The Editors: Catholics have a moral duty to fight anti-Semitism

Police officers are seen after a gunman killed at least eleven people Oct. 27 at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. Robert Bowers opened fire that morning during a service at the synagogue, also wounding at least six others, including four police officers, authorities said. (CNS photo/John Altdorfer, Reuters) 

Stop the words of hate,” pleaded Rabbi Jeffrey Myers of Tree of Life synagogue, the day after a gunman killed 11 people worshipping there in Pittsburgh. The shooter reportedly shouted “All Jews must die” before he opened fire.

The shooter reportedly also made anti-Semitic comments to law enforcement after his arrest, including that “they [Jews] were committing genocide to his people.” He was also a frequent user of Gab, a social-media platform that places few restrictions on the content that can be shared. His posts there were at turns anti-Semitic, nativist and nationalistic.

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Pope Francis condemned the attack, saying, “We are all, in reality, wounded by this inhuman act of violence.” His words were a reminder that Catholics have a special responsibility to stand with our Jewish brothers and sisters and denounce these acts of evil—especially given the church’s own painful history of anti-Semitism. The church has taught since “Nostra Aetate” in 1965 that there is a “spiritual patrimony common to Christians and Jews,” and reproves “any discrimination against men or harassment of them because of their race, color, condition of life, or religion.”

On Saturday, President Donald J. Trump called for unity and condemned “the historic evil of anti-Semitism and every other form of evil.” Unfortunately, his incendiary rhetoric both before and after the attack has helped to foster an environment in which such evils can fester. Leaders of a Jewish group in Pittsburgh have written an open letter telling President Trump that “your words and your policies have emboldened a growing white nationalist movement” and have called on him to explicitly denounce white nationalism and cease his alarmist rhetoric about immigrants, refugees and minorities. Mr. Trump must recognize that his strong rejection of this specific episode of anti-Semitic violence cannot be fully credible if he continues to stoke fear and sow division for political advantage on other fronts. His call for unity needs to start with a clear break with his own patterns of accusatory and violent rhetoric.

We must reject violence. But this is the least that we should do. We must also directly challenge the deranged ideologies that spawn such acts and the toxic political culture in which they find a fertile soil. This means challenging the villainization and marginalization of Jews and other minority groups, which give encouragement, even if unintentionally, to these acts of violent depravity. The recent rhetoric directed against these groups is inhumane, un-Christian and un-American. In heeding Rabbi Myers’ call to end hateful words, we must also move past empty gestures. Now is the time to stand in peaceful solidarity with our brothers and sisters, with our whole minds, our hearts and our willing hands.

If the church has learned anything from its own history of anti-Semitism, it is that looking the other way is never justified. All people, but above all Christians, have a moral duty to support our Jewish neighbors; to call out anti-Semitism whenever and wherever it rears its odious head.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Hilary Sterne
3 weeks 1 day ago

Amen!

John Sharpe
3 weeks 1 day ago

It’s shameful and disgraceful for a Catholic magazine jump in and politicize this tragedy. You fail to point out that the killer was very anti-trump and denounced trump for having his son in law (Jewish) and other Jewish leaders as part of his administration. His daughters converted to Judaism and his grandchildren are being raised Jewish. Trump gets accused of being anti Semitic and he’s the only president to move the us embassy to Jerusalem. Leftists are the most anti Semitic group in politics today

Mainstream media is extremely biased to the left, so is this magazine. Trump calls them out and gets criticized for doing so. We see this happening in the Church today, the whistleblowers get demonized. It’s not the whistleblower who is spreading hate and divisiveness, it’s those that are spreading fake news.

Phillip Stone
3 weeks 1 day ago

Yes, I agree with this perspective and thank you for the contribution.

J Cosgrove
3 weeks 1 day ago

Quote - And if your first instinct is to play politics with tragedy for partisan gain, you are part of the problem

This is one of the most egregiously biased editorials that has ever appeared here. The editors should apologize for it. I can point the editors to a site that discusses Obama's harangues against the Jews . Should we blame him?

Bonnie Weissman
3 weeks ago

Exactly! My Jewish husband says the same!

Judith Jordan
2 weeks 5 days ago

Mr. Cosgrove---Please point out the site that discusses Obama's harangues against Jews. I am very interested in reading it. Thank you.

Vincent Gaglione
3 weeks ago

You fail to consider the simple fact that the president, speaking about the Charlottesville protests, commented on all the good people on both sides but never condemned the anti-Semites who marched with torches shouting, “Jews will not replace us.” The man is deaf not only to others but to his own rhetoric, as you seem to be as well. That you cannot connect the dots to and between some of the inflammatory rhetoric of the president to the same among the extremists in this nation is either a lack of critical thinking or willful ignorance to reality. As a teacher in a public school classroom I would have insisted against and punished for such rhetoric by students. I would at the least expect the same from a president of the United States regarding fellow citizens.

