'Hebrew Catholics' group scrutinized


FROM THE HUFFINGTON POST. ST. LOUIS - Three years ago, just before Easter, then-Archbishop Raymond Burke attended a Passover seder with about 25 people to commemorate God's liberation of the Hebrew slaves from Egypt.

Guests wore yarmulkes--Burke brought his own fuchsia zucchetto worn by bishops--as a symbol of God's presence, and enjoyed traditional seder fare: matzo, horseradish, apples and wine.

But this was not a traditional Passover seder.

"It was a seder celebrated in the light of Christ," said David Moss, the seder's host and president of the St. Louis-based Association of Hebrew Catholics.

Despite the risk of creating a rift with the local Jewish community, the Archdiocese of St. Louis has given the group its encouragement and support since 2006, when Burke (now a Vatican judge) welcomed it into the archdiocese.

When Moss' organization announced its first national conference scheduled for October in St. Louis, the agenda included Burke and archdiocesan leaders. And that's worries local Jewish groups. Story continues below

After centuries of often contentious relations, in the last 50 years Catholic and Jewish leaders have generally come to an understanding on the idea of Catholics proselytizing Jews: Don't do it.

The biblical command in the Gospel of Matthew to "make disciples of all nations" by baptizing them is at the heart of Christianity, and it can put evangelical-minded Catholics in an awkward position when they approach Jews.

Moss and a church official said the group works with Jewish converts to Catholicism and does not proselytize Jews. But the work of some of the conference's speakers suggests otherwise.

Batya Abramson-Goldstein, executive director of the local Jewish Community Relations Council, said the archdiocese's participation in the conference was "deeply concerning."

"This is not just about proselytization," she said. "It's about these groups, apparently with the support of the archdiocese, redefining how a Jew relates to his or her faith."

In 1985, a U.S. bishops committee dealing with Catholic-Jewish relations said "proselytism, which does not respect human freedom, is carefully to be avoided."

Karen Aroesty, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, said "one of the things that the Jewish community knows, or should know, with confidence is that the Catholic Church does not proselytize, particularly to Jews."


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