Primary Texts on History of Relations

Dialogika Resources

DRAFT ENCYCLICAL: "Humani Generis Unitas" (1938)

In 1938, at the request of Pope Pius XI, three Jesuits prepared the draft of an encyclical that the pope planned to issue, which would condemn Nazi racism as contrary to Christian faith. The drafters were a Frenchman, Gustave Desbuquois, S.J.; a German, Gustav Gundlach, S.J.; and an American, John LaFarge, S.J.  The draft argued from the common humanity of all people created in the image of God to reject racism, but the section on antisemitism, excerpted below, offered a theological argument for discriminating against Jews. Pius XI died not long after the draft was submitted for his consideration and the project was abandoned. It is unknown whether the pope ever read it. It should be stressed that the draft never became an official ecclesiastical statement. However, it does provide a snapshot of the prevailing theological climate. Source: Georges Passelecq and Bernard Suchecky, The Hidden Encyclical of Pius XI (Harcourt, Brace, and Co., 1997), 246-259.


5. Jews and anti-Semitism (religious separation)

131. Those who have placed race illegitimately on a pedestal have rendered mankind a disservice. For they have done nothing to advance the unity to which humanity tends and aspires. One naturally wonders if this end is faithfully pursued by many of the principal advocates of a so-called racial purity or if their aim is not rather to forge a clever slogan to move the masses to very different ends. This suspicion grows when one envisages how many subdivisions of a single race are judged and treated differently by the same men at the same time. It is further increased when it becomes clear that the struggle for racial purity ends by being uniquely the struggle against the Jews. Save for its systematic cruelty, this struggle is no different in true motives and methods from persecutions everywhere carried out against the Jews since antiquity. These persecutions have been censured by the Holy See on more than one occasion, but especially when they have worn the mantle of Christianity.

The present persecution of the Jews

132. As a result of such persecution, millions of persons are deprived of the most elementary rights and privileges of citizens in the very land of their birth. Denied legal protection against violence and robbery, exposed to every form of insult and public degradation, innocent persons are treated as criminals though they have scrupulously obeyed the law of their native land. Even those who in time of war fought bravely for their country are treated as traitors, and the children of those who laid down their lives in their country's behalf are branded as outlaws by the very fact of their parentage. The values of patriotism, so loudly invoked the benefit of one class of citizens, are ridiculed when invoked for others who come under the racial ban.

In the case of the Jews, this flagrant denial of human rights sends many thousands of helpless persons out over the face of the earth without any resources. Wandering from frontier to frontier, they are a burden to humanity and to themselves.

Question not of race but of religion

133. But however unjust and pitiless, this campaign against the Jews has at least this advantage, if one can put it so, over racial strife, that it recalls the true nature, the authentic basis of the social separation of the Jews from the rest of humanity. This basis is directly religious in character. Essentially, the so-called Jewish question is not one of race, or nation, or territorial nationality, or citizenship in the state. It is a question of religion and, since the coming of Christ, a question of Christianity.

How utterly misguided is such a policy toward the Jews, how harmful and ineffective for the very purposes it seeks to accomplish, can only be seen when we compare it with what the Church has ever taught and practiced in this connection, and with the lessons of history.

Position of the Church with Regard to Judaism

Teachings of Revelation

134. If we look upon the matter from the historical standpoint, we find that in the history of the human race only one people has had a calling, properly so called. This is the Jewish people, who were chosen by Almighty God to prepare the way in history for the Incarnation of His Only-Begotten Son. "Who are the Israelites, who have the adoption as sons, and the glory, and the covenants and the legislation and the worship and the promises; who have the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh... ?" (Romans 4:4-5).

