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Cardinal Blase Cupich Claire Chretien / LifeSiteNews
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Cardinal Cupich: ‘Evangelization’ doesn’t mean converting Jews to Catholicism

Claire Chretien Claire Chretien Follow Claire


GLENCOE, Illinois, March 12, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Quoting Pope Francis, Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich said “proselytism” is a “sin” that the Catholic Church has “not always avoided.”

Cupich said this during a speech on Catholic-Jewish relations at the North Shore Congregation Israel synagogue on January 29, 2018. The synagogue advertises on its website, “We are interfaith. We are LGBTQ.”  

Cupich discussed the Jewish and Catholic importance of maintaining “tradition” while simultaneously criticizing the Church’s previous “ridiculous” tradition of limiting mixed-religion marriages, invoked the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin’s “consistent ethic of life” that equates intrinsic evils with societal ills, and warned against his definition of religious “identity politics.”

He expressed support for Jewish parents passing on the Jewish faith to their children and Catholic parents passing on the Catholic faith to their children.

The cardinal discussed his initiative to “renew the Church” and the “new evangelization,” which he said cannot be taken to mean the dismissal of the Second Vatican Council’s ambiguities on ecumenism. He also apologized to those present for any “distressful and hostile attitudes” or “deception” they may have experienced from Catholics.

READ: Pope: It’s a ‘very grave sin’ for Catholics to try to convert Orthodox

He said the “renewal” of the Church can be done by “returning to roots of traditions” but also condemned the traditional Catholic approach of converting people of other religions to Catholicism.

Discussing the “sin” of “proselytism,” Cupich said:

Sadly, mission efforts by Catholics and some other Christian communities have not always avoided these sins. There have been times when human and financial support have been tied to conversion. Other times, conversion was required through the force of state power or ecclesial power. Still others, and even in our day, deception is found in the presentation of Christianity to others. Often this means presenting only the positive elements of one’s religion in contrast to the weaknesses of the other. Again, we have to admit, frankly, that Catholics have not been free from such attitudes and actions.

In the year 2000, Pope John Paul II acknowledged the errors born of missionary zeal and a false sense of service to the truth. This is what he said: ‘Let us ask pardon for the violence some have used in the service of the truth and for the distressful and hostile attitude sometimes taken towards the followers of other religions. We humbly ask forgiveness for the part which each of us has had in these evils by our own actions, thus helping to disfigure the face of the Church.’ Tonight, if any of you have experienced anything of this nature from Catholics in your own life, I too ask your forgiveness.

“Some people today worry that the new stress on evangelization by the Catholic Church means that we are abandoning our commitments made in Vatican II about ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue and religious freedom,” he continued. “I want to be clear as possible tonight: we will not abandon these commitments, either here in Chicago or throughout the universal church. For abandoning them would mean abandoning who we are, who we claim to be.”

Is Jesus ‘the way, the truth, and the life’?

The Catholic Church teaches that it is the one true religion and Catholicism is the ordinary means of salvation (John 14:6; The Second Vatican Council’s Decree on Ecumenism, Chapter 1, part 23; CCC 846). However, it acknowledges that there can be elements of truth in other religions and such elements are true insofar as they are in line with Catholic teaching. “All these blessings come from Christ and lead to him, and are in themselves calls to ‘Catholic unity,’” the Catechism explains (CCC 819).

This teaching has become largely obfuscated over the past 50 years.

During his lengthy speech, Cupich repeatedly brought up the Vatican II document Nostra Aetate (“In Our Time”), which addressed the Church’s relationship with other religions.

Some interpret Nostra Aetate as inconsistent with or at the very least muddying the Catholic Church’s teaching that it alone is the one true religion.

“I’m pleased that over my 20 years as a bishop, whenever Jewish and other leaders have expressed concern about particular contemporary Church statements or actions, their first question is, ‘is this consistent with the teaching of the Second Vatican Council?’” he said. “You know the Council even better than some Catholics, I think.”

Cupich also quoted documents from the U.S. bishops and high-ranking Vatican prelates that essentially tell Catholics not to try to convert Jews to Catholicism, despite Christ’s command to “go and baptize all nations” and that he is “the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Cupich: ‘No Catholic is free to reject the teaching of Nostra Aetate’

Cupich’s commitment to not “abandoning” the “dialogue” between Jews and Catholics is rooted in Vatican II, he said.

“I make such a commitment knowing that it lies in the heart of the new direction taken by the Second Vatican Council expressed in Nostra Aetate and Dignitatis Humanae,” he said. “Yet the need for continual vigilance is always there. The Church is still receiving this teaching and further expressing it for its depth.”

“It’s important for leaders like me to remind my own community that no Catholic is free to reject the teaching of Nostra Aetate,” continued Cupich. “It is grounded in the Second Vatican Council’s document on the Constitution of the Church, Lumen Gentium. It is not optional. Likewise, it is important for me to remind those I serve that our own understandings of these teachings has further developed over these past 50 years and that, too, has to be observed. Nostra Aetate was not a solitary moment in the Church’s history. It began a process rather than completing one.”

Cupich’s assertion that Nostra Aetate is “not optional” raises the question: does that mean that every previous, clear Church and/or papal statement on Catholicism being the fullness of the truth is optional?

Cupich’s contention that “no Catholic is free to reject the teaching of Nostra Aetate” conflicts with what Secretary of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei Archbishop Guido Pozzo says about the document.

