Thursday, January 22, 2015

Do Jews go to heaven?


     A college friend was getting married, and arguing with his mother who, as mothers will, was trying to micro-manage the event.
    "You're going to serve shrimp cocktails at the reception of course," his mother said. 
    'But neither of us like shrimp cocktails," he replied.
    "You have to serve shrimp cocktails," she reasoned. "It's a Jewish tradition."
    
    I thought of that exchange—if you missed the humor, shrimp aren't Kosher, thus observant Jews don't eat them—this week, after Monday's column on Pope Francis' remark about how insulting speech should expect a punch. As often happens, the point of the column—why is the pope apologizing for violence?—was ignored by those who preferred to zero in on what they considered a lapse. In looking for an example of how the Catholic Church insults me, I picked the lowest hanging fruit: its belief that Jews go to hell. 
     That drew a fusillade of response.  Based on my replies, you'd think the Roman Catholic Church were some squishy, c'mon-in-everybody faith famed for its acceptance and inclusion, like Unitarianism or Baha'i.
     "Wrong, wrong, wrong!!!" wrote Gloria Callaci. "That's as untrue and inflammatory -- pardon the pun -- as the old claim that Jews like to sacrifice Christian children!" She continues.
     Rather, Jews are considered our elders in the Abrahamic faith which is shared by Jews, Christians and Muslims. Their holy covenant is considered to be valid by the Catholic Church and to be respected by Christians. After all, Jesus lived and died as a Jew; he was never a Christian, let alone a Catholic! We believe that God wants ALL humans, even atheists, to enjoy eternal life with Him, not just Christians. That's the "official line."
     "The Catholic Church does not really teach that Jews wind up in hell," writes Brother Tom Mahoney, at St. Laurence High School. "I would not continue to belong to a church that did." 
    "A practicing  Catholic, and I don't believe all Jews go to hell or only Catholics get to heaven," writes Harry Gortowski.
     They seemed to be basing this on their own experience. They were Catholics, so they knew.
     Those who offered up evidence ended up aiming slightly down and to the left: demonstrating, not what Catholics believe about heaven and hell, but rather that Catholic officialdom has said nice things about Jews over the years.
     "Your comment was that the Church places all Jews in hell just for being a Jew.... that is false," Robert Carroll wrote. "Benedict XVI wrote his book Jesus of Nazareth in conjunction with Rabbi Neusner and this collaboration was based on sincerity and admiration for each other's understanding — this would not have happened if the Pope was saying doctrinally that all Jews are subject to eternal damnation...
     Maybe.
     Some comments were the usual, "Oh-you-hate-us!" swoon. Some demanded an apology. Many were very thoughtful, such as this, from Charles G. Bolser, C.S.V., pastor of St. Viator Parish:
     I just finished reading your recent commentary "Pope stumbles over Hebdo." While I do agree with your premise, I would like to offer one correction - "Where do Jews end up? Hell. Our children? Hell. Damned to eternal torment in a fiery furnace for the unforgivable crime of being ourselves. That isn't a doodle on a magazine, that's the official line, softened with various throat clearings to make it appear less vile, but here nonetheless." I will agree that at one time, that was the official teaching. Jews, Protestants, Muslims, Atheists, etc., etc., were condemned to Hell - for many reasons. However, as most institutions or organizations do over time, they experience new insights and wisdom as they break from the traditions of the past - painfully and slowly, but break nonetheless...  
     My point however, is that the Catholic Church today does not hold, teach, accept or approve of your statement under any circumstance. There are still many "out there" who do, but they are not the church. The Church, as defined once upon a time by a famous Irish writer is "here comes everybody." Like all organizations we live with extremes on both the left and the right with most somewhere in the middle as life continues to evolve and transform the world.     I agree with your comments on tolerance, but would also push it a bit. I would hope that we could all not just accept diversity, but to respect, honor and treasure diversity in all forms. When I look at our universe and our world, in all of its grandeur and beauty, I find that diversity is the key to growth and life, while conformity results in death. This holds true for the physical evolution of life, but also true for the intellectual and spiritual. There is no one religion or belief that says all that can be said as life continues to unfold in mysterious and wonderful ways, but always engaged in a struggle - painful at times, but at other times wonderful to behold in the simple and compassionate works of so many individuals.
        While I could feel the goodwill of writers such as Rev. Bolser, I just didn't buy it. Is he really claiming that, when it comes to getting into heaven—what this is about, remember—the Catholic hierarchy doesn't think that being Catholic is necessary?  Observing the sacraments is not necessary? Just be nice to folk and don't commit crimes and an eternity of sitting cross-legged at the feet of the Jesus you don't believe in awaits you. Is that the official line now?
    And while the honest answer to Rev. Martin Deppe's question—"On what basis can you claim this as the “official line” of any Christian denomination?"—was "intuition," I figured it wouldn't be that hard to find the actual language. 
    And it wasn't.
    As a proud owner of a 17-volume New Catholic Encyclopedia, I'm happy to have any opportunity to use it, and therefore justify the real estate it occupies in my office. The entry on "Heaven (Theology of)" boots Jews out in the opening line: "Heaven is the state of happiness of those who have died in Christ."
     Jews, I shouldn't have to point out, do not believe in Christ (well, not in the divinity of Christ. I believe Jesus existed, and had a lot of interesting things to say, but I can't believe that gets me waved past St. Peter). 
   That is not to say that there are no Catholic teachings that prop the door open for Jews, but those seem to be designed to slip in Moses, Abraham, etc., and if you read them closely the exception is made for those in ancient times who didn't have the opportunity to embrace Jesus Christ, not, as I state in my piece, those like myself and my kids who defiantly remain Jewish despite the chance of salvation dangling before our eyes.
     No being in heaven implies being in hell. Where else is there? I skipped over to "Hell (Theology of)," conveniently in the same volume. It does take a bracingly non-literal view of hell that, I will be honest, was surprising. "Only as a mental abstraction can hell be a thing in itself."
     It too is heavy sledding, but as best I can understand, hell is separation from God, and thus everybody who doesn't believe in Jesus is already in hell. "Hell is not justified in sin alone: behind sin is unbelief...separation from God is the theological idea of hell."
   Of course, it could depend whether they mean separation from Deuteronomy God or Holy Trinity God. In the former, that wouldn't necessarily put Jews in hell, only atheists.
    My Catholic Encyclopedia was published in 1967, and, responsible reporter that I am, I thought to check a more recent text. Maybe gates to heaven were thrown open in more recent years. 
    The Catechism of the Catholic Church: Second Edition, under the Libreria Editrice Vaticana imprint sounds both relatively recent and fairly official, "Revised in accordance with the official Latin text promulgated by Pope John Paul II." 
     What does it have to say? It took a bit of searching; no wonder people prefer to simply imagine to be true whatever most suits their purposes in any given situation. But eventually I found it, line 1034, appropriately enough under "IV. Hell" 
        Jesus often speaks of “Gehenna,” of “the unquenchable fire” reserved for those who to the end of their lives refuse to believe and be converted, where both soul and body can be lost.614 Jesus solemnly proclaims that he “will send his angels, and they will gather... all evil doers, and throw them into the furnace of fire,”615 and that he will pronounce the condemnation: “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire!”616     1035  The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, “eternal fire.”617
      "Refuse to believe and be converted" -- that would be Jews, would it not? 
     Not to belabor the point--though that is a succinct definition of religion if ever I heard one: belaboring the point.
     So I was right. But that is not the end. I learned something from this, beyond validation of my credo that most people who offer corrections are themselves wrong (Several people said, "I was never taught that Jews go to hell." Of course not. They don't have to. It's understood). 

