It is distressing to find that The New Republic, a magazine for which I have written over the years, has given Damon Linker, the author of Theocons, a blog on their website. I was even more distressed to find what I can only characterize as bigotry in one of his first postings. Linker writes about the anti-Semitism of the members of the Society of St. Pius X: "The reason why traditionalist Catholics…are often strangely preoccupied with the Jews and Israel is that traditional Catholicism (prior to the Second Vatican Council) was a pretty thoroughly anti-Semitic faith." That is a mighty broad brush with which to tar 1900 years of pre-Vatican II Catholicism.
I am well aware of the ugly history of Catholic treatment of the Jews. Anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic violence happened in many places, in many cultures, in many different historical epochs and the Church as often as not did little or nothing to stop it, and indeed encouraged and blessed it. Catholic anti-Semitism is sadly not the exception, it is the rule.
But, there were exceptions and they began to proliferate in the twentieth century and they should have given Linker some pause before he condemns the Church in toto up until 1962 when the Second Vatican Council opened. He might have mentioned that while Father Charles Coughlin was spewing his anti-Semitism from Detroit, Msgr. John A. Ryan served as a founding member of the National Council of Christians and Jews and liked to take Thanksgiving dinner at the home of his good friends Justice and Mrs. Brandeis. He might have mentioned Archbishop Michael Curley, who was not above racial prejudice: Curley opposed American entry into World War II because his Irish temper could not see the justice in ever being allied with the United Kingdom. This same Archbishop told Catholics in the 1930s that when they knelt at Mass, they were kneeling to a Jew and that any anti-Semitism was profoundly anti-Christian. Then, there was my Irish grandmother whom Mr. Linker will be pleased to know did not have an anti-Semitic bone in her body.
I do not expect Mr. Linker to know about my grandmother, but he should know about Ryan and Curley. He should also know that the Society of St. Pius X has roots in the famously anti-Semitic French monarchist movement, associated with the right wing journal La Croix, a group that openly opposed Pope Leo XIII when he tried to get French Catholics to accept the Third Republic, which is to say, their anti-Semitism, like their anti-republicanism, was not blessed by the Church at all. And, he should know better than to lump together so many different and diverse pre-Vatican II Catholics into the one rubric of anti-Semitism.
Bigotry is defined as uninformed prejudice. Mr. Linker’s bald claim about Catholic anti-Semitism seems to fit that definition to a tee. His writings have become like those he made his name denouncing: Like the writings of the Theocons, his work is repetitive, at times histrionic, predictable and ultimately boring. Shame he decided to add bigoted to that list.