Christian Conversion of Jews?

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ADL Troubled by U.S. Bishops' Statement that Appears to Green Light Missionizing of Jews

New York, NY, June 22, 2009 ... The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today expressed concern at a new document issued by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops that appears to give a green light for the missionizing of Jews.

The document, "A Note on Ambiguities Contained in Covenant and Mission," appears to reverse earlier statements on Catholic-Jewish relations by indicating that interfaith dialogue can be used by Catholics as an opportunity to seek Jewish partners to convert. The document was jointly issued on June 18 by the USCCB Committee on Doctrine and Pastoral Practice and the Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs.

"This document, if taken at face value, reintroduces the notion that Catholics can use interfaith dialogue as a means to invite Jews to Christian baptism," said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. "If so, then it is unacceptable, for such a statement would foster mistrust between Jews and Catholics and undermine years of work building a positive relationship based on mutual trust and respect of our differences in faith."

The new Bishops Conference document:

  • Criticizes the language of a previous 2002 dialogue document called "Reflection on Covenant and Mission" that calls interreligious dialogue "a mutually enriching sharing of gifts devoid of any intention whatsoever to invite the dialogue partner to baptism." Instead, "Notes on Ambiguities" suggests that interreligious dialogue can be used to implicitly and occasionally explicitly invite Jews to be baptized and convert.

  • Criticizes the statement in "Reflection" that implies that "it is generally not good for Jews to convert, nor for Catholics to do anything that might lead Jews to conversion because it threatens to eliminate the ‘distinctive Jewish witness.'" Instead, the new document states that this reasoning "could lead some to conclude mistakenly that Jews have an obligation not to become Christian and that the Church has a corresponding obligation not to baptize Jews." This is an objectionable understanding of Jewish-Catholic relations.

The League called on the Bishops Conference to reaffirm the sentence from the original document that states that interfaith dialogue with Jews is devoid of any intention whatsoever to invite the dialogue partner to baptism.