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Monday, 25 April 2011

The blood libel - A view from 1911

This is a translation of the section on alleged Jewish ritual murder in the article "Jews and Christians" in the Dictionnaire apologétique de la foi catholique, published in 1911.  It is interesting insofar as it sheds light on contemporary attitudes towards the blood libel in the more respectable circles of Catholic Europe.  Essentially, the author is unwilling to endorse the blood libel as a whole, but he leaves open the possibility that ritual murders have sometimes been committed by Jews.


I. The existence of ritual murder

43. State of the question. - A. The notion of ritual murder....  For reasons of clarity, let us distinguish four varieties of the concept of the murder of a Christian by a Jew.

a) The Jew kills the Christian under the influence of anger, vengeance, greed, passion, etc., but not because he is a Christian, so that the Christian faith of the victim has no relevance to the act.  This kind of murder is obviously not ritual in nature.

b) The Jew kills the Christian, who is preferably a child, because he is a Christian, out of hatred for Christ and Christianity, but the Jew does not make use of his blood for a superstitious or religious purpose.  This crime... is also not ritual in nature.

c) The Jew kills the Christian because he is a Christian, for a superstitious purpose, in order to obtain Christian blood and to make use of it in magical workings, for medicinal purposes, or as an aphrodisiac....  Here, too, the murder is not ritual in nature.  We are not dealing with a rite laid down by the Jewish liturgy: religion is foreign to superstitions of this sort.

d) The Jew kills the Christian because he is a Christian and for a religious purpose....  His blood is mixed with the Passover matzot or in the wine which is drunk the day before Passover....  It is placed in an egg which the rabbi gives to a Jewish man and woman who are getting married to eat when they receive the nuptial blessing...  The Jewish priest washes his hands with it when he is about to bless the people in the synagogue...  The rabbis, on the festival of Purim, send to the members of their community food prepared using Christian blood....  Christian blood is necessary for God to accept the sacrifices offered to him; or, according to another version of the claim, because there is no longer any possibility of offering sacrifices to God since the destruction of the Temple, the Jews regard the shedding of Christian blood as a replacement which is most pleasing to God....  A Christian child is killed in substitution for the Passover lamb....  The Jews daub their doors with Christian blood at Passover, in memory of the blood of the lamb which daubed the doors of the Jews prior to their escape from Egypt....  When a Jew is about to die, his face is daubed with Christian blood, or a cloth moistened with Christian blood is placed on his face and the following words are spoken quietly in his ear: "If the Christ in whom the Christians believe and trust is truly the promised Messiah, may the blood of a pale slain child serve to give you eternal life"....  On Good Friday, a child is crucified to represent the crucifixion of Christ, but no use is made of his blood.

In each of these cases, and in similar cases, we are dealing with ritual murder.  We may make a further distinction.  If such deeds are the work of particular individuals, acting on their own initiative and in their own name, we are dealing with ritual murder in the broad sense of the term, or not speaking strictly.  Strictly speaking, ritual murder exists only if it is prescribed or authorised by the official liturgy and if it is carried out in the name of the community - that is, the Jewish nation, or, at any event, a Jewish sect.  We may define it in this way: it is the officially sanctioned murder of a Christian, and of a child in particular, for a religious purpose.

