March 11March 11 Editorial: Antisemitism is a spiritual evil (May 17, 2024)

May 24, 2024

Editorial

Antisemitism is a spiritual evil

“We reject hatred, bigotry, and racism in all their forms. As Catholics and Christians, we believe that antisemitism is a spiritual evil.” (Coalition of Catholics Against Antisemitism)

Antisemitism is evil. What’s more, it is a spiritual evil, a sin against the Holy Spirit of God who works unceasingly to bring unity, harmony and goodness where there is division, discord and hatred among nations and peoples in our world.

Catholics, Christians, members of other faith traditions, and all people of good will should condemn antisemitism unequivocally in the strongest possible terms. Why? Because to hate the Jewish people is to hate the people chosen by God to reveal himself to the world.

We do not have to believe what Jews believe about God in the way they believe it. But we do need to acknowledge and respect the fact that the God of Abraham has remained faithful to them (and to us) in spite of the vicissitudes of the long and often tortured history of the Jewish people. To hate the Jews is to despise people God loves.

Recently a diverse group of Catholics came together and formed the “Coalition of Catholics Against Antisemitism” (philosproject.org/ccaas). The statement issued by this group says, in part:

“We condemn antisemitism in humility, mindful of the sins of Catholics and other Christians against the Jewish people throughout history, and aware that these wounds remain real for many Jews today.

“We denounce antisemitism in a spirit of compassion, aware that education about the evils of this hatred is a moral responsibility for Christians.”

To condemn antisemitism is not to assume a position of superiority (to claim to be “holier than thou”). As the statement above makes clear, we all must be humbly mindful of our own sins against the Jewish people. History shows that Christians can, and do, act in ways that are contrary to the Gospel.

Antisemitism and other evils are inside us because of original sin. We can denounce them with the help of God’s grace, but in this life we can never completely overcome them.

As the events of recent days have shown, we only have to scratch the surface, and the evil monster we assumed was buried deeply following the horrors of the Holocaust quickly rears its ugly head.

The statement also says:

“We affirm the right of the Jewish people to live safely and securely in their ancestral homeland, and recognize that modern Israel is essential to that security. These rights should not jeopardize the right of Palestinians to also live in safety and security.”

It is not antisemitic to disagree with the Israeli government or to oppose policies and actions that oppress the Palestinian people. Nor is it antisemitic to dispute decisions made by the government of the United States in response to the current crisis in the Holy Land.

But when “disagreement” crosses the line between rational and irrational, or when the Jewish people are disrespected and abused by hateful words and actions that denigrate their religious and cultural identity, we must cry foul!

As Pope Francis says, “A Christian cannot be an antisemite; we share the same roots. It would be a contradiction of faith and life. Rather, we are called to commit ourselves to ensure antisemitism is banned from the human community.”

What can we do as Catholics in central and southern Indiana to fight against the rising tide of antisemitism?

First, we need to examine our own hearts and, with God’s help, work to transform any antisemitic thoughts or emotions into reverence and respect for our Jewish sisters and brothers.

Second, we should urge our government officials to do everything they can to support the human dignity, civil rights, property and possessions of all Jews, Muslims and other ethnic or religious minorities here in the United States.

Finally, we should pray fervently that the spiritual sin of antisemitism will be continually overcome by the conversion of hearts and minds made possible by the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

As we prepare to celebrate the Solemnity of Pentecost this weekend, let’s pray that the Holy Spirit will enflame our hearts with divine love and with compassion and solidarity with our Jewish sisters and brothers. And let’s ask the Spirit to unite us wherever we are divided and to transform our hearts whenever we are working against our own interests and the common good of all.

Come, Creator Spirit, renew the face of the Earth. Transform us as only you can and teach us to be one with your Creation, in harmony with all humanity.

—Daniel Conway

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