Facing Anti-Semitism

Apology, yes; apostasy, no

In the January 21 issue of the New Republic, Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, author of Hitler’s Willing Executioners (Knopf), offered a sizable chunk of his new book, A Moral Reckoning: The Catholic Church during the Holocaust and Today. While I agree with those who think the Catholic and other Christian churches were more often than not cowardly, if not complicit, during the Nazi era, the Goldhagen piece is selective in its marshaling of the facts, and bigoted in its presentation. Goldhagen, for example, says that the church of Pius XII was "an institutional culture centrally animated by the notion that all Jews were Christ-killers and responsible for many of the perceived evils of modernity." He likes things central: he says that "the disparagement of the Jews became central to Christianity." Vicious as Christian anti-Semitism often was, it was hardly central. At another point he calls the parable of the Good Samaritan an assertion of the superiority of Christian morality over Jewish morality. I had never noticed that the Samaritan was Christian-Goldhagen is, at least, a novel exegete. In discussing the canonization of Edith Stein, he writes, "The Germans killed her not because she was Catholic or a nun, which they deemed irrelevant, but because she had been born a Jew. So the church has sent her on the path to sainthood under the false pretext that she was a Holocaust martyr to her faith." He seems to expect the church to...

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About the Author

John Garvey is an Orthodox priest and columnist for Commonweal. His most recent book is Seeds of the Word: Orthodox Thinking on Other Religions.