B. The principal accusations of ritual murder....  Imbert-Gourbeyre sees "the first fact which establishes the ritual shedding of blood" in the crucifixion of a child in Immestar (Syria) at the time of the Jewish Passover in the year 415.  Since the 12th centuy, accusations of ritual murder have often been made.  The following are the best known.  Except where otherwise specified, the victims were children.  We may cite, in particular, those who, to differing extents, have been the object of cults and who on this basis feature in the Acta Sanctorum of the Bollandists: Blessed William of Norwich (1144)... the child of Blois (1171); Blessed Richard of Paris, crucified at Pontoise (1179)... the children of Fulda (1235); the little girl of Valreas (1247); Blessed Werner of Oberwesel (1248)... Blessed Dominic de Val of Zaragoza (1200)... Blessed Hugh of Lincoln (1255)... Blessed Rudolf of Bern (c.1287)... Blessed Jeannot (Joannetus) of the diocese of Cologne (date unknown)... Blessed Ludwig of Ravensburg (1429)... Blessed Anderl of Rinn (1462)... Blessed Simon of Trent (1470)... Blessed Lorenzino of Marostica (1485); the blessed child... of La Guardia (c.1490); the child of Metz (1669)... Fr. Thomas the Capuchin and his servant, at Damascus (1840); the girl of Tisza-Eszlar (1881)... the girl (19 years) of Brezina, near Polna (1899); the young boy Andrei Yushchinsky, whom the Jew Beilis was accused of having killed in Kiev (1911).

44. The plausibility of ritual murder. - The accusation, before any of the facts have been examined, seems very implausible, both in itself and insofar as it is made against the Jews.

It is implausible that such horrors would be committed by a human community unless it was barely raised above the level of barbarism.  Moreover, there has always existed a tendency to claim that people whom one hates make use of their enemies' blood for superstitious and religious purposes.  One may recall that this was the case with the early Christians: they were alleged to eat children in their secret meetings, and this calumny - spread by Jews, according to Origen - was widely diffused.  Even today, in China, missionaries are accused of stealing children to tear out their eyes and heart in order to make potions.  It is a matter of basic good sense, no less than of strict justice, not to believe too readily of others claims that revolt us when they are applied to ourselves....

Jewish ideas about the use of blood make the accusation particularly implausible when it is made against the Jews.  The ancient Law laid down the death penalty for anyone who consumed animal blood....  The rabbinical legislation goes into minute detail in forbidding all use of blood.... 

However, "what is true may not be plausible"....  It is proven that preoccupation with and superstitions concerning blood have a hold on the human mind....  Such strange aberrations are disconcertingly common....

Further, might not the prohibition in Leviticus on eating meat containing blood be a precaution against taking pleasure in blood, something characteristic of Semites?  The whole of the history of Israel was the struggle of Jehovah against the corrupting gods of the neighbouring people, and against Moloch, who was greedy for human flesh, the quintessential Semitic god....  Besides, even if the majority of Jews abhor the consumption of blood, might there not be among them some sect which follows the practice of using it for a religious or superstitious purpose?...

For these reasons, the argument of implausbility is not sufficient to rebut the blood accusation.

45. The reality of ritual murder in the strict sense. - If ritual murder exists among the Jews at the level of an official institution, it must be authorised by the Jewish liturgical books or by an esoteric doctrine which is not committed to writing and which is transmitted to initiates in an oral manner.

A. Jewish books. - Are there texts in these books, and in the Talmud in particular, which authorise ritual murder?  No-one has made this claim until recent times.  There is therefore a strong presumption that they contain nothing of the sort....

However, a professor at the University of Prague, Canon August Rohling, claims to have discovered a text in the Talmud which allows us to conclude that it is lawful to kill as a Passover sacrifice any Jewish child who is not protected by his father and that, if the Jews can take sacrificial victims from among their own people, they must all the more take them from among non-Jews....  In reality, this text does not have the meaning which Rohling attributes to it.  It does not refer to sacrifice or human victims, nor to non-Jews, but only to cases where children who are greedy for wealth have attempted to kill their younger brother in order to get a share of his inheritance and this happens on the day before Passover....

Ritual murder in the strict sense is not prescribed or legitimised in any form by the Talmud.

B. Esoteric teachings....

In the affair at Valreas (1247), many Jews said that, each year, in place of the sacrifices which can no longer be carried out in the Temple, the Jews must shed the blood of a Christian as a quasi-sacrifice, that it was ordered at Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux that lots be drawn to select the Jewish community which would be charged that year with shedding Christian blood, and that the lot fell upon Valreas.  Such confessions were obtained juridically on various occasions.  The Jews were "convicted", as the documents record.  For the reader who understands the language of the Middle Ages, this word implies the totality of legal proceedings.  What better proof could one want?