J Cosgrove
3 weeks ago

You want to refight Charlottesville? Trump said there was evil on both sides. And he was right. One is a small insignificant group whose national movement couldn't fill a junior high gym. The other side has a much bigger organized element whose ideology represents one that killed over a hundred million in the 20th century. The "fine people" on each side comment did not mean the neo Nazi's but others protesting the tearing down of statues and monuments. This was a much larger group than the malcontents parading at night.

Judith Jordan
2 weeks 5 days ago

Mr. Cosgrove---Trump said there were “fine people on both sides.” One of the sides was composed of neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other bigots. He did not state he was not referring to them. There is no way around what Trump actually said.

Further, neo-Nazis and white supremacists’ leaders periodically publicly state that Trump agrees with them. To my knowledge, Trump has never repudiated those leaders or their statements. If you have any knowledge that he did, please give me the source.

Anti-Semitism, white supremacy, and bigotry are evil and go against everything Christ taught us.

Sam Sawyer, S.J.
2 weeks 4 days ago

I have removed the chain of comments below this where this argument has gotten off-topic and devolved into ad hominem against other commenters. Please review the comments policy, especially the point about choosing your spots. If you've replied more than once in a comments thread, that's almost certainly too much.

Phillip Stone
3 weeks 1 day ago

My reply to the headline - No, we do not!

We have a moral duty to eschew anti-Semitism ourselves and not teach it to others.
It will take many, many apologies and frequent and high profile recantation of the centuries old vilification reaching deeply even into the liturgy of the Easter season with reference to perfidious Jews. Christ-killers.

I do not see it, I do not hear it. Quietly changing the liturgy is very far from enough.

Headline it, shout it out, re-affirm it, flood the public domain with the news - Catholics are not and must not be anti-Semitic and that goes for hate speech about their nation Israel. Jesus is a Jew; Mary, Queen of Heaven is a Jew. His birthplace now in the arab occupied West Bank, his hometown now an all arab city in the state of Israel.
Let the Christians in Bethlehem and Nazareth lead the way, eh? Almost all communications from them are trenchantly anti-Jewish.
The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem is currently sede vacante: so much for our current Pope and the Christian faith presence in Israel. Too busy ignoring the second last Patriarch condemning Chr1stian Zionism

rose-ellen caminer
3 weeks ago

Yes we have a moral duty to eschew anti Semitism and not teach it to others . This includes anti Semitism directed at[ Semitic ] Arab/Palestinians, [which include Christians] as well as adherents of Semitic Islam. Labeling criticisms of Israel's modern history and current Israeli policies and practices as anti Semitism, cannot be accepted by any one professing to be fair mined and just and non racist[against Semitic Arabs]. Silencing the pro Arab/Palestinian cause by labeling it anti Semitism , is to replace anti Semitism against Jews with anti Semitism against Arab/Palestinians. No one should fall for this or accept it . Weaponizing the term to use against Arab /Palestinians and their supporters, is both a tactic to silencing criticisms of Israel and an expression of anti Semitism against[ Semitic] Arabs/Palestinian. Anti Semitism comes in well 3 forms; against Semitic Jews, and today against Semitic Arabs, and against Islam ; a Semitic religion.
The anti Semitic attack on the synagogue was done by someone who was anti Semitic on all fronts. Though anti Semitism against Jews has been unacceptable in polite society, [ hence the shock and outrage when it breaks out like in this massacre of innocents]not so anti Semitism against Palestinian /Arabs and against Semitic Islam , This permutation of anti Semitism is deriquer now, Including by our president.

Judith Jordan
2 weeks 5 days ago

Rose-Ellen Caminer---Good and thoughtful comments.

J Brookbank
2 weeks 2 days ago

Rose Ellen, I agree with you. Criticism of Israel, the political state, is not synonymous with anti-Semitism.

Will Niermeyer
3 weeks 1 day ago

I do agree but we hear the same old same old everytime there is a massive execution carried out by someone who for the most part is mentally challenged. Sooner or later we in the USA must abolish the 2nd Amendment and remove all guns from any citizen who has them. If someone needs a firearm for hunting then establish stricter laws of obtaining a license to obtain one and make that renewable yearly with written tests and psychological testing. Finally we must have our leaders in government stop the hate speech which acts as a catalyst for those who wish to do harm.

