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From Enemy to Brother: The Revolution in Catholic Teaching on the Jews, 1933-1965 Hardcover – February 6, 2012
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From Enemy to Brother is an astonishing achievement, one of the most significant books written on the history of twentieth-century Catholicism. (John T. McGreevy, University of Notre Dame)
An excellent resource for those studying the Holocaust, racism more generally, and the developments leading up to Vatican II's statement on Christianity's relation to the Jewish People. (John T. Pawlikowski, OSM, Catholic Theological Union)
This path-breaking book, based on extensive documentation, will be essential reading for all those interested in Christian-Jewish relations and the history of antisemitism. (Antony Polonsky, Brandeis University and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum)
The extraordinary story told by Connelly reveals not only that Catholic magisterium is able to change its mind, but also that a doctrinal renewal of this kind may well begin as a small movement in the Church, frowned upon by the hierarchy, that gradually finds acceptance among Catholic and their theologians to be finally affirmed by the highest authority. In the present winter of the Catholic Church it is good to be reminded of the innovative power of Spirit-guided movements within Catholicism. (Gregory Baum The Ecumenist 2012-06-01)
[A] remarkable new book...It is one of the central lessons of Connelly's book that the bonds of empathy that made Nostra Aetate a historical possibility are far more fragile, and less expansive, than one might care to imagine. The detailed history of its genesis reveals a singular fact: most of the architects of the Catholic statement concerning the Jews in 1965 were themselves, either by descent or practice or public definition, Jews who had converted to Christianity...Connelly has written an important book, an extraordinary work of history. (Peter E. Gordon New Republic 2012-06-07)
Remarkable...Connelly...has mastered a vast and obscure literature, much of it hitherto unpublished and most of it in German, in order to establish the contours of what he aptly characterizes as a "revolution" in mid-20th-century Catholic thought...Connelly's book...hugely enriches its historical context. He shows that there were Catholics who held the Church to account while the Holocaust was taking place, demanded that it abandon the teaching of contempt, and eventually persuaded their coreligionists to adopt a new understanding of the Jewish role in history. Catholics and Jews alike should welcome such a scholarly reappraisal of the most painful chapter in the history of their relationship. (Daniel Johnson Jewish Ideas Daily 2012-06-18)
Excellent...Connelly's book is important because for the first time we have a comprehensive tale of the genesis of a new teaching. This is a book about workers in the vineyard who have largely been overlooked or bypassed in church history. But it is to these workers, who rose before dawn, that the church owes profound, if belated, respect. (Charles R. Gallagher America 2012-10-08)
Catholic theologians owe a debt of gratitude to John Connelly for retracing a painful but fruitful period of theological reflection. Anyone who draws close to Dietrich von Hildebrand, Karl Thieme, and Johannes Oesterreicher will be given fresh eyes for the sources of theology and a reverence for the mystery of Israel. (Nicholas J. Healy Jr. First Things 2013-01-01)
Connelly's book...is invaluable for its close tracking of the development of the Pauline argument for the continuing validity of the Jewish Covenant...This, as it stands, is a good book, and an important one. (Garry Wills New York Review of Books 2013-03-21)
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The book's title includes two dates: 1933 and 1965.
-- In January 1933 Adolph Hitler came to power in Germany and quickly drew upon centuries of ingrained European feelings about Jews ranging from superiority to hatred.
-- In December 1965 Pope Paul VI closed the three year old Second Vatican Council. Its "Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions NOSTRA AETATE ("In our times") included a brief Chapter Four on the Jews described as "Abraham's Stock." In a few Latin sentences, the Council fathers reversed and intended to end definitively centuries of anti-Jewish preaching by the Roman Catholic Church.
From the days of the New Testament, the earliest followers of Jesus of Nazareth wrestled with such questions as: must a pagan become a Jew before becoming a Christian? Initially, that was a decision only leading Jewish Christians could make. And in the ACTS OF THE APOSTLES we see Christian Jews gathered in Jerusalem laying down conditions allowing pagans to be baptized and enter into fellowship with Jews who followed Jesus. Thus it was rules laid down by Jews that made it possible for Greeks and other heathen to follow Jesus as brothers. Only Jews, initially, had such power in the Church.
