Lest we ever forget, Jesus was a Jew, as were his Apostles.
As the sacred synod searches into the mystery of the Church, it remembers the bond that spiritually ties the people of the New Covenant to Abraham's stock…
…The Church keeps ever in mind the words of the Apostle about his kinsmen: "theirs is the sonship and the glory and the covenants and the law and the worship and the promises; theirs are the fathers and from them is the Christ according to the flesh" (Rom. 9:4-5), the Son of the Virgin Mary. She also recalls that the Apostles, the Church's main-stay and pillars, as well as most of the early disciples who proclaimed Christ's Gospel to the world, sprang from the Jewish people. -- Nostra Aetate
One of the main reasons I started this blog is because I have detected among Catholics on the web, and in most of Catholic blogdom in particular, a real lack of appreciation for Vatican II. Most Catholic blogs appear to me to be ultra-traditionalist. Among these traditionalists are some people too young not only to remember the pre-Vatican II Church, but too young to remember Vatican II as well. They are nostalgic for the image of a Church that they never knew. Since Pope John Paul II’s death, I’ve detected a shift, some of it subtle, some of it not so subtle, of directing blame for the state of the Church from those who somehow committed abuses in the name of Vatican II to the Council itself. I think this is a huge mistake. It is my view that the Second Vatican Council was a true gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church and to the world. If we have failed to put it into practice, or if we have since made matters worse by retreating from it in fear, that is hardly the fault of the Council or of the Holy Spirit that guided it. In my opinion, the Council happened at the last possible moment it could have; barely in the nick of time. Without it, I doubt there would be much left to save.
What has most caused me to distance myself from the traditionalist movement on the web has been the crude and disgusting anti-semitism that has been shown by the more extreme elements, and a reluctance to condemn it on the part of the less extreme elements.
One of the wonderful documents of the Council was Nostra Aetate – The Declaration On The Relation Of The Church To Non-Christian Religions. After the Second World War, the Church clearly had to come to terms with the Holocaust and what role the manner of speaking about Jews for centuries in Europe and in the Church had to do with it. The document stated unequivocally:
Furthermore, in her rejection of every persecution against any man, the Church, mindful of the patrimony she shares with the Jews and moved not by political reasons but by the Gospel's spiritual love, decries hatred, persecutions, displays of anti-Semitism, directed against Jews at any time and by anyone.
Besides, as the Church has always held and holds now, Christ underwent His passion and death freely, because of the sins of men and out of infinite love, in order that all may reach salvation. It is, therefore, the burden of the Church's preaching to proclaim the cross of Christ as the sign of God's all-embracing love and as the fountain from which every grace flows.
Last year, Hurricane Katrina disabused us of the notion that this country has completely freed itself from its legacy of racism. In a speech given to a group of Jewish community leaders in Boston in May, Cardinal O’Malley shared an anecdote in which he was confronted with anti-semitism quite unexpectedly, and shows that we still have a legacy of our own to wrestle with as well.
Let me share with you an experience I have many years ago working with immigrants in Washington D.C. I was visited in my rather dingy offices on Mount Pleasant Street by two gentlemen from the Jewish Anti-Defamation League, who came to speak to me about anti-Semitism in the Hispanic community. I felt completely blindsided. I said to the gentlemen, “Most of our people are from very remote, rural villages in El Salvador and other central American countries. Most of them have never met a Jew, and probably don’t know who you are. The only exceptions would be, those whom we placed in Jewish homes and businesses, through our employment agency, and they were unanimous in their praise and affection for their Jewish employers, who universally treated them with generosity and respect.”
I assured the men that they were barking up the wrong tree, and sent them off with that “don’t call me, I’ll call you” complimentary close. A couple of days later, at a meeting with my parishioners to plan Holy Week, one of the people said, “Padre, this year on the Sábado de Gloria, let’s have a burning of the Jew.”
I was horrified. I thought I didn’t understand what he was saying, and in disbelief, I asked him again and again to repeat. I finally realized that in many of the villages were he’d come from, Holy Saturday was like a Catholic Guy Fawkes Day. As the English say, “Remember, remember, the Fifth of November,” and then they burn the pope in effigy on the anniversary of the Guy Fawkes gunpowder plot. The scriptures describe the suicide of Judas, who sold Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. It says that he hanged himself, and his body burst open. Accordingly the folkloric custom arose of hanging Judas in effigy and filling the dummy with fireworks. The atrocious practice was dubbed, “la quema del judio.” The burning of the Jew.
I ran back to my office, rifled through my desk, looking for the business card of the gentlemen from the Anti-Defamation League; luckily, I throw nothing out. I was very embarrassed, but I explained what happened, and asked for their help to educate my parishioners. They came up with the idea of a Seder meal, and produced a wonderful Argentine Rabbi, Leon Klenicki, who came and conducted a Seder meal in Spanish. We had it on Holy Thursday, the night of the last supper, the night when Jesus celebrated his Seder meal. The whole community was fascinated to see the connection between the Seder meal and Eucharistic celebration of the mass. After that no one asked to burn any Jews.
The whole affair reminded me that Cervantes had dealt with anti-Semitism in one of his famous works. In the Spain of Alfonso el Sabio, Jews, Moors and Christians lived in peace. But that peace was shattered, and there was much persecution of those who were not Christians. Cervantes, who was very possibly from a conversos family himself, wrote a book called, El Retablo de las Maravillas, sort of a Spanish version of The Emperor’s New Clothes. And in the work, he describes a group of actors who traveled from village to village and put on plays in the public square. And when they would assemble the whole crowd, people would come. They would announce the name of the play and then tell them that this was a magical play and the only ones who would be able to see it, were those who had pure blood. There was great obsession with what the Spanish call, “limpia de sangre.” In other words, no Moorish or Jewish blood, only old Christians could see the play. And then they pulled back the curtain and began the music. The people would laugh and applaud and cheer, and of course there was nothing on the stage.
Once and for all, we too must expose racism and anti-Semitism for what is - a fraud, a lie, an affront to humanity.