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Recently there has been a media uproar about the reinstatement of the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX), a traditionalist Catholic group, that broke off from the Church after the reforms of Vatican II. Jewish groups are furious that there would be any attempt to reconcile these traditionalists to the Church. This is not surprising since the issue that led to the schism was the reform of the Church initiated by the Second Vatican Council and its declaration on Judaism, anti-Semitism, and non-Christian religions.
The man behind the schism was Marcel Lefebvre. Lefebvre not only objected to the changes wrought by Vatican II but also opposed Muslim immigration to Europe. As noted in the National Catholic Reporter,
A troubled history with Judaism has long been part of the Catholic traditionalist movement associated with … Lefebvre — beginning with Lefebvre himself, who spoke approvingly of both the World War II-era Vichy Regime in France and the far-right National Front, and who identified the contemporary enemies of the faith as “Jews, Communists and Freemasons” in an Aug. 31, 1985, letter to Pope John Paul II.
Within the past year, a priest of the SSPX stated that the Jews were “co-responsible” for the death of Christ.
One of the reinstated bishops, Richard Williamson, has questioned standard accounts of the Holocaust.
All this raises once again the issue of anti-Semitism and the Church. Visiting St. Peter’s in Rome last summer I noticed that there was a fairly large and prominent crypt of St. John Chrysostom. There is also a large statue of Chrysostom as part of the Altar of the Chair of St. Peter by Bernini, as well a statue on the colonnade. Chrysostom was certainly an important Doctor of the Church. But he is also one of history’s most well-known anti-Semites:
Although such beasts [Jews] are unfit for work, they are fit for killing . . . fit for slaughter. (I.II.5)
[The Synagogue] is not merely a lodging place for robbers and cheats but also for demons. This is true not only of the synagogues but also of the souls of the Jews. (I.IV.2)
Shall I tell you of their plundering, their covetousness, their abandonment of the poor, their thefts, their cheating in trade? (I.VII.1) (St. John Chrysostom, Adversus Judaeos)
Or consider St. Jerome: “If you call [the synagogue] a brothel, a den of vice, the devil’s refuge, Satan’s fortress, a place to deprave the soul, an abyss of every conceivable disaster or whatever else you will, you are still saying less than it deserves.”
Or St. Gregory of Nyssa: [Jews are] murderers of the Lord, assassins of the prophets, rebels against God, God haters, . . . advocates of the devil, race of vipers, slanderers, calumniators, dark-minded people, leaven of the Pharisees, sanhedrin of demons, sinners, wicked men, stoners, and haters of righteousness.I wrote a chapter on this in Separation and Its Discontents, proposing that the Catholic church in late antiquity [4th–6th century AD] was in its very essence a powerful anti-Jewish movement that arose out of resource and reproductive competition with Jews.