In the 1970s, which was after Vatican II by several years, the younger brother of a friend was attending a Catholic school -- he was 9 or 10 maybe. He told me that the Jews had killed Christ and went into some details.

What I am wondering is whether the Deicide idea was officially sanctioned prior to Vatican II and if Vatican II immediately made it no longer sanctioned. I can understand of course how some continued to teach as they always had.

I am of course aware of the official position of the church about deicide but what I want to know and I think is hard to research online is how long it actually took before teaching this doctrine was completely extirpated -- I simply have anecdotal evidence that by the early 1970s it continued still, at least at one school in a large, midwestern city. Just as civil rights act did not eliminate racism or indeed segregation.

To make this more clear: I am wondering mainly what happened in practice once the position of the Church changed on Jews bearing responsibility for killing Christ -- were there immediate lectures by nuns saying that was all wrong or did the old teachings continue for years; indeed, does it happen still in some places?

  • 5
    What research have you done?
    – MCW
    Aug 5, 2019 at 11:27
  • 3
    I typed the keywords from your question into Google & it returned an article from the NY Times about a statement by Cardinal Ritter in 1964. Given that, I'd say the answer to your title questions are probably 1. "Yes, and 2. "Following Vatican II". Aug 5, 2019 at 11:30
  • 6
    The idea that Jews killed Jesus is in the Bible, so you would have to expect so: "Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross." (Acts 2:22-23) But this doesn't support antisemitic misuse of these verses. Aug 5, 2019 at 12:42
  • 3
    ? Push question?
    – MCW
    Aug 5, 2019 at 13:58
  • At a time when Gospels were written conflict between early Christians and Jews was at its highest. And many verses in Gospels like "His blood be on us and on our children." and "Ye are of your father the devil" would be considered anti-Semitic in today's PC climate. Yet, they were always there and cannot be expunged .
    – rs.29
    Aug 8, 2019 at 4:33

3 Answers 3


Wikipedia's article on Jewish deicide makes clear that the Catholic Church had downplayed Jewish responsibility for the death of Jesus at the Council of Trent, centuries before.

As you suggest, at Vatican II the concept was explicitly rejected. Of course, these edicts are not necessarily what is taught or learned in local schools. Your story is sadly plausible, and perhaps your young friend had encountered a zealot who did not adopt the Vatican's doctrine on the matter.

Since Jewish deicide is a fundamental part of antisemitism, it has not yet been "completely extirpated"; I bet there are still nominally Catholic schools out there where, in or out of class, a student could learn such an idea.


No, deicide was not taught in any Catholic schools in the 20th century, except possibly heretical or mistaken ones. The reason is simple--deicide is not possible in Catholic doctrine, since God cannot die. This has been Catholic (and Greek Orthodox and, following them both, mainline Protestant) teaching at least since the Council of Chalcedon in 451, which affirmed that there are two natures in Christ, human and divine. Only one of these is capable of death. The belief that God died on the Cross, has thus been recognized as a heresy, or as involved in several heresies, including Sabellianism and some strains of monophysitism (though probably most monophysites would tend to agree with the Orthodox view that God cannot die). When Jesus died, God did not die (according to Catholic teaching). One can at most say that God, in the person of Christ, suffered a human death--but God did not die. So, from a Catholic perspective, it would be heretical to accuse anyone of deicide, since deicide is impossible according to Catholic dogma.

Note that I am not disputing the NYT article that was referred to in the comments, insofar as it discusses traditional views as to the responsibility for Christ's death. And, yes, that is in the Acts of the Apostles and the Gospels. If you want to to read about God's death, however, you need to put those down and pick up Nietzsche.