     What I carried away is that the Catholic faithful diverge from the official teaching on a lot more than just contraception. So much so that they don't even know what the official teaching is any more. This is nothing new either. One of the many delights of reading The Divine Comedy to my older son was 31 cantos into the third book, Paradiso, when Dante pauses from staring agog at the glittering roseate heaven, with angels coming and going, like bees, their faces aflame with glory. He points out, almost as an aside, that half of heaven made up of Jews.
    That was the cause of some controversy in the church, and not because Jews were so welcome in heaven. But I loved it, and considered it a reward for sticking through hundreds of pages of recondite Florentine politics and Catholic theology, not to mention all that weeping and fainting and mooning over Beatrice. A tip of the hat from my hero, the way, when I was a boy and my brother and I met pitcher Phil Niekro at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal. We were thrilled when, taking the mound for the Braves, he waved to us, sitting in the boxes. Or so we thought, I'd swear on a stack of Bibles that he waved, and wouldn't want to know the dry truth that he of course didn't see us, he couldn't have, and was merely waving to the crowd that we were part of.
     Sometimes you need to believe, and ignore the facts at hand. Religion, like language, is plastic, it changes over time, and drawing attention to a faith's outdated, ignored precepts can be a kind of bigotry, for which I am sorry, though, in my defense, it was inadvertent. As with every religious issue, there is a harsh way to view it and a humane way. I could say, "These Catholics, they don't even know what their own religion teaches." Or I could say—am saying, because I prefer this view—that change is hard, and takes a long time, and often regular people are far ahead, ethically, of the institutions that are supposedly leading them, but instead are being dragged behind by them.  Inclusion is a very modern idea, but not a purely modern idea. Dante obviously practiced it. And most of my readers who complained were complaining because they consider their faith to be a kind, loving, inclusive religion that welcomes all people into their special paradise. Or at least they want to seem that way, which is a start, and actually a very encouraging thing to report, and I am glad to do so.



