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Nothing but grace

 Wake up! For you God was made man! “Arise, you who sleep, and rise from the dead, and Christ shall enlighten you” (Eph 5:14). For you, I say, God was made man. You would have been dead for eternity if he had not been born in time. You would never have been freed from sinful flesh if he had not taken on the likeness of sinful flesh (see Rm 8:3). Endless misery [miseria] would have possessed you if this mercy [misericordia] had not been accomplished. You would not have come back to life if he had not taken on your death. You would have faded away if he had not healed you. You would have perished if he had not come. ....
What greater grace of God could shine upon us than this: that, having an only Son, God should make Him a son of man and that in turn He should make a son of man a son of God. Look for some merit; look for a reason; look for the justice: and see whether you find anything but grace. (St. Augustine, Sermon 185, 1 and 3; PL 38, 998, 999)

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Paul IV, Carafa, one of the very worst popes and one of the most influential, edicted in 1555 that since the Jews were punished by God with eternal slavery he would follow the noble example of the Venitians and ensure they were safely locked up in ghettos. The DistinctiveSign was one of the most sinister aspects of the persecution of Jews, since it exposed them to danger, and it was one of the aspects carefully imitated by Mr Hitler. Hans Kung has written abundantly and indignantly on this, bless his heart.

If there is any truth in Arendt's notorious claims about the Jews going meekly to their slaughter, shepherded by their community leaders (topic of a recent tendentious movie), then it was perhaps the centuries of discipline imposed on the Jews in the ghettos that facilitated this. Standing in the Ur-Ghetto in Venice one feels the terror of history: the deep dark gullies in which Jews lived, herded up together in cramped space and locked up at night , speak of segregration, discrimination, refusal to recognize the full humanity of Jews -- all of which brewed up something still more monstrously evil.

It is no defense of ghettoes to point out that a ghetto is not an extermination-camp, and I do not think that the one should be elided into the other.

 I thought  it was a very nice Christmas message that started this thread. 

Beginning of Cum nimis absurdum: (Good fodder for triumphal Catholics.)

Laws and ordinances to be followed by Jews living in the Holy See [decreed by the] Bishop [of Rome, the Pope] Paul, servant of the servants of God, for future recollection.

Since it is completely senseless and inappropriate to be in a situation where Christian piety allows the Jews (whose guilt—all of their own doing—has condemned them to eternal slavery) access to our society and even to live among us; indeed, they are without gratitude to Christians, as, instead of thanks for gracious treatment, they return invective, and among themselves, instead of the slavery, which they deserve, they manage to claim superiority: we, who recently learned that these very Jews have insolently invaded Rome from a number of the Papal States, territories and domains, to the extent that not only have they mingled with Christians (even when close to their churches) and wearing no identifying garments, but to dwell in homes, indeed, even in the more noble [dwellings] of the states, territories and domains in which they lingered, conducting business from their houses and in the streets and dealing in real estate; they even have nurses and housemaids and other Christians as hired servants. And they would dare to perpetrate a wide variety of other dishonorable things, contemptuous of the [very] name Christian. Considering that the Church of Rome tolerates these very Jews (evidence of the true Christian faith) and to this end [we declare]: that they, won over by the piety and kindness of the See, should at long last recognize their erroneous ways, and should lose no time in seeing the true light of the catholic faith, and thus to agree that while they persist in their errors, realizing that they are slaves because of their deeds, whereas Christians have been freed through our Lord God Jesus Christ, and that it is unwarranted for it to appear that the sons of free women serve the sons of maids

I don't think it can be seriously maintained any longer that the ghetto system, whether in Venice of Rome, Warsaw or Cracow, was one of the historical roots of Auschwitz. It is not a matter of identify or eliding but of tracing historical causalities. The modern tragedy that has scarred the conscience of humankind began back then. 

Correction: was NOT one of the historical roots

I don't think it can be seriously maintained any longer...

On the contrary, I can seriously maintain it. 

Fr. O'Leary:  Your latest claim is: "I don't think it can be seriously maintained any longer that the ghetto system, whether in Venice of Rome, Warsaw or Cracow, was [not] one of the historical roots of Auschwitz."

Your earlier claim, to which I objected, was: "Auschwitz was brewed up in the ghettos of the Papal States."

These are not the same claim.

