In 1858, a boy named Edgardo Mortara became famous throughout Europe and beyond when, two months shy of his seventh birthday, he was seized from his family’s home in Bologna to be raised as a ward of the Catholic Church. Edgardo was taken from his mother and father not because they were cruel or negligent, but because they were Jewish. As an infant, he had been secretly baptized by his family’s Catholic maid, which meant that he was, by the Church’s definition, a Christian—and according to the laws of the Papal States, to which Bologna then belonged, it was forbidden for a Christian child to be raised by Jews.
The Church's Once-Notorious Seizure of a Jewish Child Is Back. Why?
In play again are bitterly contested questions about the Catholic Church, about religion and politics, and—inevitably—about Christianity’s relation to Judaism and the Jews.