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Catholic and Protestant Religious Leaders Discuss Anti-jewish Bias

May 24, 1966
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

“Catholic anti-Semites” were charged here today by a Catholic priest with often using the Crucifixion “as a cover-up” to justify bias which derives from the “false ideals and prejudices of the local community.”

The charge was voiced by Father John B. Sheerin, editor of the Catholic World, the oldest national magazine of Catholic opinion in this country. He made the statement before some 200 Catholic and Protestant religious leaders at a special two day conference convened to discuss the link between Christian teachings and anti-Jewish prejudice.

The conference was sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith and based on “Christian Beliefs and Anti-Semitism,” the first report of a five-year research project on patterns of American prejudice conducted by the University of California Research Center under an ADL grant. The report was written by Dr. Charles Y. Glock, director of the research center, and Rodney Stark, a research sociologist at the University of California and assistant director of the project.

Father Sheerin took issue with the weight of significance the sociologists placed on the Crucifixion and its relation to hostility toward Jews today. Declaring that he is “not an apologist armed with irrefutable arguments to prove that Roman Catholic teaching bears no seeds of anti-Semitism,” he pointed out that religion is a conservative force in society which tends to “sacralize the ideals, values and practices of society.”

For this reason, he went on to say, a religious man often legitimizes the wrong values and prejudices of his community. He gave as examples Catholics who have “adjusted to anti-Semitism” at the golf club, the hotel, and the executive levels of big business. “And disordered and guilty minds have fixed upon the Crucifixion to manipulate it to their purpose,” Father Sheerin added. Anti-Semitism, Father Sheerin stressed, “comes not from the Prince of Peace but from the Prince of Darkness.”


Dr. Theodore A. Gill, president of San Francisco Theological Seminary in giving the “Protestant View” said the findings of the ADL study left him “appalled as a human being, embarrassed as a Christian, and flabbergasted as an educator.” He declared that it is important for churchmen to “rescue the label of orthodoxy from those on whom it has settled.” True orthodoxy, he asserted, cannot lead to anti-Semitism because “real Christian orthodoxy is more Jewish the truer it is.” Therefore, he went on to say “anti-Semitism is a dead giveaway that what is passing for orthodoxy is not at all.”

Dr. Gill said the task was not to break the link connecting the modern Jew with the “guilt” of ancient ones in the Crucifixion but to recognize other stronger links between the ancient peoples and ourselves. “What we have to do,” he declared, “is to get the Crucifixion story straight — what it really is and says. We cannot take for granted, as we have been doing, that it is clearly understood.” He emphasized that “strenuous right teaching” can purge the church of anti-Semitism.


At another session of the meeting today, Dore Schary, national chairman of the Anti-Defamation League, commended the “strong reservoir of good will” between Christians and Jews. He pointed out, however, that there is at the same time “a lack of sensitivity and knowledge about anti-Semitism in contemporary times and in previous history.” He gave the following as “major areas of concern” which can serve to rectify anti-Jewish beliefs:

1) A clear and more widespread recognition of the Jewish roots of the Christian Church.

2) A more profound understanding of the Crucifixion so that it cannot be used as a pretext for scapegoating an entire people.

3) Better understanding of the 2, 000 years of post-Biblical Jewish history.

4) Inculcation in each person of a deep and abiding respect for each man’s right to seek God in his own way.

5) Strong commitment against anti-Semitism and recognition of the fact that the polite anti-Semite, the vandal and the economic discriminator lay the groundwork and pave the way for more tragic events.

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