Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Did the Pope say We Should Not Evangelize Jews?

In several reports regarding “The Gifts and the Calling of God are Irrevocable” (GCGI), released by the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, media outlets wrongly summarized and reported that Christians “should not evangelize Jews”.

Blogs and media outlets from every corner burst out with half-informed op-eds, and all the reactionary comments that go with them, reporting and commenting on a wrong conclusion by an  author who chose to write an article on a topic he/she had not taken the time to fact check. Are we surprised?

Of course, I won’t pin all the blame on the media. Most Catholics have come to expect statements from our current Pope to be less than crystal clear and easily misrepresented. Most media outlets don’t recognize the difference between the various Vatican documents, either. I doubt that more than a handful would have recognized GCGI “…is not a magisterial document or doctrinal teaching of the Catholic Church, but is a reflection prepared by the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews on current theological questions that have developed since the Second Vatican Council”, despite the fact that it says exactly that in the preface to the document.

Thankfully, there do still exist authors who DO like to fact-check and study things in their entirety before reporting on them. Jimmy Akin is one such person, and he did a great job at it in this particular situation, as he always does. You can read about it HERE.

So, what are the facts? First, the backdrop of the document (i.e. the context) is exactly as stated in the preface. The Church has a Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, and it is reflecting on theological questions that developed. Second, the document released by the Holy See, without the shadow of doubt, states that all Christians are called to evangelize. This includes the duty to evangelize the Jewish people.

Christians are nonetheless called to bear witness to their faith in Jesus Christ also to Jews, although they should do so in a humble and sensitive manner, acknowledging that Jews are bearers of God’s Word, and particularly in view of the great tragedy of the Shoah [i.e., the Holocaust]” (GCGI 40).

The call to be a member of Christ’s Church is for ALL, including Jews, and ALL nations are to be given the Gospel of Jesus Christ. “Jesus . . . calls his Church from both Jews and Gentiles (cf. Eph 2:11-22) on the basis of faith in Christ and by means of baptism, through which there is incorporation into his Body which is the Church” (GCGI 41).
It is and remains a qualitative definition of the Church of the New Covenant that it consists of Jews and Gentiles, even if the quantitative proportions of Jewish and Gentile Christians may initially give a different impression” [GCGI 43].

So, where did the notion that Christians aren’t supposed to evangelize Jews come from? It came from a carelessly cherry-picked statement taken out of context. (Again, are we surprised?) “In concrete terms this means that the Catholic Church neither conducts nor supports any specific institutional mission work directed towards Jews” (GCGI 40).

Did you happen to notice the paragraph this came from (GCGI 40)? It’s in the same exact paragraph that goes on to say, “Christians are nonetheless called to bear witness to their faith in Jesus Christ also to Jews…”

What, then, does this quote mean? What did the Holy See mean by “the Catholic Church neither conducts nor supports any specific institutional mission work directed towards Jews? It means that the Church doesn’t teach that we should ONLY share Christ with Jews, or that we should single them out. We share Him with ALL nations. The Church, as Jimmy Akin explains, “draws a distinction between the Church supporting particular efforts directed to Jewish evangelization and the ordinary, organic efforts of individual Christians in sharing their faith with Jews.

So, the Church doesn’t have a specific mission to Jews, but at the same time “Christians are nonetheless called to bear witness to their faith in Jesus Christ also to Jews”.

Jimmy summarizes, “Far from rejecting the idea that the gospel should be shared with Jesus’ own people, the new document calls for individuals Christians—Jewish and gentile—to share it with them, and in a loving and sensitive way.

To read more on this topic, please visit Jimmy Akin’s well researched and highly informative article linked above (in the word "HERE").

You might also benefit from reading the actual document that was released by the Holy See: The Gifts and the Calling of God are Irrevocable.

It should go without saying, but apparently it needs to be said: do not be misled. “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into a pit (Lk 6:39)?" Know the facts, ALL of the facts, and test what you are told against them.