Fifty years ago, on October 28, 1965, pope Paul VI issued the Nostra Aetate (In our Time), the Declaration on the Relation of the Church with Non-Christian Religions of the Second Vatican Council. The document was a radical change in the “unchanging” church’s approach to “non-Christian” religions. Instead of viewing Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism as false religions, as it had in the past, with this document Catholicism declared there was a certain amount of truth in all religious faiths and that it was possible for people of other works-righteousness creeds to earn their salvation as well. Nostra Aetate took an especially conciliatory tone towards Jews.
This week many Jewish leaders are commemorating the 50th anniversary of the declaration with its startling change in church policy. Unfortunately, many of today’s Catholics are entirely unaware of the church’s long history of militant anti-Semitism. Jews throughout Europe were harassed and persecuted by the Catholic population. Intolerance was often incited and encouraged by the clergy. For centuries in Catholic Europe, Jews were the victims of forced conversions, massacres, and expulsions. When European anti-Semitism reached its culmination with the 20th century Holocaust, Adolf Hitler defended himself by appealing to church history: “As for the Jews, I am just carrying on with the same policy which the Catholic church has adopted for fifteen hundred years, when it has regarded the Jews as dangerous and pushed them into ghettos etc., because it knew what the Jews were like.” For an objective examination of how the church’s anti-Semitic policies led to the Holocaust see “The Holocaust, the Church, and the Law of Unintended Consequences: How Christian Anti-Judaism Spawned Nazi Anti-Semitism” by Judge Anthony Sciolino, a Roman Catholic deacon.
But this ex-Catholic has a question regarding Catholic anti-Semitism: If the church has always been guided by the Holy Spirit and is the “foundation of truth” as Catholics claim, and if the Catholic popes have been infallible in matters of faith and morals as they also claim, then how could the church have been SO TERRIBLY WRONG, for century after century, when it came to its anti-Semitic policies and practices?
I praise the Lord daily that He has freed me from the chains of the worldly-minded Catholic church and saved me by His grace through simple faith in Jesus Christ alone. Contrary to Nostra Aetate, God’s Word says salvation can only be found in Jesus Christ.
“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” – Acts 4:12
“Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” – John 3:18