Joe Martino
3 weeks 1 day ago

Yes we do have an obligation to fight anti-Semitism. On a personal level, one of my closest and lifelong friends is Jewish and, that reason alone, is enough for me. As a father of four, I very much want my kids to grow up in a caring and tolerant society, Again, reason enough, all by itself, to fight anti-Semitism. Did I mention that I love my country and want it very much to live up to its ideals? Reason enough. The pro-Trump commenters present all seem to share a common theme.....their "guy", somehow, has no right to be criticized for his moral shortcomings.....er….because its political?? I suspect if Mr. Trump was not your "guy", the outrage would be no where to be found. And to Mr. Sharpe, who laughingly equates the movement of the American embassy in Israel by Trump as proof positive that he's not anti-Semetic…..well, let's just say you need to broaden you sources of information. The movement of that embassy was driven by one man....casino magnate Sheldon Adelson....a guy who has given the Republican party hundreds of millions of dollars, all to sway US foreign policy in its treatment of Israel.

John Sharpe
3 weeks 1 day ago

. “The movement of that embassy was driven by one man....casino magnate Sheldon Adelson....a guy who has given the Republican party hundreds of millions of dollars, all to sway US foreign policy in its treatment of Israel.”

You do realize you just proved my point by adding another Jew, mr Adelson, to the killers list!

John Sharpe
3 weeks 1 day ago

....and that it’s mostly liberals who are anti Semites, not conservatives

Andrew Strada
3 weeks 1 day ago

Unless you have some form of evidence that this man acted as he did because of something that President Trump said, you are just using this tragedy as an opportunity to advance your political agenda. Jesuitical, yes; Christian, maybe less so.

Bonnie Weissman
3 weeks ago

One more thing, in some America Magazine forums (not this one so far) I have seen anti Semitic comments by posters which stayed up online. Maybe you can begin the fix to this by doing a better job of moderating your discussion groups.

Anne Chapman
2 weeks 5 days ago

Bonnie, there are so many un-Christian comments on this website that I now mostly skip reading comments.

Unfortunately, America has a small staff, and seems unable to assign someone to simply track and edit comments. When people go too far over the line, I send an email to the magazine - america@americamagazine.org. Subject would be something like "Offensive comment". Copy/paste the URL to the article that includes the offensive comment(s), and copy and paste the comments themselves into the email text. I have found that they respond fairly quickly when readers inform them of the existence of offensive comments.

When I do read comments I have learned that there are several who comment regularly on this website whose comments I now simply skip over - as they have nothing positive to say. The subjects that bring them out are expressions of empathy or support for Latino immigrants, for refugees, especially for muslim refugees, for the gay community, for women who seek to be equal members of the Catholic church and not have a sacrament denied simply because of their genes, and anything that points out un-christian policies promoted by the current administration. Since there are many articles on these subjects, I mostly skip comments because I already know what they will say..

Judith Jordan
2 weeks 5 days ago

Anne, I agree with your comments. I really do not understand when some Catholics lack empathy for immigrants, refugees, gays, women, minorities, etc. Jesus’ teachings on this are obvious and clear. As Christ taught us, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” Matthew, Chapter 25:45.

Roland Greystoke
3 weeks ago

They also have a moral duty to fight child molesters no matter where they are: Church, school, youth sports leagues, and I would consider that to be THE most important obligation. I was lucky enough to work with some of the fine IDF folks when I was in the military and have been staunchly pro-Israel ever since. Just like President Trump is. And unlike President Obama was. When I run into anti-Semites on-line, I give them the truth about the attack on the USS Liberty and that seems to make them go even more crazy than they already are.

Andrew Strada
3 weeks ago

One could also argue that editors have a moral duty not to make serious accusations in the absence of anything that could be vaguely regarded by a reasonable person as proof.

You don't like Trump. We get it. But if you insist on holding him personally responsible for all the ills of the world, you only succeed in further damaging your own credibility.

Michael Barberi
3 weeks ago

This article does not encourage unity but further division. Even if there is room for a civil debate about Trump's rhetoric (which I condemn most of the time), the Editors have lost an opportunity to take the higher moral road here and write an article that is devoid of the never-ending negative political smearing of Trump. For one thing, Trump is not responsible for the lunatic that killed 11 people in Pittsburg. Nor did Trump's rhetoric enflame such horror and hatred. To say or imply this in an article is irresponsible and not representative of the love and charity of the Gospels.

The Editors could have made their points without lacing into this article assertions that are nothing more than disguised hateful finger pointing. By doing so, the Editors politicize this tragedy. In truth, Trump has done more for Israel and the international Jewish community than most of our past Presidents. I think the Editors here have let their emotions rule their practical reason and moral duty.

