, from the facts that the Jews reject the doctrine of the Trinity, and that the denial of this doctrine entails that the true God does not exist, we cannot conclude that Jews do not believe in the existence of the true God.   

That is how both Scripture and Catholic tradition can attribute belief in the existence of the true God to Jews. St. Paul, in Rom 10:2, describes the Jews who do not believe in Christ as having a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. But, you cannot have any kind of zeal for God at all, if you do not believe in the true God. All the Fathers and Doctors of the Church have agreed in holding that the God that the Jews believe in, is the true God and, hence, the same God as the one in whom Christians believe. They have simply blamed them for having false beliefs about the nature of the true God. These false beliefs are indeed logically incompatible with the true Jewish beliefs about the divine nature, but that just means that Jews are not logically consistent in all their beliefs, which is a perfectly normal state to be in; almost everyone holds some logically inconsistent beliefs. It does not mean that their false beliefs about God prevent them from holding true beliefs about him.           

6. “The Talmud is an evil, anti-Christian work.”

This is not the judgement of Catholic theology or of the Magisterium of the Church. The Church had little awareness of the Talmud until the 13th century, when she intensified her efforts to convert Jews. The accusation that the Talmud was immoral and anti-Christian, through and through, originated largely with Jewish converts to Christianity of this period, such as Nicholas Donin. One may guess that these converts were influenced in these accusations by a reaction against their former religious position, and by feeling a need to prove their loyalty to Christianity. The inaccuracy of these accusations made them ineffective for missionary purposes, which, in turn, led to Catholic theologians making a thorough study of the Talmud. The most authoritative Catholic work resulting from this study was the “Pugio Fidei,” a magisterial attack on Rabbinic Judaism and Islam written by the Dominican, Raymond Martin. This attack dismissed the claim that the entire Mishnah was received by Moses on Mount Sinai as absurd, but did not reject all the contents of the Talmud. Instead, Fr. Martin accepted that some of the Talmud really did pass on an oral tradition received by Moses, and argued that this genuine tradition proved the truth of Christianity; the rest of the Talmud he dismissed as human invention.

The general principle that the Talmud is a mixture of good, bad, and indifferent elements, rather than a work that should be entirely rejected, is thus the most authoritative position among Catholic theologians, and can easily be seen to be correct by a consideration of its text. The tractate on the “Wisdom of the Fathers,” for example, which contains a number of ethical and religious teachings from rabbis who mostly lived before the time of Christ, obviously contains valuable elements. The fact that this important Talmudic text largely predates Christ, shows the falsity of the claim that the main idea of Rabbinic Judaism is the rejection of Christ’s messianic dignity. 

This principle conforms to the judgment of the Church on the Talmud. When the Talmud was burnt in Paris at the instigation of Nicholas Donin, French Jews appealed to the Pope, who judged that it could be permitted, if it was expurgated of any anti-Christian remarks. A similar judgement was made by the Council of Trent. A commission of Jews approached the Council to request that it rule that the Talmud could be printed. The Council passed their request on to the Congregation for the Index, which again ruled that it could be printed if any anti-Christian statements were removed. This evaluation of the Talmud was more positive than that given to the works of Luther, Calvin, Peter Abelard’s Introduction to Theology, and Samuel Richardson’s Pamela – all of which were banned in their entirety by the Church. 

A realistic evaluation of the Talmud by Catholics will broadly agree with that of Raymond Martin. As well as including human invention, Rabbinic Judaism preserved much of the atmosphere and beliefs of the world of religious thought in which Christ and the apostles lived. These beliefs were often accepted as divinely revealed by Christ, and the authors of the New Testament books and, hence, it is true that Rabbinic Judaism contains elements that are of divine origin. A study of Rabbinic Judaism can, thus, illuminate, although not add to, the revealed deposit of faith that originates in Christ; this has been shown in detail through scholarly studies of the New Testament. 

