Should Catholics Labor and Pray, in Charity, So that Jews Convert to Catholicism?

Without any question whatsoever, the answer is an absolute yes. But there are those who refrain from this evangelization. They shrink from evangelization by calling anything that involves proclamation of the one true faith and way to salvation as “proselytism.” A word study on the history of that word needs to be undertaken.

But suffice it to say that the firm teaching of the Second Vatican Council gives us an absolute “yes” to this question. Moreover, those who say that because of the the Council they hold a “no” or a “not necessarily” to this question put themselves (and the Council-as-they-read-it) diametrically in opposition to the Sacred Tradition.

“Everyone, therefore, ought to be converted to Christ” (Ad Gentes, 7).

That is every last person. No one is excepted. What then impels Catholics to engage in missionary activity?

“The charity with which they love God and by which they desire to share with all men in the spiritual goods of this life and the life to come” (ibid).

The goal of the Catholic Church is that

“the whole human race might become one people of God, … one body of Christ” (ibid.)

And the People of God is simply the Catholic Church. The Body of Christ is simply the Catholic Church.

Again, “Thus the Church prays and likewise labors so that into the People of God, the Body of the Lord and the Temple of the Holy Spirit, may pass the fullness of the whole world, and that in Christ, the head of all things, all honor and glory may be rendered to the Creator, the Father of the universe” (Lumen gentium, 17).

Someone will bring in a nifty objection: But Vatican II does not identify the Catholic Church with the People of God!

False. First, Vatican II does identify the Catholic Church with the Church of Christ. I have demonstrated this beyond all reasonable doubt in my “Subsistit in: Nonexclusive Identity or Full Identity?” The Thomist, vol. 72 (2008):1–44. Furthermore, the Church’s constant and universal magisterium before the Council taught definitively that the Catholic Church is the one and only Church that Christ founded. Therefore, it is an infallible teaching that can be challenged only at the cost of divine heresy. End of story.

Now, then, Vatican II further identifies the Church with the People of God: “The Church or People of God” (Lumen gentium, art. 13). As Ratzinger stated, astutely, about this Second Chapter of Lumen gentium: It concerns the whole Church, not just the laity. In fact, this term “people” is as it were the biblical original of the later, quite precise sociologically, ecclesial term “Society”, also a term used in the Council.

Further, it is clearly stated:

“All men are called to belong to the new People of God” (LG, art. 13).

And then various ways of belonging or relation to the Church are spelled out. First, there are those who are “incorporated” (art. 14). These are simply and only Catholics: Baptized persons who accept the hierarchy, all the sacramental actions of the Church, and the full confession of the faith. Then, there are those who are joined in various ways to the Church. Some by an explicit desire (catechumens, art. 14). Some by baptism (art. 15). Lastly, all the rest are “related to the People of God” (LG, art. 16, emphasis mine). Note that these are relations precisely to the Catholic Roman Apostolic Church. They are not vague relations but precise relations, not to a vague church but to a precise Church, that of Rome. Therefore, note too, that in this art. 16 the council simply uses “People of God” here as synonym for the Catholic Church.

I was edified to see the interview of Dr. Alice von Hildebrand concerning the intelligent grief of her husband about the enemies of the Church. They have penetrated her borders, swamped her offices, convoluted her message, etc. The enemies are no longer merely outside. They are within, as Pius X lamented. And how have they multiplied since his holy reign!

Back to the topic. Dr. Alice von Hildebrand relates this marvelous story about her husband, whose love for the Jews led him precisely to will, to pray for, and to labor for their conversion to Jesus Christ in his One and Only Catholic Church.

And such is only reasonable for a true Catholic. Why? To love is to will the good. But the only good is God. And the Catholic confesses with the mouth because he believes with the heart (UNLESS his faith is weakened by his love of human praise, more than the praise of God! See Jn 12:41ff) that God’s new and definitive covenant, outside of which no one can be saved (dogma), is in Jesus Christ, in his blood. The old covenant continues precisely in this new covenant. Otherwise and outside, it is abolished. Hence, to love the Jewish brother is to will, to labor, and to pray that he convert. This is charity. This is brotherly love coming down from heaven, like oil upon the head, falling down upon the beard, so that all may be one and brothers.

