The Catholic Church has changed its spots

A refutation of a book that claims the Vatican is anti-Semitic

The Vatican Against Israel: J’accuse, published in November 2013 by Giulio Meotti, makes many unsubstantiated and unfair claims against the Catholic Church. I agree with Meotti’s highlighting the blatant anti-Semitism emanating from some Middle East Catholic leaders, which needs to be exposed along with a certain naiveté in the Catholic Church’s understanding of Islam. But overall it is a poorly written book that can hurt Catholic-Jewish and Christian-Jewish relations. Let me take five of Meotti’s claims:

1. Nostra Aetate

Meotti alleges that in Nostra Aetate 1965 “the Vatican reiterated its position against Jews” because it didn’t include a line that the Jews were not “a deicidal race.” Nostra Aetate actually represented a sea change in Roman Catholic attitudes to the Jews. I wish it had gone further as Pope Benedict did in his Apostolic Exhortation (2010) “the Church of the Gentiles is like a wild olive shoot, grafted onto the good olive tree that is the people of the Covenant (Romans 11:17-24). In other words, we draw our nourishment from the same spiritual roots.”

2. Anti-Semitism

Meotti alleges:“Today all the largest Catholic forums, most of the high ranking bishops and all of Arab Christianity, are immersed in a radical anti-Israel rhetoric that resembles that of the 1930’s” “Theological anti-Zionism which represents a majority current in the Catholic Church, pursues a long term eliminationist policy.” These charges are untrue. Roman Catholicism has made immense strides in combating anti-Semitism. As for the Church adopting anti-Zionist theology, this does not stand up. For example, the 18th ILC Meeting (2004) affirmed the total rejection of “anti-Semitism in all its forms, including anti-Zionism as a more recent manifestation of anti-Semitism.”

If Meotti is correct, how could Pope John Paul II have repented of anti-Semitism in his famous Prayer of Repentance that he placed in the Western Wall in Jerusalem, which is now in Yad Vashem.

3. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion

Meotti wrote “The Christian clergy is fuelling anti-Jew hatred again using the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” He then quotes Fr. Musalam, the head of the Catholic Church in Gaza, as using “the Protocols to incite hatred against the Jews.” While this is appalling from a Palestinian “Christian” leader surely Meotti should also have stated that the Vatican has condemned the Protocols. Cardinal Walter Kasper, head of the Commission for Relations with the Jews in Anti-Semitism: A Wound To Be Healed (2003), stated that the Protocols were an “anti Jewish libel” and contributed to a mindset of “contempt and hatred for the Jews” that led to the Holocaust.

4. State of Israel

Meotti writes “Within the Church there are growing numbers of leaders who dislike Israel because they believe that Jews are not entitled to any part of the Holy Land…..The problem is that the temporariness of the state of Israel is an idea shared by the largest part of the Catholic Church.” Where is his basis for these allegations? On the contrary there is much evidence of affirmation of God’s eternal Covenant with the Jews from many senior Catholic sources:

Pope John Paul II in 2003 affirmed that the Jewish people “are called by God to a covenant which remains irrevocable (Romans 11:29)”

Cardinal Schoenborn, a prominent Catholic Cardinal from Austria, stated in Jerusalem (2005) “Christians should rejoice in Jews’ return to Israel as a fulfilment of biblical prophecy.”

Pope Francis, in his first Encyclical (Nov 2013), affirmed the everlasting covenant with the Jews: “We hold the Jewish people in special regard because their covenant with God has never been revoked, for “the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.”

5. Replacement Theology

Meotti rightly highlights the appalling comments of Melkite Catholic Archbishop Chacour of Haifa who stated:”we do not believe anymore that the Jews are the Chosen People” and was vice president of Sabeel Theology Centre, which embraces Replacement Theology. Meotti then implies that Roman Catholic Church has reverted to embracing Replacement Theology. This is totally incorrect.

Cardinal Walter Kasper (2003) stated RC teaching:

“the Church does not replace Israel, but is grafted onto it…, a complete break between the Church and the Synagogue is in contradiction to Sacred Scripture….God did not abandon his Covenant with the Jews.”

As I have demonstrated, Meotti does a major injustice to the Catholic Church regarding its relationship with the Jewish people and Israel. It seems he approached this book from a position of bias against RC. “I don’t really believe that Catholicism has changed its spots and put 1700 years of anti Semitism behind it,” He admits. Well I praise the Lord that RC has changed its spots and has and continues to repent for the sins of the past. As Pope Francis has repeatedly said, “a Christian cannot be an anti-Semite.”

For a long form version of this article please email .

About the Author
Paddy Monaghan is a Catholic Lay Leader in Ireland and a founding member of Irish Christian Friends of Israel. He has visited Israel 25 times and helped organise two Jewish-Christian Solidarity trips to Israel.
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