Abe and Bill:  Does "Cum nimis absurdum" propose building and operating gas chambers?  If so, you haven't sent us the quote.

To repeat: A ghetto is not an extermination camp, and to suggest that they are equivalent is to demean the horror of the extermination camps and to excuse oneself from the labor of trying to understand what happened that the Nazis went from one to the other. 

To be aware of the difference between a ghetto and an extermination camp, read Milosz' great poem Campo dei Fiori about th burning of the Warsaw ghetto.  There's plenty of guilt to go around.

The Warsaw Ghetto: Campo dei Fiori by Czeslaw Milosz

 

And the hatred fomented/legislated for centuries was not satiated by the shoah, as we see today in Belgium, Hungary, etc. and on Catholic blogs.

 

Deacon Sciolino's book, published yesterday on the Feast of the Holy Innocents, is dedicated to the 1.5 million children murdered in the Holocaust.

The Holocaust, the Church, and the Law of Unintended Consequences : How Christian Anti-Judaism Spawned Nazi Anti-Semitism

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00AYA4Y8U/ref=rdr_kindle_ext_tmb

(The picture on the cover is chilling.)

 

From the Anthony J. Sciolino page:

Anthony J. Sciolino is a retired Monroe County (New York) Family Court judge, a former member of the Rochester City Council, a graduate of Columbia College and Cornell Law School. He is also an ordained Roman Catholic permanent deacon, with a master's degree in theology from St. Bernard's School of Theology and Ministry.

Judge and his wife Gloria live in the Rochester New York suburb of Pittsford, where in addition to serving in jail ministry, he continues to work as an instructor in an interfaith adult study program entitled, "The Two Thousand Year Road to the Holocaust: An Interfaith Project of the Greater Rochester Community." They are the parents of an adult daughter, Kate.

His book has been awarded a 2013 Independent Publisher Book Award - A Silver Medal in World History.

(A year ago yesterday.)

I suggest that Pius IV and the millions of Catholics who swallowed his Kook-Aid was obviously one of the causal factors leading to Auschwitz (and I do not consider Mark Proska's denial of this to be the fruit of serious reflection). Fr Komonchak agrees, but quarrels with the expression "brewed up". I hope we are not into Duck Dynasty land here, with claims that just as blacks were happy in slavery playing their banjos so Jews enjoyed the ghetto servitude under the Church's benign protection.

OK, Fr Komonchak, instead of "brewed up" let's say "spawned" or "fueled".

"Rage will kindle at the poet's word" (Milosz), but the rage was felt by many decent people over the centuries, and the church turned a deaf ear to them. 

Although the Venetian treatment of Jews can be described as a persecution, they fled to Venice from worse place, such as the Papal States. I admire Paolo Sarpi (the "great unmasked of the Trentine council", Milton) for the efficacity and attention with which he ensured that university degreees could be secured by Jews without having to beg papal recognition and that Jewish children forcibly baptized would not be taken away from their parents (a loathsome practice personally enacted by Pius IX who used to hide his little Jewish adoptee under his papal cloak). The Venetians pretended they could find no evidence that such children had been baptized. They were also very clever at being unable to find evidence of heresy, and when it happened that a heretic was condemned, the Doge would somehow forget to sign the required document. Resistance to all that was wrong with the Church of the Inquisition and its antisemitism was unfortunately a rarity in the Catholic world.

Since this is the thread about Christmas, let me insert a tradition I only just learned about: when coming back from midnight Mass on Christmas night my grandfather, like the other farmers in his area, would go to the stable and gave the cattle an extra feeding, in the middle of the night, as a Christmas present. Even the cattle celebrated Christmas!

 

Some moderator should edit or delete Abe's comment Dec 29 8:51pm. It is not ok.

Abe --

Did you lose close family in the Holocaust?

 Let what you say be simply 'Yes' or 'No'; anything more than this comes from evil.

Fr. O’Leary—

While it would have been fair of you to challenge me to make my case, imputing the weakest possible interpretation to an opposing view betrays a lack of confidence in one’s own view.   I have denied nothing; I have disagreed with you.   I believe you make the same mistake in advancing the idea that the ghetto is responsible for the Holocaust.  I can concede that, since the Fall, every bad thing man does has unimaginably bad consequences as it ripples through the fabric of the human condition.   (How’s that for serious reflection?)   So, in some cosmological sense, the Bull Abe cited plays a role, especially since it related to the Jews.    But you seem so intent on blaming the “institutional” Church wherever possible, your comments lose their punch.   I would suggest taking closer aim before you fire—scatter shot is not convincing, and aids the Evil One as it diverts our attention away from where and how he does his best work.

