This is a clear case, as Jesus spoke, of knowing a tree by its fruit:
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.
In his introduction, Kertzer notes, “the legislation enacted in the 1930s by the Nazis in their Nuremberg Laws and by the Italian Fascists with their racial laws—which stripped the Jews of their rights as citizens—was modeled on measures that the [Roman Catholic] Church itself had enforced for as long as it was in a position to do so” (9).
But Roman Catholic involvement extended far beyond mere laws. It was Roman Catholic practices that led to the shaping of public opinion, public holidays, public traditions, public festivities. We’ll soon see remnants of this even today, as Mardi Gras and Ash Wednesday are soon to come upon us.
Unfortunately for the Jews, one of Carnival’s [that is, the public celebrations prior to Lent] most popular features was the ritual degradation of the people of the ghetto.“When all is said and done, the [Roman Catholic] Church’s claim of lack of responsibility for the kind of anti-Semitism that made the Holocaust possible comes down to this: The Roman Catholic Church never called for, or sanctioned, the mass murder of the Jews. Yes, the Jews should be stripped of their rights as equal citizens. Yes, they should be kept from contact with the rest of society. But Christian Charity and Christian theology forbade good Christians to round them up and murder them.”
Among the first historical references we have to such rites is a description from 1466, when for the amusement of the Romans, in festivities sponsored by Pope Paul II, Jews were made to race naked through the streets of the city. A particularly evocative later account describes them: “Races were run on each of the eight days of the Carnival by horses, asses and buffaloes, old men, lads, children, and Jews. Before they were to run, the Jews were richly fed, so as to make the race more difficult for them, and at the same time, more amusing for the spectators. They ran from the Arch of Domitian to the Church of St. Mark at the end of the Corso at full tilt, amid Rome’s taunting shrieks of encouragement and peals of laughter, while the Holy Father stood upon a richly ornamented balcony and laughed heartily. Two centuries later, these practices, now deemed indecorous and unbefitting the dignity of the Holy City, were stopped by Clement IX. In their place the Pope assessed a heavy tax on the Jews to help pay the costs of the city’s Carnival celebrations.
But various other Carnival rites continued. For many years the rabbis of the ghetto were forced to wear clownish outfits and march through the streets to the jeers of the crow, pelted by a variety of missiles. Such rites were not peculiar to Rome. In Pisa in the eighteenth century, for example, it was customary each year, as part of Carnival, for students to chase after the fattest Jew in the city, capture him, weigh him, and then make him give them his weight in sugar-coated almonds.
In 1779, Pius VI resurrected some of the Carnival rites that had been neglected in recent years. Most prominent among them was the feudal rite of homage, in which ghetto officials, made to wear special clothes, stood before an unruly mob in a crowded piazza, making an offering to Rome’s governors.
It was this practice that occasioned the formal plea from the ghetto to Pope Gregory XVI in 1836. The Jews argued that such rites should be abandoned, and cited previous popes who had ordered them halted. They asked that, in his mercy, the Pope now do the same. On November 5, the Pope met with his secretary of state to discuss the plea. A note on the secretary of state’s copy of the petition, along with his signature, records the Pope’s decision: “It is not opportune to make any innovation.” The annual rites continued.
The comments sections have been quiet throughout this series. I would like to know from sincere Roman Catholics, why is the Roman Catholic Church exempt from this:
“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”How can a “tree” such as the Roman Catholic Church, which produced such fruit as I’ve described in detail in these last five posts, also be said to have produced “the pure doctrine of the faith” which the gloriously infallible, papally-led Roman Catholic Church, “the Church which Christ Founded,” has put out, which we see in the form of promulgations on “the seven sacraments” and “transubstantiation” and papal supremacy, and the Roman doctrines of purgatory and penance [with its ties to mistranslations in the Vulgate, whatever the source and nature of them], the entire Roman Catholic doctrine of justification, the corresponding anathema of the Gospel of the New Testament, the Immaculate Conception of Mary, “papal infallibility,” the Assumption of Mary as a dogma, the liberal infiltration of Vatican II (at least the Protestants rejected liberalism in its own ranks), a soon-to-be-beatified Pope who denied Roman involvement in the brutal treatment and murder of the Jews (even though he lived through it), and finally, a pope quoting Teilhard de Chardin to the effect that “the world itself shall become a living host, a liturgy. This is also the great vision of Teilhard de Chardin: in the end we shall achieve a true cosmic liturgy, where the cosmos becomes a living host”?
Yes, as Dei Verbum ironically notes, there is truly “one source” for these two wellsprings – the uniquely Roman Catholic doctrine and the equally uniquely Roman Catholic treatment of the Jews.