It should be mentioned that the Talmud is not the only component of Rabbinic Judaism. The daily prayer, and the liturgical cycle of Rabbinic Jews, are as important as the Talmud from the point of view of religious practice. The history of Rabbinic prayer and liturgy is uncertain, but many of its components predate the time of Christ, and would have been said by Christ himself. A Christian evaluation of this liturgy may, therefore, reject some elements of it, but cannot condemn it as a whole. Indeed, such a condemnation would mean condemning some parts of the traditional Catholic liturgy, which overlaps with the Rabbinic one.

It could be objected that, although the above arguments establish that the Jews are not, in theory, committed by their religious beliefs to enmity against the Church; in fact, their history as a people consistently shows such an enmity. Since Jews and Catholics do not have the same goals or interests, it is inevitable that clashes and enmities will have arisen between them during the twists and turns of history over two millennia. When these conflicts have involved Jewish attacks on Catholics, they have been cited as evidence of an intrinsic Jewish enmity towards the Church. It is not necessary to deny the existence of these attacks, or to survey the whole of this bi-millennial history, in order to show that, as a people, the Jews are not enemies of the Church. It is sufficient to consider the different contemporary Jewish groups that are significant for the Church.

1. Believing and practising Rabbinic Jews.

The great majority of believing Rabbinic Jews concentrate their efforts on creating communities that interact, as little as possible, with the secular Gentile world, in order to be protected from its corrupting influences. Their combative efforts are focused on other Jews, who hold more liberal views. They are opposed to the moral corruption of secular society, and are often willing to ally themselves with Catholics to resist this corruption. Otherwise, they are happy to be left alone by non-Jewish society.

2. Secular Jews.

Attacks on Catholics by Jews in modern times, are overwhelmingly the work of secular Jews. It is unfair to blame these attacks on the Jewishness of their perpetrators. The Enlightenment ideology that such Jews embrace was fought, tooth and nail, by Rabbinic Jews, and was developed entirely by Gentiles, mostly by ex-Catholics. Its roots lie in medieval nominalism, whose first flowering was the Protestant Reformation, and its full development was the Enlightenment of the 18th century. It is the work of the French, the English, the Scots, and the Germans. The only Jew to play a role in the Enlightenment was Moses Mendelssohn, who devoted his career to proving the existence of God, and the immortality of the soul, and who has been, consequently, entirely neglected ever since. Secular Jews displayed great zeal in the cause of unbelief precisely because they are attacking the religion of their fathers, a religion that they hate.

There is, however, a factor that produces more general Jewish support for Enlightenment movements. Prior to the French Revolution, Jews were denied the right of citizenship in most European states. The Revolution granted citizenship to Jews in France, and Napoleon extended this right through most of Europe. Jews naturally tend to look with favor on a movement that granted them legal equality with non-Jews, and with disfavour on the previous Christian regimes that denied them this equality. Jewish support for the anti-Catholic policies of the Third Republic in France, and for the secularizing work of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in the United States, was to a great extent a result of these attitudes. However, although this support was a direct attack on the Church, the broad Jewish constituency for this support was not principally motivated by animosity towards the Church as such. It was largely motivated by a desire to uphold equality for Jews before the law, which was thought to require support for the Enlightenment program. 

3. Conservative Jews.

There is an important group of Jews who do not accept all of Rabbinic teachings, but who are, nevertheless, basically in agreement with the moral and religious teachings common to Rabbinic Jews, and to Catholics. These Jews are often active in support of the moral teachings upheld by the Church, and even in the defence of the Church herself.           

4. The state of Israel.

Israel was the product of the Zionist movement, which sought to establish a Jewish national territory in the Holy Land on a non-religious basis. The realization of this Zionist goal was made possible by the fact that large numbers of Jews had to flee for their lives—first from the Nazi attempt to exterminate them, and then from attacks on them in Muslim states after the declaration of the state of Israel in 1948 (the latter persecutions, which eliminated most of the Jewish communities in the Muslim world, provided 40 percent of the population of the new state). The reason that Israel came into existence was, therefore, the need of Jews to save their lives by fleeing to their ancestral homeland. This is a legitimate reason that is supported by natural law and is, therefore, no basis for Catholics to object to the existence of the state in itself, whatever criticisms they may have of some of Israel’s actions and policies.