Jim Spangler
3 weeks ago

Oh yes, and we are supposed to listen to our Bishops who have lost all moral ability and or trust. Until the Church cleans up the hierarchy, I no longer feel that I need to listen to what the Bishops and Cardinals have to say!

Steve Magnotta
3 weeks ago

The editors merely restated what a decent person must do. Speak out against bigotry. Period. The editors have said nothing wrong.
And yes, trump is in large part responsible. As are his defenders.
He is demonstrably a moral and ethical reprobate of a high order. And his lies, slander, and bile promote an environment where things like the tragedy in Pittsburgh are much more likely to occur.
Speaking out against trump and his defenders, and speaking out against bigotry are, unfortunately, all too often, one and the same thing.

Michael Barberi
2 weeks 6 days ago

Steve - Most, if not all Americans who don't like Trump paint him as the personification of Satan. Those who support Trump don't like his rhetoric and wish he would tone it down and talk from a script. However, this is an article by Jesuit Editors about a anti-semitic killing of innocent people by a deranged lunatic. This article should never have politicized this tragedy with assertions that Trump has encouraged such hatred. Trump is not anti-semetic or a support of White Supremacists. Nor did he encourage this lunatic to commit this horrific crime.

Note that Trump and the Republicans did not accuse Pelosi or Schumer of encouraging the person who almost killed the Republican Congressman on a ball field in WDC.....despite the fact that these two politicians fuel a hate-friendly environment more than Trump.

The Editors are expected to take the high moral road here. We need leaders who can bring people together, not encourage division. Let's get real: Political rhetoric today is very partisan and filled with vitriol. While Trump should tone down his rhetoric, so must the Democrats and far-left media. This will never end in the near future. However, we should never politicize a tragedy like this. That was my point to the Editors. There are better ways to get their points across. Having said this, the Editors, like all Americans, can disagree and speak out agains bigotry, etc. However, this particular article was not the place for it.

Judith Jordan
2 weeks 5 days ago

Michael Barberi---Sorry, but I cannot agree with all your comments.

After the shooting in Pittsburg, a group of Jewish leaders in Pittsburg, with over 75,000 signatures, published a letter asking Trump not to go to Pittsburgh until he denounced white nationalism. Trump did not denounce white nationalism. Why not? How hard is it to condemn white nationalism and Nazis?

I think the Jewish community overwhelmingly believes Trump’s comments create an environment that ends up with the violence we have had.

The Republicans have frequently held Democrats responsible for things, including the shooting of the Republicans while playing baseball. Dems have had to point out over and over that the Dem leaders have not encouraged violence against their opponents.

I have heard Trump say while his supporters wildly cheered: (I did not red it; I saw it)
Democrats hate America.
Democrats want to destroy this nation.
Democrats want to take away your health care. (Republicans voted against Obamacare about 60 times)
Democrats want to turn this nation into a giant sanctuary for criminal aliens and the MS-13 killers.
Democrats want to turn us into a Venezuela.
People in CA are rioting right now. I live in CA---no riots.
And like every dictator in every country does, he demonized his opponents. “Hillary---lock her up.”

Michael Barberi
2 weeks 4 days ago

Judith - Are we going to list all the things the Democrats have said about Trump as well. I don't like Trump's rhetoric and I do not endorse most of his comments. The comment about Venezuela is an exaggerated political comment about the Democrat's socialistic objectives....free government controlled healthcare, free college for all, open borders, eliminate ICE, etc. The problem is that all of the political discourse in WDC is full of hatred and hyperbolic rhetoric as well as misleading comments. THIS HAPPENS ON BOTH SIDES AND THIS IS THE PROBLEM. You cannot criticize Trump and be blind to the vitriolic comments by Democrats and the Media.

I REPEAT: My point to the Editors was not to silence their views about hyperbolic, wrong-headed and irresponsible comments by Trump. However, to blame Trump for encouraging a hate filled environment and the killing of 11 innocent people by a lunatic in a Synagogue is adding to our vitriolic political discourse. It is my opinion that these comments by the Editors "don't belong in this PARTICULAR article". They belong elsewhere, in another article. The Editors should have taken a higher moral road here. If they strongly thought to criticize Trump in this article, they should have balanced this criticism by criticizing the Democrats and the Media for doing the same thing.

You say that the Republicans blamed the Democrats for the shooting of Congressman Steve Scales? Prove it. I never heard such comments from Trump, Ryan or McConnell.

The U.S. Jewish community does have an unfavorable opinion of the performance of Trump as President. However, the overwhelming majority of them do not call him anti-Semitic.

