Catholic and Jewish Leaders Hold Consultation on New Vatican Catholic-jewish Relations Guidelines

Catholic and Jewish leaders engaged in Jewish-Christian relations held an all-day consultation here last week to discuss a new set of Vatican guidelines on Catholic Jewish relations which had been sharply criticized by five Jewish organizations comprising the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations (IJCIC) when the guidelines were issued last month.

The Jewish and Catholic leaders at the meeting here, which was convened by the American Jewish Committee, agreed on the need for more ecumenical dialogue to clarify the issues, the AJCommittee reported in disclosing that the meeting was held as a follow-up to the criticism of the guidelines by IJCIC.

The guidelines, “Notes on the Correct Way to Present the Jews and Judaism in Preaching and Catechesis in the Roman Catholic Church,” were issued on June 26 after three years of preparation.

Although the Notes were greeted with some praise as an effort to overcome ignorance of the history and traditions of Judaism, IJCIC said the Notes were a regression from the historic “Nostra Aetate” (Our Times) which emerged from Vatican Council II in 1964 and the 1974 “Guidelines and Suggestions for the Application of the Declaration Nostra Aetate.”

BASIS FOR CRITICISM OF GUIDELINES

IJCIC said in a statement last month that the Notes failed to acknowledge the religious significance of Israel and referred only briefly and superficially to the Holocaust. IJCIC member-agencies are the AJCommittee, Israel Interfaith Committee, World Jewish Congress, Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, and the Synagogue Council of America, representing the congregational and rabbinic agencies of American Reform, Conservative and Orthodox Judaism.

The IJCIC criticism warned that the “Notes may undermine the gains we have achieved through dialogue, joint study and joint action in recent years.” The statement asserted that the Notes were “totally inadequate in providing Catholics with sufficient guidelines on how to teach, preach and understand” the Holocaust and the creation of Israel, the two events which have “decisvely shaped the way Jews define themselves.”

Another IJCIC criticism was that the Notes were published “without prior consultation with the Jewish community.”

The agreement for further dialogue came after the all-day consultation held last Wednesday which the AJCommittee said was the first such meeting of Catholics and Jews since publication of the Notes.

Meeting “to evaluate the document in both its positive and negative aspects,” the participants agreed that “strengthened by 20 years of progress in our relationships, we have learned that we can face genuine differences and still retain a spirit of trust and mutual respect.”

JOINT STATEMENT ISSUED

The participants agreed, in a joint statement, that “Had there been prior consultations with the Jewish community along the lines of these clarifications, much of the criticism which concerns us now might have been avoided.” The statement said that the Notes should have been read in conjunction with more positive statements about Jews and Judaism made by Vatican officials, including Pope John Paul II.

The participants said they agreed that the Notes “do not preclude and indeed appear to us to invite further scholarly exploration of the basic relationship between the Church and the Jewish people.” A spokesman for the AJCommittee told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that he did not know when future meetings will be held.

Rabbi A. James Rudin, the AJCommittee’s director of interreligious affairs, said that Jews continued to have reservations about the Notes but that he hoped they could be resolved in future discussions.

Concerning the IJCIC criticism that the State of Israel and the Holocaust were inadequately handled in the Notes, the joint statement said the participants committed themselves to “continued dialogue between our two communities.” They agreed that Catholics, as well as Jews, needed to grapple with the significance of the Holocaust for Christians as well as for Jews.

SIGNERS OF THE JOINT STATEMENT

The joint statement was signed by Rev. Charles Angell, director, Centro Pro Unione, Rome; Judith Banki, associate director, interreligious affairs, AJC; Prof. Thomas Bird, chairman, Department of Slavic Studies, Queens College; Dr. Eugene Fisher, executive secretary, Secretariat for Catholic-Jewish Relations, National Conference of Catholic Bishops; Rabbi David Gordis, executive vice president, AJC; Br. William Martyn, executive secretary, Ecumenical Commission, Archdiocese of New York.

Also, Rabbi Alan Mittleman, program specialist, interreligious affairs, AJC; Rev. John Pawlikowski, professor of social ethics, Catholic Theological Union, Chicago; Zachariah Shuster, consultant, international relations, AJC; Rabbi Marc Tanenbaum, director, international relations, AJC; and Rabbi Rudin.

NEXT STORY