Jews faced a great deal of Antisemitism, as defined by radically different treatment compared to their Christian counterparts, with particular attention to violence, throughout their history. Regarding exclusively the antisemitism faced in Europe, how much of the underlying hatred and specific calls for action can be placed at the feet of the Catholic Church? Was the antisemitism based on the specific opinions of thought leaders, or was it derived from the actual teachings of Christianity? I recognize that many of these questions are extremely broad so I'd like to limit the time scope of these questions from the era of the buildup of the first crusade to the rise of Nationalism in Europe.

In so far as I can tell, the charge of antisemitism in Europe as the fault of the Catholic church is based on several key events.

  • The blame of collective guilt from the killing of Jesus Christ placed on the Jews:. What I'm having trouble identifying is to what degree the church pursued this charge throughout history. Given the fact that the degree of antisemitism varied heavily based by country to year. I can't tell if this charge was a genuine pursuit 'in the name of god' or a tool to justify antisemitism with the actual desire of the Antisemitism being different.

  • Blood Libels and Accusations of 'Poisoning the Wells': It's unclear to me if these accusations were primarily the cause or the result of antisemitism. On the one hand it seems like these accusations could only take root in places with a great deal of existing Antisemitism, on the other hand, a number of Pogroms and other violent attacks were done because of these accusations.

  • The Crusades: The research into this opened up another line of questions for me, to what extent was the Antisemitism associated with the church done by the higher office of the pope, and to what extent was it created by smaller regional powers like individual bishops? I know about the Sicut Judaeis, but most sources I read seem to suggest it was by and large ignored, was this due to its inconsistent application with some Popes reaffirming it, and some revoking it (and some like Innocent III doing both). Or is this a display of the lower powers being fueled off their own anti-semitism not being derived from their leaders?

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    What has your research shown you so far? Where have you already searched? What did you find? Please help us to help you. Can you explain why the relevant Wikipedia pages and google searches didn't answer the question? SE sites work best if the questions are supported by preliminary research, particularly when questions touch on sensitive subjects like this. Sep 26, 2019 at 21:52
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    I'm struggling to understand how this question isn't answered by the Wikipedia article Antisemitism in Europe. Am I missing something? Sep 27, 2019 at 0:28
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    @LangLangC I was rather hoping that OP would edit the question to clarify exactly why the Wikipedia page(s) is/are insufficient, thus hopefully clarifying the question and reducing the scope to something that could be reasonably answered within the SE format. However, I agree that without a major overhaul (which may invalidate the existing answer - something that is not generally welcomed here!), this is likely to remain closed. Sep 27, 2019 at 15:08
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    @ShmuelNewmark Actually, I don't think the edit does do that. Your question doesn't actually mention any of the Wikipedia pages mentioned in comments above, so I am still unclear about "Where have you already searched?". The question still doesn't tell us "What did you find?", and doesn't say "Why the relevant Wikipedia pages and Google searches didn't answer the question?". I suspect that the question may have been more clear had those details been included. That might also have narrowed the scope considerably, and may have made the question more answerable within the SE format. Sep 27, 2019 at 16:04
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    @sempaiscuba I'm leaving the question as is, and just accepting the answer below. I realize that the question demands pages of answers, and there is no clean way to restructure the question. I'll try to read a few more works on the subject, but ultimately I see the question as unfit for this site, Thank you for the feedback and I apologize for the trouble. Sep 27, 2019 at 16:45

1 Answer 1


Antisemitism, as defined by radically different treatment compared to their Christain counterparts

Was the antisemitism based on the specific opinions of thought leaders

The greatest doctor of the Catholic Church, St. Thomas Aquinas (✝1274), when discussing the sin of unbelief, asks "Whether the children of Jews and other unbelievers ought to be baptized against their parents' will?" (Summa Theologica II-II q. 10 a. 12 co.). He says they should not. He gives one argument from authority:

The custom of the Church has very great authority and ought to be jealously observed in all things, since the very doctrine of catholic doctors derives its authority from the Church. Hence we ought to abide by the authority of the Church rather than by that of an Augustine or a Jerome or of any doctor whatever. Now it was never the custom of the Church to baptize the children of the Jews against the will of their parents, although at times past there have been many very powerful catholic princes like Constantine and Theodosius, with whom most holy bishops have been on most friendly terms, as Sylvester with Constantine, and Ambrose with Theodosius, who would certainly not have failed to obtain this favor from them if it had been at all reasonable. It seems therefore hazardous to repeat this assertion, that the children of Jews should be baptized against their parents' wishes, in contradiction to the Church's custom observed hitherto.

and two arguments from reason:

  1. on account of the danger to the faith. For children baptized before coming to the use of reason, afterwards when they come to perfect age, might easily be persuaded by their parents to renounce what they had unknowingly embraced; and this would be detrimental to the faith.

  2. it is against natural justice.

Also, St. Thomas Aquinas didn't consider Jewish worship to be idolatrous, as he did for other unbelievers (Summa Theologica II-II q. 10 a. 10 "Whether the rites of unbelievers ought to be tolerated?" co.):

from the fact that the Jews observe their rites, which, of old, foreshadowed the truth of the faith which we hold, there follows this good—that our very enemies bear witness to our faith, and that our faith is represented in a figure, so to speak. For this reason they are tolerated in the observance of their rites.

On the other hand, the rites of other unbelievers, which are neither truthful nor profitable are by no means to be tolerated, except perchance in order to avoid an evil, e.g. the scandal or disturbance that might ensue, or some hindrance to the salvation of those who if they were unmolested might gradually be converted to the faith. For this reason the Church, at times, has tolerated the rites even of heretics and pagans, when unbelievers were very numerous.

cf. Thomas Aquinas on the Jews by Boguslawski, O.P.

or was it derived from the actual teachings of Christianity?

St. Thomas's letter to Margaret II, Countess of Flanders, who asked him about usury and the Jews, answers her question about "Whether it is good that Jews throughout her province be compelled to wear a sign distinguishing them from Christians." He writes:

according to a statute of the general Council, Jews of each sex in all Christian provinces, and all the time, should be distinguished from other people by some clothing. This is also mandated to them by their own law, namely that they make for themselves fringes on the four corners of their cloaks, through which they are distinguished from others.

The blame of collective guilt from the killing of Jesus Christ placed on the Jews

St. Thomas distinguishes between the Jewish rulers (who knew who Christ was) and the common people (who didn't know). Discussing the gravity of the sin of crucifying Christ, he writes (Summa Theologica III q. 47 a. 6 co.):

the rulers of the Jews knew that He was the Christ: and if there was any ignorance in them, it was affected ignorance, which could not excuse them. Therefore their sin was the most grievous, both on account of the kind of sin, as well as from the malice of their will. The Jews also of the common order sinned most grievously as to the kind of their sin: yet in one respect their crime was lessened by reason of their ignorance. Hence Bede, commenting on Lk. 23:34, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do," says: "He prays for them who know not what they are doing, as having the zeal of God, but not according to knowledge." But the sin of the Gentiles, by whose hands He was crucified, was much more excusable, since they had no knowledge of the Law.

Sicut Judaeis

Contemporary Catholic historian E. Michael Jones defines sicut Iudeis non in his Jewish Revolutionary Spirit introduction, p. 21:

The Catholic response to the revolutionary Jewish rejection of Logos came to be known as "Sicut Iudeis non…," a doctrine codified by Pope Gregory the Great and reiterated by virtually every pope after him. According to "Sicut Iudeis non…," no one has the right to harm Jews or disrupt their worship services, but the Jews have, likewise, no right to corrupt the faith or morals of Christians or subvert Christian societies.

Jones's Goy Guide to World History video series also discusses sicut Iudeis non.

For more info and resources, see this Christianity StackExchange answer and William Thomas Walsh's history books, such as The Last Crusader: Isabella of Spain (1451-1504) and Characters of the Inquisition.

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