Thursday, October 08, 2009

U.S. Bishops Retract June Statement That Jesus Ended God's Covenant with the Jews

A National Catholic Reporter article posted October 6th said that top officials of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have retracted a June statement about Jewish-Catholic dialogue that many Catholic theologians found inaccurate and many Jewish organizations found offensive. Some excerpts from NCR's coverage:

The original note in question had been issued jointly by the USCCB doctrinal and ecumenical committees.

The most controversial passage in the note had said, “Though Christian participation in interreligious dialogue would not normally include an explicit invitation to baptism and entrance into the church, the Christian dialogue partner is always giving witness to the following of Christ, to which all are implicitly invited.”

U.S. Jewish leaders had found the passage offensive and said faithful Jews could not enter into dialogue with Catholics if those Catholics were always at least implicitly seeking their conversion.

When the note was released, it immediately provoked criticism from several leading scholars in Catholic-Jewish dialogue.

Philip A. Cunningham, director of the Institute for Catholic-Jewish Relations at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, told NCR at the time that the statement about implicitly inviting dialogue partners to enter the church reopened “a can of worms … a Pandora’s box that most of us who have been involved in dialogical work had thought had been resolved a long time ago.”

In August, in a rare joint letter, five of the leading U.S. Jewish organizations protested that the note “is antithetical to the very essence of Jewish-Christian dialogue as we have understood it in the post-Vatican II era.”

They said even an implicit invitation to enter the church in the context of interreligious dialogue amounts to inviting the Jewish participants to apostasize. Further, the language saying that “interreligious dialogue would not normally include an explicit invitation to baptism” implies that in some situations it could include such an explicit invitation, they said.

The Jewish organizations expressing concern were the Rabbinical Council of America, American Jewish Committee, Orthodox Union, Anti-Defamation League and National Council of Synagogues.

NCR said that five key officials of the bishops' conference excised the passage from the committee guidance. In publicizing their decision the bishops very publicly affirmed Vatican II's solemn teaching that God's covenant with the Jewish people is eternal:

The church officials, who included Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, USCCB president, also issued a six-point “Statement of Principles for Catholic-Jewish Dialogue” that clearly affirms that God’s covenant with the Jews has never been revoked.

“Jewish covenantal life endures till the present day as a vital witness to God’s saving will for his people Israel and for all of humanity,” it says.

The six-point statement and an accompanying letter to heads of five leading U.S. Jewish organizations were dated Oct. 2 and released by the USCCB Oct. 6.

Signing the letter and statement, in addition to Cardinal George, were Cardinal William H. Keeler, retired archbishop of Baltimore, USCCB episcopal moderator of Catholic-Jewish relations; Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs; Bishop William E. Lori of Bridgeport, Conn., chairman of the USCCB Committee on Doctrine, and Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre, N.Y., Catholic co-chair of the USCCB consultation with the Orthodox Union and the Rabbinical Council of America.

The six point statement can be found at

1 comment:

Gerald T Floyd said...

When NCR updated the 10/6 posting on 10/8, it disabled the original link to the 10/6 version of the article. This morning I relinked my posting to the updated article.

The update quotes an expert on Jewish-Catholic dialogue, who says that the dialogue partners still need to address an unresolved question in Catholic theology--namely, the relationship between the Second Coming of the Christ and the fulfillment of God's covenant with the Jewish people. The update does not modify the conclusions I reached from the earlier article.