We may have to agree to disagree here Judith.

Judith Jordan
1 week 2 days ago

Michael Barberi---I agree with you that many politicians and their supporters say deplorable things on both sides, but it is much worse for Trump to do that. He is the president and he should try to bring the country together rather than constantly dividing us. Nor do I find equanimity between the comments on the right and the liberals. You might remember the racism and the pathological lies the right told about Obama.

Bari Weiss, a NY Times staff editor and Opinion section writer, appeared on Bill Maher’s show on November 2, 2018. She was born in Pittsburgh, PA and attended The Tree of Life Synagogue where the recent shooting took place. I think her comments speak for most of the Jewish community. She also makes it easier for those of us who are not Jewish, to understand why most Jews view Trump as contributing to the slaughter at the Synagogue. She stated the following:

“Anti-Semitism is not just a prejudice; it is a conspiracy theory. There is a “secret hand” controlling the world and that secret hand is called the Jew. Even if Trump is not an anti-Semite, and I do not think he is, he is inculcating an atmosphere of conspiracy minded thinking. So, when he says things like “enemy of the people” “globalist” which he has been doing frequently for the last two years; in the minds of people like Richard Spencer and David Duke, they hear, “Jew, Jew, Jew.” It is not a surprise that people like that are found under Trump’s banter.”

I also do not think Trump is anti-Semitic, but he will use whatever he wants in order to advance his views at that moment. I agree with Weiss that Trump says things that appeal to the bigots. Some neo-Nazis and white supremacists have stated that Trump agrees with them and they support him. To my knowledge, Trump has never renounced their statements. You may remember that many in the Pittsburgh Jewish community asked Trump not to go to Pittsburgh until he denounced white nationalism. He ignored them. Good Lord, how difficult is it to renounce white nationalism?

I understand that you are claiming that the editors should not have included comments about Trump in this particular article. I respectfully disagree as I think Trump and his words are essential to the issues.

You asked what Republicans blamed the Democrats for the shooting of Congressman Scales. Here are some comments.

“The editor of the conservative Vessel News shared a video by former attorney general Loretta E. Lynch and asked whether the shooter had heeded her “call” for “blood on the streets.” In reality, Lynch was referring to civil rights protesters who “bled” and “died.”

“The Democrat base voter who shot up the Republican Congress today in Virginia, he was a mainstream Democrat voter,” said Rush Limbaugh on the Wednesday episode of his show. “He was not a Looney Tune kook burger.”

“Also on Wednesday, some in conservative media gilded the lily. A headline at the Drudge Report read “Gunman: ‘Kill as many Republicans as possible.’ ” That was a quote from Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.) describing what he thought the gunman’s motivation had been, not a quote from the gunman.”
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/wp/2017/06/14/conservativ…

“America has been divided, and the violence is appearing in the streets, and it’s coming from the left,” said Steve King, the Iowa Republican who has often sparked controversy for making incendiary comments about immigrants and once suggested that “radical Islamists” would see Barack Obama as a saviour.”

Also read other comments at https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jun/17/virginia-shooting-parti…

and
https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/congress/after-shooting-some-gop-blame…

Judith Jordan
2 weeks 5 days ago

Michael Barberi---When someone walks into a house of prayer, a synagogue, and begins shooting the members because they are Jewish, that is an act of pure evil. Are we to remain silent about such a horror? To condemn it is not to politicize it. It would be shameful for any Christian or America Magazine not to condemn it. We should also condemn anyone who creates the environment for violence and Trump says horrendous lies all the time that leads to this kind of thing.

Michael Barberi
2 weeks 4 days ago

Judith - read my reply above to your previous comment.

Stanley Kopacz
2 weeks 2 days ago

You can call what comes out of Trump rhetoric but that is very incorrect. It is hate speech purposely meant to exploit primal fears and ingrained prejudices. Trump does not directly attack Jews but he generates free floating hate that amplifies the irrational herd behaviour of social media. "A rising tide lifts all boats". When applied to the economy, it's a neoliberal lie. When applied to tribal hatreds, it's quite true. Anti-semitic acts are rising along with all others. It's the Trump effect.

Barry Fitzpatrick
1 week 5 days ago

Hard to be charitable, as you suggest, when reading some of the comments below which reveal ignorance, deep-seated prejudice, and harmful rhetoric. Your editorial is a call to action to engage our Jewish brothers and sisters in the kind of behavior that will lead to social change and maybe even lead to a serious reduction in the virulent anti-Semitism that rears its ugly head in our society all too often.
Surely you don't think that because a man's daughter converts to a particular religion that all his prejudices disappear? You're not that naive, are you?

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