A tale of two paintings

I owe an update to the readers of this blog. Three weeks ago I wrote about a worrying attempt to revamp the antisemitic worship of Simon of Trent.
A depiction of the alleged martyrdom, full of grotesque motifs, had been uploaded on social media, by the author, a Traditional Catholic Italian painter, whose theology as well as pictorial skills seems to be stuck in the late 16th Century, the time of Caravaggio and the Inquisition.

Fellow coreligionists had flocked to praise the so-called artistic work with the non-unexpected tirades: against the “powerful Jewish lobby”, the Rothschilds, the Illuminati, David Icke’s Rectilarians etc. Equally not unexpected, Palestinian flags were generously on display in the comments’ space.

I was asking, as many other Jews were doing at the same time, for a condemnation of the horrific painting from the Catholic Church. I am pleased to report that it has happened. On April 2, none other than  Monsignor Ambrogio Spreafico, chair of the Interfaith Committee of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, issued the strongest possible condemnation of that painting.

Monsignor Spreafico reminded that the Church has got rid of that antisemitic form of devotion, exhorted all the Catholics to work together with the Jews to debunk the legend and stripped away any approval from those who call themselves Catholics but persist on spreading such a lie.
One really cannot ask for more.

We Jews should not take for granted statements like this. Even in Italy, the Catholic Church is not as popular as it used to be. Churches are empty and religious schools struggle to attract students. Bishops and priests may be tempted to welcome support from traditional circles, such as that of the antisemitic painter. High Catholic authorities have halted the resurfacing of the cult in an admirably quick way.

Compare it with the Labour Party under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.

Do you remember how much time was needed for that leader to utter some words of disapproval of an equally heinous and antisemitic mural?   I am referring to that horrific depiction of bankers, caricatured as Jews, playing Monopoly on the back of the working-class.

In 2012 Jeremy Corbyn defended the mural on the grounds of freedom of artistic expression. On Apr 1st, from the authoritative newspaper “Il Foglio”, Camillo Langone, a prestigious Traditional Catholic Italian journalist has raised the same argument in defense of the anti-Semitic painting. But voices like his, and there were plenty, had been righty ignored by the Catholic Church.

For Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters, it took several years to admit that there was something wrong in that antisemitic doodle. Compare that with the two weeks that the Catholic Church, a far bigger and more complex organization, had taken before stating, in much clearer terms, that these motifs are not acceptable. The Italian bishops have proved that they do not want antisemites in their flock. The Labour Party still has to prove it.

Notably, the permanent virtual gathering of “non-Zionist” supporters of Jeremy Corbyn includes some Jew, whose quacking can be heard through Twitter and various social media (although not so much in the ballots). Some of them can occasionally demand action against the rampant antisemitism in their midst, but Heaven forbid to demand the expulsion of individuals. There may antisemitism on the left, they concede, but let’s not rush to condemnation, try to “educate” instead.

Not so different are those Jews who want the readers of history books to believe that in Early Modern times, some conventicle of Jews has actually theorised and perhaps even practised the killing of Christian babies, obviously out of a “tribal culture of resentment and fear” the same that according to the far-left guides contemporary Zionists and many supporters of Israel. A book full of such nonsense was published in 2007, with the dismay of the vast majority of history scholars.

It would have been so easy for the Italian bishops to just wash their hands. They could have pointed to a book published in 2007, whose author, after all, is Jewish, and hint that “there may have been cases” of ritual murder of Catholic babies by the hand of Jews, so that there was no need to rush to a quick condemnation of a work of art, whose author, after all, was a good guy, a pious Catholic, “one of us”.

Thankfully, the Catholic Church has decided to take a less easy route, to stand against antisemitism and superstition, and I am personally grateful for that.
As for the Labour Party, I wish they would learn from the Catholics.

About the Author
Italian by birth, Israeli by choice, Rabbi of the largest synagogue in Sussex (UK). Uncompromising Zionist.
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