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Catechism of the Catholic Church

I. THE TRIAL OF JESUS

Divisions among the Jewish authorities concerning Jesus

595 Among the religious authorities of Jerusalem, not only were the Pharisee Nicodemus and the prominent Joseph of Arimathea both secret disciples of Jesus, but there was also long-standing dissension about him, so much so that St. John says of these authorities on the very eve of Christ's Passion, "many.. . believed in him", though very imperfectly. 378 This is not surprising, if one recalls that on the day after Pentecost "a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith" and "some believers. . . belonged to the party of the Pharisees", to the point that St. James could tell St. Paul, "How many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed; and they are all zealous for the Law." 379

596 The religious authorities in Jerusalem were not unanimous about what stance to take towards Jesus. 380 The Pharisees threatened to excommunicate his followers. 381 To those who feared that "everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation", the high priest Caiaphas replied by prophesying: "It is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation should not perish." 382 The Sanhedrin, having declared Jesus deserving of death as a blasphemer but having lost the right to put anyone to death, hands him over to the Romans, accusing him of political revolt, a charge that puts him in the same category as Barabbas who had been accused of sedition. 383 The chief priests also threatened Pilate politically so that he would condemn Jesus to death. 384

Jews are not collectively responsible for Jesus' death

597 The historical complexity of Jesus' trial is apparent in the Gospel accounts. The personal sin of the participants (Judas, the Sanhedrin, Pilate) is known to God alone. Hence we cannot lay responsibility for the trial on the Jews in Jerusalem as a whole, despite the outcry of a manipulated crowd and the global reproaches contained in the apostles' calls to conversion after Pentecost. 385 Jesus himself, in forgiving them on the cross, and Peter in following suit, both accept "the ignorance" of the Jews of Jerusalem and even of their leaders. 386 Still less can we extend responsibility to other Jews of different times and places, based merely on the crowd's cry: "His blood be on us and on our children!", a formula for ratifying a judicial sentence. 387

As the Church declared at the Second Vatican Council: . . . neither all Jews indiscriminately at that time, nor Jews today, can be charged with the crimes committed during his Passion. . . the Jews should not be spoken of as rejected or accursed as if this followed from holy Scripture. 388

All sinners were the authors of Christ's Passion

598 In her Magisterial teaching of the faith and in the witness of her saints, the Church has never forgotten that "sinners were the authors and the ministers of all the sufferings that the divine Redeemer endured." 389 Taking into account the fact that our sins affect Christ himself, 390 the Church does not hesitate to impute to Christians the gravest responsibility for the torments inflicted upon Jesus, a responsibility with which they have all too often burdened the Jews alone:

We must regard as guilty all those who continue to relapse into their sins. Since our sins made the Lord Christ suffer the torment of the cross, those who plunge themselves into disorders and crimes crucify the Son of God anew in their hearts (for he is in them) and hold him up to contempt. And it can be seen that our crime in this case is greater in us than in the Jews. As for them, according to the witness of the Apostle, "None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory." We, however, profess to know him. And when we deny him by our deeds, we in some way seem to lay violent hands on him. 391

Nor did demons crucify him; it is you who have crucified him and crucify him still, when you delight in your vices and sins. 392

Notes:

378 Jn 12:42; cf. 7:50; 9:16-17; 10:19-21; 19:38-39.

379 Acts 6:7; 15:5; 21:20.

380 Cf. Jn 9:16; 10:19.

381 Cf. Jn 9:22.

382 Jn 11:48-50.

383 Cf. Mt 26:66; Jn 18:31; Lk 23:2, 19.

384 Cf. Jn 19:12, 15, 21.

385 Cf. Mk 15:11; Acts 2:23, 36; 3:13-14; 4:10; 5:30; 7:52; 10:39; 13:27-28; I Thess 2:14-15.

386 Cf. Lk 23:34; Acts 3:17.

387 Mt 27:25; cf. Acts 5:28; 18:6.

388 NA 4.

389 Roman Catechism I, 5, 11; cf. Heb 12:3.

390 Cf. Mt 25:45; Acts 9:4-5.

391 Roman Catechism I, 5, 11; cf. Heb 6:6; 1 Cor 2:8.

392 St. Francis of Assisi, Admonitio 5, 3.

English Translation of the Cathechism of the Catholic Church for the United States of America © 1997, United States Catholic Conference, Inc.

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