Many Catholics have been baffled by the quantity of ink that the press has lavished on the meeting between the pope and the president of Austria. The charge that Kurt Waldheim collaborated with the Nazis has never been proved.

Fortunately, Marjorie Hyer has let the cat out of the bag in her anti-Catholic outburst cleverly disguised as a news item {"Protest of Papal Meeting Fueled by Church History," June 25}. The real cause of all the ranting and raving is not Waldheim or the Holocaust, but "1,800 years of church-sanctioned anti-Semitism." In other words, the Waldheim affair is merely one more opportunity to smear Catholics with the charge of persecuting Jews.

To "prove" her thesis, Hyer cites the traditional Holy Week service, which alludes to the historical fact that the majority of the Jewish people rejected the Messiah. Yet she completely misconstrues the meaning of the liturgy, which includes a prayer for the conversion of the Jews, not a "prayer of condemnation." In Christian theology, praying that someone accepts Jesus as the Messiah is a profound act of charity.

Furthermore, Hyer falsely asserts that "church teachings held Jews responsible for Christ's crucifixion." One of the most fundamental and authoritative statements of Christian belief is the Nicene Creed, which was composed in the 4th century and is recited by Catholics every Sunday at Mass. It clearly blames Pontius Pilate for the crucifix-ion and nowhere mentions the Jews. The same point was made by Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century and the Council of Trent in the 16th century.

In past centuries, relations between Christians and Jews have been less than cordial, but the causes of friction were usually more political than religious. Pope John XXIII and the Second Vatican Council proposed to "bury the hatchet" by initiating friendly dialogue and revising the liturgy wherever it might be misunderstood. Contrary to Hyer's claim, there was no reason to reverse the Catholic teaching on the Jews, since that teaching was never anti-Semitic to begin with.

Whatever one thinks of the propriety of the Waldheim visit, it is absurd to interpret it as an endorsement of anti-Semitism. The Vatican repeatedly condemned Nazi persecutions of the Jews. The witness of the Catholic Church to our Judeo-Christian moral tradition during the Holocaust was one of its finest moments. It cannot be blamed for "silence" because the world did not listen.

Hyer's false and irresponsible accusations merely fan the flames of anti-Catholicism and undermine the church's efforts to combat anti-Semitism. So much for principled journalism. -- Kevin G. Long The writer is director of public affairs for the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights.