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...
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.