135. The vocation of the Jewish people culminated in a wholly unique and unprecedented historical occurrence that interrupted and transformed the history of the world. At a definite moment in time, in a definite locality, in one of the tribes of the Jewish people, through the operation of the Holy Spirit, the person who had been announced and awaited by the prophets of Israel for centuries was born from a Jewish mother: Jesus Christ. His mission and his teaching were the completion of the historic mission and teaching of Israel; His birth, life, sufferings, death, and resurrection from the dead were the fulfillment of Israel's types and prophecies. Extraordinary as was this occurrence, it was linked with another no less extraordinary and also unprecedented in history. The Savior, whom God had sent to His chosen people after they had prayed and longed for Him for thousands of years, was rejected by that people, violently repudiated, and condemned as a criminal by the highest tribunals of the Jewish nation, in collusion with the pagan authorities who held the Jewish people in bondage. Ultimately, the Savior was put to death.

Through the sufferings and death of the Savior, the work of the Redemption was wrought for all humanity; the sins of the world were taken away; the doors of Heaven were opened; man was restored by the Second Adam to the privileges from which he had been excluded by the sin of his first parents, and the spiritual kingdom of Christ was established for eternity. The redemption opened the doors of salvation to the entire human race; it established a universal Kingdom, in which there would be no distinction of Jew or Gentile, Greek or barbarian. The very act by which the Jewish people put to death their Savior and King was, in the strong language of Saint Paul, the salvation of the world.

136. On the other hand, blinded by a vision of material domination and gain, the Israelites lost what they themselves had sought. A few chosen souls, among whom were the disciples and followers of Our Lord, the early Jewish Christians, and, through the centuries, a few members of the Jewish people, were an exception to this general rule. By their acceptance of Christ's teaching and their incorporation into His Church, they shared in the inheritance of His glory, but they remained and still remain an exception. "What Israel was seeking after, that it has not obtained; but the chosen have obtained it, and the rest have been blinded" (Romans 11:7). Saint Paul adds: "But by their offense," that is, through the Jews' rejection of the Messiah, "salvation has come to the Gentiles" (Romans 11:11). Moreover, by a mysterious Providence of God, this unhappy people, destroyers of their own nation, whose misguided leaders had called down upon their own heads a Divine malediction, doomed, as it were, to perpetually wander over the face of the earth, were nonetheless never allowed to perish, but have been preserved through the ages into our own time. No natural reason appears to be forthcoming to explain this age-long persistence, this indestructible coherence of the Jewish people.

Saint Paul's teachings

137. Addressing the Gentiles, Saint Paul clearly indicates the apparent contradiction between the unbelief of the Jews and the providential part that God's Providence has permitted them to play in the world's salvation. But he goes further still, and points out that there is no reason to despair of Israel's salvation, since the redemption accomplished through the rejection of the Savior and his death extends its fruits not to the Gentiles alone, but also to the very people who rejected Him, on the sole condition that this people repent and accept Him as their Redeemer. "So they too have not now believed by reason of the mercy shown you, that they too may obtain mercy" (Romans 11:31).

138. Although the Gentile world, in so far as it is converted to the teachings of Christ, now shares in the fruits of those promises which were rejected by the Jews, the Gentiles are not to boast. In a striking metaphor, Saint Paul compares the people of Israel to an olive tree, onto which have been grafted branches from a wild olive (Romans 11:16-24). The root of this tree, the patriarchs of the Old Law, is holy; and so, at least through their original vocation, are its branches. Certain branches, however--the unbelieving Jews--have fallen from the tree. In contrast to this, branches of wild olive--the pagans--have been engrafted upon the natural olive. These, however, even after their conversion to the true faith and their incorporation into the Church of Christ, are to remember three things: first, that they possess this supernatural life solely thanks to the root and sap of the natural olive; second, that they, the non-Jewish Christians, do not carry the root, but the root carries them, that is to say, Judea does not receive salvation from the Gentiles, but rather the opposite is true; third, that the Gentiles themselves, if they apostatize from the Faith of Christ, and live in presumption and blind self-confidence, can perfectly well share the unhappy lot of the fallen branches. "They were broken off because of unbelief whereas thou by faith standest. Be not high-minded, but fear" (Romans 11:2O).

