Friday, February 16, 2007

John Allen talks to the ADL about Jewish Catholic dialogue

This weeks All Things Catholic. I love the way he takes these things beyond their normal frames of references. For instance,
Now, for the bad news.

As I noted above, Southern Catholic leaders often don't feel the same sense of personal moral anguish for the Holocaust as bishops and theologians from the North, especially Europe. It's no accident that the early Catholic heroes of the dialogue were mostly Europeans, such as Cardinal Jan Willebrands of Holland, or Franz König of Austria, or Augustine Bea of Germany. These men witnessed the terrifying failure of millions of Christians to respond to the Holocaust, and so the cry "never again!" resonated with them deeply. Southern Catholics, while certainly not insensitive to the Holocaust, are less likely to accent its singularity, and correspondingly less likely to see Jewish/Catholic reconciliation as a towering pastoral priority. All this is in addition to the fact that across much of the South, Catholics lack personal experience of Jews because Jewish communities are infinitesimally small.

In terms of secular politics, Southern Catholics tend to be skeptical of the West in general, and of the United States in particular. They're often deeply ambivalent about Israel, and that will no doubt be a flash point in the Jewish/Catholic relations of the 21st century. Trends in Europe, including reactions to Islam and fears about national identity related to declining fertility rates and falling populations, are likely to fuel nationalistic and xenophobic movements which are also often anti-Semitic.
And here's an interesting footnote (his phrase)
I had several conversations around the edges of the ADL meeting, and I was struck by the way these people seemed to "get" the Catholic identity movement. When I said that today's desire to accent Catholic distinctiveness is, to some extent, a reaction against secularism, that claim didn't seem to require any gloss.

Only later did it occur to me that nobody needs to explain to Jews what it means to defend one's identity against pressures to assimilate to another worldview. For precisely that reason, Jews invented the "politics of identity." In fact, one could probably describe today's Catholic thrust to reaffirm traditional dress, speech, ritual, and doctrine as the church's own version of "building a fence around the law."

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