She states:

AVH:: Let me relate an incident that caused my husband grief. It was 1946, just after the war. My husband was teaching at Fordham, and there appeared in one of his classes a Jewish student who had been a naval officer during the war. He would eventually tell my husband about a particularly stunning sunset in the Pacific and how it had led him to the quest for the truth about God. He first went to Columbia to study philosophy, and he knew that this was not what he was looking for. A friend suggested he try philosophy at Fordham and mentioned the name Dietrich von Hildebrand. After just one class with my husband, he knew he had found what he was looking for. One day after class my husband and this student went for a walk. He told my husband during this time that he was surprised at the fact that several professors, after discovering he was Jewish, assured him that they would not try to convert him to Catholicism. My husband, stunned, stopped, turned to him and said, “They said what?!” He repeated the story and my husband told him, “I would walk to the ends of the earth to make you a Catholic.” To make a long story short, the young man became a Catholic, was ordained a Carthusian priest, and went on to enter the only Charter House in the United States (in Vermont)!

You can read the full text here. The Rorate piece is here.

6 thoughts on “Should Catholics Labor and Pray, in Charity, So that Jews Convert to Catholicism?

  1. Thank you for speaking without obfuscation on this question–much needed in our day.

    A clear answer, of course, can also be found right after St. Peter’s sermon on Pentecost:

    “Now when they had heard these things, they had compunction in their heart, and said to Peter, and to the rest of the apostles: What shall we do, men and brethren? But Peter said to them: Do penance, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of your sins: and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is to you, and to your children, and to all that are far off, whomsoever the Lord our God shall call. And with very many other words did he testify and exhort them, saying: Save yourselves from this perverse generation.They therefore that received his word, were baptized; and there were added in that day about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:37-41).

    Our Lord Himself is clear too:

    “Therefore I said to you, that you shall die in your sins. For if you believe not that I am he, you shall die in your sin” (John 8:24).

    We don’t want people to die in their sins; therefore, we must labor and pray in charity for the conversion of all people–including the Jews–to the Catholic Church.

    Along with this, of course, we pray for ourselves and all Catholics to live in accordance with the high calling of the Catholic Faith. For though we say we believe, we too will die in our sins if our actions don’t correspond with the One True Faith–for in that case, we have not true belief. “Not every one that saith to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven: but he that doth the will of my Father who is in heaven, he shall enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 7:21).

    Oremus et laboremus pro omnibus!

  2. Pope Leo XII, Ubi Primum (# 14), May 5, 1824: “It is impossible for the most true God, who is Truth itself, the best, the wisest Provider, and the Rewarder of good men, to approve all sects who profess false teachings which are often inconsistent with one another and contradictory, and to confer eternal rewards on their members… by divine faith we hold one Lord, one faith, one baptism… This is why we profess that there is no salvation outside the Church.”

  3. In 1933 when Card. Eugenio Pacelli, the future Pius XII, was Secretary of State of Pope Pius XI, he met his friend Count Enrico Galeazzi, who became one of his close assistants.

    Once Count Galeazzi went to visit Card. Pacelli to discuss the details of the Count’s next visit to America. On that occasion, the future Pius XII spoke strong words against the progressivist and communist infiltration in the Church with regard to the Fatima message.

    Certainly these words have a great interest in our days, both because they shed light on the Third Secret of Fatima, and because they reveal that the conciliar Popes are fulfilling the same agenda as those enemies of the Church.

    “Suppose, dear friend, that Communism is the most visible among the organs of subversion against the Church and the tradition of Divine Revelation. Thus, we will witness the invasion of everything that is spiritual: philosophy, science, law, teaching, the arts, the media, literature, theater, and religion.

