The recent Ecumenical Council declaration concerning the Jews, later promulgated by Pope Paul VI as official Catholic Church doctrine, is not a Catholic “absolution” of the Jews but a Catholic confession of guilt, a leading Catholic clergyman declared here.
The statement was made by the Rev. Benedict M. Ashley, president of Aquinas Institute, at a symposium at Rosary College, near Chicago. He discussed the new Catholic doctrine which repudiates the charge of collective guilt of the Jewish people for the death of Jesus, and “deplores” anti-Semitism.
Declaring that people who think the Declaration on Relations With Non-Christian Religions, including a chapter on relations with the Jewish religion, is misunderstood as a statement that “Catholics absolve the Jews, ” Father Ashley said:
“They have missed the point that this declaration is essentially a confession by Catholics of their own guilt in the persecution of the Jews throughout 2, 000 years. But if we Catholics are not absolving the Jews, we are seeking absolution of our own guilt through honest confession and a resolution to work against anti-Semitism and all forms of racial or religious discrimination.”
Recalling “the facts of Jewish persecution, ” he told the symposium: “For many centuries, in countries calling themselves Catholic — I will let Protestants speak for themselves — Jews have frequently been subject to injustices as a persecuted minority. These have included injustices ranging from discriminatory practices that still go on in the United States, to disenfranchisement, to public branding and dishonor, to confiscatory taxation, to violent attacks and deportation, and finally to torture and mass murders. In our own time, the Nazis, some of whom were Catholics by origin, in a few years exterminated over 6, 000, 000 Jews, a great part of the whole Jewish people. “
He derided the excuse that holds that “after all, the Jews deserve to suffer because they put Jesus Christ to death and, for some time, persecuted his first followers. ” He stressed that this was precisely the excuse declared false by the Vatican, saying:
“The fact that, 2, 000 years ago, a small group of Jews were involved, along with the Gentile occupation government, in the unjust trial and crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth in no way implies any guilt on the part of the great majority of the Jews then living who played no part in these troubles, and perhaps never even heard of them, and certainly implies no guilt on the part of the hundreds of generations of Jews who have lived since then or are living now.”
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.