Characteristically, the Israelis were unable to agree on a written constitution at the foundation of the state of Israel, and still do not possess one. However, the state does not base its legitimacy on religious claims. Nothing in the legal framework that serves as the basis for the state, recognizes Rabbinic Judaism as divinely revealed. So, the Church and Israel have managed to establish a workable relationship. The state of Israel recognises the jurisdiction of Catholic ecclesiastical courts in matters of marriage and divorce, which is not the case in most countries. In the current state of affairs, the existence of the Jewish State of Israel is a good thing for the Church, and that state cannot be counted as an enemy. The interests of the Church in the Holy Land primarily consist in religious freedom, absence of discrimination against Christians residing there, and in protecting the holy places there, as well as the pilgrims who visit those places. These interests are reasonably well served by the State of Israel. Christian citizens of Israel have a higher level of economic and educational achievement than Jewish ones, and are overrepresented in the legal and medical professions in relation to their numbers. The main problem for Christians in the Holy Land is Muslim intimidation. The alternative to this Jewish state is an Islamic state, which is the objective of the enemies of Israel. Such a state would be a disaster for the Church. It would mean calamity for Christians in the Holy Land, the holy places, and Christian pilgrims; and it would enormously strengthen the Muslim enemies of the Church.

4. Jewish organizations involved in relations with the Holy See.

These organizations are a mixed bag, but include serious figures. Some of them have demanded that the Church renounce efforts to convert Jews, acknowledge that Judaism is a way of salvation, change the prayers of the traditional Latin liturgy, and reject any canonical regularization of The Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX). The pressures exerted on the last of these issues, no doubt, goes some way towards explaining Bishop Fellay’s remark about the Jews being the enemies of the Church.

It is true that the first two demands are attacks on the central doctrines of the faith. The idea that observation of the Mosaic Law can now be considered a meritorious or salvific act is rejected by St. Paul at great length in his letters to the Romans and the Galatians. These same letters, and the Gospels, also explain, at length, the fact that the Law and the Prophets all refer to Christ, and derive their value from him. There is a danger of misunderstanding the teaching that the Old Covenant has been replaced by the New Covenant. This teaching should not be read as attributing a content to the Old Covenant that is independent of the New Covenant—a content that could continue to be in effect after the Incarnation of Christ. The universal consensus of the Fathers of the Church is that the content of the Old Covenant is entirely concerned with Christ, so that a failure to follow Christ is a rejection of the Old Covenant itself. One of the principal messages of the New Testament, emphasized especially in the letter to the Hebrews, is that Christianity is Judaism—the real Judaism. There is not really a substantive Jewish religion that is distinct from Christianity; there are only a number of Jews, and the Law and the Prophets, which preach Christ, but which these Jews fail to understand correctly. If the New Testament is correct, the idea of Judaism is a fantasy.

The idea that Judaism exists as a separate religion became current among Catholics through the influence of anti-Semitic 19th century, Protestant biblical scholars, who wanted a Christianity free of Jewish influence, and invented a non-Christian religion called “Judaism,” from which they saw Christianity departing. They were able to do this because they followed Luther in thinking that salvation had nothing to do with good works. They, therefore, took “Judaism” to teach that keeping the law was necessary to be saved, and understood Christianity as abolishing any connection between works and salvation, which was supposedly a great advance. Catholics who talk about Judaism as a distinct religion simply follow this Protestant idea without analyzing its origin. It is thus absurd to claim that Jews do not need to believe in Christ. All the apostles made efforts to convert Jews to the faith and, indeed, they originally only preached to Jews. The claim that Christ is the Messiah of Israel is fundamental to the Christian faith; and the notion that Jews should not follow the Messiah is totally unacceptable for Jews themselves, not just for Catholics.