50 comments:

  1. This ex-Jew & current & forever atheist is baffled why you believe that Jesus actually existed.
    From what I've read, nothing was written about him until about 100 years after his alleged death.
    All the writings about him are by people who weren't even alive when he supposedly lived.

    In addition, why would this fictional Jesus have condemned Jews to hell, since this person was said to be a Jew himself & never denied that?

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    1. Trying to give them the benefit of the doubt. And people say all sorts of crazy, self-indicting stuff. Why should Jesus by any different?

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    2. The pagans and Jews who attacked Christianity during the early days of Christianity apparently never questioned the existence of Jesus. A number of them did claim that Jesus was a bastard child fathered by a soldier. We also have Paul's comments regarding Jesus and there is general agreement that his letters were written far closer in time to Jesus' day than say the gospels. One can argue about the nature of Jesus or what he really said, but I feel embarrassed for skeptics who say confidently that Jesus never existed.

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    3. Clark St.,

      One can argue endlessly about all this, of course, and I enjoy doing so. One doesn't have to be a Catholic or even a Christian, though, to find the claim that Jesus never existed to be less credible than the alternative. And the "100 years" figure is an exaggeration. "The New Testament has 27 books, written between about 50 and 100 AD..." http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/christianity/texts/bible.shtml

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  2. I am from a Jewish family married to a Catholic. In discussions with my inlaws, I informed them that the doctrine of their church on transsubstantiation--a deemed miracle occurring at every mass, the communion wine and wafer are supposed to literally turn into the actual blood and body of Christ. They instead that this was "silly," they had had communion wafers and wine and they didn't transform into anything. They insisted that was all symbolic. I was able to show them passages from papal encyclicals showing that their opinion was a "heresy" that struck at the heart of what the church believes and stands for and history sowing that a few centuries back< the church subjected people to the tortures of the inquisition for holding such opinions> many Catholics don't know what the church actually believes, and refuses to believe that this is the actual doctrine even when you show them. "That's ridiculous," they typically say. And indeed it is.

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    1. Concerning transubstantiation, I like what the physicist Steven Weinberg said on the subject, a sort of atheist prayer: "We who are not zealots can rejoice that when bread and wine are no longer sacraments they will still be bread and wine."

      Tom Evans

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  3. Neil,

    Thinking on who winds up in Hell and the nature of Hell is no longer a topic on which you can take for granted what Christians believe. You do have the traditionalists who are big on the idea that everyone outside of their group winds up in Hell including those who never had the chance to hear about Jesus such as babies who died in their infancy. And, then, there are the universalists such as C.S. Lewis who thought that all would be reconciled to God. From my perspective, I leave the decision in God's hands. If he needed my advice about who goes to Hell, I'm sure he would have dropped me an email by now.

    One other thing - I had problems with Captcha using Internet Explorer as my browser. The circle would just continue revolving and never resolve into the check mark that I was a real live person. I had to go to Chrome to make my comments. I just mention this in case anyone else is experiencing similar problems.

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  4. As I said, Sir, you were dwelling on 1950's style thoughts. Let's go ask the evangelists/ fundamentalists how they think all are going to hell, mainstream Prots and CAths included, cause we weren't rebaptized as adults.


