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Revised Catholic Statement on Conversion Worries Jews

posted by nsymmonds

(UNDATED) U.S. Catholic bishops tried Thursday (June 18) to clarify the Catholic Church’s relationship with Judaism, saying Jews will not be targets of evangelism, but the church reserves the right to share its faith and welcome Jewish converts.
The bishops resurrected a 2002 statement that they called “insufficiently precise and potentially misleading” about whether Christians should share the Gospel with Jews. The bishops said the document had “raised many questions” among U.S. Catholics.
Jewish groups, however, worry that Catholics are retreating from decades of interfaith progress that culminated in a 1986 statement by Pope John Paul II that the Jewish covenant with God is “irrevocable.”
The bishops’ 2002 document, produced by an ongoing dialogue with Reform and Conservative rabbis, said targeting Jews for conversion is “no longer theologically acceptable” because Jews “already dwell in a saving covenant with God.”
In a three-page statement issued at the bishops’ spring meeting in San Antonio, the bishops’ doctrine and ecumenical committees said the 2002 statement presented a “diminished notion of evangelization” that seemed to imply that Catholics should not attempt to convert Jews.
The new statement appears to try to answer Catholic critics who said the 2002 statement implied that salvation could be found outside of Jesus Christ, or that the church didn’t have the duty to evangelize.
Jewish leaders say the revised statement is the latest in a series of troubling steps by the Catholic Church.
Last year, Pope Benedict XVI revised, but refused to delete, a Good Friday prayer in the Latin Mass that calls for Jews to be converted. The U.S. bishops last year deleted a section in the official U.S. Catholic Cathechism for Adults that said “the covenant that God made with the Jewish people through Moses remains eternally valid for them.”
“There was a growing comfort level in the Jewish community over how Catholics viewed Jewish salvation,” said Rabbi Gary Greenebaum, the U.S. director of interfaith relations for the American Jewish Committee.
“That’s now becoming less sturdy, less clear, and will need a new redefinition.”
A spokeswoman for the bishops, Sister Mary Ann Walsh, said the San Antonio statement was primarily directed at Catholics, not Jews, and sought to “clarify any misunderstanding” over the earlier document.
She added that the 2002 statement was produced by the dialogue team and was never an official document of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops “although it was treated that way.”
The bishops said confusion had “led some to conclude mistakenly that Jews have an obligation not to become Christian and the church has a corresponding obligation not to baptize Jews.” Instead, the bishops said the church is “always giving witness to the following of Christ, to which all are implicitly invited.”
The bishops reaffirmed longstanding teaching that God “does not regret, repent of, or change his mind” about the covenant he established with the Jews through Abraham and Moses. Yet they said Jesus Christ “fulfills God’s revelation,” and sharing that message is “at the heart of (the church’s) mission.”
Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport, Conn., who heads the bishops’ doctrine committee, said the Catholic Church believes that the Jewish covenant that began with Moses and Abraham and “that continues to be adhered to by Jews today is fulfilled … in Jesus.”
Rabbi Jerome Epstein, the outgoing head of the Conservative movement who worked on the original 2002 document, said he would like some “clarification” on who, exactly, the bishops are trying to address.
“If they’re saying they want to stress that…for Catholics the way to the covenant is through belief in Jesus Christ, I would say that message is appropriate,” Epstein said from Israel.
“But if they’re saying that they’re going to go sell that message to Jews, then I’ve got a problem with that.”
By KEVIN ECKSTROM
c. 2009 Religion News Service
Copyright 2009 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.



  • nnmns

    ‘…the Jewish covenant with God is “irrevocable.” ‘
    What is the legal status of a covenant with an imaginary being? Nonexistent, I’d think.
    ‘Sister Mary Ann Walsh, said the San Antonio statement was primarily directed at Catholics, not Jews, and sought to “clarify any misunderstanding” over the earlier document.’
    The modern age makes it tough to say one thing to one group and another thing to another group and get away with it.
    ‘the 2002 statement was produced by the dialogue team and was never an official document of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops “although it was treated that way.”‘
    Can you say “incompetent”?
    ‘Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport, Conn., who heads the bishops’ doctrine committee, said the Catholic Church believes that the Jewish covenant that began with Moses and Abraham and “that continues to be adhered to by Jews today is fulfilled … in Jesus.””
    Ah, the old bait and switch. :)
    The RCC has a major problem in that they’ve been telling their contributors one thing and recently, due to the incalculable damage their former teachings did to Jews, they’ve been telling Jews something else. And it’s unlikely the twain shall meet. These days the RCC is at a low point of its authority (moral, especially!) and Jews still have some moral suasion due to the Holocaust; it will be interesting to see how this plays out. Fortunately they are arguing over something that just doesn’t exist. But they are also arguing over the right to be left alone rather than be nagged over the details of this non-existent thing.