According to Professor John Connelly, John the Evangelist, long before he died, stopped considering himself a Jew. By contrast, Paul of Tarsus never ceased being and feeling himself to be Jewish. Indeed, it was the 20th Century re-emphasis on three agonizing chapters (9 - 10 and 11) of Paul's Letter to the Romans that allowed Catholic theologians to replace John's and Matthew's ostensibly anti-Jewish strictures with an astonishingly "new" conception of the divine mission of Jews guaranteed by God independently of any role allotted to Jews within a purely Christian narrative. Admittedly for centuries a Christianity dominated by converted pagans and their offspring acted as if they could push Jews around. And they definitely arrogated to themselves the privilege of telling God how He wanted them to mistreat Jews. But since December 1965, Catholics are required to believe that Jews need no Catholic Christian's "by your leave" either to become Christian or not to.
The author mentions scores of thinkers from the 1840s until 2012 who are relevant to the shift from contempt to love by Catholics for Jews. Leon Bloy (1846 - 1917) is of early importance as are Jacques Maritain, Cardinal Richard Cushing and many more. Connelly builds his narrative around two men of the 20th Century who, more than anyone else, created the ideas that, after many fits and starts, revolutionized the Catholic Church in December 1965. They are Catholic converts Karl Thieme (from Protestantism) and John Oesterreicher (from Judaism).
Despite its complexity and huge canvas, the 300 pages of narrative followed by 84 pages of Notes, Acknowledgments and Index that make up FROM ENEMY TO BROTHER are easy to follow, grasp and summarize. The author's argument is that without Hitler's Holocaust/Shoah, Catholic bishops and the pope would never have bothered at Rome in 1965 radically to redefine the Church's attitude toward Jews. Throughout the 19th and well into the 20th century, most Catholic leaders were not in possession of words or conceptual frameworks for thinking of the Jews as had Jesus their brother Jew. But Hitler's slaughter of six million Jews made further Catholic silence and passivity unthinkable. The Scriptural key turned out to be Romans Chs. 9-11. There the Apostle Paul tortured himself with questions about why all Jews did not follow his example and follow Christ. But worth our remembering is that no other Jew had been struck down by God himself on the road to Damascus.
By October 1965 when NOSTRA AETATE was approved by a vote of 2,221 against only 88 bishops, there was a radical new firm consensus: within the Catholic Church the Jews were the root; converted Christians, should they have first been pagans, were humble wild branches elected by the mercy of God for salvation by grafting on to Israel. The Jews have always had and retain today their own unique mission from God: a mission to be accepted but not to be defined or curtailed by Christians. Jews do not need to be baptized in order to do God's covenanted will.
Beyond a sense of Christian guilt and shame for having allowed the Shoah to happen, at the pragmatic/genetic/interpersonal level, NOSTRA AETATE and its fourth chapter on the Jews owes much to the fact that a very large percentage of the thinkers rethinking old negative thoughts were themselves Catholic converts, some from Protestantism (e.g. Jacques Maritain, who, however, boasted that he was now tribally Jewish through marriage to Jewish wife Raissa) but more converted from Judaism (most of them also denying that they thereby ceased to be Jews).
Also of crucial importance was that at some point before October 1965 key church leaders at Vatican II, especially Cardinal Augustin Bea, S.J., began not only reaching out personally to Jews but more importantly listened to Jews. Finally, among Jewish thinkers being listened to were first class students of the Christian New Testament. Prominent Jews paying close attention to Vatican II between 1963 and 1965 included Rabbi Arthur Gilbert (U.S. National Council of Christians and Jews), Joseph Lichten (B'nai B'rith), Rabbis A. James Rudin and Gilbert S. Rosenthal and others (Ch. 8).