However, the Jewish organizations who insist that the Church should accept that the Mosaic law is still valid for Jews, are not representative of Jews as a whole. Most religious Jews are realistic enough to understand that the Church is not going to change her fundamental teachings, and are content with a vigorous rejection of anti-Semitic hatred and discrimination by Catholics. In defence of these Jewish organizations, it should be said that they are not necessarily well-informed about Christian thought, and that they have been assured, by some individuals with high positions in the Church, that Catholics no longer consider that they need to be saved by belief in Christ. They naturally take these assurances to correspond to what Catholic teachings now assert. When they are told that this is not, in fact, the case, they consider this to be an attempt to cheat them by going back on prior agreements. Some apologies are owed to them for having been given false assurances. The ecclesiastics who gave these assurances sought to use Catholic-Jewish relations as a pretext and disguise for advancing their own theological agenda, which was one of modernist promotion of all religions as good, and as paths to salvation. The Jews who accepted these assurances got caught up in an internal game of subversion of the Church, which was not their objective.

Accurate knowledge of the main contemporary Jewish groups thus reveals that it is wrong to describe the Jews as enemies of the Church. That does not mean that there are no Jewish enemies of the Church; to deny that this is the case would be absurd—it would mean that Trotsky or Freud, for example, were not hostile to the Catholic faith. But it does mean that it is false and unjust to describe the Jewish people, or Jewish religious believers, as enemies of the Catholic Church.

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avatar About Dr. John Lamont

Dr. John Lamont is a philosopher and theologian from Winnipeg, Manitoba, who studied with the Dominicans in Ottawa and at Oxford under Prof. Richard Swinburne. He is the author of the book, Divine Faith, and authored a number of scholarly articles, some of which can be seen at his website at http://acu-au.academia.edu/JohnLamont. He currently lives in Australia with his wife and two daughters.

Comments

  1. avatar Dan Guenzel says:

    Dr Lamont:

    I really am at a loss to try to comment on this piece. It is clear to me that many, many Catholics have completely disconnected themselves from their Church’s history, and have even lost their sense of danger. I am not going to go over the hundreds, nay thousands of instances that prove your thesis to be incorrect. It would take more space than a comment section would allow. I can only respectfully suggest that, as Catholics we have to stop looking at the past with the prejudices of today.

    With that in mind I will recommend two brilliant works that you would find not only helpful but edifying. They are William Thomas Walsh’s biography, ISABELLA OF SPAIN and Archbishop Goodier’s superb PASSION AND DEATH OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST. The latter is especially helpful as Lenten reading. Before making such unsupportable statements about the Jews not being the enemies of the Catholic Church you do really need to acquaint yourself with the last 2,000 years of Church history.

    With every good wish for Lent…
    Aged Parent

    • avatar Downey says:

      Dan Guenzel,

      You signed your name, “Aged Parent” which describes me as well. I thought I would reply to you rather than Dr. Lamont.

      When I was an undergraduate student almost fifty years ago I would have agreed with Dr. Lamont’s article. The excuse I offer now was my youth and naivete, poor Catholic catechesis as a recent convert, the “spirit” of Vatican II, historical/political indoctrination in state schools, no philosophical foundation in the perennial realist tradition, and lastly, just living in a culture where Jews exercised almost complete control over daily press, periodicals, books publishing, television and film production and thus the context of public discussion.

      Your recommended reading is a good start but I think there is deeper problem in the first principles of the understanding. Recent PEW poles found that about 95% of Jewish leaders are in favor of abortion and same-sex “marriage.” Doctrine determines morals, and the morals of the orthodox Jew are offensive to the Catholic teaching of the Church. These moral and ethical positions of Jews reflect a core rejection of natural law and there is a reason for that in their doctrine. As Dr. E. Michael Jones has explained that when the Jews rejected Jesus as the Christ, they rejected Logos and material world and its laws that were created through Him and by Him. Thus the Jew by rejecting Logos became a revolutionary in fundamental opposition to all order. The Jewish opposition to the Catholic Church is profound and exists on the most essential issue. The closer the spiritual union a Catholic has with Jesus Christ, the incarnate Logos, by the conformity of wills, that deeper he should sense the antipathy that exists between the modern Jew, whether orthodox, conservative or liberal, and the Catholic Church.

