May 12, 2024

To Confront Antisemitism, Catholics Can Look to Their History

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by Andrew Doran, Senior Research Fellow

Contrary to popular perception, the medieval papacy challenged the Jew-hatred of its day, in a way Catholics can derive inspiration from today.

The Jew-hatred on display at some campus protests corresponds little with attitudes toward Jews in America. But today’s ill-informed protesters on the quad are tomorrow’s managerial elite. Many young Americans of privilege have lately turned not merely on Israel but on the Jewish people — and to judge from some of the depravity, like blindly ignoring evidence of sexual crimes committed by Hamas, it’ll likely get worse.

How should Catholic leaders and institutions respond to this moment, beyond carefully worded statements that neither offend nor teach? One instructive precedent, perhaps surprisingly, is the medieval papal bull Sicut Judaeis, which condemned antisemitic violence and even authorized excommunication for certain offenses.