Preface by Rebecca Bratten Weiss
In August 2019 I published a piece on the rise of anti-Semitism, especially among the ranks of “traditionalist” identifying Catholics. In my post I linked to a piece by Dexter Van Zile exposing the fact that Catholic media personality Patrick Coffin has repeatedly given a platform to the overtly anti-Semitic E. Michael Jones.
Van Zile contacted me shortly afterwards, sharing a letter he had written and sent to the bishop of Fort Wayne / South Bend. While I, like many global Jews, have certain serious issues with the policies and practices of the modern nation of Israel, I agree with Van Zile that there is in the U.S. and elsewhere a dangerous trend of anti-Israel propaganda that easily makes way for unabashed anti-Semitism.
I also agree with him that Jones is a menace to the Jewish community, that Catholic media personalities should not be hosting him, and that his bishop needs to take notice.
Dexter Van Zile has agreed to let me publish his letter, below. Please read and share accordingly.
Your Excellency Bishop Rhoades:
I write to you from the offices of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis (CAMERA) in Massachusetts. We are a media-monitoring organization supported by 65,000 members in the United States. A member of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, CAMERA promotes fair and accurate coverage of the Middle East. While much of our work is focused on the Arab-Israeli conflict, CAMERA has invested substantial resources into educating Americans about the plight and status of Christians living in Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East.
One of the troubling realities that we have been forced to address is how dishonest and biased media coverage about Israel puts Jews living in the United States in harm’s way. The logic is pretty simple. When extremists falsely portray the Jewish state as a murderous, marauding, and genocidal nation, their allies in the United States are given leave to portray American Jews as enemies of human rights and democracy. Hostility toward Israel engenders hostility toward Jews in the U.S.
It is because of this phenomenon, that I am forced to draw your attention to the writings and public commentary of E. Michael Jones, Ph.D. from South Bend, Indiana. Dr. Jones, who recently described himself as being in the “absolute dead center of Catholic tradition,” has been a persistent purveyor of hostility toward Israel and Jews and in the United States. (CAMERA has produced two articles highlighting some of Dr. Jones’s hateful antisemitism in two articles available here and here.)
In light of the things that Dr. Jones has said in his books and online interviews, it is not an exaggeration to say that Dr. Jones has updated many of the hateful lies and conspiracy theories promulgated in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a hateful screed produced in the early 1900s that blamed Jews for virtually every problem afflicting Western civilization. In the Protocols, Jews were singularly to blame for sexual immorality, pornography, war, and the disenchantment that afflicted European society. The hatred directed at Jews by the Protocols and other tracts like it helped set the stage for the events of the Holocaust, in which two-thirds of Europe’s Jews were murdered.
Along these lines, Dr. Jones has described Jews as “the group that is responsible for virtually every social ill in our day — from wars in the Middle East to pornography and gay marriage at home” and the people “around whose evil machinations the axis of history turns.” After 11 Jews were murdered at a synagogue in Pittsburgh last year, Jones argued that Jews had invited the violence perpetrated against them. “You have undermined the moral order and now don’t be surprised if people start acting out their aggression towards you,” Dr. Jones warned. “And don’t blame me.”
In one interview given several months ago, Jones blamed the Anti-Defamation League for the Pittsburgh shooting, declaring its efforts to combat antisemitism as the factor that prompted the shooting itself.
Jones’s hostility toward Jews is simply stunning. At one point, he declared that Jews have “been undermining the moral law in the name of liberation. That’s what abortion is. That’s what pornography is. That’s what gay rights is. And now, that’s what Zionism is.”
Jones’s actions on this score are in direct contradictions of the teachings of the Catholic Church which since the affirmation of Nostra Aetate at the Second Vatican Council in 1965 “decries hatred, persecutions, displays of anti-Semitism, directed against Jews at any time and by anyone.”
Jones’s response to Nostra Aetate is quite explicit. In an interview he gave in March, 2019 he declared that “This thing called Catholic-Jewish dialogue has been a disaster […] It has been a disaster because it is a negation of the Gospel.” Dr. Jones is intent on undoing the heroic work Catholics did in the aftermath of the Holocaust. He portrays anti-Jewish hostility as a central, enduring and necessary aspect of the Christian faith.
