Friday, March 27, 2015

Errors Repeated: Retelling the Stories of Simon the Infant Martyr and William of Norwich.

Catholic Lane posted the stories - without noting the cultus for these saints has been suppressed.

The stories of such saints are extremely controversial and widely disputed - both William and Simon were said to be tortured and murdered by Jews out of hatred for Christ - during Holy Week, no less, a time when antisemitism was especially inflamed among Christians in former ages.  The feast days of these saints often falls in Passiontide, Simon commemorated on March 24, William on March 26.  In 1965 the cult of Simon was officially abolished.

Of course, there are other saints and supposed victims of 'blood libel' who were said to be ritually murdered by Jews as well.  Little St. Hugh of Lincoln is another, although he was murdered outside Paschal time.  The stories fired the imaginations of ordinary folk as well as clergy and religious.

Simon of Trent

There is evidence these stories are based in a fanatical antisemitism and in some cases may have been used by civil authorities for monetary gain from the Jews.  In the case of Hugh, the accused murderer was tortured into a confession, wherein he also implicated the entire Jewish community.  Nothing in Jewish tradition ever called for any type of ritual murder of children.

In the case of William of Norwich, the charges of ritual murder by Jews only came to light five years after the mutilated body had been found in a wood.  The authorities apparently didn't find the story credible, but the ordinary people did, and William was hailed a martyr.

The story of Simon of Trent is perhaps the most notable - from the beginning it was tainted with controversy, although Simon was entered into the Martyrology, his cult was later suppressed by Paul VI.  Before Post-Vatican II traditionalists make objections, they ought to know that at least two popes before Bl. Paul VI were opposed to the cult.

Burning Jews - Blood-Libel.

In every case of so-called martyrdom by ritual killing, Jews were put to death, properties confiscated, and greater restrictions enforced against them.  Sound familiar?

That being said, I think our vantage point in the 21st century may help us understand what may be a more plausible explanation as to why these so-called ritual killings gained such credibility among the general populace.  In the 1980's there was widespread 'hysteria' over ritual abuse in day care facilities - these stories captured the interest of ordinary people and was a staple for daytime talk shows and kept investigators busy.  If I remember correctly, most of the stories of abuse were unfounded and greatly exaggerated.

Homo-erotic depiction of
William of Norwich

The medieval child martyrs were certainly murdered, even tortured, but why they were killed and who the perpetrators were cannot be determined.  Nevertheless, in our age, we hear of child abuse cases all the time, and as we know, the sexual abuse of children is a huge problem.  I doubt pedophilia and the abuse of children is simply a 20th century phenomenon.  Contemporary investigations reveal how perpetrators cover their crimes with lies and dissimulation.  We know well how authorities such as bishops and priests have covered for perpetrators.  We know well that human nature, society, looks for a scapegoat to account for the most horrific crimes.

Hence, it is not at all unreasonable to suggest the deaths of these children and youth were probably cases of child abuse, sexual abuse and sadomasochism - even fetishism.  The Jewish community was simply a traditional and convenient scapegoat.

Victims and survivors of a pogrom against the Jews of Proskurov, Ukraine,
which took place after the revolution. Representing the antisemitism that never goes away.

Addendum: The Eastern Church has its own child martyrs with similar stories. Of some concern is the re-emergence of the cult of St. Gabriel, infant martyr of Białystok. In the 1990's his relics were re-enshrined in the Bialystock Cathedral of St. Nicholas.
According to the legend, in 1690 the six-year-old boy Gabriel was kidnapped from his home in the village of Zverki during the Jewish Passover, while his parents, pious Orthodox Christians Peter and Anastasia Gavdel, were away. Shutko, a Jewish tenant in Zverki, was accused of bringing the boy to Białystok and the city’s Jews of crucifying the boy, poking him with sharp objects and draining his blood for nine days… then of bringing the dead body back to Zverki and dumping it in a local field where it was found.
The parents quietly buried the boy. Thirty years later, the coffin of the boy was ‘accidentally’ damaged, while burying another man and the Gabriel’s body allegedly was found incorrupt. - Read the rest here.  

Today in Western and Eastern Europe, antisemitism is growing and some are reporting Jewish people have been leaving because of it.

Holy Child-Martyr Gabriel of Białystok

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