The Catholic Church and relief organizations were suffering from the moral blindness induced by centuries of Christian "teaching of contempt," in which the Jews were demonized as "deicides
," "moral lepers" and "agents of the devil" for their refusal to accept Christianity.
She finds that Gothic versions of this figure shift from relatively benign if eternally damned (according to legend, Ahasuerus was cursed for mocking Christ on his way to Calvary), to associations with increasingly vitriolic stereotypes of Jews as, for instance, animalistic, diseased, incestuous, occultist, parasitical, and usurious anti-citizens, body snatchers, castrators, conspirators, deicides
, homosexuals, and infanticides.
As the Jewish scholar Arthur Cohen noted, in the past "Jews [have] regarded Christians as at best second-best and at worst as execrable idolaters, and Christians [have] regarded Jews as at best worthy of conversion and at worst as deicides
and antichrists." If, as in George Bernard Shaw's formulation, England and America are two countries divided by a common language, then Judaism and Christianity are two religions divided by a common God.
Indeed, a Catholic newspaper in Italy at the time of the Eichmann trial condemned the Israelis for trying him because the Jews "must be considered as deicides
even today." (58)
As an added assurance that Jews could not challenge the church's cognitive monopoly, their credibility was impugned as "deicides
" in league with Satan.
The typical Catholic prior to the 1960s is far more apt to have heard in a sermon that his own sins, especially the sexual ones, were crucifying Christ anew than he was to have heard that Jews were deicides
. (The infamous Good Friday prayers, where this ugly charge once featured, were part of a liturgy avoided by all but the most devout, given its length and its tedium.
The first of those villains was the Jews, who began to be widely perceived not only as deicides
but as activist enemies of temporal Christendom.
them as deicides
, cursed by God and doomed to punishment in each succeeding
He added: "Deep down, historically speaking, the Jews are deicides
[God killers]." He was quoted as saying that Hitler was "not just mad" but had exploited German anger over the excesses of German Jews who in the 1930s had throttled the German economy.
A unique group of Catholic and Protestant scholars, men and women, professors and clergy, currently located at Boston College, has been laboring since 1969 to undo the harm of centuries and flesh out the principles laid down in that historic document, which has proved to be the jumping-off point rather than the culmination of Christian efforts to atone for its role in preparing the soil for the "harvest of hate." Its goals are significant: eliminate the erroneous portrayal of Jews as unfaithful deicides
, accursed by God; expunge the teaching of contempt; revise Christian teachings about Jews and Judaism.
Although we must not oversimplify the medieval horizon of expectations or assume that all writers set forth exactly the same stereotypes, the idea of the Jew as carnal, irrational, murderous, and guilty of deicide
is widespread and conventional in the time of the Playbook.
Nineteen centuries ago, when the Christian gospels were selected and edited, blame had to be assigned for the crucifixion, which to Christians was deicide
. Although it was palpably evident that the Romans were the executioners, the authors--trembling under Rome's cruel might--managed to switch responsibility for the crime onto a few Jews.