      I hope Dr. Lamont takes your advice.

      Downey

      • avatar Mac says:

        Downey,

        This quotation is taken from a series on the The Jewish Question that was published in La Civiltà Cattolica in 1890.

        “The Jewish question of our time does not differ greatly from the one which affected the Christian peoples of the Middle Ages. In a foolish way it is said to arise from hatred towards the Jewish tribe. Mosaism in itself could not become an object of hate for Christians, since, until the coming of Christ, it was the only true religion, a prefiguration of and preparation for Christianity, which, according to God’s Will, was to be its successor. But the Judaism of the centuries [after Christ] turned its back on the Mosaic law, replacing it with the Talmud, the very quintessence of that Pharisaism which in so many ways has been shattered through its rejection by Christ, the Messiah and Redeemer. And although Talmudism is an important element of the Jewish question, it cannot be said, strictly speaking, to give that question a religious character, because what the Christian nations despise in Talmudism is not so much its virtually non-existent theological element, but rather, its morals, which are at variance with the most elementary principles of natural ethics.”
        The Jewish Question; La Civiltà Cattolica, Series XIV, Vol. VII, 23 October 1890

        This affirms that the Catholic problem with Jews is Jewish morals which are “at variance with the most elementary principles of natural ethics.” What Dr. Jones said is right.that modern Judaism rejects the very first principles on which all order stands. It is impossible that there cannot be a division between Jews and Catholics unless the Catholics are Catholics in name only.

        Mac

  2. avatar Jeff Katz says:

    Thank you for your deep understanding and concern.
    Why is your article accompanied by only photos of stereotype ultra orthodox Jews? These Orthodox Jews consist of less than 10% of all Jews worldwide. Using only these photos and not those of other conservative or secular or Israeli Jews might trigger the very stereotype thoughts in your readers that you are trying to dispell.

    Shabbat Shalom
    Jeff Katz
    Israel

    • avatar John Lamont says:

      Dear Mr. Katz,

      Thank you for your response. I did not actually choose the photos for the article, but I don’t think that they are open to your objections. The stereotype that these photos might bring to mind is that of all Jews being ultra orthodox Jews; but the stereotype that I am trying to dispel is that of Jews as such being enemies of the Catholic Church. These are different stereotypes. There is nothing about being an ultra orthodox Jew as such that involves being an enemy of the Church; indeed, as I remarked, those Jews who are active enemies of the Church are none of them orthodox ones, as my examples of Freud and Trotsky illustrate.

  3. avatar paula says:

    Maybe you should read E.Michael Jones book”-The Revolutionary spirit of the Jews and its impact on the world” for a historical account of this issue. Then read scripture and see what the Lord says, “Another comes in my name and him you will accept.” How about the antichrist coming from the tribe of Dan-they are the only tribe omitted in Rev. Many saints and drs. of the Church expound in this belief that the Antichrist will be a Jew AND they will welcome him as their messiah, the bible supports this. This is not bigotry, and we continue to pray for their conversion-but too much evidence is out there and supports the fact that many are enemies of Christianity, through SPLC, banking, Hollywood, politics, education etc. I use to be as blind as you, and have known many good Jews, but truth is truth, and our most dangerous enemies are those we don’t even suspect. Some spiritual food for thought. Shalom

  4. avatar paula says:

    We should also remember that this antichrist is REALLY an athiest who will eventually rip off his mask and demand that all worship him as G-d, and at that time he will persecute all-including Jews, and THOSE Jews who will see him for what he is, will fight to destroy him, and so All of Israel will be saved. Jehova Shalom.

  5. avatar Larry says:

    While this object of discussion may be argued more than one way, it does not seem reasonable to dismiss history in this way.. What different Popes have said about Jews cannot be gainsaid or laid at the feet of a golden rhetorical antisemitic calf not can this series in La Civilta Cattolica be simply dismissed as antisemitism or Jew hatred or any such thing of that sort.

    http://www.biblebelievers.org.au/jq1.htm

  6. avatar Tim says:

    Enemy of te Church, the sect lead “Bishop” Bernard Fellay, a member of The Society of Saint Pius X (FSSPX).

