Monday, June 22, 2009

USCCB Clarifies 'Reflections on Covenant and Mission'

This seems to be a fairly significant development out of last week's U.S. Bishops' meeting which has seen very little press.

The Committees on Doctrine and Pastoral Practice and on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs issued a statement June 18 clarifying points in a 2002 document on the relation between Jewish people and the New Covenant. They say this was necessary because some theologians have relied on the document falsely as "authoritative" and the document itself contains statements that are "insufficiently precise and potentially misleading." Here's the USCCB release:
WASHINGTON—A statement clarifying two points of Catholic teaching relative to the Jewish community was released June 18, at the spring meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). A Note on Ambiguities Contained in Covenant and Mission was jointly issued by the Committee on Doctrine and Pastoral Practice and the Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs. The statement can be found at

“Our most important concern here is a pastoral one,” said Archbishop Wilton Gregory, chairman of the Bishops’ Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs. “The 2002 document, Covenant and Mission, raised many questions among Catholics in the United States about how the Church relates to the Jewish community. Today’s statement helps to answer these questions clearly.”

Bishop William Lori, chairman of the Bishops’ Committee on Doctrine and Pastoral Practice, stated that there were two key points at issue.

“The USCCB reaffirms what the Holy See has stated repeatedly: that while the Catholic Church does not proselytize the Jewish people, neither does she fail to witness to them her faith in Christ, nor to welcome them to share in that same faith whenever appropriate.” Bishop Lori said. He added that current debates over the question of how Catholics understand the covenant with Moses in relation to Christ were equally important. The covenant with Moses, that continues to be adhered to by Jews today, is fulfilled, Christians believe, in Jesus.

“As followers of Jesus, we see his covenant as fulfilling God’s plan for the salvation of all peoples, both now and at the end of time,” Bishop Lori said.

Archbishop Gregory commended the on-going work of scholars and pastors in Catholic-Jewish dialogue. “Pope John Paul II once referred to Jews as ‘our elder brothers and sisters in faith’”, he said. “By continuing our study together, we hope to deepen our understanding of Jesus and our relationship with each other in God’s redemption of the world.”

Abraham Foxman of the ADL has responded today saying in part:
"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," said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. "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."

I don't think that's exactly what the document says, but it does eliminate any notion that Christ is not the fulfillment of God's relationship with Israel or that Christians ought not witness their faith appropriately among Jewish people. Read the whole pdf here.

HT - St. Louis Catholic.