139. Saint Paul, however, is not content with warning the Gentiles against undue self-confidence. He goes further, and holds out still the possibility of salvation to the Jews, once they are converted from their sins, and return to the spiritual tradition of Israel, which is properly theirs by their historic past and calling, but in which the Gentiles, through grace, have been made participants. If and when this time of their return occurs, whether in the case of individuals--as has always happened through the centuries and continues to happen in our own times--or in the case of the Jewish people as a whole, those who come back to Christ find themselves wholly at home in their own house, more than any other people in the world.

Even in Saint Paul's own day, as at all times, there was a "remnant saved." Reliquiae salvae factae sunt (Romans 11:5). So, with prophetic voice, the Apostle points to the future, to the conversion of the Gentiles as the forerunner of the conversion of the Jews and their return to their Father's house: all Israel, omnis Israel, not as meaning each individual, but the Jewish people as a whole.

140. Israel has incurred the wrath of God, because it has rejected the Gospel. Yet even thereby it has hastened the evangelization and, as a result, the conversion of the Gentiles. Israel remains the chosen people, for its election has never been revoked. Through the ineffable mercy of God, Israel also may share in the redemption which Israel's own rejection has made available to the Gentiles, who had themselves been unbelievers. "For God has shut up all in unbelief, that he may have mercy upon all" (Romans r 1:32). "Oh the depth of the riches of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God!" (Romans 11:33).Historical results of the fall of Israel

141. But this profound paradox, existing in the invisible, purely supernatural order, has worked itself out m the inevitable occurrences of history. As a result of the rejection of the Messiah by His own people, and of His corresponding acceptance by the Gentile world, which had not shared in the special promises delivered to the Jews, we find a historic enmity of the Jewish people to Christianity, creating a perpetual tension between Jew and Gentile which the passage of time has never diminished, even though from time to time its manifestations have been mitigated.

The Church’s reservations

142. The lofty concept the Church has forever held relative to the vocation of the Jewish people as seen from their past history, and her ardent hopes for their eventual salvation in the future, do not blind her to the spiritual dangers to which contact with Jews can expose souls, or make her unaware of the need to safeguard her children against spiritual contagion. Nor is this need diminished in our own time. As long as the unbelief of the Jewish people persists, as long as there is active hostility to the Christian religion, just so long must the Church use every effort to see that the effects of this unbelief and hostility are not to redound to the ruin of the faith and morals of her own members. Where, moreover, she finds that hatred of the Christian religion has driven misguided souls, whether of the Jewish people or of other origin to ally themselves with, or actively to promote revolutionary movements that aim to destroy society and to obliterate from the minds of men the knowledge, reverence, and love of God, she must warn her children against such movements, expose the ruses and fallacies of their leaders, and find against them appropriate safeguards.

We find that in her history the Church has never failed to warn her children against the teaching of the Jews, when such teaching has been directed against the Faith. The Church has never sought to minimize the terrific force of the reproaches addressed by the protomartyr Saint Stephen against those of the Jewish people who knowingly resisted the call of grace: "Stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ear..." (Acts 7:50. The Church has warned likewise against an over-familiarity with the Jewish community that might lead to customs and ways of thinking contrary to the standards of Christian life. The unyielding energy, at one time, and the mildness, at another, of such warnings and measures of self-protection correspond not to any interior change in the Church's policy toward the Jews, which remains unaltered, but to altered circumstances and to variations of attitude upon their part. The policy of the Church herself in this matter is not to be confounded with the policy of mere individuals. It is to be determined by the conduct of her bishops taken as a whole, her councils, especially the ecumenical councils, and most particularly by that of her Supreme Pontiffs.

143. While, however, the teaching of the Church concerning the relation of the Jewish community with the Christian community, as well as the Church's practical attitude in the face of the problems encountered clearly demonstrate the need for energetic measures to preserve both the faith and morals of her members and society itself against the corrupting influence of error, these same doctrines likewise show the utter unfitness and inefficacy of anti-Semitism as a means of achieving that end. They show anti-Semitism not only as pitifully inadequate, but also as defeating its own purpose, and producing in the end only greater obstacles to cope with.

