Why were the
Jews permitted to live and be persecuted - another
answer, provided in James Carrolls fascinating book,
is St Augustine. In the year 425, shortly after Christians
slaughtered the Jews of Alexandria in the first recorded
pogrom, that influential Church further cautioned, "Do
not slay them." He preferred that the Jews be preserved,
close at hand, as unwilling witnesses to Old Testament prophecies
regarding Jesus. Augustines followers elaborated on
the idea, writes Carroll: Jews "must be allowed to
survive, but never to thrive", so their misery would
be "proper punishments for their refusal to recognise
the truth of the Churchs claims". The 18th Century
Jewish philosopher, Moses Mendelsohn, noted that were it
not for Augustines "lovely brainwave, we would
have been exterminated long ago". But it was a warped,
creepy kind of sufferance, a little like keeping someone
chained to the radiator instead of doing him in. And it
set the stage for countless persecutions as the Christian-Jewish
saga rolled on.
says his book was inspired by the large cross erected by
Poles outside Auschwitz. But his real target appears to
be the Vaticans 1998 apology, "We Remember".
That long awaited document expressed regret at Christian
mistreatment of Jews over the centuries but pinned the fault
on some of the Churchs sinful "members"
while holding blameless "the Church as such".
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