Pozzo, who is overseeing the full reunion of the canonically irregular group the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) with Rome, said:

Nostra Aetate does not have any dogmatic authority, and thus one cannot demand from anyone to recognize this declaration as being dogmatic. This declaration can only be understood in the light of tradition and of the continuous Magisterium. For example, there exists today, unfortunately, the view — contrary to the Catholic Faith — that there is a salvific path independent of Christ and His Church. That has also been officially confirmed last of all by the Congregation for the Faith itself in its declaration, Dominus Iesus. Therefore, any interpretation of Nostra Aetate which goes into this [erroneous] direction is fully unfounded and has to be rejected.

Because of this, according to Pozzo, the SSPX may not have to accept all of Vatican II as a condition of being fully reunited with Rome.

Cupich’s assertion that Nostra Aetate is “not optional” raises the question: does that mean that every previous, clear Church and/or papal statement on Catholicism being the fullness of the truth is optional?

Does God want everyone to be Catholic?

Cupich’s view on inter-religious “dialogue” is not limited to his left-wing episcopate. Even Pope Benedict XVI and Pope St. John Paul II – both of whom he quoted – made ambiguous statements about whether Catholics should try to convert Jews to Catholicism. And Pope Francis has made a number of statements that suggest no one need convert to Catholicism.

Many today suggest trying to convert Jews to Catholicism is “anti-semitic” or trying to convert Muslims to Catholicism is “anti-Muslim.”

If Catholicism isn’t the one true faith, then why bother being Catholic at all, let alone convert others?

However, the Catholics who do try to convert those of other religions, particularly non-Christian ones, maintain that they are following Jesus’ command to “baptize all nations” and spread the Gospel around the world – and that in doing so they are helping others get to heaven. It would be anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim not to try to convert them, they say, because it would not be conducive to their salvation.

Some of the pro-conversion-of-all philosophy also ask, if Catholicism isn’t the one true faith, then why bother being Catholic at all, let alone convert others?

Church documents from before Vatican II, however, clearly express the belief that Catholicism is the one true religion to which everyone should convert. And Vatican II’s Dignitatis Humanae says that what it expressed about religious freedom “leaves untouched traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and societies toward the true religion and toward the one Church of Christ.”

In Pope Pius XI’s Mortalium Animos, the pontiff asked, “Who would dare to say that he loved Christ, unless he worked with all his might to carry out the desires of Him, Who asked His Father that His disciples might be ‘one’”?   

Vatican II’s Dignitatis Humanae says that what it expressed about religious freedom “leaves untouched traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and societies toward the true religion and toward the one Church of Christ.”

The Church’s pre-Vatican II language on other religions is far from “hateful” or “mean,” contrary to contemporary claims. My Catholic Faith, a version of the 1949 Catechism, answers the question, “What should be the attitude of Catholics towards those who do not belong to the True Church?”

“Catholics should observe an attitude of understanding towards them, because the majority of those who do not belong to the True Church are in good faith,” it says. “Catholic teachings are not easy to understand at first sight; many Catholic practices require sacrifice. Towards such a religion there is bound to be prejudice.”

“In our friendly discussions with non-Catholics we should not always be on the defensive, but should try to see whether they can trace the origin of the authority of their ministers to the Apostles,” it instructs.

Cupich’s stunningly true pro-life answer: Baby in the womb is ‘human,’ not ‘aardvark’

Cupich, who has said unemployment is just as bad as abortion, repeated that line of thinking during a question after his talk.

“How do we pursue our common cause with peace and justice” when we disagree on abortion being the killing of a human, a man asked the cardinal.

“I would…go back to something that Cardinal Bernardin talked about and that I’ve tried to build on: this consistent ethic of life and my call for a consistent ethic of solidarity,” answered Cupich. “I think that you cannot be pro-life from the first moment of conception [to] the first moment of birth only. That we’re concerned about the unborn – it’s a concern for us – but our concern doesn’t end there.”

After elaborating more on his beliefs in a “consistent life” life ethic that addresses many societal issues in addition to abortion, Cupich then gave a surprisingly biting defense of the humanity of the preborn child.

“The other thing I would say about the embryo is that it is alive,” he said. “There’s something alive there, isn’t there? And it’s not aardvark. You know, those cells are human DNA. So I think that one really can’t make a case that it’s not alive or that it’s [not] human. So that’s where we come from. That’s why [life] should be respected.”

‘Glad that’s in the rear-view mirror’

Cupich ended his appearance at North Shore Congregation Israel by answering a question about marriages between Catholics and non-Catholics. The Church used to be much stricter about letting Catholics and non-Catholics marry, but has significantly loosened that since Vatican II. However, for a Catholic to marry a non-Catholic in the Church, the couple must promise to raise their kids Catholic. Catholics are not permitted to marry non-Catholics outside of the Catholic Church.

The cardinal said he urges non-Catholic parties in mixed marriages to be “good” Jews, Presbyterians, Muslims, or whatever other religion they might be.

There used to be a “terrible practice of telling people they had to convert to Catholicism” to marry a Catholic, said Cupich, and this was “ridiculous.”

“We’re glad that’s in the rear-view mirror,” he said, but future generations must be made to see it this way as well. “If we don’t remember and tell our kids about the past, they’re going to repeat it.”

The full video of Cupich’s talk is available here.

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