    As to the Jewish person who married the CAth above, hope your mom didn't disown you. I think some of those matters are symbolic, like trans sub. and how old is that book you were looking at?

    Jesus did exist, it's in historical ancient birth records. Now some say he was just a speaker or prophet and not a Messiah, but he did and some had similar names. The people who wrote about them in the New Test sere certainly alive when he was preaching.

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    1. Do your research first next time, writer. Not just take your preferred , old hat ideas and try to pass them as fact. You obviously look for attention and seem more obsessed with Caths then other Christians. It must be personal.

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    2. Well said, Mr. Graf.

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  5. Like gun rights, it's not really open to discussion. There is no hell, so why worry about what they think?

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    1. Your forget I was making a point. They were saying, "Don't insult us," and I replied, "Why not, you certainly insult me?" That's all. Otherwise, you're right, we're arguing over who doesn't get into an imaginary place.

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    2. Gun rights is indeed open to discussion. The NRA is out of control and gun laws aren't strict enough. The Repubs especially kowtow to gun makers. The 2nd amendmend only speaks of a militia, not person gun rights. Hunting is okay but some of these modern day cowboys think they have to go grocery shopping carrying a gun. In most areas, y ou'd be safe.

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    3. I was talking to a friend the other day. I guess I would say he is a moderate conservative if there is such a thing. I think he would like better gun laws. I mentioned the carry laws. I thought it was amazing that people are carrying guns in to bars and that there is not more gun play. Alcohol and guns would not seem to mix. But yet we haven't heard much of anything about that type of thing. My friend thought that was pretty strange as well.

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    4. Anonymous:
      If you live in Illinois, you're in the state Militia as per the state's 1970 Constitution:
      ARTICLE XII
      MILITIA
      SECTION 1. MEMBERSHIP
      The State militia consists of all able-bodied persons residing in the State
      except those exempted by law.

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    5. I'm speaking of Federal Const. and that supercedes the state one. NAtilonaly supremacy (something southerners never liked)

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    6. Since the US Constitution doesn't define what a militia is, we are all members of it in Illinois!

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    7. guns are great. repeal all gun laws now!

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  6. You buried the lede, my friend. Most of your readers won’t get beyond the paragraphs and paragraphs of research you did to prove you were right and that Jews do officially Go to Hell according to Catholic doctrine, accompanied by the unsubtle subtext that most Catholics are idiots who don’t even know the facts about their own religion. The comments – especially the humble bragging Jew who so kindly explained transubstantiation to his ridiculous Catholic relatives – will feed into the first part of your column and completely ignore these two wonderful nuggets:

    “Religion, like language, is plastic, it changes over time, and drawing attention to a faith's outdated, ignored precepts can be a kind of bigotry, which I am sorry for, though, in my defense, it was inadvertent.”

    “Or I could say—am saying, because I prefer this view—that change is hard, and takes a long time, and often regular people are far ahead, ethically, of the institutions that are supposedly leading them, but instead are being dragged behind by them.”

    See?

    I’m not Catholic. And I REALLY didn’t like that you called Pope Francis a bully. Name calling is never an effective way to build a case, is it? It only gives fodder to the folks who believe the Pope should be judged by his seriously misguided statement regarding Charlie Hebdo and that he was finally “showing his true colors” as one of your readers so kindly wrote. Yes, his response to the tragedy in France was not good. But if you take a look at most of the things he’s said and done in his short time as Pope, he’s not a bad guy. He’s a good guy in a tough spot. He’s trying to make changes in an organization whose official doctrine seriously needs to be more in line with what its followers live every day. Based on his actions, this particular Pope can be counted among the “regular people” who are slightly more enlightened. These enlightened people - you and me included - sometimes make mistakes.

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    1. But you made it to the end. If I put that in the beginning, it would be out of left field. And I didn't call Pope Francis a bully; I said that bullies are quick to complain at a touch. To the degree that this is true for the pope's remarks is his fault, not mine. One of the more disingenuous reactions to criticism is to protest the tag ("He called me a liar!") and overlook the substance (You lied about something.)

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    2. I did make it to the end. Putting it at the beginning may have softened the sections about all the research you did - which, given the space dedicated, just seemed...I dunno...excessive. Like "SEE? I was right!" Followed by "But here's how I really feel..." in one or two very small paragraphs that folks may not notice.

