The Fourth Council of the Lateran was called by Pope Innocent III with the papal bull of April 19, 1213, and the Council gathered at Rome’s Lateran Palace on November 11, 1215. Due to the great length of time between the Council’s convocation and meeting, many bishops had the opportunity to attend. It was the 12th ecumenical council and is sometimes called the “Great Council” or “General Council of Lateran” due to the presence of seventy-one patriarchs and metropolitan bishops, four hundred and twelve bishops, and nine hundred abbots and priors together with representatives of several monarchs
The meeting marked the zenith of Papal power. Old anti-Jewish decrees were expanded and Jews were compelled to wear the Yellow Patch, the “Badge of Shame”, to distinguish them from Christians. It was enforced in France, England, Germany and later in Hungary. The Pope also originated the Doctrine of Transubstantiation, in which the wafer (Host) and wine in the Eucharist are believed to become the blood and flesh of Jesus. This led to the infamous Host Desecration libels against the Jewish people over the next few centuries.
Whilst the main purposes of the Council were concerned with combating heresies, promoting the Crusades and call for re-unification with the Eastern Orthodox Church, the anti-Jewish legislation continued the process of isolating and stereotyping Jews and Judaism, and particularly forced Jewish converts to Catholicism to abandon their Jewish identities and practices. The Council condemned Jewish moneylending, enforced separate clothing, forbade them from holding public office, and exocoriated Jewish Catholics who still kept Jeiwsh practices.
Prayer: Lord, forgive the blindness of your Church, in condemning the very roots of the tree into which the nations, as unnatural branches have been grafted. Help Christians to understand the Jewish roots of their faith, and show the love of the Messiah for his own people. We confess and ask forgiveness for the hatred and prejudice that has so often characterized the church. Help us show the fruits of repentance, and be reconciled with your people Israel, and my the people of God be restored to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom of God in righteousness, truth and humility.
Here are the relevant canons:
67. Jews and excessive Usury
The more the christian religion is restrained from usurious practices, so much the more does the perfidy of the Jews grow in these matters, so that within a short time they are exhausting the resources of Christians. Wishing therefore to see that Christians are not savagely oppressed by Jews in this matter, we ordain by this synodal decree that if Jews in future, on any pretext, extort oppressive and excessive interest from Christians, then they are to be removed from contact with Christians until they have made adequate satisfaction for the immoderate burden. Christians too, if need be, shall be compelled by ecclesiastical censure, without the possibility of an appeal, to abstain from commerce with them. We enjoin upon princes not to be hostile to Christians on this account, but rather to be zealous in restraining Jews from so great oppression. We decree, under the same penalty, that Jews shall be compelled to make satisfaction to churches for tithes and offerings due to the churches, which the churches were accustomed to receive from Christians for houses and other possessions, before they passed by whatever title to the Jews, so that the churches may thus be preserved from loss.
68. Jews appearing in public
A difference of dress distinguishes Jews or Saracens from Christians in some provinces, but in others a certain confusion has developed so that they are indistinguishable. Whence it sometimes happens that by mistake Christians join with Jewish or Saracen women, and Jews or Saracens with christian women. In order that the offence of such a damnable mixing may not spread further, under the excuse of a mistake of this kind, we decree that such persons of either sex, in every christian province and at all times, are to be distinguished in public from other people by the character of their dress — seeing moreover that this was enjoined upon them by Moses himself, as we read. They shall not appear in public at all on the days of lamentation and on passion Sunday; because some of them on such days, as we have heard, do not blush to parade in very ornate dress and are not afraid to mock Christians who are presenting a memorial of the most sacred passion and are displaying signs of grief. What we most strictly forbid however, is that they dare in any way to break out in derision of the Redeemer. We order secular princes to restrain with condign punishment those who do so presume, lest they dare to blaspheme in any way him who was crucified for us, since we ought not to ignore insults against him who blotted out our wrongdoings.
69. Jews not to hold public offices
It would be too absurd for a blasphemer of Christ to exercise power over Christians. We therefore renew in this canon, on account of the boldness of the offenders, what the council of Toledo providently decreed in this matter : we forbid Jews to be appointed to public offices, since under cover of them they are very hostile to Christians. If, however, anyone does commit such an office to them let him, after an admonition, be curbed by the provincial council, which we order to be held annually, by means of an appropriate sanction. Any official so appointed shall be denied commerce with Christians in business and in other matters until he has converted to the use of poor Christians, in accordance with the directions of the diocesan bishop, whatever he has obtained from Christians by reason of his office so acquired, and he shall surrender with shame the office which he irreverently assumed. We extend the same thing to pagans.
70. Jewish converts may not retain their old rite
Certain people who have come voluntarily to the waters of sacred baptism, as we learnt, do not wholly cast off the old person in order to put on the new more perfectly. For, in keeping remnants of their former rite, they upset the decorum of the christian religion by such a mixing. Since it is written, cursed is he who enters the land by two paths, and a garment that is woven from linen and wool together should not be put on, we therefore decree that such people shall be wholly prevented by the prelates of churches from observing their old rite, so that those who freely offered themselves to the christian religion may be kept to its observance by a salutary and necessary coercion. For it is a lesser evil not to know the Lord’s way than to go back on it after having known it.
Many thanks again. It is good to have such historical material put before our eyes. Warmly, Martin
Thanks Richard. Seeing this in print reminds us of how far we’ve come and encourages us to continue on.
Pingback: #otdimjh 11 November 1215 Fourth Lateran Council Condemns Jewish Christians - “they upset the decorum of the Christian religion by such a mixing” - Mapping Messianic Jewish Theology