Condemnation of anti-Semitism

144. That such persecutory methods are totally at variance with the true spirit of the Catholic Church is shown by the decree of the Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office for March 25, 1928: "The Catholic Church habitually prays for the Jewish people who were the bearers of the Divine revelation up to the time of Christ; this, despite, indeed, on account of their spiritual blindness. Actuated by this love, the Apostolic See has protected this people against unjust oppression and, just as every kind of envy and jealousy among the nations must be disapproved of, so in an especial manner must be that hatred which is generally termed anti-Semitism" (Acta Ap. Sedis, 20, 1928).[…]

Persecutions only increase the evils

145. History's long experience has repeatedly shown that persecution, instead of obliterating or lessening the harmful or anti-social traits of a persecuted group, merely intensifies the tendencies that gave rise to them. What previously was but a moderately effective and inchoate tendency of individuals or small groups is solidified by persecution into a generalized, vehemently accentuated and persistent complex of traits that thrive upon opposition. The victims of persecution believe they find eternal justification for manifesting such traits in the very measures of repression and persecution that were supposed to cure them.

Effects of persecution

146. The terrible consequences that have befallen society since those words were spoken, consequences resulting from the unwillingness of the world's rulers to listen to the Vicar of Christ's pleas for charity and peace, have amply demonstrated the ease with which destructive ideologies are implanted in the minds of peoples aroused to fury by persecution. Those who suffer injustice themselves not infrequently become the devotees of injustice. Their bitter resentment against their own pitiable condition leads them to wreak or attempt to wreak their vengeance upon those who appear to enjoy a more fortunate position. So we find that the persecuted and oppressed of every nation or class readily lend ear to those who would profit by this resentment, and would stir up social or international hatreds in their hearts. A natural resentment against political, social, or economic oppressors becomes, under the facile nurture of modern instruments for the spread of ideas and the manipulation of public opinion, a fertile seed-ground for the most destructive ideas, whose advocates, though professing the most violent antagonism to one another, are united in their common hatred for the Christian faith.

Such a spirit, however, cannot be profitably met by a similar demonstration of hatred, which would only pour oil on the flames. Nor can it be profitably met by a reckless dissemination of falsehoods and calumnies. Though Christ our Lord suffered torments and death at the hands of the wicked Pharisees, He did not bid His followers to borrow the weapons of calumny, hatred, and pride from the persecutors, in order to deal with those unfortunate people whom the Pharisees had misled.

Attacks on religion

147. Zeal against the sin readily becomes zeal against the sinner; but zeal against the sinner soon throws off its mask and shows itself for what it really is, an assault, under the pretense of protecting society from a single social group, upon the very basis of society, an evocation of limitless hatred, a license for every form of violence, rapacity, and disorder, and an engine against religion itself.

Thus we find that anti-Semitism becomes an excuse for attacking the sacred Person of the Savior Himself, who assumed human flesh as the Son of a Jewish maiden; it becomes a war against Christianity,, its teachings, practices, and institutions. Anti-Semitism attempts to embarrass the Church by giving her the alternative either to join with the anti-Semites in their total repudiation of any esteem or regard for anything Jewish, and thereby to associate herself with the anti-Semites in their campaigns of vilification and hatred; or else to embarrass the Church by involving her in the machinations and struggles of profane politics, attributing earthly and political motives to her legitimate defense of the Christian principles of justice and humanity. Like the willful children spoken of by Christ Our Savior, these sowers of dissension complain of the Spouse of Christ: "'To what then shall I liken the men of this generation? And what are they like? They are like children sitting in the market place, calling to one another and saying, We have piped to you, and you have not danced; we have sung dirges, and you have not wept" (Luke 7:32-33).

