From Enemy to Brother: The Revolution in Catholic Teaching on the Jews, 1933-1965
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In 1965 the Second Vatican Council declared that God loves the Jews. Before that, the Church had taught for centuries that Jews were cursed by God and, in the 1940s, mostly kept silent as Jews were slaughtered by the Nazis. How did an institution whose wisdom is said to be unchanging undertake one of the most enormous, yet undiscussed, ideological swings in modern history?
The radical shift of Vatican II grew out of a buried history, a theological struggle in Central Europe in the years just before the Holocaust, when a small group of Catholic converts (especially former Jew Johannes Oesterreicher and former Protestant Karl Thieme) fought to keep Nazi racism from entering their newfound church. Through decades of engagement, extending from debates in academic journals, to popular education, to lobbying in the corridors of the Vatican, this unlikely duo overcame the most problematic aspect of Catholic history. Their success came not through appeals to morality but rather from a rediscovery of neglected portions of scripture.
From Enemy to Brother illuminates the baffling silence of the Catholic Church during the Holocaust, showing how the ancient teaching of deicide-according to which the Jews were condemned to suffer until they turned to Christ-constituted the Church's only language to talk about the Jews. As he explores the process of theological change, John Connelly moves from the speechless Vatican to those Catholics who endeavored to find a new language to speak to the Jews on the eve of, and in the shadow of, the Holocaust.
Christ, not simply in a figurative, but rather in a supernatural and mystical way, which, because it was supernatural and mystical, was all the more real.”29 Greive called this mixing of supernatural and natural “theological physicism.” “In the aftermath of political turmoil,” he wrote, “political disorientation took hold of the broad masses of the German population, and caused many people to seek lasting solace in the Church while calling for the ‘unity of the blood.’ In this atmosphere
Volkstum, then Jews had to be seen as especially suited for Christianity. Frodl had begun to unlock the potential of the Apostle Paul, racialist avant la lettre, to refute Christian racists of the twentieth century. For Christians there could be no problem with a Jewish “race,” however that was understood. After 1938, the paths of the Fathers Schmidt and Frodl diverged. Schmidt, fired from his teaching post in Vienna, found comfortable refuge in Fribourg, Switzerland, while Frodl maintained his
Schmidt, Austro-Hungarian Jesuit Bela Bangha, publisher Joseph Eberle, and many others. Unlike other racist Catholics, Bichlmair had unimpeachable authority, and if Oesterreicher and Hildebrand attacked Schmidt, Eberle, or even Catholics against Racism and Antisemitism 121 Bishop Hudal in print, they had to be careful with him. “The brown Catholics,” Oesterreicher wrote to one confidant, “will fashion a hangman’s noose for us from any direct attacks on Father Bichlmair, costing us the
same.” “I think it unlikely,” Oesterreicher concluded gloomily, “that the somewhat apprehensive Pius XII will make his mind up to do the only right thing, namely to release German soldiers from their oath, maybe even to pronounce a ‘general’ condemnation of the person who is inciting war.” 42 News from the Vatican under Pius XII continued to disappoint Oesterreicher. Was it true that the pope gave the order to ring church bells on Hitler’s birthday (April 20)? Did he want to “negotiate” with
Oesterreicher’s critique fostered solidarity. The reference to the heretic Marcion made clear that Christianity must be linked to Judaism. The question was how. As recently as 1928, Vatican Cardinal Secretary of State Merry del Val was dictating that the relation between Christians and Jews must be negative. “Hebraism with all its sects inspired by the Talmud continues perfidiously to oppose Christianity,” he wrote in an internal opinion, accepted by Pius XI just before he banned Amici Israel,