America’s Bishops: No Jews Invited
By John P. Zmirak
Ed. John Zmirak, the editor of the National Catholic Register Symposium, contacted the AHC telling us of his own article responding to the Reflections document. Having never had contact with John, we were delighted to find that he included the AHC in his response. The excerpts below were included in The Hebrew Catholic #77, Fall 2002, pp. 31,47. The full article may be read at www.frontpagemag.com/articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=2496
… we should also recognize what they got right. In the document, [they do] a good job of recalling and deploring two millennia of anti-Semitic practice on the part of Christians — much of it restrained by Church authorities, but still partly inspired by a flawed, anti-Judaic theology, which the Church corrected finally at Vatican II. They mirror Pope John Paul’s 1999 apology to Jews, in recognizing that social restrictions, discrimination, segregation and physical persecutions aimed by Christians against Jews over the centuries were not simply aberrations, but the natural outcome of the theory held by most Christians that the Church, as the New Israel, superseded the first Israel, nullifying its claims to divine blessing and protection — this despite the clear statement of St. Paul in Romans 11:25-33.
This passage makes clear — as Cardinal Ratzinger explains in his new book, Many Religions—One Covenant, that Christians should not seek to dissolve the Jewish people through conversion into the Church (as they spent the whole Middle Ages attempting to do through fair means and foul). St. Paul himself teaches that the ongoing existence of a separate Jewish people is part of God’s will, a prophetic witness to His operation in history. And yet Christians are called to invite every soul into the Church. How to square this circle?
[The committee] attempt[s] to solve the question by writing off Jews as outside the Christian mission—radioactive, perhaps, too hot to touch, in the wake of the Holocaust. Their solution is well-meaning, but wrong. A better one is offered by … a group of Jewish converts to Catholicism, who seek to keep their identity as Jews, the Association of Hebrew Catholics. As they explain:
“Until now, the admission of Jews into the Church has been governed by a regime of assimilation. Under this regime, ignoring their special theological status defined by Vatican Council II, as “secundum electionem” (Lumen Gentium, ◊ 16), converts enter a Gentile Catholic Community, where they are progressively alienated from participation in the destiny of their people. Their children, should there be any, grow up to be Gentiles, as daily experience goes to prove. The effects of the regime of assimilation on the families of converts and their brother-Jews are no less destructive. The converts are commonly regarded as traitors to their people, preparing its destruction. In particular, Jews observe with dismay the loss of the children of converts, for if all Jews were to convert only to be assimilated, then the people would, ipso facto, cease to exist. The lessons of history bear out their fears. In turn, Jews, both religious and non-religious, are prompted to make common cause in their opposition to the Christian Mission.”
These Jewish Catholics seek to end this unhappy situation, to end “the alienation of Catholics of Jewish origin from their heritage as Israelites. The AHC intends to petition the Holy See to approve the establishment of an Israelite Community in the Church, based on the special registration of converts at baptism and of their descendants. Once constituted, the Community will serve as a sign of the times.” …
In other words, the people with the best claim to speak about Jewish conversion – Jewish converts – are asking Rome not to abandon their fellow Jews, not to establish a “two-track,” “separate but equal” plan of salvation that violates the New Testament and isolates Jews in an evangelical ghetto, but to create for Jewish converts a [community] …
Centuries of coercive attempts to convert the Jews and dissolve them into the mass of Gentile Christendom should teach us to tread very lightly here. Whatever their motives, Christians from the early Middle Ages on demanded of Jews who converted absolute assimilation, and began to treat “backsliding” as a form of heresy. The most infamous examples of this occurred during the Inquisition in Spain — which popes of the day condemned but were unable to control. Repeated statements by popes and theologians — not infallible, but highly influential statements — suggested that the survival of the Jews as a separate entity was a rebuke to Christianity, that their purpose had been served 2000 years before, and they ought simply to convert and disappear into the mass of the New Israel, assimilating without a trace.
Now we have begun to understand that this is not true, that a deeper, more beautiful mystery marks the destiny of Jews and Christians as forever intertwined in God’s love and Western history. …