STEUBENVILLE OHIO — “The Jewish religion is not ‘extrinsic’ to us, but in a certain way is ‘intrinsic’ to our own religion. With Judaism, therefore, we have a relationship which we do not have with any other religion. You are our dearly beloved brothers, and in a certain way, it could be said that you are our elder brothers.”
A statement from Catholics released here at Franciscan University as part of a Philos Project co-sponsored initiative echoes Pope John Paul II’s April 1986 words at a Roman synagogue. “As Catholics and Christians, we believe that antisemitism is a spiritual evil” that must be rejected and condemned, the statement of the Coalition of Catholics against Antisemitism declares.
An Isidious Evil — the Hatred of Jews
In many ways, this should be self-evident by now. Pope Benedict XVI was far from the first to say that it is not Christian to engage in — or be indifferent to — antisemitism. But it needs to be said, because while hate seems to be everywhere — especially if you are partial to doom-scrolling on social media or watching too much cable news or videos on your phone — the hatred of Jews is a particularly insidious evil.
In closing keynote remarks for the conference, Mary Eberstadt, author of How the West Really Lost God, said: “Antisemitism is a unique evil” that “can take root with no visible help in unpromising places … it can grow anywhere.” And to be clear, she gives Catholics a refresher from the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “Hatred of the neighbor is a sin when one deliberately wishes him evil. Hatred of the neighbor is a grave sin when one deliberately desires him grave harm.”
The Ohio Philos conference was not a response to the Hamas attack on Israel — it was planned well before to coincide with the fifth anniversary of another tragic event: the Tree of Life synagogue attack in nearby Pittsburgh. But once again, an ocean away, the inhumanity of evil was on barbaric display.
A Consoling Solidarity From Christians
For Christians, one of the most humbling aspects of the conversations had here was the gratitude the Jewish participants expressed. One rabbi from the New York metropolitan area said he was “elated” by the Catholic leadership on display. He said that his WhatsApp was constantly relaying stories from his synagogue about encounters his people have had in daily life with Christians who stop them in the grocery store and wherever else to say they are sorry about the attack and are praying. The solidarity, he said, is consoling in the wake of the attacks and some of the ugly words and deeds we’ve seen in response, especially on some elite university campuses.
So, it was also no small thing to have a Catholic university not only host the conference, but to offer any Jewish students in higher education in the United States who do not feel safe in their schools because of antisemitism an expedited transfer to Franciscan U.
The Philos Project had a day of action during the conference, encouraging people to bring white roses to synagogues in their local areas. It’s a small thing, but the hotel I’m staying in has a quote from Mother Teresa hanging up by the elevators, about doing small things with great love. Giving out roses to synagogues isn’t going to eradicate antisemitism, as Kevin Roberts, the president of the Heritage Foundation, said must be nothing less than our goal, but it can be a grace-filled contribution to something better, bearing some light amid barbaric and perverse manifestations of the diabolical evil of antisemitism.
Kathryn Jean Lopez is senior fellow at the National Review Institute, editor-at-large of National Review magazine and author of the new book A Year With the Mystics: Visionary Wisdom for Daily Living. She is also chair of Cardinal Dolan’s pro-life commission in New York, and is on the board of the University of Mary. She can be contacted at [email protected].