Off we go... to the Middle Ages!


I am now reviewing Rodney Stark's Bearing False Witness: Debunking Centuries of Anti-Catholic History. (Stark, by the way, is not a Catholic.) So we'll be addressing the Middle Ages often in the next week or two (the book is short).

First, let us take up Jews and the Catholic Church. Stark stresses something I have seen historians specializing in the Middle Ages point out: while Jews sometimes were attacked or killed by Christians between 500 and 1400, the Church hierarchy was always their defenders. For instance, during the First Crusade, some crusaders decided that, that before they went all the way to the Middle East to fight "God's enemies" they should take care of some of them (i.e. Jews) who were living next door in Europe. And so Emich of Leisingen set out to kill Jews in the Rhineland. Their first stop was Speyer, but:
The bishop of Speyer took the local Jews under his protection, and Emich's forces could only lay their hands on a dozen Jews who had somehow failed to heed the bishop's alarm. All twelve were killed. Then Emich led his forces to Worms. Here, too, the bishop took the local Jews into his palace for protection. But this time Emich would have none of that, and his forces broke down the bishop's gate and killed about five hundred Jews. The same pattern was repeated the following week in Mainz. Just as before, the bishop attempted to shield the Jews, but he was attacked and forced to flee for his life. (22)
During the Second Crusade, St. Bernard of Clairvaux rode to the Rhine Valley -- apparently the worst place in Medieval Europe to be a Jew -- and, as told by a Jewish chronicler named Ephraim, said, "Anyone who attacks a Jew and tries to kill him is as though he attacks Jesus himself" (23).

And during the Black Death, popular rumors arose that Jews were poisoning wells and causing the deaths. But "Pope Clement VI, who directed the clergy to protect the Jews, denounced all claims about poisoned wells, and ordered that those who spread the rumor, as well as anyone who harmed Jews, be excommunicated" (24).

Attacks on Jews in the Middle Ages always arose from "the mob," and were always fought by the Church hierarchy.

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