      Here's what you said about Pope Francis:

      "But Pope Francis, on the other hand, is a disappointment. He seemed so promising, out of the gate.
 Though it shouldn't have been a surprise either.
 The biggest bullies cry the loudest when touched."

      Maybe you were referring more to the bullying doctrine of the church he represents than the Pope himself? Is that what I'm missing? Because yes, knowing the church, his comments would be totally expected and not at all surprising. But knowing the man, Pope Francis, I found his comment on Charlie Hebdo to be surprising and completely out of character for him, as a person (not necessarily as a Pope.) Thank you for generating so much conversation on this topic. Good conversation opens minds and breaks down barriers; bad conversation reinforces stereotypes and divides people. There's a little of both here.

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  7. As the survivor of a Catholic grade school education in the 1950s, my most damaging memory is that of the nun telling 12 year old me that it was my obligation to make sure my mother, a Baptist, joined the "one true church ." I realize now that this was just one person talking, but to a kid, this was horrifying.

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    1. Sometimes Baptists are anti Cath. too.

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  8. As an atheist, I see this dispute as sort of a small-bore version of the difference between religious believers--at least, those who believe in hell--and atheists. They think we're all going to hell unless we repent, and we think they devote large chunks of their lives to gibberish. These are fundamentally incompatible world views, and as far as I'm concerned, the best both sides can do is shrug and try to avoid the subject entirely.

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  9. A personal example of how detached most Christians are from the dogmatic foundations of their faith, as a youthful Presbyterian I annoyed my pastor by trying to pin him down on the rationale behind predestination, a staple of Calvin-influenced Protestantism. It's the notion that whether or not you're "saved" is entirely in God's hands and uninfluenced by whether you are being a good or bad boy. It seemed like a goofy idea, and it wasn't until I read Max Weber's "The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism" in college that I understood its history and practical consequences. I doubt if many contemporary church goers ever got that far.

    Also, I like an observation by Allan Bennett, a theology student before he became a comedian and playwright: "The Church of England is so constituted that its members can really believe anything. But of course almost none of them do."

    Tom Evans

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  10. I was checking out the Catechism the other day to see if it refuted your observation, Neil. I didn't think it would, but since it also didn't clearly state "Jews are going to Hell" in a bold declarative sentence, I let it slide. I'm happy to see that you researched it for this excellent post. At a certain point, though, people believe what they want to believe.

    The fact that many Catholics have no idea what they profess to believe is one of the reasons why churches remain as full as they are, which is not nearly as full as they used to be, of course. Transubstantiation is just the tip of the iceberg. If one misses Mass one Sunday, for no good reason, that is still officially a mortal sin. Nobody in a state of mortal sin is supposed to receive communion the next Sunday, or any other, without confessing the sin first. If people followed this rule, I imagine there'd be a significant percentage of folks not going to Communion on any given Sunday. But that's never the case.

    The majority of Catholics in this country support gay marriage. For the Church to change its teaching on this matter would require a complete reevaluation of its doctrine with regard to human sexuality, however. The Pope's "Who am I to judge?" notwithstanding, such an overhaul is not in the offing. So this is, and will remain for the foreseeable future, on the long list of issues with which many, many American Catholics are at odds with the teachings of the Church to which they belong.

    You certainly concluded on a friendly note! Written, evidently, as a Jew who enjoys a nice shrimp cocktail now and then, I suppose. ; )

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    1. How come Neil doesn't get any Rabbis checking to pronounce anathemas on Jews who dare to indulge in shrimp cocktails and cheese burgers?

      John

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    2. good idea, Tate

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  11. Tate--

    How do you know I don't? I once had a rabbi call to chew me out over a story that quoted someone saying that going to a restaurant on Christmas was "a Jewish tradition." He considered that an insult to Jewish tradition. We have to remember, insult, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

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  12. Wait an minute - heaven is 50% Jewish?!? So heaven is like Lincolnwood?

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    1. Yes, but there's far less traffic. :-)

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  13. A final word of solace Neil. Although there are evident discomforts, you might look forward to more entertaining company in Hell.

    Tom Evans

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  14. While I, of course, also the view you present after this sentence, I think this is the heart of the matter.

