'Embers Continue to Smolder'

An Exchange on Catholic-Jewish Dialogue

Steven Englund reminds us that no single event signals the end of a story. The Vatican II document Nostra Aetate seemed to conclude decades of struggle over a new Catholic position on non-Christian religions and on Jews in particular. Yet the story is far from over, Englund warns; indeed, as he demonstrates, anti-Judaism continues a robust life. It was one thing for the church to condemn anti-Semitism in 1965; but it is a very different thing for it to step back and rethink all the writings, prayers, and hymns from many centuries that portrayed Judaism as a dead religion and Jews as a cursed people.

The issue may seem esoteric to Catholics who listen to Scripture readings Sunday after Sunday and may hardly notice any anti-Judaism. To get an inkling of the power of this anti-Judaic legacy, I recommend reading a gospel in one sitting. Or better yet, watch the 2003 film The Gospel of John with a Jewish friend. At times, you will both cringe as Jesus denigrates Jewish authorities and outdoes—indeed, seems to supersede—their teaching.

[See all the essays included in "Getting Past Supersessionism: An Exchange on Catholic-Jewish Dialogue."]

For my part, I sensed the depth of the problem only after chancing to...

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About the Author

John Connelly, author of From Enemy to Brother: The Revolution in Catholic Teaching on the Jews (Harvard), teaches history at the University of California, Berkeley.