A War Of Words Between Catholics And Jews

July 7, 2009

Author: Duke Helfand

Source: The Los Angeles Times


The nation's Roman Catholic bishops, looking to clarify their position on interfaith dialogue with Jews, have instead caused an uproar by issuing a recent statement that appears to endorse attempts to convert them.

The bishops' action threatens to further erode Catholic-Jewish ties that have been strained in recent years by other controversies, including a decision by Pope Benedict XVI two years ago to revive a Latin Mass that contained a passage calling for the conversion of Jews.

The heads of several major U.S. Jewish organizations said the bishops' statement in June touched historic sensitivities among Jews about persecution by Christians. And they questioned whether the bishops were retreating from a carefully crafted 2002 document that spoke of dialogue between the two faiths as a "mutually enriching sharing of gifts devoid of any intention whatsoever" to proselytize.

That text was inspired by several decades of warming relations between Catholics and Jews that followed the Second Vatican Council, the landmark conference in the mid-1960s that sought to ease centuries-old tensions between the two religions.

"The whole basis of dialogue has had a major monkey wrench thrown into it," said Rabbi Gary Greenebaum, U.S. director of interreligious affairs for the American Jewish Committee. "What it feels like to Jews is that this is a major breach of trust."