  7. avatar Michael says:

    I’d simply remind Dr. Lamont of the words of the Gospel according to St. Matthew, chapter 12, v. 30 ff.

  8. avatar Franciscan says:

    In that sense, Tony, everyone who isn’t a faithful, practicing Catholic is “an enemy of the Catholic Church”. I think the point made well in the article is that as far those who are not Catholic go, Jews (especially religious ones) are far from those we should be most concerned about.

  9. avatar Franciscan says:

    Also, Tony – it all depends upon where one is coming from. If a person is a complete pagan, does he move closer to God and the Truth by becoming a practicing, Orthodox Jew. Obviously, yes. And if such a person is eventually saved by the grace of Christ, whether explicitly/visibly inside the Church or not, then could one not say that Judaism played a role in leading a person toward salvation? Certainly.

    No one is saved without the grace of Christ. But Christ is not bureaucratic as to not make use of the truth found in other religions – Judaism included, a religion that has far more truth than other religions such as Buddhism, Wicca or even Islam.

    • avatar Franciscan says:

      By the way – I absolutely hold to EENS (No Salvation Outside the Church). *Everyone* needs Christ and His Church. None are excluded from the call. None are excluded from evangelization.

      But sadly, “evangelization” for some hard-heads is roughly beating people over the head and anything short of that is tantamount to indifferentism!

  10. avatar Manfred says:

    Dr. Lamont: Is it the Will of God that Jesus of Nazareth, the Meschiach, the Messiah, completed the purpose of the Jewish religion and in fact it no longer exists? The Truth is that God is a Trinity, not Yahweh. “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Rabbinic Judaism is a religion(?) of opinions.

  11. I am astounded and troubled by the negative comments in so many responses to this article.

    The God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament are one and the same true God. Because our mother Mary knows God better than we on earth do, does that mean we have a different God than she? The Catechism, using the words of St. Justin, teaches “We do not think that our God is different from yours. He is the same who brought your fathers out of Egypt…”

    Catechism 2085 The one and true God first reveals his glory to Israel. … :
    There will never be another God, Trypho, and there has been no other since the world began . . . than he who made and ordered the universe. We do not think that our God is different from yours. He is the same who brought your fathers out of Egypt “by his powerful hand and his outstretched arm.” We do not place our hope in some other god, for there is none, but in the same God as you do: the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

    Also from the Catechism:

    The Church and non-Christians
    Catechism 839 “Those who have not yet received the Gospel are related to the People of God in various ways.”

    The relationship of the Church with the Jewish People. When she delves into her own mystery, the Church, the People of God in the New Covenant, discovers her link with the Jewish People, “the first to hear the Word of God.” The Jewish faith, unlike other non-Christian religions, is already a response to God’s revelation in the Old Covenant. To the Jews “belong the sonship, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ”, “for the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.”

    Catechism 840 And when one considers the future, God’s People of the Old Covenant and the new People of God tend towards similar goals: expectation of the coming (or the return) of the Messiah. But one awaits the return of the Messiah who died and rose from the dead and is recognized as Lord and Son of God; the other awaits the coming of a Messiah, whose features remain hidden till the end of time; and the latter waiting is accompanied by the drama of not knowing or of misunderstanding Christ Jesus.

  12. avatar paula says:

    Dear Franciscan, it is unfair to characterize Mr. Jones book that way. You can read objective reviews on Amazon, and having this book I can say that this was well researched and not at all a bigoted diatribe, but an honest and balanced historical account, one that will cause the scales to fall from many a Christians eyes. The book is prophetic in that it aims not to arm us with hate, but with truth and clarity. Only fear and denial can serve to make us a prey to those who would wish to marginalize or eliminate Christs Kingdom, be it a Jew or a Hindi or an athiest or a bad Christian. How can we hope to evangalize anyone in this pagan world if we refuse to acknowledge that there is an enemy (satan) who can and does direct human actions against Gods Holy Church?

