Constitution for the Jews (1199 AD)
Although in many ways the disbelief of the Jews must be reproved,
since nevertheless through them our own faith is truly proved, they must
not be oppressed grievously by the faithful as the prophet says: "Do not
slay them, lest these be forgetful of Thy Law," [Ps. 58 (59):12] as if
he were saying more openly: "Do not wipe out the Jews completely, lest
perhaps Christians might be able to forget Thy Law, which the former,
although not understanding it, present in their books to those who do
Just as, therefore there ought not to be license for the Jews to
presume to go beyond what is permitted them by law in their synagogues,
so in those which have been conceded to them, they ought to suffer no
prejudice. These men, therefore, since they wish rather to go on in
their own hardness than to know the revelations of the prophets and the
mysteries of the Law, and to come to a knowledge of the Christian faith,
still, since they beseech the help of Our defense, We, out of the
meekness proper to Christian piety, and keeping in the footprints of Our
predecessors of happy memory, the Roman Pontiffs Calixtus, Eugene,
Alexander, Clement, and Celestine, admit their petition, and We grant
them the buckler of Our protection.
For we make the law that no Christian compel them, unwilling or
refusing, by violence to come to baptism. But if any one of them should
spontaneously,a nd for the sake of faith, fly to the Christians, once
his choice has become evident, let him be made a Christian without any
calumny. Indeed, he is not considered to possess the true faith of the
Christianity who is recognized to have come to Christian baptism, not
spontaneously, but unwillingly.
Too, no Christian ought to presume, apart from the juridicial
sentence of the territorial power, wickedly to injure their persons, or
with violence to take away their property, or to change the good customs
which they have had until now in whatever region they inhabit.
Besides, in the celebration of their own festivals, no one ought to
disturb them in any way, with clubs or stones, nor ought any one try to
require from them or to extort from them services they do not owe,
except for those they have been accustomed from times past to perform.
In addition to these, We decree, blocking the wickedness and avarice
of evil men, that no one ought to dare to mutilate or diminish a Jewish
cemetery, nor, in order to get money, to exhume bodies once they have
If anyone, however shall attempt, the tenor of this decree once
known, to go against it - may this be far from happening! - let him be
punished by the vengeance of excommunication, unless he correct his
presumption by making equivalent satisfaction.
We desire, however, that only those be fortified by the guard of
this protection who shall have presumed no plotting for the subversion
of the Christian faith.
Given at the Lateran, by the hand of Raynaldus, Archbishop of
Acerenza, acting for the Chancellor, on the 17th day before the Kalends
of October, in the second indiction, and the 1199th year of the
Incarnation of the Lord, and in the second year of the pontificate of
the Lord Pope, Innocent III.
Posted on Fri, 22 Jul 1994 to Free Catholic Mailing List by D. Andrew Byler
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(c)Paul Halsall Mar 1996