NEWS:  August 20, 2002

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Bird’s Eye View of the News

Atila Sinke Guimarães

CONVERSIONS? FROM NOW ON, PROHIBITED – On August 12, 2002 the 12-page document “Reflections on Covenant and Mission” was released to the public. The document resulted from a meeting in New York last March between the National Council of Synagogues and the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Ecumenical and Inter-religious Affairs. The joint text stated: “Campaigns that target Jews for conversion to Christianity are no longer theologically acceptable in the Catholic Church.” Cardinal William Keeler of Baltimore, the Bishops’ moderator for Catholic-Jewish relations, called the document “a significant step forward in the dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Jewish community in this country.” Rabbi Gilbert Rosenthal, executive director of the National Council of Synagogues, said: “Neither faith group believes that we should missionize among the other in order to save souls via conversion.” He then added: “Quite the contrary: We believe both faith groups are beloved by God and assured of his grace” (The Tidings, August 16, 2002, p. 21).

The document includes a preface and two separate reflections, one Catholic and one Jewish. The preface stated: “A deepening Catholic appreciation of the eternal covenant between God and his Jewish people, together with a recognition of a divinely given mission to Jews to witness to God’s faithful love, lead to the conclusion that campaigns that target Jews for conversion to Christianity are no longer theologically acceptable in the Catholic Church.” The Catholic reflection called inter-religious dialogue “a mutually enriching sharing of gifts devoid of any intention whatsoever to invite the dialogue partner to baptism.” It also affirmed that the Catholic Church “now recognizes that Jews are also called by God to prepare the world for God’s kingdom. Their witness to the kingdom, which did not originate with the Church’s experience of Christ …. must not be curtailed by seeking the conversion of the Jewish people to Christianity” (ibid.).

How is it possible to imagine that this statement by a Catholic Cardinal acting as representative of the U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference would be a fulfillment of the divine mandate Our Lord gave to the Apostles: “Go ye into the whole world, and preach the Gospel to every creature. He that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved, but he that believeth not, shall be condemned” (Mk 16:15-6)? Far from being a realization of this mandate, it is a clear apostasy. This action of Cardinal Keeler, however, is not something novel or original. Some months ago, the Pontifical Biblical Commission (PBC) wrote a book ordering Catholics to follow the Jewish interpretation of the Bible, and condemning all those who think that the Jewish people are guilty of denying Our Lord’s mission, the Deicide, and persecutions of the Holy Catholic Church. Furthermore, the president of PBC is none other than Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who directed the work, supported its theses, and wrote a preface for it. The example of apostasy, therefore, comes from the top…

"DEAR FRIEND AND KNIGHT” – The same Cardinal Keeler mourned the death of rabbi Mordecal Waxman and called him “a major force in the improvement of relations between the Jewish people and Catholic Church worldwide.” The Cardinal also called Waxman, who died August 10, “a dear friend.” The rabbi was president of the Synagogue Council of America. He led Jewish delegations that met with John Paul II in Miami and Castelgandolfo, Italy. In 1998 he was made knight commander of the chivalry Order of St. Gregory by the Pope. He was the first rabbi to receive the honor (The Tidings, August 16, 2002, p.2). No comments.

THE FIRST OF THE REGIONAL COUNCILS – Last May National Catholic Reporter published the general lines of a progressivist plan to call for a new Ecumenical Council. According to that blueprint, before the general council would gather at the Vatican, there should be many regional councils in the different parts of the Catholic world. More details can be found in one of my columns. Well, it seems that the North American Bishops have been called to be the pioneers of putting that plan in action. The first proposal for a national plenary council of Bishops with lay participation has been drawn up and directed to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, with the request that the subject be put on the agenda of the next general meeting in November.

This document was signed by eight Prelates – Archbishop Daniel Cronin of Hartford, Archbishop James Keleher of Kansas City, Archbishop Oscar Lipscomb of Mobile, Archbishop John Vlazny of Portland, Bishop Raymond Burke of La Crosse, Bishop Daniel DiNardo of Sioux City, Auxiliary Bishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit, and Bishop Robert Morlino of Helena (Origins, August 15, 2002, p. 182). In an August 8 statement to Catholic News Service, Bishop Allen Vigneron affirmed that the initial suggestion had the support of more than 50 other Prelates. The second proposal appeared some days later as an editorial in Church magazine, an organ of the National Pastoral Life Center in New York. Both initiatives propose a plenary council with the participation of lay people along with the Bishops (The Tidings, August 16, 2002).

Even if one were to presuppose that the 50 Bishops were well intentioned, I don’t understand what the advantage would be of this plenary council, since the Bishops already have an institution that can convoke all the American Prelates whenever it so decides. Why create a new bureaucratic body to do exactly what the existent official entity does? It does not seem either very clear or very clever. One of the alleged reasons to call the plenary council would be to seek “a purification …., a holier priesthood, a holier Episcopate, a holier Church,” in response to recent words of John Paul II (Origins, ibid.). A fine goal. But this was precisely the same rationale the Bishops offered for their meeting in Dallas in mid-June – also with lay participation. In Dallas the “zero tolerance” position they ended by taking regarding pedophilia in the clergy was a bold title for what was in reality an extremely feeble position. A weak cough of a sick body. So, once again, the convocation of a plenary council makes little sense.

I think that the real reason behind the proposal is to carry out the progressivist plan I mentioned above. Let’s wait and see.



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