Tag Archives: Jews

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.