    "These Catholics, they don't even know what their own religion teaches."

    You had to refer to an obscure text that even most priests have not read to prove your point. If the real-world church was teaching that Jews were going to hell, then some of the Catholics who responded would have been aware that that is the official dogma.

    Dave M.

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  15. You only think it's the heart of the matter because you want to feel like a victim. Sad that you would pluck that sentence out, ignoring that I dismiss it before I write it. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is not "an obscure text." Odd to see the contortions some people will go through rather than think.

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    1. Neil,

      In practice, the catechism for the RCC and comparable documents such as the Westminister Confession of Faith for Protestants are indeed "obscure" texts. We now live, for better or for worse, in a "doctrine - lite" era. For example, I doubt that many Christians can tell you the difference today between transubstantiation and consubstantiation though many died in religious conflicts sparked by these concepts.

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    2. Gonna disagree here, Mr. Graf. The fact that it's little heeded or studied by many doesn't make it obscure. That's like saying the NFL rulebook is obscure. Most fans have neither seen one nor know a lot about what's in it, but it matters a lot to the folks in charge, and it is the final word for settling disputes. For better or worse...

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  16. If any of you are entrepreneurs or tech industry giants, here's my idea that you are free to steal. Given how virtual reality is becoming more of a reality (sorry for the pun), why not eventually create a VR application called Inferno Land. You can select someone whom you REALLY dislike and plop them down into one of Dante's Circles of Hell. For example, Saint Oprah could wind up in the Circle reserved for Deceivers. You can sit back and adjust the tortures by degree and great artificial intelligence delivers on the pain experienced by the simulacrum in the VR setup. I predict that it would be a bestseller. :-)

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  17. It's the opinion of some devout Catholics that "Cafeteria Catholics", a term coined by a CoS blog friend concerning Catholics willing to relax old restrictions, may also go to hell for not following strict Catholic dogma. They're trapped by their ancient and socially irrelevant beliefs, like a Pope who wants to embrace diversity, but falls back to the "punch in the mouth" defense for religions, like his, that can't embrace true change. Pathetic.

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    1. Hi, Wendy! This doesn't affect your point at all, but the term "Cafeteria Catholics" was not coined by your good buddy on CoS, though he certainly had a tendency to exemplify the attitude you refer to. I'm sure that somebody with better search skills than myself could demonstrate that the term has been around for decades. While he is certainly erudite, he occasionally seemed like he might be up for the ole "punch-in-the-mouth defense," as well! ; )

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  18. Hey Neil - My wife and I are Catholic but our kids attend Jewish pre-school. Where does that put us in the afterlife pecking order?

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    1. That doesn't make sense.

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    2. Nice they let the kids in that preschool they let your kids in the preschool even though they weren't Jewish

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  19. You unfortunately are right that the Catechism does not unambiguously state whether Jews, or any other non-Catholics, can go to heaven. However, the mainstream position of the church today is that they can.
    The problem you run into is the teaching that "baptism is necessary for salvation." That teaching is still officially held. However, to say it in those words would be very misleading, as two millennia of theology have arrived at an understanding of "baptism" in this specific context that is unrecognizable from the sense of the common use of the word.
    Problems with the requirement of baptism began during Roman persecution, when some of the people executed for being Christian were studying for baptism, but had not actually been baptized. The question emerged for theologians of the time: were these people damned because the authorities had gotten to them before they could be baptized? The answer, universally, was no; that, in fact, they received a "baptism of blood" by their martyrdom and gained immediate access to heaven, no purgatory required.[1]
    This exception invited a second sort of case: that of people who, though not martyred, nonetheless dies before being able to receive a baptism they desired. This was the case with Emperor Valentinianus II, who requested that St. Ambrose come to baptize him, but was murdered before Ambrose arrived. St. Ambrose preached in his eulogy for Valentinianus that his desire had the effect of baptism in obtaining salvation for him.
    Subsequent theologians have expanded upon these teachings to establish a much broader view of salvation. The Jesuit theologian Karl Rahner articulated what is known as the "Anonymous Christian" theory, which was to have a profound impact on Vatican II. He argued, in essence, that salvation is possible for those who don't know or even reject Christianity can be saved by following their consciences (the "anonymous" part is that their salvation is through Christ, even though they don't realize it).[3] The theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar, who was named a cardinal by John Paul II shortly before he died, went even further, arguing in his book "Dare We Hope 'That All Men Be Saved'?" that it is possible that no one will actually end up in hell.[4]