  • Henrietta22

    Quote: 1986 Pope Paul ll stated, “The Jewish covenant with God is irrevocable.” Last year Pope Benedict revised but refused to delete a Good Friday prayer in the Latin Mass that calls for Jews to be converted. Last year the U.S. Bishops deleted a section in the US Catholic Cathecism for Adults that said, “the covenant that God made with the Jewish people through Moses remains eternally valid for them.” Little wonder Rabbi Jerome Epstein would like some more clarification on what is transpiring here. It seems the more the Catholics say the more confusing it becomes.

  • pagansister

    Considering the Jews have been around a lot longer than the RCC. the RCC should listen to history. If indeed there is any god/goddess about, he/she made an agreement with the Jews a long time before the RCC…so the RCC should stop worrying about the “salvation” of anyone, much less the Jews. Seems the RCC can’t keep their story straight…to convert or not to convert(the Jews), that is the question.

  • Henrietta22

    Oh, they are arguing over something that indeed exists nnmns, they just won’t leave the Jewish people alone to take care of their covenant with God.
    The Latter Day Saints have annoyed me for many years by ringing my doorbell and taking over my time in my home so they could exercise their duty to win my soul into their religion. Overtime I just quit answering the door. The Jehovah’s Witnesses, the same. I understand the Jewish people want to extend cordiality and friendship to all people and also resent being pressured into being converted to the Roman Catholic’s religion.

  • nnmns

    Henrietta it’s so easy for me; I just explain to them that their god almost certainly doesn’t exist and why; you have to quibble over the details of your gods.

  • Tom

    I’ve yet to hear any horror stories of ‘nagging Catholics’ insisting on Jews converting to Catholicism for salvation, but I’ll keep my eyes and ears open. There are worse things that can happen than to have a group of people pray for you once a year, and I can assure that I don’t take offense at others praying for me who happen to think my salvation is in jeopardy.

  • jestrfyl

    It seems as if they – in this case the RCC, but it is as true with many other proselytizing churches – think that there is no one left to talk to who has no church, no spiritual center, no need for a positive community. So they feel a need to go to people who have all these things and try to convince them their approach is better.
    I believe in the value of “church”, but I guess I am prefer a post-evangelical/post-(19th century)missionary approach. I am glad to open the doors and welcome anyone who is seeking a spiritual center, a positive community, a place of sanctuary and preparation. But I feel no need to tell a person that what is working for them is less than what we have going.
    I have a feeling that the RCC needs to actually work with some of its own first (Mel Gibson, Come on Down!!!) and let everyone else offer their own style/flavor/approach. Think of Church Road as a Mall rather with diverse opportunities to find what works, rather than the driveway to some Big Box One Stop warehouse of religion.

  • Henrietta22

    You’re right jestfyl, but I don’t think the Jewish people mind having people pray for them and even invite them to leave their Jewish beliefs, they seem to be objecting that the current Pope has deleted some important statements about their salvation that were once there.

  • Your Name

    I thank God every day for allowing me to be graduated from a Catholic university BEFORE Vatican II and BEFORE the Land O’Lakes Statement of 1967. The Church then had something to say.
    After 2000 years, we are still trying to address the Church vis a vis the Jews. They have had neither temple nor prophets for 2,000 years. The answer seems rather clear to me.

  • cknuck

    If some Jews want to promote that the Jewish covenant with God is “irrevocable.” Then they should take up that banner for themselves. I find that the statement by the RC C is non offensive.

  • pagansister

    “They have had neither temple nor prophets for 2,000 years. The answer seems rather clear to me.” YN
    They have temples in lots of cities, just like the RCC. Prophets…they’re still waiting. JC didn’t cut it…not for lack of trying.

  • nnmns

    “The answer seems rather clear to me.”
    Heck, I’m not even sure what your question is. Does this have something to do with no prophets? Christianity has been without one for about 2,000 years. It keeps expecting the fabled Jesus to come back and somebody predicts it every week or so, but for about 2,000 years it just hasn’t happened.
    But y’all sure have built churches; if all that money had been spent for useful purposes think how much better off we’d be.

  • nnmns

    Speaking of old religions, happy Solstice (or whatever the appropriate greeting is) pagansister!

  • pagansister

    Thank you, nnmns!!! And a Happy Father’s Day to you!
    HAPPY FATHER’S DAY, ALSO, JESTRFYL, if you should read this. It might be a tough one since it will be the first without your Dad. But if I remember, you have a couple(?) of children, yes?

  • Nate W

    I wasn’t suggesting there was anything “profane” in your comment, Henrietta. I was just questioning your statement that the Jewish people don’t mind people of other religions “inviting them to leave their beliefs.” I think some of them mind very much.

  • jestrfyl

    p.s.,
    Thanks for your note above. To be honest, it has not really settled in. But my 2 kids will be treating me, each in their own way. Our daughter is in Italy and has sent me an ecard. My son is taking meto lunch. Life is good, even through the changes.
    Happy Solstice everyone! Next year – Stonehenge!

