PERSECUTION PERPETUATED: THE MEDIEVAL ORIGINS OF ANTI-SEMITIC VIOLENCE IN NAZI GERMANY*
How persistent are cultural traits? Using data on anti-Semitism in Germany, we ﬁnd local continuity over 600 years. Jews were often blamed when the Black Death killed at least a third of Europe’s population during 1348–50. We use plague-era pogroms as an indicator for medieval antiSemitism. They reliably predict violence against Jews in the 1920s, votes for
the Nazi Party, deportations after 1933, attacks on synagogues, and letters to Der Stu¨rmer. We also identify areas where persistence was lower: cities with high levels of trade or immigration. Finally, we show that our results are not driven by political extremism or by different attitudes toward violence.
The Quarterly Journal of Economics (2012), 1339–1392.
Apparently not. In any event, I found this an engaging conversation – even if it’s about cult beliefs. I wouldn’t have expected it, but I found Mitt Romney arguing for his cult more engaging than most of the rest of Mitt’s campaigning. Pity he walked out on what were essentially false pretences just as it was getting interesting. Anyway he had to get out of that booth to stay ‘on message’. It’s a tribute to him that he stayed as long as he did. And interesting to see how seriously people take the narrative of whether they’re a good guy or not.
It’s also a tribute to the Dems that they didn’t run round the evangelical belt of the US spreading rumours that Mormons eat their babies. Then again maybe they did and we didn’t hear of it – because of that liberal press that we have. Certainly there’ve been no end of alarums and excursions around the fact that the Obamas were born on Krypton where they do eat their babies. And Romney was prepared to help those rumours along, for instance making comments to the effect that people didn’t wonder where he was born!!
In case anyone wants to know, an American friend of mine tells me that as Governor of Massachusetts Romney was good on Government 2.0.
Anyway, I hope you enjoy the vid.
The very sharp Waleed Aly has joined the debate over whether Catholic child abuse justifies a legal requirement for priests to break the confessional seal. Aly’s take: it’s an argument with almost no practical consequences, because most priests see excommunication as a far worse punishment than prison.
… Canon law prohibits a priest from revealing a confession even under the threat of his own death. Should we expect him to buckle under the threat of a prison sentence?
Here it’s essential to understand that any priest who violates the confessional seal faces excommunication.
That might mean nothing to you … But you are not the one hearing the confession. What matters is what this means to priests and, in Catholic terms, excommunication is as serious as it gets – far more serious than any prison sentence. This leaves us searching for a very strange creature indeed: someone devoted enough to enter the priesthood, but not devoted enough to care about eternal damnation. And we need lots of them. We’re betting on a team of rogue priests. That doesn’t sound like a plan to me.
You can’t legislate away people’s religious convictions, however much you might want to.
Aly notes that there’s little evidence of priests describing their crimes in confessional anyway. Does anyone know of evidence?
Aly also argues that the break-the-confessional-seal argument represents “irreligious people trying to address a religious problem with brute secular force”. Given that Catholics like Tony Abbott, Christopher Pyne and Barry O’Farrell are among the advocates of overriding the sanctity of the confessional, that characterisation seems wrong. But the non-religious (a category which includes me) might do well to think twice before piling on to this particular argument. It’s all fight and no pay-off.
To my astonishment, Catholic Archbishop of Sydney George Pell spent part of a press conference today claiming that the news media are exaggerating the scandal of Catholic Church child abuse in Australia. There was “a persistent press campaign against the Catholic Church’s adequacies and inadequacies in this area”, he said.
In fact, the opposite is true. The media has underplayed the issue to a remarkable extent.
A major Australian institution appears* to have harbored hundreds of child abusers abusing thousands of children over a period of several decades around Australia. The same institution has apparently committed the same offences across the globe. According to one senior NSW police officer, this institution covers up for paedophile priests, hinders police investigations and destroys evidence to prevent prosecutions.
The obvious reaction would be that this institution needs an investigation to run through it like a dose of salts.
Yet too few people have rushed to say this about the Catholic Church in Australia. Quite the contrary. On 3AW last Friday two national political leaders – Bill Shorten and Joe Hockey – talked with Neil Mitchell about how people close to them had been affected by Catholic Church paedophilia. Then they both tied themselves in knots trying to avoid saying that the Catholic Church should be the subject of a major official inquiry. Continue reading
Looking at the newspapers you’d think Catholicism is having a hard time with philandering priests and cover-ups of their doings being found out on a weekly basis. Dutch and German newspapers kept track for a while of the regional frequencies of new cases of sexual misconduct allegations. You might think Catholicism is getting its long-awaited come-uppance. Nothing is further from the truth however: Catholicism is in rude health.
There are now around 1.3 billion adherents making Catholicism the largest religion on the planet and the largest branch on the tree of Christianity that appears to hold about 2.1 billion adherents. Its strongholds in Latin America and Southern Africa are looking rock-solid, and conversion rates in the new centres of Asia (China, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, etc.) are looking very healthy indeed. The Christian World Database hence proudly announced Christianity was the world’s fastest growing religion in 2006 and in terms of numbers, Catholicism is by far the biggest and probably fastest growing of the Christian faiths.
What is interesting about Catholicism is that it seems to have lost its footing in its traditional stronghold, Southern and Western Europe. The area where all the popes came from, where all the old cathedrals are, where nearly all the alternative branches of Christianity originated, is now more secular than ever. Europe now has to import monks from Latin America and Africa to fill up its most prestigious and old monasteries (such as the one in Poblet, Spain). Things are so bad for Catholicism in Europe that in April 2009, the Archbishop of Vienna proclaimed that “The time of Christianity in Europe is coming to an end”. It is of course partially this retreat of the power of the Catholic church that allows all the skeletons to emerge from the cupboard. It is striking how few scandals come to the surface in places like Brazil and Nigeria compared to the almost massive ‘coming out’ currently seen in Europe.