The Church's answer to anti-Semitism

148. To this challenge the answer of the Church is unequivocal and unchanging. Her answer is determined by no earthly policy but rather by her fidelity to the truths bequeathed to her custody by her Divine Founder, and preserved in their original purity in her bosom by the personal assistance of the Holy Spirit: truths that reveal what human reason of itself can never attain, while they reaffirm and perfect the knowledge of those truths which man's reason, devoid of passion and self-interest, can hope to reach of its own accord. Her concern is not with political victories and triumphs, not with the alignments of states and the devices of politicians; hence she is in no wise concerned with the problems concerning the Jewish people that lie within those purely profane spheres. Thoroughly aware that the great diversity of circumstances in which Jews of different countries find themselves gives rise to very different problems in the practical order, the Church leaves to the powers concerned the solution of these problems. She insists only that no solution is the true solution if it contradicts the very, demanding laws of justice and charity. Her sole care is that the custody of truth committed to her care be preserved intact and that her children be preserved against error and sin; that the principles of life taught by her Savior be carried out in their integrity; and that through her beneficent action upon earth as many souls as possible may be brought to their eternal home in Heaven. As has been well said: "Men ambition a thousand things; the Church desires but one, the salvation of souls" (E. Rodocanachi, The Holy See and the Jews).

Religious concern for the Jews

149. The position of the Jewish people is unique, and occupies a singular and painful place in the vast series of these historical developments. It offers the paradox of being the object of a special Providence reserved to it, above all peoples in the world; of having rejected that Providence, thereby injecting a stumbling-block of contradiction into the history of all other peoples; yet being still the object of a mysterious preservation by the same Providence of God.

The bitterness with which Christian consciousness has periodically reproached the Jewish people for their rejection of the teachings and Person of Christ, as well as for their attitude toward Christianity, and the like bitterness with which the Jewish people has responded to these reproaches, show by their very acuteness that the conflict arid the issues concerned are ideological, and concern material goods less than spiritual values. The very sharpness of such reproaches testifies to the knowledge shared by all involved that man's supreme values lie in the field of liberty, with its correlative of moral responsibility for good or for evil, thereby offering a clear, if painful, testimony to the supremacy of spiritual over material ideals as the measuring rod of human worth. The lessons drawn from this testimony demonstrate likewise how utterly incapable any philosophy that ranges merely within a bodily or material sphere is of reaching a solution to such a conflict. Both sound reason and Christian Faith bid us look to spiritual means, not to violence, force, or brutally coercive measures.

Conversion of the Jews

150. The hour and manner of the return of the Jewish people as a whole to their Father's house in the Church of Christ remains God's secret. Where such a return occurs in the case of individuals, it should come as the result not of indiscreet proselytism, and not from motives that incur even a shadow of worldly expediency or material gain, but from a conviction arising out of reflective study and freely formed in a spirit of humility and self-sacrifice. Any other supposition on the part of Christians is contrary to the express precepts of the Church; any other method on the part of those who embrace the Catholic Faith leads only to evils graver than those that arise even from an open persistence in refusing to accept Catholic teachings, since it would give rise only to hypocrisy.

Call to prayer

151. Our faith, however, bids us ever look forward to the day when again Jew and Gentile will be united in their Father's house, and to pray earnestly for the hastening of its coming. Particularly do we seek the all-powerful intercession of the Holy Mother of God, herself a daughter of Israel, that thereby, in the words of the petition presented to the fathers of the Vatican Council and signed by 570 of their number, may be fulfilled the supreme aspirations of her own sublime canticle: "He has given help to Israel, his servant, mindful of his mercy—even as he spoke to our fathers—to Abraham and to his posterity forever" (Luke 1:54-55).

Doing the truth

152. It is clearly our duty, likewise, so to live as to facilitate that return as far as is humanly possible. This we shall do by the practice of the truth in prudence and in strict justice, as well as in abundant charity. In the cause of truth, let us encourage such works as spread knowledge and do away with calumnies, lies, and baseless recriminations. In the cause of justice and charity, the present time presents such opportunities as would have seemed unparalleled in the world's history. Defense of the natural rights of individuals and of families; care of the miserable who appeal for charity and mercy; a vigorous condemnation of anti-Semitism and racism wherever these doctrines lift their heads; and cooperation for the sake of public order with men of good will who from their hearts reject the gross errors of materialism—for these ends let us make use of our opportunities.