No place for hate in the Catholic faith
We are living in strange times. Just as we prepare to celebrate the birth of our Savior, we see growing evidence that many people are pulling away from the lessons of the Gospel and the unequivocal example of "love thy neighbor" that Christ offers.
This dynamic is on clear and disturbing display with the rise in hatred across this nation, where people and communities of all stripes are being targeted, threatened and, in some horrifying cases, attacked. There are far too many examples of these sinful developments to cite here, but one that has caught much national attention of late is the despicable rise and normalization of antisemitism.
The well-documented rise in hate aimed at people of the Jewish faith seems to have taken on outsized proportions — where people who hold national profiles and megaphones have either made antisemitic statements themselves or allowed others with whom they are associated to make them without condemnation.
Some of these statements have been so egregious that we can scarcely believe we are hearing them in the United States in 2022.
What is perhaps most strange about all of this is that a number of these high-profile agents of hate seem to have cynically cloaked themselves in the Catholic faith — speaking as if justified in their so-called Catholic faith to falsely accuse and threaten people who do not see things as they do.
Religious tolerance, a principle for which the church is consistently advocating, seems to have been conveniently dismissed by these individuals who label themselves Catholic and claim that other faiths are the enemy, or who promote ouster from the country for Americans who adhere to a different faith.
Unfortunately, several of these individuals have media audiences and regularly dispense their twisted take on religion. One such person who champions autocracy and political violence (and who is currently waiting to serve a jail sentence) sits regularly in front of a video camera spewing hate with an image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus posted just behind him on full display.
The good news is that Catholic bishops are not sitting still for this.
In late November, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs issued a very strong statement making crystal clear the unique and essential relationship between the Catholic and Jewish faiths. Citing the upcoming 60th anniversary of "Nostra Aetate" ("In Our Time"), the statement urged all believers in Christ once again to decry all "hatred, persecutions, displays of antisemitism, directed against Jews at any time and by anyone" ("Nostra Aetate," 4).
The statement, in part, reads:
"More than ever, members of the body of Christ must now become aware of their spiritual ties to the Jewish people chosen first to hear the Word of God. In his letter to the Romans, St. Paul spoke of the church as wild shoots grafted onto an olive tree, that is, the Jews. He cautioned: 'you do not support the root, the root supports you' (Rom 11:17-24.) The rising trend of antisemitic incidents has become even more painful in light of the church's relationship to the Jewish tradition and our connections to the Jewish people in dialogue and friendship."
"These same lessons are being challenged by the re-emergence of antisemitism in new forms. Outraged by the deeply hurtful proliferations of antisemitic rhetoric, both online and in-person, and the violent attacks on Jewish individuals, homes and institutions, we wish to convey our sincere support to the Jewish people. As Pope Francis has stated, 'A true Christian cannot be an antisemite' (address to members of the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations, June 24, 2013)."
Our Catholic faith calls us to love. We know who we are and we are better than the hate espoused by these wolves in sheep's clothing.
This commentary titled "No place for hate in the Catholic faith" was published Dec. 5 on the website of The Monitor, the online news site of the Diocese of Trenton, New Jersey. It was written by Rayanne Bennett, associate publisher.