Text of San Antonio Auxiliary Bishop on Declaration on Jews

This is the text of the address delivered by Auxiliary Bishop Stephen A. Leven of San Antonio, Tex., at the ecumenical council on Sept. 29 on the proposed council declaration on the Jews.

In general the declaration is satisfactory, but I wish to propose three emendations. Proposing the first and second I speak in the name of nearly all the archbishops and bishops of the United States; proposing the third I speak in my own name.

  1. To paragraph 32, line 22 should be added, “The Jews must never be called a deicide people.” This monitum was set forth plainly in the first version of this document, that is, in chapter four of the schema on ecumenism given to us last year. It was said in that text that the Jews were not guilty of deicide. Now this statement is not in the present text.

Some say this statement was suppressed because the word deicide is philosophically and theologically absurd, per se contradictory, and therefore not worthy of a conciliar document.

Fathers of the council, we are not dealing here with some philosophical entity but with a word of infamy and execration which was invented by Christians and used to blame and persecute the Jews. For so many centuries, and even in our own, Christians have hurled this word against Jews and because of it they have justified every kind of horrible excess and even their slaughter and destruction. It is not up to us to make a declaration about something philosophical but to reprobate and damn a word which has furnished so many occasions of persecution through the centuries. We must tear this word out of the Christian vocabulary so that it may never again be used against the Jews.

The Council of Trent declared that all men and their sins were the cause of the death of Christ. Therefore, we are all guilty and we must confess that we have sinned and procured the death of Christ. This death is not to be attributed to any one people.

There is another reason why this sentence should be restored in the text of our declaration. The whole world knows the history of anti-Semitism among Christians. So many horrible things have been perpetrated against the Jews. Now the world awaits and expects an absolute and irrefutable sign of our good faith in this matter of justice. We must repudiate the Machiavellian spirit by which we would demand justice for ourselves alone. We, as Fathers of the council, must seek justice for all men according to the necessities of situation and time. Our time and our situation now demand this repudiation and reprobation. Precisely because this was in the earlier document does its omission here seem a refusal of the justice we must render to the Jews.

  1. My second emendation: in paragraph 32 after line 32 should be inserted, “Not all the Jews of the time of Christ are to be blamed for the death of Christ.”

Obviously, many of the Jews of the time of Christ, especially in the diaspora, never heard of Him, nor could they have consented to His death. It is as absurd to accuse all the Jews of the time of Christ of His death as it would be to blame all the Romans of that time for His death because the Roman Pilate delivered Him up and Roman soldiers nailed Him to the Cross.

  1. The third and final emendation I make in my own name. To paragraph 33, line 2 there should be added an expression of our eschatological hope that all men of every race and people, Jews and gentiles, will be gathered together with God, as St. Paul wrote (I Tim. 2, 4): “It is the will of God that all men should be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.” Thus also we will apply in this context the beautiful words of the Constitution on the Church, chapter 1, paragraph 2, lines 10-15, “But at that time, as we read in the holy Fathers, all the just from the time of Adam ‘from Abel the just even to the last of the elect’ will be gathered together with the Father in the universal church.”
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