Help Needed, Anyone Know About this Reflections Document of the Church Concerning Evangelizing Jews


Apparently Hubby came home from RCIA last night very disturbed. I guess the week before a discussion of Jews and Salvation came up. Sorry hit the submit button by accident before I was done.
Anyway the person doing RCIA last night directed him to read this article.Something called Reflections on Covenant and Mission an Article by US Bishops on not evangelizing Jewish People


This my husband came home and read and was very disturbed and feels that what is proposed in this article is borderline heresy and certainly doesn’t agree with it. (remember I mentioned before we/ but especially my hubby is coming from a very Fundamentalist Baptist background.)

I didn’t have a chance to read the article thouroughly yet but I told hubby to remember that it looks like it was just a disscussion of American Bishops and isn’t neccessarily what the whole Church teaches or believes. (however I don’t know this for a fact because i haven’t researched this issue yet). This would be a stumbling block for him entering the Church. (and see I thought it was going to be the Marian doctrines- He’s fine with that mostly lol) Anyway any help or insights greatly needed. Thanks in advance Deana


Related documents
Nostra Aetate

Reflections on Covenant and Mission

(This is the original article link) I think the link I posted in the above post goes to an article called Reflections on Reflections.

I guess my essential question is, From a Catholic viewpoint what is the official Stance of the Church as opposed to just liberal opinion of a few. Is Nostra Aetate the official teaching now? Is this Reflection article just a liberal interpretation?

Is this what Traditionalists mean when they say they have issues with vatican II Ecumenisism (sp)?

Invincible ignorance my husband has no problem with. The statement in the Catechism that some can make it to Heaven because they recognize a God and by nature are doing the things of God but may have never heard the Gospel, he has no problem with.

The idea that those of other religions getting to heaven even though they know but reject Who Jesus Christ is, that he has a problem with and actually so do I. Jesus is the way the truth and the life. no one comes to the father except through me. (my paraphrase hope it’s close)


Noticed another mistake
The link I posted to the article Reflecting on the Reflections
in the first post is wrong it should be:

Reflecting on the Reflections
Philip A. Cunningham
Panel Discussion Sponsored by Boston College’s Center for Christian-Jewish Learning and Theology Department:
"Should Catholics Seek to Convert Jews (If Jews Are in True Covenant with God)?"
February 9, 2005


I didn’t have time to read through all the articles you provided links to (though I am familiar with Nostra Aetate). First, a few general comments.

Nostra Aetate is a document from Vatican Council II, one of the Church’s ecumenical councils.

Reflections on Covenant and Mission is a joint statement by the National Council of Synagogues and the Bishops Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs (which is but one of many subcommittees in the US Bishop’s office).

If they disagree with each other, I would trust the former over the latter.

The whole purpose of Reflections is to seek to find common ground with the Jewish people and foster positive relations. It is not meant as a doctrinal pronouncement. I didn’t read the whole thing, but I came upon this quote in that document:

The Catholic Church must always evangelize and will always witness to its faith in the presence of God’s kingdom in Jesus Christ to Jews and to all other people.

That doesn’t sound like a call to stop evangelizing Jews to me. If you look at the Catechism (CCC 839-856) you will see that we are called to be respectful of other religions and to uphold whatever is true in them, but this does not eliminate our missionary mandate.

Was the comment that we are not to evangelize Jews something that was in the document itself, or is it just what the RCIA teacher told him? Or was it in the Reflection on Reflections? I did not read the Reflection on Reflections, but that does not carry any weight, even compared to Reflections. It was written by Philip A. Cunningham, a professor of Theology at Boston College. That fact right there sends up red flags for me. Many members of their faculty have openly dissented from the Church’s teaching on a variety of issues. I would exercise extreme caution in looking at any of their writings (and would recommend against it if you are just in the beginning stages of your Catholic formation).

Does this clear anything up? If there are any particular passages from the document that are troubling you or your husband, please share so that I (and others) can comment on those particular points.

God bless!


You are correct in surmising that this document does not reflect the official teaching of the Church. Even though the panel that put it together was comissioned by the US bishops, it was immediately recognized as greatly flawed as a stand alone document, and in any case was never officially endorsed or adopted by the bishops (a similar thing happened with a document on homosexuality, “Always Our Children”).

Press Release from the USCCB Office of Communications, August 16, 2002

“Reflections” Represent Present State of Dialogue, Cardinal Says

WASHINGTON - Cardinal William H. Keeler of Baltimore said today that a document made public August 12 represents the state of thought among the participants of a dialogue that has been going on for a number of years between the U.S. Catholic Church and the Jewish community in this country.

