The Roman Catholic Church—Policies—Protection


Charles Laplante - La première croisade

Charles Laplante – La première croisade

The basic directions of Church policy flowed directly from the fundamental doctrine indicated above. Jewish past and future required ongoing Jewish existence and a safe place in Christian society. The Constitutio pro Judeis served as a basic reiteration of the Jewish right to safety and to fulfillment of the demands of Jewish religious faith.

Beyond formal statements, the leadership of the Church in fact recurrently insisted in practice on recognition of these rights. Thus, for example, when anti- Jewish violence unexpectedly broke out in 1096, as part of the early stages of the First Crusade, Church leadership made note of the fact and, armed with this foreknowledge, made strenuous and largely successful efforts to insure Jewish safety during the subsequent crusading ventures. The bloodbath of 1096 was not repeated.

Jews were well aware of the protective stance of the Church and often appealed to high ecclesiastical authorities for support in the face of danger. For example, as increasingly irrational charges about Jews evolved during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, Jew approached Church leadership with pleas for assistance. In part, these efforts were successful. The mid-thirteenth-century allegation that Jews use Christian blood in their Passover rituals was decisively rejected by the papacy. On the other hand, when the charge of host desecration by Jews surfaced in Paris in 1290, the leadership of the Church proclaimed the sanctity of the site of an alleged host desecration and consequent miracle, in effect endorsing the dangerous new claim.

Secondary Literature

  1. S. W. Baron, A Social and Religious History of the Jews (2nd ed.; 18 vols.; New York- Columbia University Press, 1952-83), 11-22-55
  2. S. Simonsohn, The Apostolic See and the Jews- History, 39-58
  3. R. Chazan, European Jewry and the First Crusade (Berkeley- University of California Press, 1987), 169-179
  4. R. Chazan, The Jews of Medieval Western Christendom (Cambridge- Cambridge University Press, 2006), 44-51


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