 Claire, once again, is correct.    The editors of Commonweal have been put to the test.

 Let what you say be simply 'Yes' or 'No'; anything more than this comes from evil.

Fr. O’Leary—

While it would have been fair of you to challenge me to make my case, imputing the weakest possible interpretation to an opposing view betrays a lack of confidence in one’s own view.   I have denied nothing; I have disagreed with you.   I believe you make the same mistake in advancing the idea that the ghetto is responsible for the Holocaust.  I can concede that, since the Fall, every bad thing man does has unimaginably bad consequences as it ripples through the fabric of the human condition.   (How’s that for serious reflection?)   So, in some cosmological sense, the Bull Abe cited plays a role, especially since it related to the Jews.    But you seem so intent on blaming the “institutional” Church wherever possible, your comments lose their punch.   I would suggest taking closer aim before you fire—scatter shot is not convincing, and aids the Evil One as it diverts our attention away from where and how he does his best work.

 Claire, once again, is correct.    The editors of Commonweal have been put to the test.

Sorry, got one of those "you are inhuman" messages and my comment was double posted (not that it's not worth reading twice).

Why am I reminded of the IRA's mantra, "of course we regard every death as a tragedy, and no doubt in our armed struggle mistakes were made"...? The Bull is only the tip of an iceberg, and it made that iceberg bigger and more enduring. Would antisemitism have attained such proportions without 2000 years of our teaching of contempt? Of course not. And Paul IV just gives his usual blunt, dogmatic, and nasty expression to that theological contempt, which translated immediately into persecution. Oh, we so regret such wickedness, it's the fault of fallen nature, etc etc. Not so at all -- we are dealing with a clearly identifiable MAJOR causal factor that cannot be whisked away. History is not a sort of dark room where no rules of cause and effect apply, or only the sort of rules that would apply in a buzzing chaos of erring particles. Your attempt to reduce the issue to a case of universal evil confirms that you have not reflected seriously on it.

Now I am one who "blames the institutional church on every occasion" whereas I am portrayed elsewhere on this site as a clericalist toady who defends the institution on every occasion. Again this is exactly the sort of tactic followed by Sinn Fein terrorist sympathizers. Any criticism becomes a symptom to being a "West Briton"!

So now Abe Rosenzwig had "put the editors of Commonweal to the test"? By expressing his perfectly justified outrage? I have heard enough Catholics, even an archbishop, sneering about "angry Jews" and "Catholic masochists" who bend over backwards to apologize to them to regard your comment with extreme disfavor.

Agree, Joseph O'Leary.  

Claire, it's always interesting to see what you consider "ok".

Gerelyn, it's an ad hominem if I ever saw one. 

https://www.commonwealmagazine.org/commenting-guidelines

Your comment will likely be edited or deleted if it includes ad hominem attacks; is off-topic; contains inappropriate or offensive language, advertising, copyrighted material, or suspicious information.

 

 Fr. O’Leary—

A teacher once told me to be wary of arguments made with words like “clearly,” “of course” and, most especially, words so small in effect that they needed to be capitalized to be heard at all.   He termed it “proof by intimidation,” and believed it to be evidence of someone lacking confidence in the rightness of their viewt. 

I am sorry to hear you regard one of my comments with extreme disfavor.  Nevertheless, I believe that to treat any person, or any group of people, as unworthy of correction is to treat them as sub-human.  We do them no favor to pass by on the other side of the road.

I suppose you would equally object if I said that the theory of evolution is clearly correct, or that slavery was clearly bad, or that of course JFK was assassinated? This dancing around pins is trollism.

We cannot talk enough about the official church's treatment of the Jews. Thank God we have made tremendous progress since Vatican II. But there is no question that much remains to be done to increase awareness of what Christians have done,  before, during and after the Holocaust. We cannot at all condone the past (or present treatment).  Yet Vatican II gave us a lot to build on in the future. 

