The Thirteenth Century bore many glorious fruits, but not for the sons of Abraham. And the decadent fourteenth had even worse things in store for them. It began with their plundering and expulsion from France by Philip IV in 1306; their slaughter by the pastoureaux in 1320, and even bloodier persecution in 1321, when the lepers accused them of having poisoned the wells and rivers – this about the time when Bernard Gui was composing his Practica. The Crusades had brought to the Jews the same punishment that their ancestors had  meted out to the idolaters, the blasphemers, the worshippers among them of the gold calf. Their ancient prophets would have said that they were being chastised for not walking in the ways of God. But what a mockery that this should be done in the name of Him who said, “Love your enemies; do good to them that hate you,” and murmured, as He gave up His life for the Jews and all men, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!” What an injustice, too, that the survivors of the pogroms were often granted their lives only on condition that they accept Baptism. Some of course sought it themselves in their fear of future massacres, confiscations, and social and economic discrimination. Many of the conversions, therefore, were insincere and temporary.

Modern Jews – Dr. Cecil Roth, for one – have acknowledged that the Popes and most of the hierarchy pretty consistently stood between the Jews and all this mob violence, and protected them from extermination or other barbarities in countless instances. Pope Alexander III was a friend to the Jews. The Third Lateran Council in 1179 defended their right to refuse Baptism. Innocent III, although he frowned on the tendency of many Christian rulers to give the jews power and preferment over Christians, issued a constitution, when the Jews appealed to him against the Crusaders, in which he forbade mob violence and compulsory Baptism – a measure that Gregory IX confirmed in 1235.

William Thomas Walsh, Characters of the Inquisition (1940)


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