ASK FATHER: Antisemitism among “traditionalist” Catholics – UPDATED

UPDATE 31 Dec 2017:

The original questioner wrote:

Thank you so much for your guidance in response to my query. I had never even considered that my heartache could be used as an opportunity to grow in holiness! Rereading my words, the Lord also pricked my conscience regarding my own bitter prejudice against Arab Christians, which fairly sang out from the page. It would seem I have work enough to do removing the beam from my own eye. Please remember me in your prayers, Father, and rest assured of your place in mine.

Originally Published on: Dec 30, 2017

From a reader…


First of all, thank you so much for your blog, I visit often and thoroughly enjoy your wit and unabashed orthodoxy. I am a convert with both Jewish and Protestant backgrounds, by the Grace of God, now a Catholic for five years. I am drawn powerfully to the Latin Mass and have serious difficulties with Vatican II. That said, whenever I visit traditionalist sites online, I am invariably slapped in the face with the gleeful antisemitism that seems to be a prerequisite to “belonging” in such cases. I’ve lived in Israel. I love the country and the Jewish people. I see no reason to be ashamed of this. I was sickened, literally became nauseous, by a ‘devout’ woman who took umbrage to the fact that I felt compelled to question a certain priest’s position that the Holocaust never happened. Fr. William something or other – not important. I have been told that I must purge myself of Zionist lies. That the “indigenous” Palestinians will one day be free of the Jews – these same Jews who stand with the West (those in the West willing to stand) against the scourge that is, and will be, the Islamic threat. And I am tired, so very tired, of hearing about the beleaguered Christian Arabs – whom I personally saw attacking Jews alongside with Muslims during the hudna of 2003, a part of the Second Intifada. These Christians will kill Jews, the only people keeping the Muslims from killing them. I ask you, Father, why is hating the Jews a membership due of the traditionalist Catholic. I will not abandon Christ over this, I will not go back to Judaism – I am in the bark of St. Peter, and with God’s help, will remain there until my dying breath. I cannot abandon the One who would not abandon me – but I need to know why Jews and Israel are such a problem. In truth, I need to hear someone say that this is wrong. If you cannot be that one, so be it – but explain your position to me, nonetheless. The Jews and the Muslims need conversion, as every human being does – I do not ascribe to the Nostra Aetate, we cannot go against Christ’s own commandment and call ourselves faithful, but how to leave the wound of antisemitism behind without leaving the Word? Please tell me that is possible.

First of all, congratulations on your determination to come into the Church.  By doing so, you brought to bloom both your Jewish and Protestant roots.

I am sorry you have had negative experiences.  Provided that there were no misunderstandings or miscommunication, Catholics ought to abhor the things that have been said to you by traditionalists.

Keep in mind that these folks are individuals, and that they only speak for themselves, or perhaps for smallish blogs and/or organizations, as the case may be.  They do not speak for me or the vast majority of traditional Catholics, or the Church.

The Church recognizes that antisemitism is a sin. That said, there are tiny pockets of antisemitism in the Catholic Church, just as there are tiny pockets of racism and other forms of ignorance and hatred.

Mind you, the Church is not a Church of the spotless and the pure.   The Church which Christ founded is precisely of and for sinners. Else, who is there for Christ to save? If any man says he is not a sinner he is a liar (cf. 1 John 1:8).

Sometimes the Church is described as a “field hospital”.  If we are going to take that analogy seriously – and not just blurt it in a shallow, sentimental way – then let’s keep firmly before our faces the fact that, in “field hospitals” many ugly things happen.  There is a lot of blood, screaming, pain and, quite often, death.  Even with the great improvements in combat medicine and field hospitals, despite the heroic work of the personnel many who go in don’t come out alive, and many who do live are scarred.

The Church remains the spotless Bride of Christ, but we her members are not spotless.

Some who are in the Church will not go to heaven, despite the efforts of their pastors and loved ones, because of their black hearts and sins or even from sheer neglect and indifference.   Some will not go to heaven because of the damage they are doing within the Church herself.

Not all will be saved.  God will sort them out and he cannot be fooled.

As far as the State of Israel is concerned, both I and the people I know are its strong supporters.  We detest terrorism directed against Israelis. Although the Holy See is not without its tremendous blind spots when it comes to the State of Israel, each Pope since St. John Paul II has recognized Israel as a sovereign state.  No other Christian church or denomination can do that.

I hope that, as you continue to settle into the Church and to find its bright and beautiful chambers along with its dark corners and cellars, you will calmly distinguish between what we might be able to call traditionalist and, on the other hand traditional Catholics, the latter being the group to which you and your friends belong.

I doubt my words here can take all of the sting from what you experienced, but perhaps they can help you sort out what is going on if you encounter it again.

Remember that it is a spiritual work of mercy to bear wrongs patiently.

I may take some comments by email only.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  2. Anti-semitism is abhorrent and utterly incompatible with Christianity. I simply cannot understand how Christians can hate Jews, when Jesus, his mother, his kin and his Apostles are all Jewish.

    As to the state of Israel and the Christian Arabs: it ought not be an either/or. To support Israel and to appreciate what is admirable about Israel does not require turning a blind eye to the injustices that have happened, in Israel’s modern history, to the Arabs. The whole situation is a tragedy.

  3. From a reader via email:

    I too had this experience when I first discovered the world of Traditionalist Catholicism. How natural, in our digital world, when wishing to immerse ourselves in the traditions of our Church, to go online and find communities that can help you get “up to speed” on all the wonderful things you have been missing out on!

    But as you have found, and as Father Z put it, we are all subject to human frailty. We know that the devil hates the Traditional Mass, and Latin, and all the many powerful weapons that the undiluted Church has against him. So it is only natural that those who love and seek these things should come under special attack by him. “You want Tradition?” he says—“OK, have it, and now do the silly frail human thing of taking it too far and using it as a flail to beat the chaff from the wheat!” And these people, who are doing their very best to drive away the demons that are afflicting the Church, and their own wounds from feeling abandoned by that Church, fall only too easily into that trap. After all, they are trying to purify themselves and the Church, right?

    So you will find many, many Traditionalists out there who are wielding Traditionalism as a weapon against any number of God’s people. Your task, then, is to pray for them, as well as for those upon whom they sadly spew their hatred and frustration, and to always be careful to discern the difference between Church Tradition, and its shadow of Traditionalism, because –isms tend to take things too far and too literally, whereas the true and good and pure Traditions which come from Mother Church remain untainted by those who embrace them despite their own frailty.

    Please pray for me and I will pray for you.

    God bless you, Father.

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