To Roman Catholics Worldwide: Nostra Chutzpah. We Jews Respect You

The activities of Pope Benedict XVI and the Catholic Church with regard to the Jews and to Israel is an item on the agenda of this blog. Our interest has been refocused by the recent circus surrounding the reinstatement of a Holocaust denying renegade bishop named Richard Williamson.

We Jews do respect our Catholic brethren. This below is our momentous statement to that effect, and like the source of our inspiration for this statement, we include mentions of our respect for Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism as well.

Background: In order to make the attitude of the Jews towards non-Jewish religions clear I have cited verbatim, paraphrased and condensed a classic Catholic declaration.

Please forgive me. If it sounds pompous, condescending or triumphal, unclear or obfuscating, of course that's because of my shortcomings as a paraphraser, not because of the tone or intent of the original.

Okay. For those who may not actually "get it" let me warn you that this is meant as a parody. It is not intended to be a systematic statement of Jewish faith in any way, shape or form. The parody does adhere rather closely to the Vatican's Nostra Aetate of 1965, long hailed as a breakthrough of some sort. It's important for us constantly to look back and reconsider what happened in the past and to determine what tasks lie ahead. It's equally important for us to hold up to others in a mirror certain publications, statements and attitudes and to hope that by so doing they will see something new.

In all parody there is at least a hint of humor. That may be difficult for the religious type to stomach. Again, consider yourself warned.

Here is our re-draft.
FEBRUARY 1, 2009

1. In our time, when day by day humankind is being drawn closer together, and the ties between different peoples are becoming stronger, the Jews examine more closely their relationship to non-Jewish religions. In our task of promoting unity and love among humans, indeed among nations, we consider above all in this declaration what humans have in common and what draws them to fellowship.

One is the community of all peoples, one their origin, for God made the whole human race to live over the face of the earth. One also is their final goal, God. His providence, His manifestations of goodness, His saving design extend to all humans, until that time -- enunciated by our prophets -- when not just the elect, but all humans, will be united in the Holy City, the city ablaze with the glory of God, where the nations will walk in His light.

Humans expect from the various religions answers to the unsolved riddles of the human condition, which today, even as in former times, deeply stir the hearts of humans: What is a human? What is the meaning, the aim of our life? What is moral good, what sin? Whence suffering and what purpose does it serve? Which is the road to true happiness? What are death, judgment and retribution after death? What, finally, is that ultimate inexpressible mystery which encompasses our existence: whence do we come, and where are we going?

2. From ancient times down to the present, there is found among various peoples a certain perception of that hidden power which hovers over the course of things and over the events of human history; at times some indeed have come to the recognition of a Supreme Being, or even of a Parent. This perception and recognition penetrates their lives with a profound religious sense.

We know it is chutzpah to reduce world Religions to mere sentences. Nevertheless we will do so.

Religions that are bound up with an advanced culture have struggled to answer the same questions by means of more refined concepts and a more developed language. Thus in Hinduism, humans contemplate the divine mystery and express it through an inexhaustible abundance of myths and through searching philosophical inquiry. They seek freedom from the anguish of our human condition either through ascetic practices or profound meditation or a flight to God with love and trust. Again, Buddhism, in its various forms, realizes the radical insufficiency of this changeable world; it teaches a way by which humans, in a devout and confident spirit, may be able either to acquire the state of perfect liberation, or attain, by their own efforts or through higher help, supreme illumination. Likewise, other religions found everywhere try to counter the restlessness of the human heart, each in its own manner, by proposing "ways," comprising teachings, rules of life, and sacred rites.

We Jews reject nothing that is true and holy in these religions. We regard with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones we holds and set forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all humans. Indeed, we proclaim, and ever must proclaim, "Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one," in whom humans may find the fullness of religious life, in whom God has reconciled all things.

The Jews, therefore, exhort our children, that through dialogue and collaboration with the followers of other religions, carried out with prudence and love and in witness to the Jewish faith and life, we recognize, preserve and promote the good things, spiritual and moral, as well as the socio-cultural values found among these humans.

3. The Jews regard with esteem also the Moslems. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all- powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to humans; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God. True they do not accept the Torah as binding. We note with approval that they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, though they revere Him as a prophet. In their credit, they await the day of judgment when God will render their deserts to all those who have been raised up from the dead. Finally, they value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting.

