'What Our Church Has Inflicted on Judaism'

An Exchange on Catholic-Jewish Dialogue

I recall an evening I once spent in the company of Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, the late archbishop of Paris. A convert from Judaism (he was born Aaron Lustiger), the cardinal took his original faith as seriously as he took his acquired one. That evening, exiting an exhausting discussion with a group of rabbis in New York City, he told me with a sigh that one had half-jokingly expressed the hope that one day he, Lustiger, would re-convert to Judaism. In response I suggested that Lustiger in turn probably hoped they would one day become Christian.

“It’s not the same thing,” the prelate replied. “His was a personal wish for me—not a doctrine inscribed in his religion.”

Like other Commonweal readers, I was absorbed with the excerpt from John Connelly’s From Enemy to Brother: The Revolution in Catholic Teaching on the Jews, 1933–65, published in these pages some months ago (“Nazi Racism and the Church: How Converts Showed the Way to Resist,” February 24, 2012), and I subsequently read the book with admiration. From Enemy to Brother is a fine and critical piece of scholarship. Yet while I agree that astonishment is in order at the blows Nostra Aetate delivered to two millennia of the Catholic “teaching of contempt” for the Jews and Judaism, Connelly himself...

To read the rest of this article please login or become a subscriber.

About the Author

Steven Englund, a longtime Commonweal contributor, is the author of Napoleon: A Political Life (Harvard University Press), which won the American Historical Association’s J. Russell Major Prize. He is currently writing a comparative study of political anti-Semitism in Germany, Austria-Hungary, and France.