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Sins of the Past

Judith Hayes

The following article is from the Secular Humanist Bulletin, Volume 16, Number 2.

If you're going to say something, say it. Prior to Pope John Paul's Easter 2000 pilgrimage to Jerusalem, Catholic leaders made the grandstanding announcement that he planned to express "regret" for the Crusades, the Inquisition, and other "faults of the past." (The "past" does not have faults. People do.) But when John Paul finally offered his "apology," it defined vagueness. He might just as well have shrugged his shoulders and said, "Shit happens." He made no mention of the Inquisition, Crusades, or Holocaust; or the centuries when the Catholic liturgy included asking for protection from "the perfidious Jews;" or the church's intense bigotry against gays and women. Calling that a landmark proclamation is preposterous. 

But the press covered this non-occurring apology as though John Paul had martyred himself or something. He did not even address the Jewish community directly. He spoke only to God. (Isn't he special?) Speaking to God about the Jews he said, "We are deeply saddened by the behavior of those who in the course of history have caused these children of yours to suffer and, asking your forgiveness, we wish to commit ourselves to genuine brotherhood with the people of the Covenant." Who is "those?" What did he mean by "course of history"? History didn't murder any Jews. Catholics did. And how could he use the word "saddened?" I for one am horrified. Such a euphemistic reference to some of the world's most heinous crimes against humanity is outrageous and insulting. If you announce that you are going to publicly ask for forgiveness for the centuries of persecution and murder, then do it. Don't namby-pamby around and act like you're asking forgiveness for some little social faux pas. The whole farce was offensive.
Now here are some real quotes. St. Justin Martyr (second century) stated that the Jews should "rightly suffer," for they had "slain the Just One." (If the Church believes that the Jews in fact killed God, wouldn't that mean that God is dead?) Pope Innocent III (thirteenth century): "The Jews, against whom the blood of Jesus Christ calls out, although they ought not to be killed . . . yet as wanderers ought they remain upon the earth . . ." [emphasis mine]. 

You know, this constant haranguing about how the Jews killed Christ has always baffled me. Follow me on this. God decides his human creations are so rotten they need a Savior to atone for their sins. He sends Jesus as that Savior, who arrives on earth for the sole purpose of dying for human sins. And he does. He dies. Then he ascends into heaven to greet his followers. Now how the hell is this plan going to work if he doesn't die?! Didn't someone have to kill him? Would the plan of salvation have been set in motion if Jesus had quietly died in his sleep from a stroke at the ripe old age of 81? The whole Christ-Killer-Jew thing is not only ugly bigotry. It is stupid as hell. But I digress.

St. John Chrysostom (fifth century): "The Jews are the most worthless of all men. They are perfidious murderers of Christ. The Jews are the odious assassins of Christ and for killing God [See? God is dead!] there is no expiation possible, no indulgence or pardon. God always hated the Jews. It is incumbent upon all Christians to hate the Jews." Peter the Venerable, Abbot of Cluny (twelfth century): "Truly I doubt whether a Jew can be really human. . . ." 

As recently as 1941, Archbishop Grober, in a pastoral letter, blamed the Jews for the death of Jesus, saying that the Holocaust was "the self-imposed curse of the Jews." So the Jews killed themselves in Auschwitz. The Holy See saw some disgusting malevolence in its fanatic, narrow-minded history. Hitler was no surprising monster, self-created out of a vacuum. He was simply carrying on a centuries-old tradition, initiated by the Holy Mother Church. (And by the way, does anyone know whether Hitler has yet been excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church?)

All that fuss about John Paul apologizing for past wrongs was nothing more than a publicity stunt to try to soften the considerable resistance to his being allowed in Jerusalem at all. With just cause, the pope was not welcomed by a great many Israelis. The Vatican did not even recognize Israel as a country until six years before his Easter visit. And Rome supports Palestinian statehood and believes Jerusalem should be made an international city. 

I am so harshly critical of popes because they have so often used their overwhelming power to the detriment of human happiness. The birth control ban alone has caused an appalling amount of human misery. The Catholic babies who cry themselves to sleep with hunger can thank the holy papacy. 

On February 28, 2000, MSNBC ran an online poll asking, "Should Jerusalem be made an international city?" I say no. I think it should be safely evacuated and then blown to smithereens. Religions spawn hatred and bigotry, and Jerusalem is a seething cauldron for all that malevolence. I say get rid of it altogether. Maybe it would make a nice theme park.

2000 Judith Hayes

SHB Contributing Editor Judith Hayes writes a monthly Internet column called "The Happy Heretic" at www.thehappyheretic.com. She is the author of two books: In God We Trust: But Which One? (1996) and The Happy Heretic (Fall 2000 from Prometheus Books.)

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