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Ambiguities in USCCB Committee’s Critique of “Reflections” Document

Ambiguities in USCCB Committee’s Critique of “Reflections” Document 

By Robert Sungenis, Ph.D. 

Committees of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), in a document jointly issued on June 18 by the Committee on Doctrine and Pastoral Practice and the Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, has stepped in and attempted to correct some of the theological errors that have been created in the wake of the Catholic-Jewish dialogue. Although it took the USCCB seven years to officially recognize the problems in Reflections, as the saying goes, it is better late than never. In 2002, except for a brief criticism by Rosalind Moss published by Catholic Answers, our apostolate was one of the few that had written a detailed and comprehensive critique of Reflections, titled Conversion of the Jews Not Necessary?1 In it we not only critiqued Reflections for its theological errors, we also showed some of the controversial history of the Catholic-Jewish dialogue, beginning with Jules Isaac’s books in the 1940s that appear to be the impetus for why the Catholic prelature had traveled down this dubious path in the first place. Essentially, the past 40 years of Catholic-Jewish dialogue has resulted in little more than a constant temptation for Catholic prelates to water down or even contradict Catholic doctrine in the hopes of placating the Jews; the errors in the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults and the Reflections on Covenant and Missions being two of only a number of outstanding examples of this phenomena. Hopefully, the prelature has finally recognized the dangers of going down this path, since, after having to make two major retractions in high profile ecclesiastical documents, its learning curve has been rather painful in the last year. Last summer (August 2008) the bishops voted 231 to 14 to excise an erroneous sentence from page 131 of the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, a sentence which stated that the Mosaic covenant was still valid for the Jewish people. Our apostolate, Catholic Apologetics International, spearheaded the movement to alert the bishops and the Vatican to the problem. Now, almost a year later, the USCCB committees, under the leadership of Bishop William Lori of Connecticut, has publically admitted that some of its high-ranking clerics made erroneous statements in the document titled Reflections on Covenant and Missions, issued under the aegis of William Cardinal Keeler and various Jewish rabbis in 2002. As to be expected, the Jews are scoffing at the new face of Catholicism. On its website, of June 22, 2009, the Anti-Defamation League stated that the correctives issued by the USCCB committees “appear to give a green light for the missionizing of Jews” and “appears to reverse earlier statements on Catholic-Jewish relations by indicating that interfaith dialogue can be used by Catholics as an opportunity to seek Jewish partners to convert.” Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the ADL said: This document, if taken at face value, reintroduces the notion that Catholics can use interfaith dialogue as a means to invite Jews to Christian baptism….If so, then it is unacceptable, for such a statement would foster mistrust between Jews and Catholics and undermine years of work building a positive relationship based on mutual trust and respect of our differences in faith. The ADL then demanded that the USCCB reaffirm the sentence from the original document that states that interfaith dialogue with Jews is devoid of any intention whatsoever to invite the dialogue partner to baptism...