Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Help a Brother Understand

The other night I was a little restless, and that is why I put up the prayers to Sts. Pius the Vth and Xth, respectively. I chose prayer over posting. My finger tips were tingling but I humbly "dealt with it" so I would avoid looking like a complete blogger jerk. As our friend the Roving Medievalist points out at least a couple times a week , the Catholic Blogosphere is filled with a bunch of jerks who post their opinions about hierarchs and clerics. What does it amount to? Zip. All it does is make either the blogger or the target look bad, and sows discord. Worse yet, it provides a bad example to those outside the Church and is a source of scandal.

But I still want to approach this subject and I think we can discuss it without complaining or degrading anyone. Further I'd like my readers help in understanding the issue. Here's what happened.

The other night I was perusing the USCCB website and found this. Those are the USCCB Guidelines for Jewish Catholic Relations. I am used to seeing various inter-religious dialogue documents but one paragraph rose the hairs on the back of my neck and made it difficult to sleep.

Proselytism, which does not respect human freedom, is carefully to be avoided. While the Christian, through the faith life of word and deed, will always witness to Jesus as the risen Christ, the dialogue is concerned with the permanent vocation of the Jews as God's people, the enduring values that Judaism shares with Christianity and that, together, the Church and the Jewish people are called upon to witness to the whole world.

I cannot rectify this paragraph with the Christian religion. I cannot rectify this passage with Scripture. In fact, I can't rectify this with the new Catechism. First, lets take the Christian Religion.

I understand the concept of Invincible Ignorance. There are a lot of traditionalists out there who are probably ignorant of invincible ignorance but I am not one of them. It is hard to say who is and who does not qualify for this distinction but I would venture to guess 99% of those in the Jewish faith are probably not invincibly ignorant. Either Jesus is God, or he is not. If he is and salvation achieved through him then why would we not evangelize the Chosen People of God who have rejected him? It seems silly to me at first but not when you consider the martyrs. Not when you consider St. Stephen or Christ Himself. The Catechism says this regarding the Jewish people:

The relationship of the Church with the Jewish People. When she delves into her own mystery, the Church, the People of God in the New Covenant, discovers her link with the Jewish People, "the first to hear the Word of God."The Jewish faith, unlike other non-Christian religions, is already a response to God's revelation in the Old Covenant. To the Jews "belong the sonship, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ"; "for the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable."

I read this and it says nothing about salvation whatsoever. It doesn't say the Jews are saved as long as they remain good Jewish faithful. It also doesn't mention the permanent vocation of the Jewish people is to reject Christ here on earth if they have the chance not to. A lot of my traditionalist friends think it says that. A lot of liberal Catholics preach is says that. It doesn't. His Chosen People need Christ to be saved too right? Well, the USCCB document seems to downplay this and I can't understand why.

Evangelizing of the Jewish people is called for by Our Lord in Scripture. For example here is a section from Acts chapter 18:


1 After these things, departing from Athens, he came to Corinth. 2 And finding a certain Jew, named Aquila, born in Pontus, lately come from Italy, with Priscilla his wife, (because that Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome,) he came to them. 3 And because he was of the same trade, he remained with them, and wrought; (now they were tentmakers by trade.) 4 And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, bringing in the name of the Lord Jesus; and he persuaded the Jews and the Greeks. 5 And when Silas and Timothy were come from Macedonia, Paul was earnest in preaching, testifying to the Jews, that Jesus is the Christ.

6 But they gainsaying and blaspheming, he shook his garments, and said to them: Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean: from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles. 7 And departing thence, he entered into the house of a certain man, named Titus Justus, one that worshipped God, whose house was adjoining to the synagogue. 8 And Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing, believed, and were baptized. 9 And the Lord said to Paul in the nights, by a vision: Do not fear, but speak; and hold not thy peace, 10 Because I am with thee: and no man shall set upon thee, to hurt thee; for I have much people in this city.

I don't take that to be anti-Semitic behavior. Its evangelizing. Further, it seems that by the USCCB condemning the evangelizing of the Jews they are almost repudiating our Own Lord. Should He not have fed the 5 thousand? Because feeding people and preaching at the same time is proselytizing?

As Holy Scripture testifies, Jerusalem did not recognize the time of her visitation,(9) nor did the Jews in large number, accept the Gospel; indeed not a few opposed its spreading.(10) Nevertheless, God holds the Jews most dear for the sake of their Fathers; He does not repent of the gifts He makes or of the calls He issues-such is the witness of the Apostle.(-Nostra Aetate)

I actually enjoyed my re-reading of Nostra Aetate. I found it, when read in light of the Church's tradition and most specifically the Council of Trent, to be even kind of edifying. But it says nothing anywhere in the document that somehow Jewish people who outright reject Christ are saved because they are Jewish. This also isn't evident anywhere in the Old Testament, where we know by example that they did not always please him and perished in abundance.