    I am concerned about the confidences of the Virgin to the little Lucia of Fatima. The persistence of the Good Lady in face of the danger that threatens the Church is a divine warning against the suicide that the modification of the Faith, liturgy, theology, and soul of the Church would represent.

    “”I hear around me partisans of novelties who want to demolish the Holy Sanctuary, destroy the universal flame of the Church, reject her adornments, and make her remorseful for her historical past.”” Well, my dear friend, I am convinced that the Church of Peter must affirm her past, or else she will dig her own tomb.

    I will fight this battle with the greatest energy both inside and outside the Church, even if the forces of evil may one day take advantage of my person, actions, or writings, as they try today to deform the History of the Church.

    (Georges Roche & Philippe Saint Germain, Pie XII devant l’Histoire, Paris: Robert Lafont, 1972, p. 52-53).

  4. If as you say (and I agree) “the People of God is simply the Catholic Church”, how can it also be said “the universal [Catholic] Church becomes present in them [true particular Orthodox churches] with all its essential elements(33). They [true particular churches] are therefore constituted “after the model of the universal Church”(34), and each of them is “a portion of the People of God entrusted to a bishop to be guided by him with the assistance of his clergy”(35)? (CDF’s 1992 Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of the Church Understood as Communion)

    It doesn’t seem so “simple”. Please bear with me.

    No. 8 of the same CDF document goes on to say: “The universal Church is therefore the Body of the Churches(36). Hence it is possible to apply the concept of communion in analogous fashion to the union existing among particular Churches, and to see the universal Church as a Communion of Churches.”

    Note (36) is a reference in part to Lumen Gentium 23/b which says “The individual bishops, who are placed in charge of particular churches, exercise their pastoral government over the portion of the People of God committed to their care, and not over other churches nor over the universal Church.”

    So when you say “the People of God is simply the Catholic Church”, the magisterial documents cited above seem to suggest that within true particular Orthodox churches can also be found “a portion of the People of God”, since “the Universal Church”, which is the Catholic Church, “is a Communion of [particular] Churches”.

    So, who are the “People of God”? Thanks in advance for your explanation.

    1. A difficult and insightful set of questions. I would refer you to my article in The Thomist for a more adequate reply. Summarily:
      1. Your first citation (par. 1) is from par. 7 of the CDF. You will see that it is simply a teaching about any particular church that is in full communion with the Church of Rome. Hence, this paragraph itself is not about the Orthodox.

      2. Your next citation, from no. 8 and in your par. 3, is but the beginning of an important set of teachings. The kind of communion indicated in this quote is that of a “federated union”, whereby individuals (in this case particular churches) mutually acknowledge each other: Dallas acknowledges Fort Worth, and each of them their sister church in the Third World, etc. This is a real experience of the “lived life” of the churches. However, it is NOT that precise kind of communion that formally establishes the Universal Church, as the crucial No. 9 indicates.

      3. Your question that emerges from note 36 really depends, as you frame it, on your misreading of par. 7.

      4. No. 13 indicates very importantly that the Papacy is not derived from that union that is federated. The reverse: Federated union depends on the essential unity that constitutes the universal church. Further, that the Papacy is not simply an aid to the federated union among churches (helping London get along with Lisbon) – it is that… – but also an interior element of any particular church fully enjoying that title. Hence, it is not possible that any Orthodox church fully has the elements required of a particular church of the People of God.

      If you read my article, you’ll see there are some important difficulties to be determined. But one thing you’ll see towards the end is my suggestion as to how one might have a twofold “look” at the Church, one on the essential / substantial level, and another on the lived / experiential level / constitutive ingredients level. Depending on one’s look at the Church, one formulates things differently. The most important level is the former, the essential level. Considering the Church on this level: People of God = The Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church (i.e. Rome itself and all the particular churches in full communion with her, precisely as an essentially united and articulated but Singular Body.

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