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Carroll Discusses The New Urgency of Religious Reform

Carroll Discusses The New Urgency of Religious Reform
Natila Cooper

The Bernard A. Stotsky Lecture Series welcomed renowned Catholic historian and prolific author James Carroll to the harbor campus recently for a public lecture. Carroll lectures widely on Jewish-Christian reconciliation, and on the question of war and peace. He is a regular participant in on-going Jewish-Christian-Muslim encounters at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, and he writes a weekly op-ed page column in The Boston Globe.

About a year ago, Carroll’s extensive history of conflict between the Christian church and the Jews, Constantine’s Sword, was published.

Chancellor Gora opened the afternoon’s lecture. She warmly welcomed alumni and people from the surrounding community. Gora talked about the gubernatorial forum which took place that evening at UMB (see story, page 1) and also used a few seconds to plug the new Campus Center. Gora assured the standing room only crowd that once the Campus Center opens its doors, the university will be able to hold “… lectures like this in a room where everyone can sit down.” The chancellor also stressed her hope that the community views UMass Boston as a destination for enrichment and “vigorous debate.”

Carroll then took the microphone. He talked about his very personal connections to UMass Boston. A former professor at UMB, Robert Lipke, greatly helped Carroll’s brother Dennis, encouraging him to go on and earn a Ph.D. Another member of the UMass community, creative writing Professor Askold Melnyczuk, received praise from Carroll. Melnyczuk served as a helpful source for writing advice during the writing of Constantine’s Sword.

Carroll described that during the year and a half since the publication of his latest book, he has been together with people for whom questions had arisen regarding many aspects of the Catholic church and about the religious fanaticism associated with some aspects of the current war on terror that the United States is currently waging. Carroll admitted that his strong push toward a new and complete enlightened reformation of the church has led “some of [his] fellow Catholics to label [him] a Catholic basher.”

But he insisted that in light of the current crisis in the Catholic church, an entire range of the Catholic people have come to understand that reform is necessary.

Most of Carroll’s lecture dealt with the constant conflicts which have taken place in the relations between Catholics and Jews. He discussed the incorrect separation of Jesus from the nation of Israel, a continuous misconception since the inception of Christianity. Two generations passed between the death of Christ and the first published scriptures. By the time the stories of Jesus made it to print, there were no more first hand accounts of the events that came to make up the New Testament.

A particular turning point in the dichotomous histories of Jesus was the Roman War in 70 A.D. According to Carroll, the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, which occurred during that war, changed what it meant to be a Jew. The beliefs of Judaism became more centralized and some Jews transposed their beliefs onto Christianity.

Carroll claims that, despite the Christian push to present Jesus as a Christian, “Jesus of the year 30 [A.D.] is nothing but a Jew.” He went on to describe how “… the Christian mind habitually begins to define the story of Jesus in contrast to Israel.” A view that Carroll disagrees with, “Any story of Jesus in the context of Israel … has to be a story that thinks of Jesus as a Jew.”

Constantine furthered the process of separation that had begun with the new scriptures. Roman Emperor Constantine (306 A.D. – 337 A.D) furthered the process of separation between Christians and Jews, with his attempts to unify the Roman Empire behind a new movement. The cult of the cross, incited by Constantine’s vision of that cross, began to sweep the Christian imagination. The superstition and power behind that cross lives on today in the everyday expression “knock on wood.” Carroll explained that when you “knock on wood,” for good luck, you are knocking on the wood of the true cross.

The story of the discovery of the true cross was another myth-infused tidbit of oral history by the time it was recorded. It was not until fifty years after the fact, that St. Ambrose penned the tale. The strength of the true cross was used later as a justification for Christian attacks during the crusades.

Carroll also discussed the constant connections he sees, throughout the history of the Church, between theology and politics. A tradition that still thrives in today’s world, the evidence of which is overwhelming. In both the sex abuse scandals the Roman Catholic church is currently grappling with, and the overwhelming evidence of religious fundamentalism on a worldwide scale, theology and politics are unmistakably linked. The spiraling and resonating nature of this history results in a tradition of Christian contempt toward Judaism.

The complacency displayed by the church during the Holocaust is a large part of what Carroll describes and discusses in Constantine’s Sword. The well-known anti-Semitic paranoia from that era, included the shocking and lethal Nazi idea that the Jew is attached to the body of Christendom like a parasite sucking its blood. “We are tracking history here,” he said, where one development leads very much to the next. It was the tradition of Christian contempt for Jews which lead, according to Carroll, to a culmination of something in the modern era. The Jewish people, in the 18th century, were reviled by Catholicism, and came to represent two distinctly different sides of the same evil coin, blamed for both revolutionary and capitalistic activity.

In light of all he had learned in the writing of his latest book, Carroll described how when he showed an early draft to a colleague, they said, “So now you leave the church, right?” Carroll described how his actual response was an even greater sense of identification with the Catholic community. He urged that the church should learn from their mistakes, and keep these sins as the permanent emblem of the capacity of the church, while proceeding in a more enlightened manner.

Toward the end of his remarks, Carroll discussed the current scandal in the church. He insisted that Catholics must understand how this scandal has affected them and said that it “has generated a massive reform movement.” “How does an institution come back from a moent of seeing like that?” Carroll asked.

He also spoke about the current war on terror, speaking to the fact that there is “nothing we can accuse Muslims of, which the Christian church is not also guilty of.”

Carroll spent a short time at the end of his lecture to address questions and concerns from the audience.