Alas!  To condemn someone "juridically" and to "convict" them meant to convict them by the use of torture and to condemn them thereafter on the basis of admissions obtained by that means.  Today, the unanimous opinion is that a confession obtained by violence is null and void....

We do not know of a single Jewish testimony, of certain authenticity and given absolutely freely, which endorses the reality of ritual murder in the strict sense....  In 1834, there appeared in Nauplia in Romania a small book in modern Greek with the title Ruin of the Hebrew Religion.  It claimed to be a translation of a text composed in the Moldavian language in 1803 by the monk Neophytus, an ex-rabbi who had converted to Christianity....  One chapter is devoted to ritual murder....  It is horrible.  It says that the use of blood collected by the Jews from murdered Christians is a rite which they believe is commanded by God himself and revealed in Scripture; that not all the Jews know about the mystery of the blood, but only the rabbis or khakhams, the scholars and the pharisees, who are called for this reason the guardians of the mystery of the blood....  It appears that no-one has ever known anything about this writer or seen the original edition of his book.  This alone would be enough to cast suspicion on it.  Some claims that the author makes are extraordinary.  He states gravely that all the Jews in Europe are afflicted by scabies, that all those in Asia suffer from ringworm, that all those in Africa have carbuncles on their feet, and that all those in America have eye problems which give them an imbecilic appearance.  This is anti-Jewish literature of the most unintelligent sort.  One cannot believe that these stupidities come from the pen of a genuine Jew....

That there exists somewhere, in the vast country of Russia in particular, where all sorts of sects thrive and where Jews abound, a Jewish sect which includes ritual murder in its practices is, strictly speaking, possible.  It has not been proven....

46. The reality of ritual murder in the broad sense of the term and of murder for superstitious purposes. — From the fact that ritual murder in the strict sense is not a historical reality resting on convincing proofs, must we conclude that all the accusations of murder made against the Jews are false?  No.  Setting aside the cases of murder which are lacking in documentation or are undoubtedly legendary, and taking no account of confessions extracted by torture, there remains a considerable number of facts which require examination and which we are not entitled to reject disdainfully a priori.  To reject all the accusations together or to endorse them all together would be equally unscientific.  There is not always enough evidence to give a confident verdict.  Let us recognise this, and, because no-one is to be deemed guilty unless they are proven to be so, let us be inclined to believe that the Jews are innocent while doubt persists.  But let us reject, along with the desire to find them guilty, the notion that they cannot be guilty.

The history of early Christianity is full of acts of savagery which they have carried out against the faithful.  Subsequently, though obliged to be circumspect while living in Christian countries, they did not cast off their malevolent attitudes.  They hated and were hated....  Lazare also recalls that Jews were devotees of sorcery.  They were magicians par excellence.  We know the place that blood has always occupied in sorcery....  Perhaps the origins of the accusation of ritual murder lie here....  At any rate, the accusation did not surface until the 12th century, which saw a great increase in the popularity of magic.

That some Jew here or there, alone or with accomplices, has killed Christians, especially children, on his own initiative, not only for superstitious purposes, not only out of hatred of Christianity, but with a ritual purpose in mind, is also possible....


II.  What the Church has thought about the existence of ritual murder

....

