Matt C. Abbott
March 29, 2011
Benedict XVI and the Jews
By Matt C. Abbott

Pope Benedict's latest book, Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week, is causing a bit of a stir because of his comments about the Church and the Jews' conversion. (Source)

I asked Catholic author-theologian Father John Trigilio to weigh in on the controversy. He graciously responded (edited):

    'I do not think Pope Benedict is undoing what he did in 2000 with Dominus Iesus. I think he's continuing what Pope John Paul II began. It's a matter of logistics, emphasis and priority, not one of doctrine and dogma. If it were, the theologian-pope would have made a coherent theological and dogmatic argument. Instead, we see a phrase quoted from an unofficial and a non-authoritative source (Hildegard Brem).

    'Like the Regensburg talk he gave where a quote was taken out of context, here, too, we see the methodical and logical mind of Pope Benedict discussing a non-doctrinal matter. Jews are not Christians, obviously, but they are also not Gentiles, pagans, heathens, heretics or schismatics. They are the chosen people of the Old Covenant. Like everyone else, they need Christ and His Church to be saved, but the prudential judgment not to target them for conversion can nevertheless be valid and beneficial.

    'It's not that the pope is giving up on the Jews, nor is he saying they do not need Christ or the fullness of grace and revelation found in the Catholic Church. He's merely saying that our first priority is to evangelize the Gentile world. There is plenty of immediate and immanent work to do repairing the disunity among Christians; reconciling East and West and restoring the separated brethren are high priorities for the Church.

    'Spreading the Gospel to the non-Christian world is still part and parcel of the mission of the Church to be sure. The only dimension, I think, Pope Benedict was accentuating was rather than aggressively seek the conversion of Judaism, Christianity still welcomes individual Jews into accepting and embracing Jesus Christ while showing respect for our heritage as once being a part of Judaism (before the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.).

    'In the past, overzealous believers and anti-Semites sought to eradicate Judaism altogether. Whether by forced conversions or pogroms and exiles, some Christians were less than Christ-like to the Jews, the very people Christ Himself came from. Salvation is still from Christ and His Church, but it can be done anonymously in good faith for those who, through no fault of their own, are unaware of this reality.

    'Judaism will inevitably continue until the end of the world, at which time the second coming of Christ occurs along with the resurrection of the dead and the general judgment. Who's to say that the remaining Jews at the Eschaton and Parousia will not convert together or one by one?

    'In the meantime, the Holy Father is merely asking us to treat the Jewish people as a whole, and the Jewish religion, with respect and honor while we still welcome warmly with open arms any and all individual Jews who seek to know and accept Christ and His Church. It's not that we are asked to ignore the Jews, but to trust that God Himself will take care of how and when they will be brought into the fold all the way. They are His people and it's His Church.'



Related links:

Jimmy Akin's take on the controversy

John Vennari's take on the controversy

© Matt C. Abbott

 

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Matt C. Abbott

Matt C. Abbott is a Catholic commentator with a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication, media and theatre from Northeastern Illinois University. He's been interviewed on MSNBC, NPR, WLS-TV (ABC) in Chicago, WMTV (NBC) in Madison, Wis., and has been quoted in The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune. He can be reached at mattcabbott@gmail.com.


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