The Bernard A. Stotsky Lecture Series welcomed renowned Catholic historian and prolific author James Carroll to the harbor campus recently for a public lecture. Carroll lectures widely on Jewish-Christian reconciliation, and on the question of war and peace. He is a regular participant in on-going Jewish-Christian-Muslim encounters at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, and he writes a weekly op-ed page column in The Boston Globe.

About a year ago, Carroll’s extensive history of conflict between the Christian church and the Jews, Constantine’s Sword, was published.

Chancellor Gora opened the afternoon’s lecture. She warmly welcomed alumni and people from the surrounding community. Gora talked about the gubernatorial forum which took place that evening at UMB (see story, page 1) and also used a few seconds to plug the new Campus Center. Gora assured the standing room only crowd that once the Campus Center opens its doors, the university will be able to hold “… lectures like this in a room where everyone can sit down.” The chancellor also stressed her hope that the community views UMass Boston as a destination for enrichment and “vigorous debate.”

Carroll then took the microphone. He talked about his very personal connections to UMass Boston. A former professor at UMB, Robert Lipke, greatly helped Carroll’s brother Dennis, encouraging him to go on and earn a Ph.D. Another member of the UMass community, creative writing Professor Askold Melnyczuk, received praise from Carroll. Melnyczuk served as a helpful source for writing advice during the writing of Constantine’s Sword.

Carroll described that during the year and a half since the publication of his latest book, he has been together with people for whom questions had arisen regarding many aspects of the Catholic church and about the religious fanaticism associated with some aspects of the current war on terror that the United States is currently waging. Carroll admitted that his strong push toward a new and complete enlightened reformation of the church has led “some of [his] fellow Catholics to label [him] a Catholic basher.”

But he insisted that in light of the current crisis in the Catholic church, an entire range of the Catholic people have come to understand that reform is necessary.

Most of Carroll’s lecture dealt with the constant conflicts which have taken place in the relations between Catholics and Jews. He discussed the incorrect separation of Jesus from the nation of Israel, a continuous misconception since the inception of Christianity. Two generations passed between the death of Christ and the first published scriptures. By the time the stories of Jesus made it to print, there were no more first hand accounts of the events that came to make up the New Testament.

A particular turning point in the dichotomous histories of Jesus was the Roman War in 70 A.D. According to Carroll, the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, which occurred during that war, changed what it meant to be a Jew. The beliefs of Judaism became more centralized and some Jews transposed their beliefs onto Christianity.

Carroll claims that, despite the Christian push to present Jesus as a Christian, “Jesus of the year 30 [A.D.] is nothing but a Jew.” He went on to describe how “… the Christian mind habitually begins to define the story of Jesus in contrast to Israel.” A view that Carroll disagrees with, “Any story of Jesus in the context of Israel … has to be a story that thinks of Jesus as a Jew.”

Constantine furthered the process of separation that had begun with the new scriptures. Roman Emperor Constantine (306 A.D. – 337 A.D) furthered the process of separation between Christians and Jews, with his attempts to unify the Roman Empire behind a new movement. The cult of the cross, incited by Constantine’s vision of that cross, began to sweep the Christian imagination. The superstition and power behind that cross lives on today in the everyday expression “knock on wood.” Carroll explained that when you “knock on wood,” for good luck, you are knocking on the wood of the true cross.

The story of the discovery of the true cross was another myth-infused tidbit of oral history by the time it was recorded. It was not until fifty years after the fact, that St. Ambrose penned the tale. The strength of the true cross was used later as a justification for Christian attacks during the crusades.

Carroll also discussed the constant connections he sees, throughout the history of the Church, between theology and politics. A tradition that still thrives in today’s world, the evidence of which is overwhelming. In both the sex abuse scandals the Roman Catholic church is currently grappling with, and the overwhelming evidence of religious fundamentalism on a worldwide scale, theology and politics are unmistakably linked. The spiraling and resonating nature of this history results in a tradition of Christian contempt toward Judaism.

The complacency displayed by the church during the Holocaust is a large part of what Carroll describes and discusses in Constantine’s Sword. The well-known anti-Semitic paranoia from that era, included the shocking and lethal Nazi idea that the Jew is attached to the body of Christendom like a parasite sucking its blood. “We are tracking history here,” he said, where one development leads very much to the next. It was the tradition of Christian contempt for Jews which lead, according to Carroll, to a culmination of something in the modern era. The Jewish people, in the 18th century, were reviled by Catholicism, and came to represent two distinctly different sides of the same evil coin, blamed for both revolutionary and capitalistic activity.

In light of all he had learned in the writing of his latest book, Carroll described how when he showed an early draft to a colleague, they said, “So now you leave the church, right?” Carroll described how his actual response was an even greater sense of identification with the Catholic community. He urged that the church should learn from their mistakes, and keep these sins as the permanent emblem of the capacity of the church, while proceeding in a more enlightened manner.

Toward the end of his remarks, Carroll discussed the current scandal in the church. He insisted that Catholics must understand how this scandal has affected them and said that it “has generated a massive reform movement.” “How does an institution come back from a moent of seeing like that?” Carroll asked.

He also spoke about the current war on terror, speaking to the fact that there is “nothing we can accuse Muslims of, which the Christian church is not also guilty of.”

Carroll spent a short time at the end of his lecture to address questions and concerns from the audience.

About the Contributor
Natalia Cooper served as news editor for The Mass Media the following years: 2001-2002; *2002-2003 *News writer Gin Dumcius filled in as news editor for Spring 2003 before returning to their writer position. Disclaimer: Years served is based on online database and may not detail entire service.