47. Documents unfavourable to the Jews. - The most serious, if it could be established that it was written in the name of a pope, would be a bull entitled Contra Judaeos crucifigentes purerum which is found in the Formularium of Marin d'Eboli....  As Vice-Chancellor of the Roman Church from 1244 to 1261, Marin collected in his Formularium models of papal letters for the use of the clerics charged with editing such documents.  They are not fictitious models, entirely the product of the fancy of the author, but they reproduce, at least in the majority of cases, actual papal letters, with the peculiarity that the name of the addressee and the date are almost always excluded.  Does the bull Contra Judaeos crucifigentes puerum, which affirms the existence, in the 13th century, of ritual murder in the form of the crucifixion of a child out of hatred for Christ, preserve for us the substance of an actual bull which has not survived?  In the absence of any positive proof, let us limit ourselves to regarding this as a hypothesis and, until the contrary is proven, let us take the view that the text of the Formularium reflects only the thought or the preoccupations of Marin.  Perhaps we have here a draft bull from the time when the first rumours arrived in Rome of the crucifixion of the little girl of Valreas (1247).  In this case, it would not have been used, since Innocent IV intervened in the affair with three bulls which were rather favourable to the Jews.

Benedict XIV confirmed, for the diocese of Brixen, the cult of a child, Anderl of Rinn, killed by the Jews in 1462.  It was asked that his name be entered into the martyrology and that the process be commenced for his canonisation.  Benedict XIV refused to enter him in the martyrology, in conformity with the decress providing that only the name of individuals who have been canonised must be included....  But the bull Beatus Andreas (22 February 1755) which he wrote on the subject does not express any doubt concerning the murders of children ascribed to the Jews.  He had already accepted the reality of crimes of this type perpetrated "out of hatred of Christ" and "out of hatred for the Christian faith" in his De servorum Dei beatificatione.  In the bull of 22 February, he speak about determining what is to be done "when there arises a case of this sort, which often comes to be put forward, concerning some boy who was slain by the Hebrews in Holy Week out of hostility to Christ, such as Blessed Simon and Anderl and also many of the other murdered boys whom the authors mention".  Murders of children by the Jews, during Holy Week, as an attack on Christ - this is indeed ritual murder.  Undoubtedly, this endorsement is put forward in passing, in an incidental manner.  There is also no doubt that Benedict XIV seems to have accepted the evidence on trust as he read it in the various writers, above all the Bollandists, not on the basis of personal research.  Finally, there is no doubt that, when Benedict XIV was faced with a contemporary accusation of ritual murder, far from immediately giving credence to it, he had it studied by the Holy Office, which rejected it.  In spite of everything, the view of Benedict XIV has some importance: no-one has ever accused this pope of being feeble-minded or fanciful.

More significant than the incident just quoted is the approval by Benedict XIV, as an official manifestation of the thinking of the Church, of the cult of Blessed Anderl of Rinn.  This followed the approval of the cult of Blessed Simon of Trent for the diocese of Trent by Sixtus V (8 June 1588) and the entry of the child's name in the martyrology on the authority of Gregory XIII (1584).  It was followed by the approval, by Pius VII, of the cult of Blessed Dominic de Val for the diocese of Zaragoza, and that of the holy child of La Guardia for the diocese of Toledo; and by the approval by the Congregation of Rites of the cult of Lorenzino of Marostica for the diocese of Vicenza (1867) and that of Rudolf of Bern for the diocese of Basle (1869).  It is said that the Church has beatified or canonised children killed by the Jews.  No: but there have been for these six fortunate children, in place of a formal beatification, something equivalent to a beatification, consisting in the recognition of their cult.  Decrees of formal beatification, and more so those equivalent to beatification, do not share in the privilege of infallbility.  Their authority is nevertheless considerable.

Moreover, leaving aside the fact that they do not engage her infallbility, the Church has not, in these recognitions of cults, affirmed the existence of ritual murder in the strict sense among the Jews.  She has believed that Jews have killed the children for a religious purpose (although Sixtus V does not refer to the murder of little Simon by the Jews, but purely of the miracles due to his intercession).  She has not said that the Jews have behaved in this way on an official basis, in the name of the community or of a Jewish sect, in obedience to the requirements of the liturgy.  She has not attributed the responsibility for these horrors committed by Jews to the Jewish nation as a whole.

