If several commentators that I follow hadn't opined about it, I would surely have missed this development. Apparently a Vatican commission announced last week that the Roman Catholic Church should end institutional missions to convert the Jews.
Who knew the Catholic Church was still attempting any such thing? I didn't, though I suppose if I'd thought about it, I'd have realized that a church which doesn't offer the communal meal (the Eucharist) to non-members and to its own divorced people might cling to such a project. Still, the idea seems a little shocking.
I was glad to see the always informative James Carroll expound about this in the New Yorker. He insists this obscure theological tweak is momentous. According to his reading of history, it was through the Spanish Inquisition's effort to (literally) smoke out secret Jews who were only "pretend" Christians that the notion of blood-impurity slipped into European consciousness.
Remembering his own Catholic education, Carroll insists this declaration creates a larger opening than may seem obvious.
J.J. Goldberg, a columnist and former editor of the Jewish Forward, also thinks the Vatican declaration is a BFD.
The key phrase here seems to be "unfathomable divine mystery." Okay, that probably works for most contemporary persons who find something of value in our various religious traditions. We also know we don't know it all -- or we should know it.
With that in mind, it didn't surprise me to read Mustafa Akyol's oped in the New York Times about the theological history of how some Muslims have tried to discern who is a "true" believer and who an infidel or apostate. It seems that religious tradition has also struggled with how to deal with those whose approach to God was somehow different. Akyol wants to raise awareness of one ancient solution:
Perhaps another "unfathomable divine mystery"? Perhaps in our interconnected and interdependent world, ancient faiths can recognize there is more we can't know than there is that we do know. This is how we live together, as we must.