The Catholic Church and Anti-Semitism

Figure 1.--This pamphlet promotes one of the main anti-Semitic myths propagated by the Catholic Church--the Blood Libel. In an effort to show that the Jewish religion was evil, the myth was propagated that Jews kidnapped Christian children and drained their blood for religious rituals.

Throughout the Medieval era Jews were the target of persecution by the Catholic Church. The history of the Jews and the extent of perscution has varied widely from country to country. Some countries tolerated Jews over long period. One such country was Spain, in part because of the Muslim influence. In some countries Jews were welcomed, and they enjoyed long periods of peace with their neighbors. The Cristan Church after Constantine's converion becan to percecute other religions in an effot to eradicate paganism. Here with the authority of the state they largely succeeded. Church leaders debated about the Jews. Some wanted to supress them with forced conversions. Augustine argued that they should not be supressed, but rather living in a state of poverty and degradation would be an example of thise who refused the Christian faith. The Germanic ibvasions of the 5th and 6th cdnturies destroyed the Roman state and the implements of supression. This resulted in a period of relative tolerance for Jews in the West. Grdually as the the European kingdoms formed the Church again began to acquire the means of percecution. Charlemagne's toleration of the Jews and the Islamic influence in Spain resulted in an eraof relative tolerane. Church authorities, however, preached against the Jews and over time became less and less tolerant. With the Crusades an era of terrible persecution began with variations from country to county. Jewsof course did not share the Christian belief that Jesus was the Son of God. The Church which became increasingly powerful, even challenging the authority of the Holy Roman Emperor grew less ad less tolerant. The Church preached that the Jews (rather than the Romans) were responsible for Jesus' death. The Church took the position that Jews were attempting to undermine Christianity. The paiting on the previous page of Jews descecrating the Holy Eucraist is an example. The Church also depicted Judiasm as evil. Here rumors such as the Blood Libel became widespread (figure 1).



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Created: 7:07 PM 7/21/2007
Last updated: 7:07 PM 7/21/2007