  • 1
    Referring to Nostra aetate, passed at the Second Vatican Council in 1965, this paper on the Vatican website observes: "Finally, two points are repudiated which in the past were the roots of persecution: the accusation that the Jewish people were collectively and forever responsible of the death of Christ (the so-called deicide) and anti-Semitism." Aug 6, 2019 at 0:38
  • 1
    You might also find the Wikipedia page on Nostra aetate of interest, since it notes the deliberations on the various drafts - many of which explicitly included the word, 'deicide'. Aug 6, 2019 at 0:41
  • 2
    Frankly, to assert that deicide was not taught in catholic schools in the 20th century is absurd. Maybe not formally, but plenty of Jewish kids in the 20th century were called "Christ Killers."
    – releseabe
    Aug 6, 2019 at 2:04
  • 2
    @CMonsour It would appear that not all Catholics got that memo: Catholic Dictionary: DEICIDE. But leaving aside the question of semantics, the question appears to be whether children in Catholic schools in the US were still being taught that Jews killed Christ into the 20th century. The NYT article, and deliberations at Vatican II strongly suggest that the answer is "yes", and that this practice was not limited to the US. Aug 6, 2019 at 3:35
  • 1
    Right. As I said, the history is on-topic, but sadly the question limited the scope (FWIW: I did upvote this answer)
    – T.E.D.
    Aug 6, 2019 at 23:45

Was Deicide officially taught in American Catholic (“parochial”) schools and if so, when did it officially end?

Short Answer:
This isn't a Catholic thing it's a Christian thing and historically and in modern times is more associated with scapegoating, superstition, and prejudice than it is with main stream Christian beliefs.

No it has never been official Catholic doctrine. The Catholic church has actually officially refuted this belief several times since it's inception.

  • Pope Clement VI by a papal bulls dated July 6, 1348, and 1349.
  • Council of Trent (1545)
  • Vatican Council II (1962)

I infer it has been continuously refuted by Catholic leadership due to it's at times pervasive, persistent, and disturbing support among the laity and some clergy.

The Catholic church overall position on anti-Semitism historically speaking is mixed.

Detailed Answer:

John 19:15 But they cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar.


Matthew 27:23-25
“Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”

24 When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!”

25 All the people answered, “His blood is on us and on our children!”

Claims of Jewish Deicide is classic anti Semitism and predates the formation of the Catholic Church(325 AD) by nearly two centuries. It is a prevalent justification for anti-Semitism historically speaking from Christians.

Historical Anti-Semitism
- The earliest recorded instance of an accusation of deicide against the Jewish people as a whole – that they were collectively responsible for the death of Jesus – occurs in a sermon of 167 CE attributed to Melito of Sardis entitled Peri Pascha, On the Passover.

While it has never been official dogma of the Catholic Church it has been and continues to be a demonstration of anti-Semitism which remains among some isolated Christians to this day.

Cadets say religious bias growing at Air Force Academy (2005)
There have been 55 complaints of religious discrimination at the academy in the past four years, including cases in which a Jewish cadet was told the Holocaust was revenge for the death of Jesus and another was called a Christ killer by a fellow cadet.

  • Nostra aetate was passed at the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II) in 1965. Aug 8, 2019 at 16:12
  • The Second Vatican Council opened October 11, 1962 and closed December 8, 1965.
    – user27618
    Aug 8, 2019 at 16:42
  • Yes, but the refutation of the claim of deicide was included in Nostra aetate, and that was passed at the end of the Second Vatican Council, in 1965, not at the opening in 1962. Aug 8, 2019 at 17:09
  • The Catholic Church was not founded in 325. Ignatius of Antioch was already using the phrase "Catholic Church" before 110.
    – C Monsour
    Aug 9, 2019 at 3:16
  • @CMonsour Except there was no central Christian church prior to the first church council at Nicea. No unified doctrine nor unified set of beliefs nor central organization. Christianity was isolated into enclaves. Each partition set there own doctrine and those doctrines did not agree. Nicea defined what it was to be Christian. Without that central definition of beliefs no unified or Catholic Church was possible. Creation of a core set of beliefs and unifying the faith was the goal of the first church council and it's why most Christians recite the Nicean Creed to this day every Sunday.
    – user27618
    Aug 9, 2019 at 13:18

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.