An Infallible Kidnapping

As I was researching the relationship between the Roman Catholic Church and Judaism, I came upon a document that readers might find interesting. The document, which was a recent move in Rome's continuing effort to seduce Jews, informs that:

The Roman Catholic reflections describe the growing respect for the Jewish tradition that has unfolded since the Second Vatican Council. A deepening Catholic appreciation of the eternal covenant between God and the Jewish people, together with a recognition of a divinely-given mission to Jews to witness to God's faithful love, lead to the conclusion that campaigns that target Jews for conversion to Christianity are no longer theologically acceptable in the Catholic Church. -- Reflections on Covenant and Mission, Consultation of the National Council of Synagogues and the Bishops Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, August 12, 2002 © 2008 International Council of Christians and Jews

American Bishops, in their wisdom, decided that the Jews have their own special relationship with God and they therefore need not be evangelized. This must have been a new revelation of truth because it was just over a half-a-century ago that the then Pope felt differently than do today’s American Bishops (who, I would add, are part of the infallible teaching arm of the Roman Church).

The Second Vatican Council summed up the Church’s mission as follows:

While helping the world, and receiving many benefits from it, the Church has a single intention: that God’s kingdom may come, and that the salvation of the whole human race may come to pass. For every benefit which the People of God during its earthly pilgrimage can offer to the human family stems from the fact that the Church is “the universal sacrament of salvation,” simultaneously manifesting and exercising the mystery of God’s love for humanity. -- Ibid.

Doesn't the RCC have a wonderful knack for presenting opposing views in the same document? It would appeaer that universality of the "universal sacrament of salvation" isn't available to Jews. Rome does, of course, have an explanation for her current position relative to Judaism and Christianity:

From the point of view of the Catholic Church, Judaism is a religion that springs from divine revelation. As Cardinal Kasper noted, “God’s grace, which is the grace of Jesus Christ according to our faith, is available to all. Therefore, the Church believes that Judaism, i.e. the faithful response of the Jewish people to God’s irrevocable covenant, is salvific for them, because God is faithful to his promises.” -- Ibid.

Are you familiar with the bizarre, twisted and wholly sad story of one Roman Pontiff who apparently experienced a very special urgency to protect one small child from being raised as a Jew? This guy, this "Sweet Christ on Earth," had the boy taken by force from his home and held him against the will of his parents.

Pius IX—Pio Nono to Italians—drew the line of opposition against modernity in the twelfth year of his long (forty-two-year) reign, in 1858. That is the year he kidnapped a six-year-old Jewish boy in Bologna, took him to Rome, and kept him there. The act caused an outcry against Pius, a formerly popular Pontiff, all over the world, even from some Catholics. But Pius said this was just a sign that friends of the Jews hate Christians. (1)

When a foreign minister told Pius that the modern world called for the boy’s return to his parents, Pius said, “What you call the modern world is simply Freemasonry.”(2)

Paranoia over the Freemasons aside, a man the Roman Catholic Church claims to have been the Vicar of Christ arranged for the kidnapping of a small child and kept the child with him at the Vatican. I mentioned that this story was rather bizarre and so it is.

How did a Pope in the nineteenth century get into the kidnapping business? It happened because a young Christian woman in the papal state of Bologna told friends she had secretly baptized a sick child, Edgardo Mortara, in the Jewish home where she was a servant. The child was only a year old at the time. The Inquisition in Bologna investigated the matter—very possibly at the instigation of Pius IX himself, according to the definitive three-volume biography of Pius by Giacomo Martina, S.J.(3) When it was decided to believe the woman, despite problems with her story, the police were sent to take the boy (now six) away from his mother and father. Bologna was still part of the Pope’s temporal domain, so the police were his officials. (4)

The police did not tell the child’s parents why they were taking little Edgardo, they merely took him. The parents could not fight to win back their son because they had no idea of what was going on. They only found out by undertaking investigations themselves, and by then their son was living in Rome, where the kidnapping Pope said the boy would be raised Christian.

