Text of Cardinal Cushing’s Address on Draft Statement on Jews

This is a translation of the Latin address by Richard Cardinal Cushing of Boston on the council’s draft declaration on the Jews at the council session of Sept. 28, 1964.

The declaration on the Jews and non-Christians is acceptable, in general. Through this Ecumenical Council the Church must manifest to the whole world, and to all men, a concern which is genuine, an esteem all-embracing, a sincere charity — in a word, it must show forth Christ. And in this schema De Ecumenismo, with its declarations on religious liberty and on the Jews and non-Christians, in a certain sense it does just that. I would propose, however, three amendments specifically on the Jews.

First: We must make our statement about the Jews more positive, less timid, more charitable. Our text well illustrates the priceless patrimony which the new Israel has received from the law and the prophets.

And it well illustrates what the Jews and Christians share in common. But surely we ought to indicate the fact that we sons of Abraham according to the spirit must show a special esteem and particular love for the sons of Abraham according to the flesh because of this common patrimony. As sons of Adam, they are our brothers: As sons of Abraham, they are the blood brothers of Christ.

The fourth paragraph of this declaration should manifest this and our obligation of special esteem, as a conclusion which logically flows from the first section.

Secondly: On the culpability of the Jews for the death of our Savior, as we read in Sacred Scriptures, the rejection of the Messiah by His own people is a mystery: a mystery which is indeed for our instruction, not for exaltation.

The parables and prophecies of Our Lord teach us this. We cannot judge the leaders of ancient Israel — God alone is their judge. And most certainly we cannot dare attribute to later generations of Jews the guilt of the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus or the death of the Savior of the world, except in the sense of the universal guilt in which all of us men share.

We know and we believe that Christ died freely, and He died for all men and because of the sins of all men, Jews and gentiles.

Therefore, in this declaration in clear and evident words we must deny that the Jews are guilty of the death of our Savior, except insofar as all men have sinned and on that account crucified Him and, indeed, still crucify Him. And especially, we must condemn any who would attempt to justify inequities, hatred or even persecution of the Jews as Christian actions.

All of us have seen the evil fruit of this kind of false reasoning. In this august assembly, in this solemn moment, we must cry out. There is no Christian rationale — neither theological nor historical — for any inequity, hatred or persecution of our Jewish brothers.

Great is the hope, both among Catholics and among our separated Christian brothers, as well as among our Jewish friends in the New World, that this sacred synod will make such a fitting declaration.

Thirdly and finally, I ask, venerable brothers, whether we ought not to confess humbly before the world that Christians, too frequently, have not shown themselves as true Christians, as faithful to Christ, in their relations with their Jewish brothers? In this our age, how many have suffered! How many have died because of the indifference of Christians, because of silence! There is no need to enumerate the crimes committed in our own time. If not many Christian voices were lifted in recent years against the great injustices, yet let our voices humbly cry out now.

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