Jewish-Catholic relations have once again hit a stumbling block. It seems Catholic bishops deem interfaith dialogue with Jewish groups as an evangelizing opportunity - a chance to “invite” Jews to become Catholic.
This new document
appears to be a dramatic shift in position from the 2002 Reflections on Covenant and Mission
statement, which downplayed any attempts by the Catholic church to target Jews for conversion.
This latest rift is one of a number of incidents that may mark a new (old?) and darker era in Jewish –Catholic relations.
Back in March we reported that Conversion Mania
was becoming something of a pandemic among world-wide churches, and that the Catholic church was no exception. Pope Benedict's restoration of the Tridentine rite
- a prayer for the conversion of Jews
resulted in threats to boycott a key Vatican event and Jewish leaders and Chief Rabbis accused Pope Benedict of wiping out 50 years of dialogue.
Jewish Israel officially launched in May
with a general overview of the problematic areas in Vatican-Israel relations. At this time, it’s worth reviewing the full report
Jewish Israel also reported
on a mysterious, still unsubstantiated, claim by Rabbi Metzger that, “the Catholic Church will cease all missionary activity among Jews… Rabbi Yona Metzger thanked the pope for his announcement, calling it an "historic agreement and, "for us, an immensely important message. “
There’s been deadly silence on that “good news”, and no historic agreement has surfaced.
At any rate, this recent brouhaha over the U.S Catholic Bishops’ Declaration
once again validates Rav Yoseph B. Solveitchik’s halachic stance
against interfaith theological dialogue
which he issued in 1964 - establishing the standard
which the vast majority of Torah observant rabbis hold by today.
It was encouraging to see such a unified stance taken by the American Jewish community against evangelizing. An ADL Letter to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
was signed by
• the American Jewish Committee
• the Anti-Defamation League
• the National Council of Synagogues
• the Orthodox Union and
• the Rabbinical Council of America.
is curious as to why a similar unified front by Diaspora and Israeli leaders cannot be forged to combat the plague of missionary activity currently taking place in Israel – thanks to our “best friends”, the evangelical Christians.
We would like to remind Abe Foxman that the ADL played an instrumental role
in helping to defeat Israeli government attempts at drafting counter-missionary legislation in 1998. Perhaps Mr. Foxman and the ADL are up to correcting past mistakes
on this issue.
Eight months ago, Jewish Israel
managed to enlighten the Orthodox Union
on the situation in Israel, resulting in the OU withdrawing (for a rework and reassessment)
the resolution entitled “Working in Coalition with Evangelical Christians”
which was scheduled for a vote and approval at their annual convention in Jerusalem.
The unified response by all sectors of the American Jewish community to the evangelical aspirations of the Catholic church heartened Jewish Israel, and further validated the position we took last week in our response to Isi Liebler’s
latest ode to evangelicals
. We suggested to Isi that,
“Rather than lapse into a predicable rant about those liberal Jews who have “embraced postmodernism” or dismiss concerned Orthodox Jews as being “ill-informed” , Leibler should recognize the natural aversion to our “unconditionally” embracing evangelical Christians as a healthy, unifying trend – and as a survival instinct among all of our people. After all, the one common denominator among all Jews –secular, religious, and all shades in between, is that we don’t believe in Jesus as a lord or savior.
As long as evangelicals evangelize, the Jewish people will have to be vigilant and monitor the relationship carefully. To take a critical look at Israel’s relationship with fundamentalist Christians is neither “misguided”, nor “churlish”. It’s simply being responsible and Jewish. It’s regrettable that such a sensible stance over this formidable challenge makes Jewish leaders terribly uncomfortable.”
Taking the gloves off and confronting the Catholic church over a shift in their evangelizing stance is a step in the right direction, but Jewish leaders will have to wake-up and realize that it’s the evangelical churches and their messianic proxies which pose the far more formidable threat to the Jewish faith and to the spiritual continuity of the Jewish people.
“Save me from the hand of my brother…”
( Vayishlach 32:12
UPDATE: Jewish Leaders Welcome Removal of Conversionary Language from Ameri...