  13. avatar paula says:

    P.S. How happy am I that those Apostles didn’t shy away from offending our “Elder Brothers in the Faith.” What did they do-they preached and were not cowed into a passivity, that masquerades as “Ecumanism.” Maybe its time to re-read Fr. John Harding’s “Our Times:The Age of Matyrs (therealpresence.org/archives).

  14. avatar paula says:

    Sorry, thats Martyrs.

  15. avatar Jack Gordon says:

    A truly well written article, one many Catholics, especially Catholics who are on the Right politically, could profit from. One thing, though: Fellay and others in the SSPX, a reflexively anti-Semitic outfit since its inception, are schismatics. What they say only coincidentally reflects true Catholic thought in some matters. We should stop treating them as if they enjoyed some special insight into reality, or had some corner on Catholic truth. They are disobedient, no less so than 16th century Protestants, and they need to repent the scandal they are causing.

  16. avatar Elias Crim says:

    It was Jewish thinkers like Abraham Joshua Heschel who laid the groundwork for my eventual conversion to the Church. Thus it is frankly stunning to me that such an article as this one apparently requires publishing. That this is the case almost makes me ashamed to be a Catholic. The mix of ignorance and hatred this article addresses constitutes a fine example of moral regress in our own times.

  17. avatar Minnesota Mary says:

    Dr. Lamont never touched on Christ’s own words regarding His enemies in chapter 8 of the book of John starting with His dust-up with those Jews who were clearly His enemies. Christ even calls them children of the Devil. The Devil is clearly the enemy of Christ and HIs Church. Just as these enemies of Christ were the descendants of those who killed the prophets, so too, their descendants exist today working against Christ and His Church.

    There were Jews who followed Christ, like the Apostles, and there were Jews who were indifferent to Him. And there were Jews who hated Christ and wanted to see him killed and who agitated against the early Christian Church. We have all three groups with us today. It is naive to think that there are no enemies of the Church amongst Jews today. There are also enemies against the Church among Gentiles as well.

  18. avatar E. Michael Jones says:

    We are dealing with the old nominalist shell game here. Universal statements apply to Jews only when they are positive. So, Lamont can make generalizations like “Jews are not the enemy of the Catholic Church” because that’s positive. But when St. Paul says “Jews are the enemies of the entire human race,” that is not a valid statement because it is negative. Whenever the Lamonts of this world are confronted with negative comment about the Jews, they say there is no such thing as the Jews. There are secular Jews, rabbinic Jews, etc. No universal statements apply. Because no universal statements apply, they can they go on to say “Jews are not the enemy of the Catholic Church,” which is is universal statement which contradicts their previous assertion.

    Discourse becomes interesting when there is no common acceptance of whether a particular attribute is good or bad. So Joe Biden can say, “Jews are behind gay marriage,” and this universal applies because he thinks gay marriage is good. If I make the same statement, the universal does not apply because I think gay marriage is bad. Because of that I can be called an anti-Semite for making exactly the same statement that Joe Biden made. The same is true of me and Professor Abrams, who said Jews were behind pornography.

    • avatar John Lamont says:

      Dear Mr. Jones,

      I am offended at your ascription of nominalism to myself. For your information, I am a moderate realist.

      Sincerely yours,

      John Lamont

      • avatar Hugh Beaumont says:

        I don’t think Mr. Jones called you a nominalist. He said you employ a nominalist shell game, i.e., you’ll affirm or deny the use of universals (generalizations) depending upon your opinion of the universal. So, if one were to say “Jews are cheap”, you’d say that one could not say that about a whole group of people, But if someone were to say “Jews are smart and very successful”, you’d be the first to agree. In other words, your method of argument is based on inconsistent first principles.

    • avatar Roddy says:

      That’s pretty much ‘Game, Set, Match” in favor of Dr. Jones. Unbelievable the way people soil themselves to make certain tribes happy.

