Steven Englund’s essay on Catholic anti-Judaism is as passionate and eloquent as it is challenging. He writes with respect and honesty about a complex and painful subject, and as one who shares his desire to decry any form of anti-Judaism or anti-Semitism, and to advance relations between the church and Judaism, I am grateful for his work.
[See all the essays included in "Getting Past Supersessionism: An Exchange on Catholic-Jewish Dialogue."]
Englund details the history of the church’s “physical and material atrocities against the Jews,” arguing that the primary reason for the church’s antipathy to Judaism is its underlying “supersessionist” conviction. That conviction is paradoxical: the church depends on Judaism as the root of its own religious tradition, yet claims that Christianity is Judaism’s God-ordained successor and replacement; it has appropriated Jewish Scriptures, practices and dogmas, while delegitimizing Judaism itself for failing to recognize its own longed-for Messiah. Fundamentally, Englund argues, quoting the words of the Jewish theologian Ben Zion Bokser, supersessionism entails the bludgeoning conviction that “authentic Judaism is really Christianity.”
Historically this has been the case, but things...