 You could defend your "argument" if better if you listed the books on the history of antisemitism or of Christian anti-Judaism, which morphed into antisemitism, that you have read, with some comment on your assessment of said books.

I agree Bill, having been nauseated by antisemitic gibberish spewing from Catholic mouths, and by the complacency of so many who want to think the whold issue is past history and fully resolved.

Nostra Aetate par. 4 is a rare conciliar text in that it quotes no preceding magisterial documents but goes right back to Romans 9-11 in search of the right things to say about Judaism. There are some fine follow up documents from the Vatican, which are not as well known as they should be and not much used in Catholic preaching. 

Here is a resume of Nostra Aetate 4 by Dermot Lane:

 

·       that ‘in God’s plan of salvation, the beginning of her [the Church’s] faith and election is to be found in the patriarchs, Moses and the prophets’;

·       that ‘the apostles, pillars on which the Church stands, are of Jewish descent, as are many of those early disciples who proclaimed the Gospel of Christ to the world’;

·       that the Jews remain very dear to God since ‘God does not take back the gifts he bestowed or the choice he made’;

·       that mutual knowledge and esteem should be promoted through biblical and theological studies and fraternal discussions;

·       that ‘neither all Jews indiscriminately at that time, nor Jews today, can be charged with crimes committed during his passion’;

·       that ‘the Jews should not be spoken of as rejected or accursed as if this followed from holy Scripture’;

·       that the Church ‘deplores all hatreds, persecutions, displays of anti-Semitism levelled at any time or from any source against the Jews.’

 

At any time or from any source refers also to the Catholic persecution of Jews.

 The Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews issued Guidelines and Suggestions for implementing the Conciliar Declaration ‘Nostra Aetate’ (n.4) in 1974, Notes on the correct way to present the Jews and Judaism in preaching and catechesis in 1985, and We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah in 1998. The Pontifical Biblical Commission contributed The Jewish People and their Sacred Scriptures in the Christian Bible in 2001. Papal gestures such as John Paul II’s visits to the Synagogues in Mainz (1980) and Rome (1986), and his placing of a prayer for forgiveness at the Western Wall in 2000, have underscored the message of these documents. There have been ongoing biblical and theological conversations between Jews and Catholics as recommended by the Council, resulting in statements such as ‘Dabru Emet’ (2002) from the Jewish side, and the Christian response ‘A Sacred Obligation’ (2002). 

 

But all of this is very, very little.

The Church's attempts to appease the SSPX were strange.  The most superficial examination of the various websites of their schools and churches revealed stuff that no normal person, whether Christian, Jewish, Muslim, atheist, etc. would want anything to do with.  (Neo-Nazi, neo-Confederate, Holocaust denial, etc., etc., etc.)  

https://www.google.com/search?site=&source=hp&q=sspx+anti-semitic&oq=ssp...

Where does that effort stand now, under Francis?

And something occurred to me that I hadn't thought of before.  I wonder if one of the underlying reasons for the investigation of American nuns was their early (1960s) recognition of the anti-semitism so prevalent in the Catholic Church.  There are members of the hierarchy old enough to remember and resent the dissertations, etc., written by nuns examining anti-semitic references in textbooks, etc.  

See, e.g., The New Nuns:  Racial Justice and Religious Reform in the 1960s, by Amy L. Hoehlinger, Harvard University Press, 2007.  (Notice the sign carried by the first nun in the line on the cover.)

http://books.google.com/books?id=D72ngqDtbYoC&pg=PA45&lpg=PA45&dq=nuns+a...

 

I suppose you would equally object if I said that…slavery was clearly bad,…

But, Father, that’s the point now, isn’t it?   You would never feel the need to say that “slavery was clearly bad” precisely because it’s clear that it is.  

Not at all clear to Cardinal Avery Dulles, who would probably use the same troll antics if I used "clearly" in an argument with him.

On a substantive point, the article (book chapter) by Dermot A. Lane, republished in December's Japan Mission Journal, takes the story of Jewish-Christian Dialogue up to Benedict XVI, who figures in it as a regressive figure, reversing John Paul II's rejection of a Christian mission to Jews. I want him to continue with Francis, who has a book long dialogue with a Jewish rabbi.

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About the Author

Rev. Joseph A. Komonchak, professor emeritus of the School of Theology and Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America, is a retired priest of the Archdiocese of New York.