A Jewish convert to Catholicism addresses the question of Jewish complicity in the death of Jesus Christ. The following text comes from late David Goldstein, who became a great lay apologist and was so praised by Pope Pius XII that he was made a Knight of St. Gregory for his works in that field..
From Goldstein’s book Campaigners for Christ Handbook (Thomas J. Flynn & Co., third printing, 1934), originally written in 1931 for a lay group organized with the blessing of William Cardinal O’Connell, Archbishop of Boston, and dedicated to “carrying the Catholic message to the man in the street,” comes the following section:
It is of practical importance that campaigners of Christ should realize that the attempt of Reform Rabbis to throw off Jewish responsibility for the crucifixion of Christ has filtered down to the man in the street. Boldly, he want to know: “How is it that Christians insist upon holding the Jews responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus, when the deed was done by the Romans?”
We are morally bound to tell him positively, yet courteously, that, however commendable his desire may be to disown this most dastardly act of all ages, our ambition to win him for his Messiah does not give us the right, nor do we have the power to make historic truth unhistoric, do with it what we may.
Jesus was tried by the Jewish religious authorities in court assembled—the Sanhedrin—presided over by Caiphas, the high priest, who conducted the travesty of a trial. Jesus was found guilty of “blasphemy”—of claiming to be the Son of God—and condemned to death by Caiphas. Jesus had won the love of the multitude of Jews and the hatred of the Jewish leaders who had expelled him from the Synagogue. These Jewish authorities are directly guilty of turning the hail of the multitude—“Hosanna to the Son of David”—into the death-cry—“Away with him: away with him: crucify him.” It was they who gave Jesus over to the civil authorities—the Romans—to be put to death.
It must be borne in mind that while the Jews maintained their own courts of law, being under the civil yoke of Rome, a Roman protectorate, they had not the power to pronounce a death sentence. Then again, crucifixion was a Roman, not a Jewish, mode of putting malefactors to death—the Jewish method was stoning. Therefore, the decree of crucifixion had to come from the Roman Governor—Pilate—whose guilt Jesus Himself recognized as secondary to Jewish guilt when He said: “He that hath delivered me to thee hath the greater sin” (St. John, XIX).
Yes, the physical execution of Jesus was performed by the Roman soldiery—there is no historic doubt upon that score. The Jews had no military force—except the Temple guard—therefore the Roman soldiers (not the Jewish police force) were the agents who executed the dire deed for which the Jews were morally responsible.
Nobody can rightly say that it is hatred of Jews that prompts Catholics to insist upon this historic fact; no one can rightly claim that this Gospel truth turns love of the Messiah into hatred of present-day Jews. On Good Friday, the day of all days when Catholics recall the death of their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ—the celebrant of the altar chants, with love in his breast, the prayer to the almighty, eternal God for the holy light with which the Jews may see that Jesus is their Messiah.
The Jews of today are not guilty of the act of the Jewish court in condemning Jesus to death. They are guilty only in so far as they will not recognize Jesus as He proved Himself to be—the Messiah—just as Catholics hold themselves individually responsible today for morally crucifying Jesus every time they sin.