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Were the Popes Against the Jews?: Tracking the Myths, Confronting the Ideologues

Were the Popes Against the Jews?: Tracking the Myths, Confronting the Ideologues|Monday, May 7, 2012

There have been a series of books attacking Pope Pius XII and several of his predecessors, accusing them of being strongly anti-Semitic. The popes facing these attacks are Pius IX, Leo XIII, Pius X, Pius XI, and Benedict XV. Lawler, who is obviously liberal as exhibited by his views on abortion, homosexuality, etc., critiques the likes of Kertzer's THE POPES AGAINST THE JEWS and Cornwell's HITLER'S POPE.

Various Catholic liberals support attacks on the popes. For instance, Father John Pawlikowski has lauded Kertzer's book. (p. 52). [Polish readers may remember Fr. Pawlikowski from past episodes of Polish-Jewish dialogue. This "dialogue" consists of Jews attacking Poles, and Polish liberals nodding their heads in agreement.]

On the subject of Catholic spokesmen and Catholic publications, Lawler accuses Kertzer of confusing cause and effect: "The major question to which this shift gives rise is whether CIVILTA CATTOLICA, as Kertzer persistently insists, was crucial to the rise of modern, racist anti-Semitism or whether, as suggested in the previous chapter, the Jesuit magazine was itself responding to converging tendencies in the larger culture." (p. 60; see also p. 31).

Kertzer's remark about the pope calling the Jews dogs comes from a secondary source. (p. 5). This, and accusations of popes calling Jews "the synagogue of Satan" have assumed the status of urban legends. (p. 48).

"Dogs" have had a long history. At one time, Jews called Samaritans dogs, and mishnaic rabbis called Christians dogs. (p. 77). Pius IX's reference to "Jews as dogs" is quoted in proper context (pp. 82-83), and is meant in a spiritual and Biblical sense. Pius was alluding to Christ's parable about the Canaanite woman. The woman, a gentile, was the dog. When the Jews would not believe, they, instead, became the dogs.

The "synagogue of Satan" phrase has frequently been misunderstood. In fact, and contrary to Kertzer, the "synagogue of Satan" referred to sects such as the Freemasons, and not to Jews. (pp. 72-73). The New Testament's use of this term referred to pseudo-Jews, and not to Jews. (p. 74). Finally, the phrase "synagogue of Satan" has enjoyed widespread application. The Albigensian heretics used this term in reference to the Roman Catholic Church, and the later Protestants used it in reference to the Roman curia. (p. 75).

On another subject, Lawler takes Kertzer to task for accusing Poland of being the most anti-Semitic of nations. He also fingers John Connelly for willfully distorting Pius XII's statements as promotions of racial anti-Semitism. (p. 338). Lawler refutes Connelly's charge that the Church opposed interracial marriage: It was the opposite. (p. 258; see also p. 285). [In other contexts, John Connelly has been identified as having many characteristics of a neo-Stalinist.]

Lawler chides Jan T. Gross and the statement, in Gross' FEAR, that the Kielce pogrom had created a "vast killing field". Lawler retorts: "Unfortunately, for Gross's thesis, he like Kertzer often succumbs to hyperbole, as if the fifty or so deaths were viewed in the light of the thousands elsewhere." (p. 99).

Unlike those who invalidly compare the unfavorable saving-rates of Polish Jews during the Holocaust against their Danish counterparts, Lawler, instead, recognizes a few of the Danes' unique advantages. In noting that Italian Jews were saved at a high percentage, second only to Danish Jews, he comments on the: "...universally recognized fact that the Fuehrer did not want to disturb the `aryan' Danes in his `favored protectorate.'" (p. 16).
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