A few years ago, CAMERA would have ignored Jones’s rants because it would not be useful to draw attention to his hostility. He was a marginal, fringe figure. But with the advent of the internet, Jones has been able to reach out to a growing audience of young Catholics, many of whom are profoundly disturbed by a perceived lack of moral order in modern society. In addition to calling on these young Catholics to get baptized, get married and have children, Dr. Jones is encouraging them to blame “The Jews” for aspects of modern life they dislike.
The implications are profoundly disturbing. We have seen this type of agenda before in Western civilization and the results have been catastrophic for both Jews and non-Jews alike.
Dr. Jones seeks to implicate the Catholic church in his attacks on the Jews by invoking the Catholic teaching of Sicut Judaeis Non. As Jones describes it, this doctrine of the early church stated no one had the right to harm the Jew, but at the same time, the Jews were — like Christians and Jews living under Islam — required to accept second class status and refrain from undermining the Christian cultures in which they lived.
What Jones does not address, however, is how this doctrine (as he describes it) is to be applied in countries with secular civil societies. Nor does he describe what happens when Jews achieve political and cultural success in these societies.
Catholics Must Be Warned.
I am not asking that Dr. Jones be sanctioned in any way. I would even argue against sanctions. I do however, ask that you use your authority as Bishop to warn Catholics in your diocese, and elsewhere, against embracing Dr. Jones’s agenda and worldview.
I also ask that you or other relevant Church authorities issue an assessment and analysis of Dr. Jones’s description and application of “Sicut Judaeis.” A cursory review of information about this doctrine indicates that Dr. Jones is offering up a distorted and self-serving version of this teaching to his followers.
In one interview, Dr. Jones declared, “The Church can have unity or she can have good relations with the Jews. But she can’t have both.” By setting up a false dichotomy between good interfaith relations and Church unity, Dr. Jones is suggesting that the only way the Church can proclaim the Gospel is to engage in warlike disputations with the Jewish people.
As I said in one of the articles linked above, Dr. Jones is encouraging his followers to reject the lesson of the Cross. The challenge the Christian faith presents to its followers is a choice between joining their suffering with the redemptive wounds of Christ on the Cross or combining their rage with the mob that put him there. Jones and his followers have chosen the latter, multiplying the world’s suffering and misery.
As I close this letter, I should report that I am a relatively recent convert to the Catholic faith. I was confirmed into the Church in 2008 and one of the reasons why I joined is because of the protections Nostra Aetate provided not only to the Jewish people, but to the Church itself.
On this score, it grieves me to write this letter at the dawn of the 21st century. This letter feels more at home in the 13th century, when Pope Innocent IV was forced to declare Jews innocent of using Christian blood for ritual purposes. That this letter needs to be written in 2019 is a sad commentary on our times.
Nevertheless, in light of Nostra Aetate, I know without a doubt that Dr. Jones’s declarations and demeanor in regards to the Jewish people are not representative of the Catholic faith’s attitude toward the Jewish people.
I should also report that I am not the only Catholic who works at CAMERA. There are a few of us!
And we are all appalled by Dr. Jones’s writings and declarations which so clearly contradict the teachings of the Church we know and love.
A public admonition would go a long way toward protecting the faithful from the anti-Jewish hostility Dr. Jones’s espouses.
Respectfully Yours in Christ,
Dexter Van Zile
Dexter Van Zile is a Christian Media Analyst for CAMERA. His work has focused on anti-Israel propaganda broadcast by Christian churches and para-church institutions. He has also worked assiduously to document the failure of Christian peace activists to address human rights abuses in Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East. His articles have appeared in the Jerusalem Post, the Boston Globe and Jewish Political Studies Review. He has also been published in The Algemeiner and Jewish News Service. Manfred Gerstenfeld, former Chairman of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs describes Dexter as “one of the world’s most knowledgeable analysts of Christian anti-Israelism and antisemitism.”
image credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Birkenau_a_group_of_Jews_walking_towards_the_gas_chambers_and_crematoria.jpg