A Jewish writer asks: “Why haven’t Jews responded to Vatican II?”


An interesting, perhaps even surprising, perspective, from The Forward: 

The arrival of Pope Francis in America and the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council’s landmark declaration, Nostra Aetate, have allowed us, as Jews, to marvel at the revolutionary developments in our relations with the Catholic Church in the past half-century. But while the church has taken great strides in re-examining the way it considers and interacts with Judaism and the Jewish people, Jews have done little in response.

When Pope John XXIII convoked the Second Vatican Council in 1963, it was not simply to bring about an aggiornamento , an updating, of the church’s relations with the world; it was also to come to terms with the Catholic teaching of contempt for the Jewish people, which was in part responsible for the grievous suffering and eventual destruction of European Jewry. The pope wanted to face up to the Holocaust.

Nostra Aetate was indeed a revolution, particularly with reference to Jews and Judaism. First of all, it moved from a theology of a dead, outdated and superseded Judaism to a theology of a living Judaism. Second, it rejected the idea that all forms of anti-Semitism and anti-Judaism could, in any way, be founded on Christian or scriptural teaching. And, most important, the church came to understand that in the words of Paul the Apostle, God’s covenant with the Jewish people is irrevocable, and that Jews continue to be “the chosen people.”

And while the relationship between the Catholic Church and the State of Israel has been at times testy, the fundamental point of recognition is secure.

But there is a noticeable asymmetry in the relationship to date.

More than 20 years after the signing of the Fundamental Agreement, side agreements related to financial matters and to the return of church property are still being negotiated. Moreover, Israel has not sought the assistance of the Catholic Church in fighting anti-Jewish attitudes in the Orthodox churches, as it has a right to do under the agreement. And most important, Israel has not yet seen fit to present the agreement for a vote in the Knesset.

The Catholics have revised their understanding of the place of Jews in the Catholic worldview. Jewish interlocutors should respond in kind. This is necessary if the interfaith dialogue is to proceed effectively.

Read the rest. 

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