Cardinal Keeler, the U.S. Bishops’ Moderator for Catholic-Jewish relations, said that the document, entitled Reflections on Covenant and Mission, does not represent a formal position taken by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) or the Bishops’ Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs (BCEIA). The purpose of publicly issuing the considerations which it contains is to encourage serious reflection on these matters by Jews and Catholics in the U.S.

These considerations provide a basis for discussing both the similarities and the significant differences between the Christian and Jewish understandings of the call given by the one God to both peoples.

Cardinal Keeler said that, within the Catholic community, there has been a growing respect for the Jewish tradition and the lasting covenant which God made with them. Judaism is “already a response to God’s revelation in the Old Covenant” (Catechism of the Catholic Church #839), a response to God’s grace that requires religious freedom and respect for the faith relationship between God and the human person. This same respect for the freedom of faith requires us to be open at the same time to the action of God’s grace to bring any person to accept what Catholic belief understands as the fullness of the means of salvation which are found in the Church.

Participants in the ongoing consultation are delegates of the BCEIA of the USCCB and the National Council of Synagogues (NCS) which represents the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Rabbinical Assembly of Conservative Judaism, the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.

The Reflections derive from a meeting which the BCEIA-NCS Consultation held in New York last March

However, that has not stopped certain groups from distributing documents like this to the unsuspecting as if it were official Church teaching. It certainly isn’t somethingthat should be passed out at RCIA where people may be less able to see it in the context of a “working discussion” document.

Here is a reply to a question about this from This Rock magazine:

Q: God promised the Jews that they would attain heaven if they kept their covenant (the Old Covenant) with him. Since God doesn’t break his promises, doesn’t this mean Jews don’t have to follow Jesus, who brought the New Covenant?

A: This is the apparent confusion at the heart of the recent “Reflections on Covenant and Mission” issued by a U.S. bishops’ subcommittee that generated so much attention last year. To begin with, the Old Covenant is no longer in effect—Christ has fulfilled it (Col. 2:14–17). It never had any ability to save apart from Christ (Heb. 10:1–10). It was always anticipated that salvation would come through the Messiah (Gal. 3:8, 16). Since the Old Covenant never justified anyone (Gal. 3:11), attempts by Jews to be put right with God only by keeping the Old Covenant would not bear fruit (Gal. 3:10).

It was always expected as part of the Old Covenant that the Jewish people were obliged to accept the Messiah when he came (Deut. 18:15). Deliberate failure to do so would be spurning the Son of God—a mortal sin. Jesus told his Jewish audience, “I told you that you would die in your sins . . . unless you believe that I am he” (John 8:24).

A Jew may be innocently ignorant of the fact that Jesus is the Messiah and thus not be held accountable. Such a person may be saved provided he is otherwise in good conscience seeking to follow God. But he would be saved on the basis of Christ, not of the Old Covenant. Remember, Jesus also said, “I am the way and the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but by me” (John 14:6).

Here are some other Catholic Answers articles you and your husband may find helpful:

It may also be helpful to you to read two other Church documents on this subject:




Thanks for your reply I haven’t read through all the stuff yet either. Hubby came home about 9:30 last night after RCIA and we talked briefly then he went to the computer and we talked briefly this morning, So I don’t know what are all the real issues or concerns yet and I haven’t investigated it myself. He doesn’t really understand the difference between Official Church teaching and what he has to believe as a Catholic and what is not binding and just opinions of those albeit maybe some high up Bishops. I think he lumps all teaching in the same category at this point. so if i can say it is just some Bishops opinion and not binding or that is is some Bishops liberal spin on Nostra Aetate that will suffice.

I do get the impression that the RCIA group (And he knows it is run by lay people and the Deacon isn’t always right there to handle misconceptions) that the group is of the more liberal persuasion that the path to salvation is wider than it actually may be if you catch my drift.

We/hubby are coming from a more conservative background and  believe the path might be narrower than they are suggesting. But again it is what is the official stance and beliefs that we are bound to believe as Catholics is the important  issue. 

Hopefully that made some sense. Sincerely Deana


Actually, it may not necessarily reflect the opinion of even any of the bishops. There are many people that work for the USCCB that are not bishops, but are priests, religious and lay people who have been hired to assist the bishops. Each bishop has his own diocese to worry about, so many times these types of documents are drafted by these non-bishop USCCB employees. Ultimately, the bishops have to at least sign off on the work, which, in this case, it seems they have not even done that.

Fidelis, great background info! Thanks for that. I answered the best I could, but I wasn’t familiar with all that you have said! :thumbsup:


Hi Guys Thanks so much. I shared your replies with Hubby at lunch. He came home for lunch before going back to work. He said he was impressed and I think relieved to know it was not the official position/teaching of the Church and that many Catholics hold the same reservations about the article he had. :slight_smile: And thanks for posting links to the other articles i am reading them now and I am sure hubby will by tonight because that is how he is.