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  20. Subsequent theologians have expanded upon these teachings to establish a much broader view of salvation. The Jesuit theologian Karl Rahner articulated what is known as the "Anonymous Christian" theory, which was to have a profound impact on Vatican II. He argued, in essence, that salvation is possible for those who don't know or even reject Christianity can be saved by following their consciences (the "anonymous" part is that their salvation is through Christ, even though they don't realize it).[3] The theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar, who was named a cardinal by John Paul II shortly before he died, went even further, arguing in his book "Dare We Hope 'That All Men Be Saved'?" that it is possible that no one will actually end up in hell.[4]
    I know that (justifiably!) you are looking for the official stance of the church, not the opinions of individual Catholics. That is most clearly stated in two documents of Vatican II: the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, "Lumen Gentium,"[5] and, even more so, the Declaration on the Relation of the Church with Non-Christian Religions, "Nostra Aetate."[6] Both documents, as products of an ecumenical council, are regarded as infallible; they also both outline a view substantially like that of Karl Rahner. Nostra Aetate teaches that "God holds the Jews most dear for the sake of their Fathers; He does not repent of the gifts He makes or of the calls He issues-such is the witness of the Apostle." Of non-Christian religions in general, it states "The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men."
    Lumen Gentium is even more explicit, stating, "Finally, those who have not yet received the Gospel are related in various ways to the people of God. In the first place we must recall the people to whom the testament and the promises were given and from whom Christ was born according to the flesh. On account of their fathers this people remains most dear to God, for God does not repent of the gifts He makes nor of the calls He issues. But the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator … Nor is God far distant from those who in shadows and images seek the unknown God, for it is He who gives to all men life and breath and all things,and as Saviour wills that all men be saved.Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience. Nor does Divine Providence deny the helps necessary for salvation to those who, without blame on their part, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God and with His grace strive to live a good life." In "On Heaven and Earth," the book which Pope Francis co-wrote with Rabbi Abraham Skorka, the Pope quotes both documents favorably.
    There are certainly some Catholics who still would deny heaven to any but themselves, and you are right to point out the complexity of the relationship between various church teachings and individual beliefs. However, it is neither a mainstream nor an official position of the Catholic church that non-Christians necessarily go to hell, and Jews in fact have an especially favored position. I really appreciated the other things you had to say about tolerance, but this position is simply not up-to-date.

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    1. My footnotes didn't seem to go through due to the character limit on comments. Here they are again:
      --------
      References:
      [1]http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/dictionary/index.cfm?id=32084
      [2]http://www.documentacatholicaomnia.eu/02m/0339-0397,_Ambrosius,_De_Obitu_Valentiniani_Consolatio,_MLT.pdf
      [3]http://www.iccj.org/fileadmin/ICCJ/pdf-Dateien/Morrow.PDF
      [4]http://www.catholicworldreport.com/Item/2735/did_hans_urs_von_balthasar_teach_that_everyone_will_certainly_be_saved.aspx
      [5]http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19641121_lumen-gentium_en.html
      [6]http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_decl_19651028_nostra-aetate_en.html

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  21. Perhaps you should have read the King James bible that many Prots use. It will say the same thing-so not just a Catholic matter.

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  22. A prof. I had for grad school in the mid 80's at UIC , for an urban history class, said in some NY neighborhoods-Jewish and Italian immigrants got along better than / jews did with polish / german or Irish immigrants. THis is talking about the late 1800's early 1900s period. Forgot to ask why. Maybe it was the lighter against darker complexion? who knows

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  23. Neil, please tell me that you seriously don't believe in any of the fairy tales of monotheism...how can anyone? The antidote to not letting go of your faith (if one can even call it that) is simply to do more reading.

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    1. Of course not. This isn't about what I believe. It's about what others believe, though at times I can hardly believe they believe it. If that isn't confusing.

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  24. A quote I saw which makes sense-

    women should have also marched for Chicago. Better yet, they should have went to Chicago to feed the hungry, clothe the poor...

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Thanks for commenting. As soon as I vet your remarks, they'll be posted, assuming they aren't, you know, mean and crazy.