Catholicism’s Emerging Post-Shoah Tradition

The Case of the Jesuits
  • S. J. James Bernauer


The catholic Church entered into an end-of-the-millennium season of repentance and articulated several strong statements of sorrow regarding its conduct during the Nazi period. There was the 1995 statement of the German bishops which commemorated the fiftieth anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz camp: Christians ‘did not offer due resistance to racial anti-Semitism. Many times there was failure and guilt among Catholics. Not a few of them got involved in the ideology of National Socialism and remained unmoved in the face of the crimes committed against Jewish-owned property and the life of the Jews. Others paved the way for crimes or even became criminals themselves.’ The German bishops spoke clearly: ‘The practical sincerity of our will of renewal is also linked to the confession of this guilt and the willingness to painfully learn from this history of guilt of our country and of our church as well. We request the Jewish people to hear this word of conversion and will of renewal.’1 September 1997 brought the powerful confession of the French bishops, who blamed narrow ecclesiastical interests for blinding Church leaders to the call of conscience for a denunciation of the crimes against the Jewish people. The Bishops recognized that such silence was a sin and declared: ‘We confess this sin. We beg God’s pardon, and we call upon the Jewish people to hear our words of repentance.’2 More recently, there was the Vatican statement ‘We Remember: A Reflection on the “Shoah” ‘ which proclaimed an ‘act of repentance (teshuva)’: ‘At the end of this millennium the Catholic Church desires to express her deep sorrow for the failures of her sons and daughters in every age…. We pray that our sorrow for the tragedy which the Jewish people have suffered in our century will lead to a new relationship to the Jewish people.’3


Jewish People General Congregation Weimar Republic Moral Formation Modern Sexuality 
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2001

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  • S. J. James Bernauer

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