Thanks again Deana


Hi Deana,

As others have told you this document was produced by some people in the USCCB but was not ratified by the commission. I went to the USCCB website and found the name of the document *Reflections on Covenant and Mission *but there was no copy of the document to read so I guess that means that the bishops don’t think that the document represents authentic Church teaching. Perhaps the people conducting RCIA aren’t familiar with current Church teaching. Stick with the papal encyclicals and the Catechism of the Church or the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and you can’t go wrong. These are all available online.


Dear Catholic friends:

First, let me put your minds at ease. I do not require “salvation” as man is not born in sin, original or otherwise, but with a wonderful capacity for great good and the freedom of choice.

I also do not require to be saved from “Hell” as the Catholic concept of “Hell” does not exist.

I am not “blind” “stupid” “obstinate” or “cursed”. I assure you that I and my fellow coreligionists are perfectly cognizant of our beliefs and why we do not accept yours. In fact. just between you and me, Jews aren’t exactly the least intelligent or least talented of people.

Over three thousand years ago God made a covenant with the Jewish people. In a world where people could only concieve of their God in human form or in stone, the Jews were able to intellectually grasp the concept of God as invisible and unique. The ancient Egyptians and the ancient Babylonians the ancient Greeks and the ancient Romans all had their stories of a god with a devine father and a human virgin mother who comes down to earth, performs miracles, sacrifices himself for mankind and is ressurected. The Jews had their God and it didn’t matter if you the others called their’s the god of the sun or the son of god. It didn’t matter to the Jews if the statue was of Augustus or of Mithras or Yehoshua bar Yosef. The God of the Jews could not not be represented as a statue and they would not place a statue in their houses of worship and kneel before it. Human beings are not God and God does not take the form of human beings. God is surreal, a bush that burns but is not consumed, an etheral light on the top of the mountain. Moses’ final resting place is unknown lest he be venerated as more than human. Jewish leaders are all potrayed in the Tanach as the imperfect non devine human beings they were. If Yehoshua bar Yosef was God than there was no convenant for the concept of the Jewish God cannot coexist with the concept of a devine human being.

However the concept of God was not the covenant, the covenant was Torah - the law- given by God to the Jews at Mt. Sinai. Laws of course had existed before, but never like this. The Law had been given the imprint of God,a religion now dealt not only with man’s relationship to God but with man’s relationship to other human beings. In a world of simplistic dogmatic religions the Jews had created a religion of intellect and legal reasoning and concepts of justice. In a world of almost universal illiteracy the Jews had created a religion requiring that every father and every son could read and write to learn the law, a religion for a people with the ability to grasp the nuances of thou shalt not kill with legal exemption of criminal and civil liability for the unexpected goring of your neighbour by your ox. If Yehoshua bar Yehoshua was God than their was no covenant and no Torah for Catholicism, seeking universality among the universally illiterate pagans, abandoned the law.

Now of course your free to believe what ever you desire. Judaism teaches that it is easier for the gentile to reach the world to come than for the Jew as the gentile has only to follow the seven Noahide commandments. Nontheless, when Catholics try to convert a Jew they are not only attempting to break the three thousand year old covenant of the Jews with God. They are calling disdain on Jews and Judaism. They are declaring that to be a Jew is to be something less than desired, something damaged needing to be fixed. Religious justification and good intentions do not make up for this. On the contraty. history has shown that too often such disdain has led to anti Jewish persecutions.



Shalom Elechim!
That has to be one of the best posts I’ve seen on here in a long time.

Thank you for responding with such candor (and a sense of humor).


For those who may not know what CP is referring to, I have this from [/size][/FONT] Jewish Virtual Library

Noachide Covenant
(Heb. Sheva mitzvot b’nai Noach) The covenant God made with Noah and his sons, that is, with all the people that survived the flood (Gen. 9:8-17). In rabbinic literature it is interpreted as seven commandments that God gave the whole of humanity. The most widely accepted version of the commandments includes the following: to abstain from 1) idolatry (also from polytheism = worshipping multiple gods); 2) murder; 3) sexual immorality, especially adultery and incest; 4) blasphemy; 5) robbery; 6) brutality against animals; and 7) to establish courts of justice (the only positive commandment). Non-Jews who keep these laws will, according to rabbinic teaching, have part in the world to come. These laws obviously played a role in the considerations of the council in Jerusalem (Acts 15), where the Jewish apostles decided, not to expect gentile followers of Jesus (Christians) to keep the full extent of the Torah.


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