  • Bob

    “But y’all sure have built churches; if all that money had been spent for useful purposes think how much better off we’d be.”
    We consider building houses of worship a useful purpose.
    And if you’re not Catholic, don’t worry so much how we spend our money. After all, it’s our private business, just like how you spend your money is your private business.

  • pagansister

    jestrfyl:
    3 years ago I was priviliged to be at Stonehenge, the day after the Solstice. Did, however, witness the Druids during there celebration at noon, June 21, at Stonehenge. It is truly a special, scared place to me and many others. In fact, family history says an ancestor on my paternal Grandmother’s side owned that property for a bit…sold it as he needed money. The person he sold it to, Sir Cecil Chubb donated it to the country. My ancestor tried to SELL it to the country and the powers that be said…no. So I have family connections as well as spritual ones.
    I’d go to Stonehenge with you next year! Would be most fun!
    Sounds like you will be well taken care of for Father’s Day. It is good.

  • nnmns

    “We consider building houses of worship a useful purpose.”
    Obviously, and I don’t.
    “And if you’re not Catholic, don’t worry so much how we spend our money. After all, it’s our private business, just like how you spend your money is your private business.”
    Touchy! Defensive?

  • jestrfyl

    p.s.
    O to be at Stonehenge on the solstice – though I prefer summer to winter. As with so many things — some day.
    bob & nnmns,
    “We consider building houses of worship a useful purpose.”
    There are many communities that are not allowing as many churches to be built as they once did. Also they are not inclined toward allowing larger churches to be built. A church building can be a significant drain on the infrastructure of a community. It has become a challenge to prove how the congregation will benefit the larger community, and there is no assumption that a church will be an automatic benefit. Even as a pastor I think this is good. Churches need to lead by example and model good stewardship. Sadly, not every church does that. So I am all for careful, well considered church construction.

  • cknuck

    Churches have always been the center of communities helpful and wholesome jest you are the first so-called “pastor” I’ve ever heard speak against churches. Why do people pay you, for real I’m curious?

  • nnmns

    “Churches have always been the center of communities helpful and wholesome”
    Spoken like a true church employee, cknuck. Churches are as churches do, and many churches exist to get bigger. I’ve had friends who felt coerced to go to neighborhood churches. But as for “wholesome”, what about all the children abused by the priests they were told to revere and trust? Not to mention other RCC scandals.
    And they take property off the property tax rolls so for every church that goes in, everyone else pays a little more for their garbage collection, police protection and schools.
    And on Sunday mornings when decent people are trying to sleep they get active and noisy.

  • jestrfyl

    ck
    They pay be to be the canary in the coal mine – to chirp when something noxious is floating about.
    In the case of churches — I have known a few who abused the privileges afforded them by the community. They have been poor neighbors and arrogant in civic and ecumenical relations. Certainly many, if not most, churches are an asset. But it can no longer be assumed that they are an automatic benefit. Sometimes they are poorly placed or poorly built. Other times they interfere with traffic. Sometimes the leaders simply use the church as a way to enhance questionable resumes. I guess I am protective of the rights and privileges that responsible congregations and clergy enjoy. So when careless clergy or inconsiderate churches insist on having their way I get suspicious.

  • cknuck

    nnmns even in the cleanest houses one can find dirt, you are like the guest who come to a beautiful house and immediately look for dirt and miss the beauty of the house.
    You jest are like someone who owns the same type of house but look for dirt in your neighbor’s house so you can feel like your house is the best.
    Never the less both of these types can walk pass the best to find the worse and upon finding the worse spend most of their energy trying to make the worse larger than it is.

  • pagansister

    A church in a neighborhood isn’t alway “welcome”, especially if they have their bells go off every hour. Example: The RCC school I taught in…the church was across the street. Every hour on the hour, the “recorded” bells, chimed the hour AND also played a bit of a hymn. That can get annoying. The church is 100 years old, not new. Just an example. I felt for the folks that lived in the neighborhood. I expect they tuned it out after awhile…or went crazy!

  • pagansister

    Just happened to think…do Synagogues’s have tower bells? Perhaps a Synagogue would be more welcome in a neighborhood than some churches…less noise!

  • jestrfyl

    ck,
    I expect you might not appreciate a Liberal Loud & Proud congregation moving in right next to your church – or your house. We are not all the same, and I appreciate that. It is simply that I have had some experiences with churches – congregations with their pastor leading the way – that have not been good, considerate, amenable naighbors.
    p.s.
    I know from bells. But I have to tell you, I do NOT like recorded bells. They sound phoney. I served a church that had one of those amplifying systems and we did not play anything when the neighbors would have preferred quiet. Real bells are another matter. My first date with my wife was walking the foggy, misty streets of New Haven one January night listening to the Carillon at Yale. Now THOSE are bells! But even they do not play all the time at the distress of the neighbors.

  • pagansister

    Agree with you about the recorded bells, jestrfyl. I can most certainly go with real bells, and a Carillon!

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