In 1965 the Second Vatican Council declared that God loves the Jews. Before that, the Church had taught for centuries that Jews were cursed by God and, in the 1940s, mostly kept silent as Jews were slaughtered by the Nazis. How did an institution whose wisdom is said to be unchanging undertake one of the most enormous, yet undiscussed, ideological swings in modern history?
The radical shift of Vatican II grew out of a buried history, a theological struggle in Central Europe in the years just before the Holocaust, when a small group of Catholic converts (especially former Jew Johannes Oesterreicher and former Protestant Karl Thieme) fought to keep Nazi racism from entering their newfound church. Through decades of engagement, extending from debates in academic journals, to popular education, to lobbying in the corridors of the Vatican, this unlikely duo overcame the most problematic aspect of Catholic history. Their success came not through appeals to morality but rather from a rediscovery of neglected portions of scripture.
From Enemy to Brother illuminates the baffling silence of the Catholic Church during the Holocaust, showing how the ancient teaching of deicide—according to which the Jews were condemned to suffer until they turned to Christ—constituted the Church’s only language to talk about the Jews. As he explores the process of theological change, John Connelly moves from the speechless Vatican to those Catholics who endeavored to find a new language to speak to the Jews on the eve of, and in the shadow of, the Holocaust.
Connelly’s book…is invaluable for its close tracking of the development of the Pauline argument for the continuing validity of the Jewish Covenant… This, as it stands, is a good book, and an important one.
[A] remarkable new book… It is one of the central lessons of Connelly’s book that the bonds of empathy that made Nostra Aetate a historical possibility are far more fragile, and less expansive, than one might care to imagine. The detailed history of its genesis reveals a singular fact: most of the architects of the Catholic statement concerning the Jews in 1965 were themselves, either by descent or practice or public definition, Jews who had converted to Christianity… Connelly has written an important book, an extraordinary work of history.
Excellent… Connelly’s book is important because for the first time we have a comprehensive tale of the genesis of a new teaching. This is a book about workers in the vineyard who have largely been overlooked or bypassed in church history. But it is to these workers, who rose before dawn, that the church owes profound, if belated, respect.
The extraordinary story told by Connelly reveals not only that Catholic magisterium is able to change its mind, but also that a doctrinal renewal of this kind may well begin as a small movement in the Church, frowned upon by the hierarchy, that gradually finds acceptance among Catholic and their theologians to be finally affirmed by the highest authority. In the present winter of the Catholic Church it is good to be reminded of the innovative power of Spirit-guided movements within Catholicism.
Catholic theologians owe a debt of gratitude to John Connelly for retracing a painful but fruitful period of theological reflection. Anyone who draws close to Dietrich von Hildebrand, Karl Thieme, and Johannes Oesterreicher will be given fresh eyes for the sources of theology and a reverence for the mystery of Israel.
Remarkable… Connelly…has mastered a vast and obscure literature, much of it hitherto unpublished and most of it in German, in order to establish the contours of what he aptly characterizes as a ‘revolution’ in mid-20th-century Catholic thought… Connelly’s book…hugely enriches its historical context. He shows that there were Catholics who held the Church to account while the Holocaust was taking place, demanded that it abandon the teaching of contempt, and eventually persuaded their coreligionists to adopt a new understanding of the Jewish role in history. Catholics and Jews alike should welcome such a scholarly reappraisal of the most painful chapter in the history of their relationship.
A brilliantly original and an extremely important reconstruction of what motivated the Roman Catholic Church in the 1960s to declare a new and positive appreciation of Jews and Judaism.
From Enemy to Brother is an astonishing achievement, one of the most significant books written on the history of twentieth-century Catholicism.
An excellent resource for those studying the Holocaust, racism more generally, and the developments leading up to Vatican II’s statement on Christianity’s relation to the Jewish People.
This pathbreaking book, based on extensive documentation, will be essential reading for all those interested in Christian–Jewish relations and the history of antisemitism.
- 2012, Winner of the John Gilmary Shea Prize
- 384 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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