It is distressing to find that The New Republic, a magazine for which I have written over the years, has given Damon Linker, the author of Theocons, a blog on their website. I was even more distressed to find what I can only characterize as bigotry in one of his first postings. Linker writes about the anti-Semitism of the members of the Society of St. Pius X: "The reason why traditionalist Catholics…are often strangely preoccupied with the Jews and Israel is that traditional Catholicism (prior to the Second Vatican Council) was a pretty thoroughly anti-Semitic faith." That is a mighty broad brush with which to tar 1900 years of pre-Vatican II Catholicism.

I am well aware of the ugly history of Catholic treatment of the Jews. Anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic violence happened in many places, in many cultures, in many different historical epochs and the Church as often as not did little or nothing to stop it, and indeed encouraged and blessed it. Catholic anti-Semitism is sadly not the exception, it is the rule.

But, there were exceptions and they began to proliferate in the twentieth century and they should have given Linker some pause before he condemns the Church in toto up until 1962 when the Second Vatican Council opened. He might have mentioned that while Father Charles Coughlin was spewing his anti-Semitism from Detroit, Msgr. John A. Ryan served as a founding member of the National Council of Christians and Jews and liked to take Thanksgiving dinner at the home of his good friends Justice and Mrs. Brandeis. He might have mentioned Archbishop Michael Curley, who was not above racial prejudice: Curley opposed American entry into World War II because his Irish temper could not see the justice in ever being allied with the United Kingdom. This same Archbishop told Catholics in the 1930s that when they knelt at Mass, they were kneeling to a Jew and that any anti-Semitism was profoundly anti-Christian. Then, there was my Irish grandmother whom Mr. Linker will be pleased to know did not have an anti-Semitic bone in her body.

I do not expect Mr. Linker to know about my grandmother, but he should know about Ryan and Curley. He should also know that the Society of St. Pius X has roots in the famously anti-Semitic French monarchist movement, associated with the right wing journal La Croix, a group that openly opposed Pope Leo XIII when he tried to get French Catholics to accept the Third Republic, which is to say, their anti-Semitism, like their anti-republicanism, was not blessed by the Church at all. And, he should know better than to lump together so many different and diverse pre-Vatican II Catholics into the one rubric of anti-Semitism.

Bigotry is defined as uninformed prejudice. Mr. Linker’s bald claim about Catholic anti-Semitism seems to fit that definition to a tee. His writings have become like those he made his name denouncing: Like the writings of the Theocons, his work is repetitive, at times histrionic, predictable and ultimately boring. Shame he decided to add bigoted to that list.

 

Comments

Anonymous | 2/2/2009 - 7:05pm
''I am well aware of the ugly history of Catholic treatment of the Jews.'' I'm not, and I've read a good deal of Church and European history. If this blog is going to level grave (and wild) accusations like this, it is incumbent on it to back it up with factual citations. When, for example, did the Church bless and encourage anti-semitic violence, as you claim?
Anonymous | 2/3/2009 - 11:39am
It's a bit of a stretch to level a charge of anti-Catholic bigotry against Linker for his admittedly blanket over-statement. I believe that he should be given the benefit of the doubt and that we should assume that he meant to say ''While the entire pre-concillar Church should not be branded as anti-Semitic, it is undeniable that some currents of marked anti-Semitism did run through it. Unfortunately the SSPX tends to identify with those currents, ignoring those which ran contrary, and, more importantly, the near universal trend of the post-concillar Church against anti-Semitism''. Parenthetically, and at the risk of committing a similar stretch myself, Michael Curley did not oppose the war due to an ''Irish'' temper, even if he did take that position due to a surfeit of Irish nationalism. The racist stereotype of the ''fighting Irish'' was promulgated primarily to disparage resistance to British oppression as a genetic flaw and secondarily as a goad to the Irish to prove their national honor and manhood by fighting for the Empire.
Anonymous | 1/30/2009 - 7:45pm
Gabriel Austin writes, "There are exceptions. I have heard-tell that the Society of Jesus required purity of blood [no Jewish blood] for three generations. I have even heard-tell [from a Jesuit priest] that the same applies today." This was true at one time in Spain and Portugal; not true at all today. You have to know that first of all, some Jews helped the Moslems to conquor what is now Spain by sort of inviting them in as both were very involved in international trade as merchants. I don't know the facts or history of all this and it might be hard to even try to write about it as the suggestion itself is seen as anti-Semitic. So, Spanish society as a whole blamed the Jews as a whole after the Moslems were defeated and pushed out. The Jews in fact at one time had to convert to Catholicism or leave Spain. Since the Jesuits were part of the Spanish culture they were under intense pressure to also go along with this idea of pure bloodlines for members of their Society. Often they simply prevaricated about their ancestry or willingly failed to do the proper investigations to maintain the required purity.
Anonymous | 1/30/2009 - 3:03pm
I know more about medieval history than modern, and medieval Catholicism was very anti-Semitic. But it is not just conservatives or bigots or anti-Catholics who think anti-Semitism still lives in the SSPX. Here's a bit from one of The Tablet's editorials, and I agree with what they have to say ...... "[...] far below the surface of the Lefebvrist movement have lurked some rather more disturbing views, not only its commitment to an ancien-régime style of Counter-Reformation Catholicism, but also to a virulent brand of Catholic anti-Semitism which has a long and disgraceful history, particularly in France (where the movement is strongest). Bishop Williamson's recent remarks have to be read in that context. The Lefebvrists reject, for instance, the teaching of the Vatican II decree Nostra Aetate, including its key repudiation of the charge of "deicide" (literally god-killing, because of the supposed Jewish role in the death of Jesus). Lifting the excommunication of someone like Williamson, while he is still publicly propagating his bigoted opinions, sends an appalling signal to the world in general and to Jews in particular. To say of these opinions that they are "totally unacceptable", as the Bishops of England and Wales did in a statement this week, hardly does justice to them. They are evil."
Anonymous | 1/30/2009 - 2:24pm
John Stangle wrote: "But, to paint Catholicism as historically blessing anti-Semitism or encouraging it is plain wrong historically". True indeed. Pope after pope condemned attacks on Jews. In Europe, Rome was for centuries the safest place for Jews. There are exceptions. I have heard-tell that the Society of Jesus required purity of blood [no Jewish blood] for three generations. I have even heard-tell [from a Jesuit priest] that the same applies today. In his book on the so-called "hidden encyclopedia", Garry Wills cites several references in the Jesuit publication La Civilta Cattolica which were rather disparaging about the Jews.
Anonymous | 1/30/2009 - 12:54pm
Good grief. You thrash Linker and then afirm what he said by saying,"I am well aware of the ugly history of Catholic treatment of the Jews. Anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic violence happened in many places, in many cultures, in many different historical epochs and the Church as often as not did little or nothing to stop it, and indeed encouraged and blessed it. Catholic anti-Semitism is sadly not the exception, it is the rule." Anti-Semitism and bigotry are both wrong; sometimes they occur locally as a result of events which stir up this kind of hatred. But, to paint Catholicism as historically blessing anti-Semitism or encouraging it is plain wrong historically.
Anonymous | 1/30/2009 - 5:20pm
The answer is more love, less hate; more service and less judgment; more hope and less doubt. It's time for Christians and all the people of the world to put our foot down, saying "Enough is enough...."