Blood libel

While the blood libel actually occurred far too often in the Middle Ages, Philip Daileader claims that he has not been able to discover a single instance of a Catholic bishop supporting the charge. Universally, he says, they dismissed the idea as nonsense.

Similarly, when hoi polloi of the People's Crusade attacked Jews in France and Germany, "The Church opposed these attacks, and local clergy often came to the defense of Jews in their community."

Jews suffered a lot at the hands of the common people of Europe through the Middle Ages. Almost always, church officials denounced these episodes and tried to protect the Jews from their attackers.


  1. That's disingenuous. Catholic bishops campaigned relentlessly to ensure Jews had various restrictions placed on them, regularly accused them of wickedness, being enemies of Christ, being guilty of the sin of Christ death. That they did not want to go as far as homicide was true, but they inflamed Jew hatred in the first place.
    Also, the C19th and early C20th Papacy did propagandise about alleged blood libel cases. (See "The Popes against the Jews" by David Kertzer.)

    1. Well, Lorenzo, I'm just forwarding the findings of an historian who is an expert on the Middle Ages and seems to have no horse in this race, unlike... ahem, so commenters, who obviously are filled with hatred for the Church and cite books on the 19th and 20th century as though they were relevant to a discussion of the Middle Ages!

    2. I didn't even notice that. Why on earth would 19th and 20th century Catholic Antisemitism have anything to do with what occurred in the Middle Ages?

      Also, Kertzer's book seems suspect. It looks like does not even look at the actual content of the encyclicals of Pope's during the centuries that the alleged Catholic anti-semitism occurred! If that is true, that is outrageous.

    3. Anyone familiar with the medieval record knows that Catholic prelates objected to mass killing of Jews. That finding is not surprising; nor is it terribly surprising that the Church did not go for the blood libel. But the wider context matters. For example, Jews and Catholics had generally good relations under Charlemagne and his son Louis the Pius, who appreciated their Jewish subjects as tax-paying, God-fearing, law-abiding folk. Both resisted constant pressure from the Church to impose extra legal restrictions on Jews. The Church did a great deal to establish the status of Jews as morally problematic.
      And one of the sad things about the Church's record on anti-Jewish incitement in the C19th and early C20th is that, in some ways, it represented a regression.

    4. So, "everyone knows" these things, but it is "disingenuous" to mention them?

  2. Nice post, Gene! I had always heard that the Catholic Church was very anti-Semitic. The more I read about the Roman Church - and history of science - the more I'm inclined to think that our culture has history usually backwards. How the heck did that happen?

  3. I expect in the long history you will find one bishop or pope. But an isolated case won't prove much. there were at least two papal bulls denouncing it, maybe more.