From the “No Good Deed Goes Unpunished” Dept.

My blog in praise of Abe Zelmanowitz get negative reactions from readers of Joe Katzman’s blog. I appreciate Joe’s generous defense. There are a number of places where, naturally, I would not have worded that defense as Joe has, but on the whole I am grateful for his manful attempt to read what I said charitably. At the end of the day, I will not be making any of the decisions about who gets into heaven, so the people who are mad at me can relax. I was merely attempting to give an account, from a Catholic perspective, of the obvious existence of saintly people outside what is normally regarded as the communion of saints. At least one of Joe’s readers has made the mistake of thinking I was suggesting Abe was a “Christian”. I wasn’t. Abe lived and died a pious Jew. I was rather, saying that people who don’t identify themselves as Christian are not thereby necessarily uninfluenced by the Spirit of Christ. Since my tradition teaches that it is only through Christ that we have salvation (since he is God incarnate) then I have to conclude that the obvious holiness of Abe’s life is the fruit of some mysterious influence by the Holy Spirit that is outside the normal means of grace with which most Catholics are familiar. There is room for this in Catholic tradition (“We are bound by the sacraments, but God is not” is the normal formulation.) As Joe correctly points out, since I believe Jesus *is* God, to demand I not think this as an explanation for Abe’s holiness is essentially to demand I abandon my faith. However, to think this is not to demand that any Jewish person abandon anything.

Finally, one essential point that Joe gets right. There is no denominational afterlife. There’s not a separate heaven for Jews, Christians and animists. Heaven will be the vision of God and there’s just one of him. It’s because of this that questions, such as the one I attempted to address must be addressed from time to time. Thanks Joe, for your charitable response to my blog. You’re a mensch.


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