Professor Connelly showcases the friendship that sprang up between Cardinal Bea and Abraham Heschel. "... Cardinal Bea found a new language to talk about Jews only after he began talking to Jews" (Ch 8, p. 249). Notably Bea interacted with "the American rabbi of Polish origin Abraham J. Heschel," a theologian, like Bea, trained in Germany. Heschel's message to Bea was, "Jews want to be known, and understood and respected as Jews." No one, not even the Pope whom he met, could forget Heschel's ringing declaration that between forced conversion to Christianity and being gassed at Auschwitz, he would choose Auschwitz (Ch 8, p. 257)!
Echoing Heschel, Ernst Ludwig Ehrlich of B'nai B'rith at a crucial point of Vatican II intervened to insist that the Council not distort its own Christian scripture, especially Saint Paul. The Jews would still be with and beloved by God at the end of time. It was also, according to Paul, the Gentiles who had to "come in" to enter fully the "people of God." Consensus emerged among the Council's fathers that the relation of Christians and Jews remained indeed in some respects "a mystery" but it was no longer a permissibly hostile one. The Council in the end tacitly accepted that Catholics cease actively trying to convert Jews. All Jews asked was that Christians treat them as the Jesus of the New Testament would surely treat them: reverently, thankfully, even as "elder brothers" in the Faith of Abraham.
One happy result of Catholic attention to Jews at Vatican II was that in the early 1960s Jews found it to their distinct advantage to know the New Testament -- in some cases better than their Catholic interlocutors. Jews made sure that the Second Vatican Council did not speak of them with language incompatible with the kindest passages of the New Testament.
It is very hard to think of bad things to say about History Professor John Connelly's 2012 FROM ENEMY TO BROTHER: THE REVOLUTION IN CATHOLIC TEACHING ON THE JEWS 1933 - 1965. Beyond three or four typos and an omission or two (e.g. Avery Dulles, S.J.) in the book's Index, I have nothing negative to point to.
Bottom Line: FROM ENEMY TO BROTHER is splendid. It is a first step, not a last one, for readers to understand how Catholic thinking on the Jews changed after Hitler and the Holocaust. Professor John Connelly piles on the anecdotes to make his case. One he may not know of is how much Boston's Cardinal Richard Cushing's ecumenical thinking at Vatican II and elsewhere came from simply knowing, loving and cherishing his favorite sister's Jewish husband -- as a Jew. No dogma or Scripture was going to convince Richard Cushing that his brother-in-law would roast forever in hell simply for being a Jew! And if that brother-in-law died, the Cardinal of Boston would pray that his sister would marry another Jew. Of such anecdotes along with shifts in high theology was the Second Vatican Council made.
It is received wisdom that the wheels that run the Catholic Church grind
slowly, extremely slowly. In the case of a sea-going vessel, it takes tremendous
effort to change the course of a large ship, for it needs to be done at a slow rate and not in haste, lest the vessel capsize. John Connelly, who is an associate
professor of history at the University of California, Berkeley, has in his book
From Enemy to Brother: The Revolution in Catholic Teaching on the Jews, 1933-1965
presented in exquisite (some might say exhausting) detail how the otherwise slow-moving Church was able to recast its position towards the Jews in a remarkably short period of time, while at that same time it sought to redefine
herself during the Second Vatican Council. One of prominent successes of the
Second Vatican Council was the promulgation of Nostra Aetate in 1965.
Speaking in 2006, fifty years after the Declaration, Father Thomas Stransky, C.S.P., one of those who drafted Nostra Aetate as an advisor at Vatican II, said the Declaration signaled "a 180 degree turnabout" for the Church. Connelly, referencing Edward H. Flannery's best-seller, The Anguish of the Jews (1965), said that Nostra Aetate had revised "... all that the church had taught about Jews since its early days, a time when teachings about Christ's divinity or the Trinity had yet to be formulated. From the third century at the latest, church authorities taught that the Jews' destiny was to wander the earth suffering retribution from God for rejecting Christ, seeing in their destitution as the most direct evidence that the church's claims to God's favor were correct. By acts of discrimination passed by councils through the centuries, the church then created conditions calculated to keep the Jews destitute. This situation was supposed to endure until the end of time, when the Jews finally turned to Christ." (2)
While the Connelly book's subtitle indicates 1933 as the terminus ante quem, the rise of the officially sanctioned racism of Nazi Germany, he does not shrink from recounting the quasi-official attitudes and teachings that had infiltrated the Church long before the rise of Hitler.