Since in the course of centuries not a few quarrels and hostilities have arisen between Jews and Moslems, this ordinary blogger urges all to forget the past and to work sincerely for mutual understanding and to preserve as well as to promote together for the benefit of all mankind social justice and moral welfare, as well as peace and freedom.

4. As the ordinary blogger searches into the mystery of the Jewish people, he remembers the bond that spiritually ties the people of the Torah to the misguided Christians who have abandoned the Torah.

Thus the Jewish people acknowledges that, according to God's saving design, the core of our faith and our election are found among the Patriarchs, Moses and the prophets. We profess that all who believe in Abraham's sons according to faith are included in the same Patriarch's call, and that the salvation of the Jews is symbolized by the chosen people's exodus from the land of bondage. We Jews received the revelation of the Torah as the people with whom God in His inexpressible mercy concluded the Ancient Covenant.

We forgive the Church for the errors of the words of the Apostle about his kinsmen: "theirs is the sonship and the glory and the covenants and the law and the worship and the promises; theirs are the fathers and from them is the Christ according to the flesh" (Rom. 9:4-5), the Son of the Virgin Mary. We forgive that the Apostles, the Church's main-stay and pillars, as well as most of the early disciples who proclaimed Christ's Gospel to the world, sprang in error from the rejection of the Torah of the Jewish people.

As Christian Scripture testifies, Jerusalem did not recognize the time of her visitation, nor did the Jews in large number, accept the Christian Gospel; indeed not a few opposed its spreading. We do believe that God holds us Jews most dear for the sake of our Fathers. We forgive the false witness of the Apostle. In company with the Prophets and the same Apostle, we forgive that the Church mistakenly awaits that day, known to God alone, on which all peoples will address the Lord in a single voice and "serve him shoulder to shoulder" as Christians, and not as Jews.

Since the spiritual patrimony common to Christians and Jews is thus so great, this ordinary blogger wants to foster and recommend that mutual understanding and respect which is the fruit, above all, of biblical and theological studies as well as of fraternal dialogues.

We forgive the libel and slander of the the Church who said for millenia that the Jewish authorities and those who followed their lead pressed for the death of Christ. We forgive that for centuries that the Church charged what happened in Jesus on the cross against all the Jews, without distinction, then alive, and by some still against the Jews of today. We forgive that the Church while pretending to be the new people of God, presented us Jews for centuries as rejected or accursed by God, as if this followed from their Scriptures. We forgive that yet in 1965 the Church proclaimed in disdain of the religions of the world that, "All should see to it, then, that in catechetical work or in the preaching of the word of God they do not teach anything that does not conform to the truth of the Gospel and the spirit of Christ."

We Jews find obvious and beneath necessity to mention our rejection of every persecution against any person.

The New Testament and teachings of the Church are full of complete range of statements and teachings of antisemitism. Sincere rejection of evil teachings merits that each of them needs to be thoroughly rejected and removed from Church teachings and even from the scriptures themselves. Hence we Jews find perfunctory, condescending and insincere the statements of the Church such as, "Mindful of the patrimony she shares with the Jews and moved not by political reasons but by the Gospel's spiritual love, decries hatred, persecutions, displays of anti-Semitism, directed against Jews at any time and by anyone."

We find ironic and inscrutable those Church teachings linked to the subject of centuries of the Church's Jew hatred and persection that mysteriously avow love without expressing an iota of remorse, "Besides, as the Church has always held and holds now, Christ underwent His passion and death freely, because of the sins of men and out of infinite love, in order that all may reach salvation. It is, therefore, the burden of the Church's preaching to proclaim the cross of Christ as the sign of God's all-embracing love and as the fountain from which every grace flows."

5. We Jews agree with the Church that, "No foundation therefore remains for any theory or practice that leads to discrimination between man and man or people and people, so far as their human dignity and the rights flowing from it are concerned." Given its history of centuries of brutality and persecution of Jews and others, we reject that the Catholic Church has any right to determine or to declare what is "human dignity."

We Jews agree with the Church and reprove any discrimination against humans or harassment of them because of their race, color, condition of life, or religion. We Jews await the day that has not yet come when the Christian leadership in the Vatican "maintain good fellowship among the nations" (1 Peter 2:12), rather than denying the Holocaust, decrying other religions as false, seeking to convert the faithful from around the globe, and in general acting in a pompous, condescending or triumphal voice, as if they alone have the spiritual path to all that is right and true.

[May that day come speedily and in our time. Amen.]

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