Monday, March 30, 2015

Concerning the exile of Jews from Spain (1492)

It seems that in modernity’s take on Christianity there are a few sticking points that are used as bludgeons against Christ’s Only Church (The One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church for those unaware). Among these are the black legends, threats of evil popes, flat-Earther allegations, but among the protestant sects none comes close to the perceived mishandling of the Jew’s.
Explusion of the Jews
Protestant muckrakers like John Hagee and TV personalities like Glenn Beck spend a decent amount of time concerning themselves with the situation in Israel and how the Jew’s are being harmed here and there.  This might well be a well-intentioned endeavor and people, regardless of their religious affiliations, but it becomes a crime when such folks who have fashioned themselves as historical luminaries take historical occurrences, pull it out of context, then claim that the Whore of Babylon  can be seen persecuting God’s chosen people… the Jews of today.
With the Reconquista of Spain from the Moors came with it many difficulties, one such difficulty was concerned with how would those that aligned themselves with the Moors be treated when the Moors were finally forced off the Iberian Peninsula? Charles Coulomb gives us a little context in his book on Catholic US history entitled “Puritans Empire”:
Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain
“The entrance of Ferdinand and Isabella into the Alhambra marked the end of the age-long struggle begun when Don Pelayo emerged from the Covadonga eight centuries before. At last Spain was free.
One of the immediate results of this occurrence was the expulsion of the Jews from Spain. This happening has been frequently cited in recent years against the Queen, and it is an important question to address. In order to understand it in context, we must remember that the Spanish Jews had, from the first invasion by the Moors back in 711, collaborated closely with the Muslim invaders, who were after all, also a Semite people. This was considered an act of betrayal by the Spanish. During the long years of Moorish tyranny, Jews often served under them as governors of the Christian populace; Jewish culture in Spain flourished, Toledo and Cordova in particular becoming centers of Hebrew thought and learning. While such collaboration is easily understood, so too is the resentment toward it. When an occupying force is at last dislodged from a nations territories, those who collaborated with the occupiers – as Pierre Laval and Vikdun Quisling found out after World War II – often do not fare very well.
But the Twentieth Century rulers faced with large ethnic minorities might launch genocide against them, as did the Turks with the Armenians and the Nazis with the Gypsies, Jews, and Poles (or else “ethnic cleansing” as the Serbian Communists call it). Isabel had no such desire. She feared possible future collaboration of the Jews with Muslims – and she had not defeated restive nobles, brigands and the Granada Moors to see it all lost to Turks. But as a Catholic she would certainly not want them wantonly executed. What then to do?
At this point, in order to explain her motivations, a few points must be made about her and her contemporaries’ understanding of Catholicism. They believed Our Lord’s words “Unless a man be baptized of water and the Holy Ghost, he shall not enter the Kingdom of God.” And “Unless a man eat my body and drink my blood, he shall not have life in him.” They agreed with Pope Boniface VIII in his bull Unam Sanctam that “it is absolutely necessary to the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff.” This is why the Protestant Henry of Navarre (later Henry IV of France) said in regard to his conversion to Catholicism, “the ministers say that I can save my soul as a Catholic, the priests that I cannot save it as a Protestant. Therefore I can surely be saved as a Catholic.” Without this understanding none of the Queen’s actions with regard to the Jews or to the Guanches and Indians can be understood.
For like her Savior, she did not desire the death of sinners, but that they should live. She wished that all of her subjects might be members of the Catholic Church, outside of which she believed there was no salvation. If the Jews would convert (for church law forbade her to force them to do so) they would be given all the privileges and rights of ordinary Spaniards. If not they were a security risk, and must go. In the event, at most 160,000 left. Many of these, interestingly enough, were picked up by Ottoman vessels and brought to Thessalonica and Constantinople, in which city the anniversary of their arrival was celebrated in 1992. Others went to North Africa and still others to the Netherlands where, unhampered by the Church’s laws against usury they laid the foundations for that country’s capitalist economy and eventual financial prowess. Those who converted, however soon reached the heights of Spanish society. Many became bishops and nobles and high courtiers; St. Teresa of Avila, for example was part Jewish.”
It is also interesting that during this time the exile of the Jews did not go unnoticed by the reigning pontiff Pope Alexander VI.  The pope encouraged migration of the Jewish people from Spain and called on Isabelle to be more lienent with them. While the Jews settled in Rome, Alexander demanded that they not be persecuted.  To this day the Jewish settlements of Rome are a result of his actions.

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