In brief, a theologically indefensible racist doctrine pervaded Christianity (both Catholic and Protestant) in the German-speaking lands, a doctrine by which Jews were perceived as having a "second original sin" that baptism could not eliminate or mitigate. Jews were seen as genetically incapable of become genuine, sincere Christians. Thus, Jews who converted to Christianity were considered "less Christian" than Gentile Christians and therefore not to be trusted. Indeed, Father John Oesterreicher, a Jew who converted to Catholicism and became a priest, was bitter that there were people who refused to receive Communion from him.) Connelly further demonstrates, chapter and verse, where such absurdity was
even to be found in the writings of such beloved theologians as Karl Adam and
Hans Urs von Balthasar.
It must also be remembered that while in the German-speaking lands (and
elsewhere), notions of race, blood, and nation were at odds with official
teachings of the Church, there were men high-placed within the Church who were able to twist the Church's teachings to fit the new racist nationalism. Add to this the rise of Communism in Russia and the significant presence of Jews in
the early Bolshevik leadership. Many Church leaders believed the spurious
Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the anti-Semitic hoax that outlined a Jewish plot for world domination, and conflated it with Communism. Theological anti-
Semitism and political anti-Semitism became intertwined, with disastrous consequences for both Jews and the Church.
Late in his papacy, Pope Pius XI, deeply troubled by Hitler's impact on
Europe and the neo-paganism of Nazism, drafted an encyclical which would have forbade German National Socialism as the Church had already forbidden atheist Communism. Although Pope Pius XI died before this encyclical could be published, his view was already known to many at the Vatican, but was (unfortunately) only implicit policy.
With the defeat of the Nazis and the revelations of industrialized murder on an unprecedented scale, a few brave individuals dared to question the notion that the Nazis had been agents of God in punishing the Jews, and that the slaughter of some one million innocent children was theologically justifiable. Sadly, those asking the questions were not especially high in the Church and they struggled to make their voices heard. Indeed, in a survey taken around 1950, the death of the Jews seemed not at all to trouble the vast majority of German Christians.
Already before the war, however, there were men and women who had challenged the racism implicit in the Church. But they were few in number, often Jewish and Protestant converts to Catholicism, and only talking to one another. After the war, a group of such like-minded individuals coalesced around Gertrud Luckner (1900-1995) and her publication, Freiburger Rundbrief. In active discussions, Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish writers debated and thrashed out many arguments, at first to an audience of only a handful, but within a decade to thousands.
Pope John XXIII, the visionary architect of Vatican II, was acutely aware of the need to correct the attitude of the faithful and, to set the Church on a new path, guided by love, charity and humility. He selected Cardinal Augustin Bea, a
biblical scholar, to draft a document outlining how the Church disavowed and
It would hardly be possible to summarize briefly or do justice to Connelly's work over several chapters to describe the interactions of just two major players in this drama, Karl Thieme (1902-1963) and John Oesterreicher (1904-1992), and how their often opposing views and attitudes developed and changed over time. Citing both published articles and letters, Connelly demonstrates how Thieme (a Protestant convert to Catholicism) moderated his views from the "traditional" theological anti-Semitism to an acceptance that God's covenant with Israel was never abrogated. In the case of Oesterreicher, he went from being a priest of Jewish birth who sought to convert Jews to being a Catholic priest who also openly identified himself as a Jew.
Connelly's book, with its vast scholarly apparatus and complex theological details, might deter an interested layman, which would be a pity. Nonetheless, those of a more scholarly bent will immediately recognize how painstaking and formidable the scholarship is, and a delight that enlightens. Connelly does not have an axe to grind, nor is his intention either to whitewash or demonize the Church.
To the contrary, he, as a dispassionate scholar, has amassed and analyzed an impressive corpus of data from ore mined from rich veins. It is this reviewer's sincere belief that From Enemy to Brother will become the gold standard for future scholars researching this subject.
To play on Matthew 13:16: Beati oculi qui hunc librum lecturi