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La Civiltà Cattolica

CIVILTÀ CATTOLICA, LA, official Catholic bi-monthly. Founded in 1849 by Jesuit writers, and published first in Naples (1850) then in Rome, this review has been the faithful interpreter of papal thought and gained an influence far beyond Catholic circles. Until 1933, its contributors also remained strictly anonymous. From the outset, the review attacked *Freemasonry , liberalism under all forms, and, above all, the synagogue which "had put Man-The-God on the Cross" (vol. 46 (1895), no. 1, 262), thus bringing about the dispersion of the Jews and causing their "irritating" presence throughout the earth.

With the accession of Pope Leo XIII (1878), the casuistic approach was replaced by systematic defamation. Civiltà wrote of "Jewish hatred… against mankind – Jews excepted" (vol. 32 (1881), no. 5, 727); of the "anti-social spirit of Judaism"; and of the "necessity of hating it" (ibid., no. 6, 603, 608). Worst of all was the review's attitude concerning the *blood libel . More than a century earlier Cardinal Ganganelli (later Pope *Clement XIV) had declared the accusation groundless but Civiltà Cattolica nonetheless wrote of the Jews of *Trent , "mingling unleavened bread with Christian blood, every year, at Passover," and of the "present Jewish use of Christian blood in paschal bread and wine." Civiltà dwelt further on "the reality of the use of Christian blood in many rituals of the modern synagogue" (vol. 34 (1883), no. 1, 606ff.) as "demonstrated" in the *Tiszaeszlar case, which Civiltà considered to be authentic beyond doubt. Likewise Captain *Dreyfus could be nothing but a traitor, while France was governed by *Freemasonry , which itself was controlled by the Jews. However, the Jews should not be exiled from France for they were a people accursed by God, scattered to the four corners of the earth in order to testify by their ubiquity to the truth of Christianity (vol. 49 (1898), no. 1, 273–87). Thus, anti-Jewish prejudice had again been given a moral nihil obstat and an encouragement to proceed with the worst excesses. Nor did Civiltà relent during the following decades, although "blood" charges were dropped.

Three years after the advent of the Third Reich, the review actively competed with Nazi propaganda, setting out in detail all the arguments for Christian antisemitism as distinguished from the racial antisemitism of the Nazis. The Jews, stated the writer, "have become the masters of the world" (vol. 87 (1936), no. 37–8); "Their prototype is the banker, and their supreme ideal to turn the world into an incorporated joint-stock company" (ibid, 39–40). In search of a solution to the "Jewish Question" Civiltà analyzed Zionism. Would the Jews, asked the writer, once they had realized the Zionist state, "give up their messianic aspiration to world domination and preponderance, both capitalistic and revolutionary? Besides, what would be the attitude of the Christians when they saw the Holy Places in Jewish hands?" (vol. 88 (1937), no. 2, 418–31). As Civiltà Cattolica saw it, the only way to salvation was through conversion.

Throughout World War II (1939–45), Civiltà's silence over the fate of the Jews echoed that of *Pius XII . Later, the "unprecedented cruelty of the massacres of Jews and Poles," and "the horror of concentration camps, gas and torture chambers," were mentioned in an article which raised doubts about the very principle and objectivity of the Nuremberg trials and stated, among other things, that "conceding even that, on the diplomatic ground, Germany had been the one to set the gunpowder on fire, historically, they had been compelled to do so" (vol. 97 (1946), issue 2297). From the 1950s Civiltà's century-long antipathy was replaced by a definitely more dispassionate attitude, in conformity with the Vatican's recent moves toward reconciliation.


[Emmanuel Beeri]

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.