While Wills doesn’t elaborate, he does state that there were problems with the story of the woman who said she had secretly baptized this boy as an infant. That adds a dubious quality to this whole sordid story. Equally bad is that the baptism was done in secret and that the Vatican had a part in the mess. Doesn’t the Roman Church teach respect for those of other faiths? Well, as long as the other faith is not Judaism she does. Oops! I almost forgot that Rome now enjoys a rapprochement with Judaism.

Nevertheless, the actions of the supposed Vicar of Christ reek of Gestapo-like tactics. He likely ordered the investigation into the woman’s claims of a secret baptism and then sent the police to seize the child, without notifying the parents what was going on. I find it more than a little ironic that it is said of Mary that she, “..gave up her Mother’s rights over her Son to procure the salvation of mankind”(5), yet the rights of this other Jewish woman were of no importance to the Pope, since her son was literally kidnapped from her and the boy’s father.

Claiming that if the boy were returned to his parents he might be tortured, a Jesuit author at the time asked, “Would it seem right and generous to place this innocent boy on this cross?”(6) That statement hinted toward an old claim that Jews engaged in the murder of Christian boys, which was a myth. All the better, however, to smear the parents of the boy.

Even Thomas Aquinas had said that children should not be baptized without their parent’s consent, since they have the immediate authority over them (ST 3 q 68, 10 ad 2). But Pius was impervious to argument. When a Catholic wrote a respectful letter suggesting that Edgardo should be returned, the Pope scribbled on the bottom of the letter, “aberrations of a Catholic…doesn’t know his catechism.(7) When his own Secretary of State, Cardinal Antonelli, suggested that Pius might be alienating other countries by such a high-handed use of power, the Pope answered that he did not care who was against him: “I have the blessed Virgin on my side.” He told the Catholic ambassador from France that the Mortaras had brought their trouble on themselves by illegally employing a Christian as their servant.

When another Jewish boy was baptized and seized six years later, the firestorm erupted anew. Could it be that Pio Nono only felt a reckless need to "rescue" very young boys -- perhaps after the previous recipient of his benificence's voice started to change? Eventually, the pontificate of Pius IX was disgraced and he became a bitter man. In 1867 Pius complained to Edgardo himself that the whole world had amassed against him, and all because of Edgardo. First he blamed Edgardo’s mother, and now Edgardo. Pius further whined to Edgardo, “And in the meantime no one showed any concern for me, father of all the faithful.”(8) The kidnapper claimed he was persecuted and railed against the “modern world”. He released his Syllabus of Errors and then later convened an ecumenical council to declare that he was infallible. No less than Cardinal John Henry Newman became one of Pio Nono’s accusers, saying, “We have come to a climax of tyranny. It is not good for a Pope to live twenty years {in office}"

Edgardo Mortara went on to become a Catholic priest and Pius IX went on to his death, leaving this lasting legacy. Pius may have tried to cover up his utterly un-Christian actions by declaring himself infallible, but the reader can most certainly judge that his actions declare otherwise. When Catholic defenders speak of the bad popes, which they are pained to do, they assure that such men lived in the dark ages a great many centuries ago. Pius IX was a pontiff in the modern era and his actions are no better than those other bad popes who committed all manner of sins while in power. There has always been some speculation as to whether the authorities arrested and convicted the right men in the kidnapping and death of the Lindburgh baby. I wonder if the police checked the alibi of the sitting pope at the time?


(1) Garry Wills, Papal Sin – Structures of Deceit, p. 40
{Note: Wills is Catholic, a professor of History at Northwestern University and a past Nobel Prize recipient}
(2) David I. Kertzer, The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara (Alfred A. Knopf, 1997), p. 157
(3) Giacomo Martina, S.J. Pio IX (1851-1866), Miscellanea historiae ecceiasticae in Pontificia universitate Gregoriana 51 (1986).
(4) Wills, op. cit., p. 41
(5) Benedict XV, Litterae Apostolicae, Inter Sodalicia
(6) Kertzer, op. cit., p. 113
(7) Ibid., p. 85
(8) Ibid., p. 260

Salvation comes to man *only* through Jesus Christ.

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