A half-century after the Second Vatican Council released the declaration, known as Nostra Aetate, on the Church’s relations with other religions, David Berger reflects on its effects. Among these is the Catholic hierarchy’s willingness to take into consideration the concerns of Jewish leaders. Berger urges Jews to voice such concerns judiciously:
Jews active in interfaith affairs have not infrequently denounced the Christian belief that the entire world will recognize Jesus as the divine messiah at the end of days. This, in my view, is none of our business, especially in light of the corresponding Jewish belief strikingly expressed in the High Holy Day liturgy and the Aleinu prayer. Many Jews welcome the views of Christian scholars and theologians who maintain that certain anti-Jewish narratives in the Gospels are unhistorical, but we have no right to urge more fundamentalist Christians to reject the accuracy of their scriptures. . . .
The most interesting phenomenon that challenges the convictions of a non-interventionist is Christian missionizing, which brings us back to the covenant. Catholic theologians friendly to the Jews have struggled with the implications of [Nostra Aetate’s doctrine of] the unbroken Abrahamic/Mosaic covenant. This unbroken covenant sits uneasily with the doctrine of the contemporary Church that although those who consciously reject belief in Jesus can under certain circumstances be saved, the vehicle of salvation—even for Jews—is Jesus acting through the Church. In some sense, we are told, there is an implicit belief at work. Moreover, despite the enduring Jewish covenant, Christians are obligated to “witness” to the Jews even though they should not directly proselytize.
It should not be our concern to help resolve these conundrums in Catholic theology, and I am all the more grateful that leading theologians firmly oppose mission to the Jews even though their rationale for this position leaves them with unresolved “mysteries.” However, in relating to Christian groups that do proselytize, it is, I think, legitimate for Jews to make every effort to persuade them to desist despite the fact that this constitutes interference in their internal theology. In this case, the imperative of self-defense is so direct that it overrides countervailing principles.
Sign Up For Our E-Mail List Get the latest from Mosaic right in your inbox
Sign up now for unlimited access