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LATERAN COUNCILS:

Councils of the Church held at Rome in the papal palace on Lateran Hill, whence their title. Those affecting Jewish history are the third (1179) and fourth (1215). At the former or third Lateran Council the Church law with regard to Jews having Christian servants was reenacted, and those Christians were excommunicated who even lodged among Jews. The testimony of Christians was to be preferred to that of Jews, while the property of converts to the Christian Church was not to be taken away from them. This last enactment was directed against Christian princes, who claimed the property of converted Jews on the ground that it belonged by right to them. When a Jew became a convert he ceased to be a money-lender, and the king lost by the change and claimed compensation. At the same council the Church laws against usury were increased in severity, and Christian burial was refused to those dying in that sin. This tended to throw the business of money-lending more and more into the hands of the Jews (see Usury).

At the great Lateran Council of 1215 further steps were taken by the Church to check usury. Christian princes were admonished to see that debtors be not charged too high a rate of interest by Jews. The princes were also commanded by the Church not to have Jewish officials, while Jews themselves were ordered to pay tithes for such lands as they held which had previously had tithes paid on them by Christian princes, so that the Church should not lose by the change of ownership. Besides this each head of a Jewish household was obliged thenceforth to pay six deniers yearly to the Church at Easter. But above all, this council established the institution of the Badge, with its disastrous consequences to the status of the Jews. The alleged reason for making the distinction was the frequency of intercourse between Jews and Christian women.

Bibliography:
  • Mansi, Concilia, xxii. 213, 958 et seq.;
  • Grätz, Gesch. vii. 15.
G. J.
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