  19. avatar John Lamont says:

    I should give the source from which I took Ennemond’s theses; it is here – http://www.fecit-forum.org/forum.php?id=24330.

    I should also remark that I chose to criticise his remarks precisely because he is a serious figure, and because his claims are ones that have been widely accepted by Catholics in the past. That is what makes them worth addressing in detail. There is no point in wasting the reader’s time by a discussion of the view of Bishop Williamson on the holocaust, or of E. Michael Jones with his lists of Jews involved in pornography (how exactly did he compile these lists, one wonders?) The fact that Ennemond is the only opponent personally identified by the article should thus not be taken as a sign that his views are especially worthy of condemnation. I will note as well that the two arguments of his that I criticise are the only arguments among those that I discuss that have any intellectual substance. The other four arguments are simply based on errors of logic and/or fact, and need addressing only because of the currency that they possessed among Catholics in the past – a currency indicated by the 19th-century articles in the Civilta Cattolica helpfully linked to by a commentator above.

    • avatar Yobtides says:

      “There is no point in wasting the reader’s time by a discussion of the view of Bishop Williamson on the holocaust, or of E. Michael Jones with his lists of Jews involved in pornography (how exactly did he compile these lists, one wonders?)”

      Why is there no point in commenting on this?

  20. avatar Carl Gethmann says:

    Having read Dr. Lamont’s article in its entirety several times, it strikes me that he has carefully chosen the grounds for his argument by concentrating almost solely on the religious beliefs of the various Jewish sects and how they came about. It carefully avoids covering in any meaningful way the actions of organized groups of Jews who throughout history have financed the enemies of the Church and have overtly attacked the Church. It seems to me that he is committing the same mistake as the Protestants; to wit, religious belief supported by scripture is the only valid premise; ‘works’ good or bad have no relevance. This is opposed to the Catholic position that faith and good works are needed for salvation. In my opinion, Dr. Lamont misconstrues the position of Dr. Jones, Civita Catholica, SSPX, and others who posit that it is the works of ‘The Jews’ (St. John’;s sense of the term) that make them enemies of the Church – Dr. Jones has most recently documented these works in exhaustive detail. It is the contention of Dr. Jones and others in the past, to which I agree, that these bad works are the result of their rejection of Christ as the Messiah. I also agree with the first commentator on Dr. Lamont’s article: ” I am not going to go over the hundreds, nay thousands of instances that prove your thesis to be incorrect. It would take more space than a comment section would allow. I can only respectfully suggest that, as Catholics we have to stop looking at the past with the prejudices of today.”

  21. avatar Jamal Khader says:

    I am a Palestinian Christian, and I am astonished with the ignorance of facts on the ground. to say : “In the current state of affairs, the existence of the Jewish State of Israel is a good thing for the Church”. Which Church? I am a priest at the Catholic Church here, and I know that the current state of affairs, that is the worse that can happen to me as Christian Catholic here! and “The main problem for Christians in the Holy Land is Muslim intimidation. The alternative to this Jewish state is an Islamic state, which is the objective of the enemies of Israel”. what an oversimplification of the situation! I live under Israeli occupation, and I want independence for me as a Palestinian, and I want to live freely with my brothers and sisters the Muslim Palestinians! you do not speak in my name !

  22. It was Jewish thinkers like Abraham Joshua Heschel who laid the groundwork for my eventual conversion to the Church.

    Are his writings available outside Hebrew language?

  23. avatar Hans-Georg Lundahl says:

Trackbacks

  1. [...] The Catholic Herald Synod Gamesmanship: Raising Expectations to Create Pressure – Mirus Why the Jews are Not the Enemies of the Church – Dr. John Lamont Conscience & the Right to Refuse Service – Trent Horn, Catholic [...]

  2. [...] Dr. John Lamont, has just had published in the Homiletic and Pastoral Review an article on “Why the Jews are not the enemies of the Church.” As he obviously concludes, “Accurate knowledge of the main contemporary Jewish groups [...]

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