A member of the Jewish community views anti-Semitic graffiti on tombstones at a Jewish cemetery. CNS photo from Reuters

Engaging anti-Semitism rejects Christian roots

  • November 2, 2023

Some months ago in this space, I discussed the relationship between Catholics and Jews. I return to this question in the wake of the brutal, sadistic violence perpetrated by the terrorist organization Hamas against Jewish Israelis on Oct. 7.

I will leave it to others to comment on what must be considered to be an appropriate response by Israel to those attacks. The reality is that this is not just something taking place “over there” as if that somehow grants us licence to turn away our gaze from the scarring reality of anti-Semitism. Hatred of Jews is an especially nasty, ignorant and pernicious form of prejudice that quickly metastasizes, infecting many organs within our culture. We describe the same cancer whether we consider the age-old accusations of blood libel, or Jewish global conspiracies, or the newer forms of anti-Semitism marked by a simplistic neo-Marxist worldview of oppressors and oppressed that calls for an  end to the State of Israel.

As Catholics, we must in public and private stand against anti-Semitism without equivocation. We must also recognize the bond that connects the Jewish people with Israel. We must always remind ourselves that Our Lord God and Saviour IS a Jew as were most members of the early church of Jerusalem.

The Second Vatican Council’s Nostra Aetate speaks of this reality when it says, “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.”

To engage in any form of anti-Semitism is to reject our roots. Sadly, many Christian leaders have equivocated. They have failed to denounce the mass murder of Jews in the clearest terms as barbarous acts of terrorism. Others have exemplified fortitude such as Bishop Scott McCaig of the Military Ordinariate. On Oct. 21, he issued the following statement, which I quote at length, with his permission:

“A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children because they are not”  Jeremiah 31:15.

“The brutal slaughter, kidnapping and rape of at least 1,300 innocent Israeli Jews on Oct. 7, including the horrific slaughter of women and children, is an act of sheer terror perpetrated by Hamas. It is a grave and evil degradation of the humanity of our Jewish brothers and sisters.  It is therefore an offence against God that can not be equivocated or explained away.  Those who would seek to act as apologist for Hamas, and thereby justify these unspeakable crimes, consort with evil.  Regardless of one’s perspective on the political complexities and complicated history of the region, there can be absolutely no moral justification for acts of terror.

“The Catechism of the Catholic Church clearly states that ‘’Terrorism threatens, wounds and kills indiscriminately; it is gravely against justice and charity…We fervently pray for those innocent Palestinians, Muslims and Christians alike, who are trapped under the dominion of Hamas in Gaza.   We pray for their safety and deliverance so that they might pursue a just and peaceful coexistence with their Israeli neighbours, secure in the bonds of human fraternity and solidarity.

“As Christians, we believe that as the Church of the Gentiles we have been grafted on to the tree of Israel (Romans 11:17). As such, we stand with our Jewish friends, our elder brothers and sisters in faith, as they mourn and weep for those who have been lost to this brutality.  We earnestly pray for the entire Jewish community in Israel and here in Canada that they may be encircled by those committed to truth, justice and mercy and to an abiding love of the Jewish people, the first to know God.”

While decrying violence and earnestly striving for peace, we as Catholics must stand with the Jews especially here in Canada as they face a rising tide of anti-Semitisim.

Our Lord would have it so.

(The Reverend Andrew Bennett is a deacon of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Toronto and Eastern Canada.)

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