I am seriously wont for understanding in the matter. I desire only to be a faithful son of the Church. However, it appears the USCCB guidelines are in outright error on this issue of proselytism. In the paragraph I cited above from the Guidelines, it mentions that proselytism does not respect human freedom. Yet, we have people knock on our door all the time doing that very thing and here I sit, free as can be, still a Catholic. I fear by so much focus on "ecumenism" we are placing those outside the Church in grave peril of losing their souls. We get together and have conferences and pray together. We discuss our theological agreements and teach each other about our religions to help understand each other better. All that makes the others quite less than invincibly ignorant.

So, have I gone wrong here? I hope some more experienced Catholics can help me out on the matter.


Moonshadow said...

Dominus Iesus says:

With respect to the way in which the salvific grace of God — which is always given by means of Christ in the Spirit and has a mysterious relationship to the Church — comes to individual non-Christians, the Second Vatican Council limited itself to the statement that God bestows it “in ways known to himself”. [paragraph 21]

The footnote references paragraph 7 of AG and calls such people "inculpably ignorant."


Here's some cherry-picked verses from Romans 11

(My editing of Paul would do Thomas Jefferson proud ...):

I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.

For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?

For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.

And so all Israel shall be saved ...

For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.

As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the father's sakes.

For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.

For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief:

Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy.

For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.

Matt said...

Rom 10:12 says...

For there is no distinction of the Jew and the Greek: for the same is Lord over all, rich unto all that call upon him.

If we take "all Israel" to mean every single Jewish person that has ever lived without necessity to believe in Jesus then what is the point of anything? It cannot mean that.

Fr. Haydock points this out:

Ver. 25-26. "I would not have you ignorant, brethren, of this mystery," this hidden truth of God's justice and mercy, that blindness "in part hath happened in Israel," or to part of them, "until the fulness of the Gentiles should come in", by the conversion of all nations: and then "all Israel should be saved", when they shall submit to the faith of Christ: as it is written by the prophet Isaias, (lix. 20.) "there shall come out of Sion he that shall deliver"; that is, their Redeemer, Christ Jesus, who is indeed come already, but who shall then come to them by his powerful grace. This is my "covenant" with them. (Witham)

I also think there is clear indication that evangelizing the Jews along with everyone else is absolutely necessary and called for by Our Lord and the rest of the New Testament writers. I think Tradition bears that out as well.

Hence, I still only see the case for the New Law fulfilling the Old and not existing alongside it.

I can see what I am going to spend my night on... (I don't mind!)

Moonshadow said...

Has no one else weighed in?

by the prophet Isaias, (lix. 20.)

The rest of that verse does speak of repentance: "to those in Jacob who turn from transgression." (ESV)

I refer you again to Paragraph 16 of LG and Matthew 4:17.

Matt said...

Yes but not on my blog, and not necessarily in response to it. I had a conversation last week after mass that got pretty heated and I was called a heretic for not agreeing with Fr. Feeney. (?!!?!)

The person is well meaning and I did my homework afterwards and read Trent on Justification, went to the Church Fathers, etc. The whole debate we had was whether or not Baptism of Desire or Blood were valid. Needless to say, I am not a heretic for believing in the Baptism of Blood or Desire. I'm pretty sure of that. Nevertheless the conversation is stimulating and the research is enlightening.

As for the Jews, it seems that the Church has taught in the past at least that as individuals they in fact do need to accept Christ here and now. All Israel, according to Scott Hahn's bible commentary in the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible does agree that "all Israel may be saved" means they accept Christ and the two side-by-side covenant view is wrong.

Other than that I am still personally investigating. As for LG 16, that is quoted in the Catechism and of course I accept it. It says other faiths are included in the plan of salvation. What it doesn't say is that they are saved.

Matt said...

Oh, an example for that last statement.

Judas was also included in the plan of salvation. So were Pilate, the Pharisees, so were a lot of people in error.

Moonshadow said...

the two side-by-side covenant view is wrong.

Well, of course.

And I'm no good at Covenant theology ... or what those at the St. Paul Center call "covenantal theology." Does this solve the question?

I'll comment here on White because he's an internet bloodhound and I don't want to incur his ire: I never cease to be disappointed by his uncanny graciousness in public debate. A mere smidgeon of contempt for his opponent would unwind his position ... but such never surfaces.

"The whole truth is generally the ally of virtue; a half-truth is always the ally of some vice." - G.K. Chesterton