48.  Documents favourable to the Jews. - These are divided into two categories.

In the first category, we have documents which imply rather than assert the falsity of the blood accusation, both insofar as it has been made in an individual case (two bulls of Innocent IV, 28 May 1247, on the Valreas affair) and insofar as it was circulating as a vague and provocative rumour against the Jews in general (bulls of Innocent IV, 5 July 1247, and Martin V, 20 February 1422).  The bull of 5 July 1247 is quoted by most historians as a complete vindication of the Jews.  This goes too far.  It does not declare directly the innocence of the Jews; it implies that the pope is inclined to concede it....  On 1 February 1423, Martin V revoked the bull of 20 February 1422 on the grounds that he had issued it under duress.  This revocation was not concerned with the passage on ritual murder....

The documents of the second category deny overtly that the accusation is well-founded.  Out of all the cases of ritual murder which have agitated men's minds over the course of the centuries, the report which Cardinal Ganganelli, the future Clement XIV, presented to the Holy Office on 21 March 1758, and which Cardinal Merry del Val declared authentic (letter of 18 October 1913 to Lord Rothschild), regards as established only those of Simon of Trent and Anderl of Rinn, slaughtered "out of hatred for the Christian faith".  The other accusations were rejected.  In a bull of 12 May 1540, Paul III made clear his displeasure at having learned, through the complaints of the Jews of Hungary, Bohemia and Poland, that their enemies, looking for a pretext to lay their hands on the Jews' property, were falsely attributing terrible crimes to them, in particular that of killing children and drinking their blood.  Innocent IV (26 September 1253), Gregory X (7 October 1272), Nicholas V (2 November 1447) and Cardinal Corsini, writing in the name of Clement XIII (7 February 1760) stated that Jews do not shed Christian blood in order to use it in their religious rites.  It is not Jews, in the sense of particular individuals in a given situation, that these documents state to be strangers to the practice of ritual muder: it is the Jews as a whole.  It is the Jews taken together, the Jews as a collectivity, who are said not to use human blood in their rites (Innocent IV), who are said not to use the hearts and blood of children in their sacrifices (Gregory X), who are said to have been falsely accused of not being able to refrain from, and of not refraining from, eating the liver or heart of a Christian on certain feast-days (Nicholas V), and who are said not to mix human blood in the dough of their unleavened bread (Clement XIII).

Let us note, moreover, that the popes have composed a host of bulls relating to the Jews.  They have very often denounced their excesses against Christians and Christianity.  At certain times, the repression has been vigorous, and never more so than in the 16th century: Paul IV, St Pius V, Clement VIII, etc., levelled multiple accusations against them and placed multiple restrictions on their residency.  In the bull Hebraeorum gens (26 February 1569), St Pius V sums up the faults which they are accused of: usury, theft, receiving stolen goods, pimping, divination and magic.  He finishes with this accusation: "Finally, we have sufficiently investigated and explored how unworthily this perverse race attacks the name of Christ; how much hated it is by all those who bear that name; and, finally, with what cunning it plots against their lives."  A short time afterwards (1585), the official edition of the Roman martyrology, published on the orders of Gregory XIII, included the names of five martyrs - not including Blessed Simon of Trent - who were put to death by the Jews: those of Sts Cleopas... Timon... Joseph the Just... Matrona... and Anastasius II the Sinaite....  If Pius V and the other popes had believed in ritual murder in the strict sense, they would have denounced it clearly, and Pius V would not have stopped at mentioning plots against the lives of Christians.  As it is, ritual murder in the strict sense is not alluded to even once in hundreds of bulls directed against the Jews.  The argument from silence must be handled with care, but here it is unquestionably valid.  The silence of so many popes, in so many contexts where they would have been able and bound to speak about it, proves that the accusation of ritual murder in the strict sense was not proved in their eyes.