Joshua Claybourn wants to know my opinion of the recent “Reflections” document

As I’ve mentioned before on the blog, the document appears to me to pastorally dumb and confusing, using ultra-nuanced language that was bound to give reporters the basic idea that “the Church teaches Jews can be saved without the grace of Jesus.” For this reason alone, it should not have been published. However, I also think that a careful reading of the document shows the bishops were not saying this. They do indeed say that all salvation is by the grace of Christ (sorry I can’t find the quote, my archives are screwy). They even say, “”The Catholic Church must always evangelize and will always witness to its faith in the presence of God’s kingdom in Jesus Christ to Jews and to all other people” and “Sincere individual converts from any tradition or people, including the Jewish people, will be welcomed and accepted.” But they also send this baffling and nuanced message which everybody but a professional theologian will misunderstand.

On the bright side, this does not particularly mean the Church is “losing its focus”. This is, as your instincts rightly told you, a document by some subcommittee that holds no doctrinal force and basically means that some ecclesial functionaries in the American Church issued a document that they didn’t really expect anybody to read. The document is a prime example of theologians mulling a question, not formulating dogma. The Church’s history is full of theologians mulling questions. To take such mulling as The Final Word is a huge mistake. Our Faith commits us to the proposition that there is no other Name than Jesus by which people are saved. The Church is already dogmatically committed to this and so it won’t change. All that can be explored is the possible ways in which the saving power of Jesus Christ is already at work in the Jewish tradition.


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