IgnatiusInsight.com: As a convert from Judaism, what do
you think are the major misconceptions that many Jews have about the Catholic
Church? As a Catholic, what are the misconceptions that many Catholics
have about Judaism and the Jewish people?
Roy H. Schoeman: Prior to my conversion, the central misconceptions
I held about the Catholic Church was, of course, that it was in fundamental
theological error, a misguided, naïve illegitimate offshoot of the
true Judaism. I saw Catholics as misguided followers of a false Messiah
engaging in a host of childish and superstitious practices.
I also had the mistaken belief that the Catholic Faith was "anti-Semitic"
and denigrated Jews and Judaism. Nothing could be further from the truth.
What greater honor could be accorded Judaism than to say that it is the
religion of God Himself, and when God became Man, He became a Jew? What
greater honor could be accorded to the Jewish race than to say that they
alone, among all the peoples of the earth, are related by blood to the
incarnate God? Or that it was from their race that came the only perfect
human creature, the Blessed Virgin Mary? Even as the most fervent, enthusiastic
Jew, I never could have ascribed a glory to Judaism comparable to that
assigned it by the Catholic Faith.
The greatest misconception that Catholics hold about Jews is the terrible,
pernicious one that somehow Jews dont need Jesus! It is natural
that Jews should hold this view to them Jesus was, after all, a
false Messiah who indirectly caused incalculable disaster to befall Jews
but it is tragic that, in the interest of "dialogue"
and a false ecumenism, this view is sometimes voiced even by Catholics,
and even by Catholics who believe that they are representing the Church.
This was one of my primary motivations for writing the book. No one can
know as well as a Jew who has entered the Church how deeply Jews need
Jesus and the sacraments to satisfy the archetypical "Jewish"
thirst for God. This is what lies behind the fervor of most Jewish "converts"
to bring as many of their fellow Jews as possible to their fulfillment
as Jews by entering the Church. It is no coincidence that just days after
he prayed to a God in whom he did not believe for help in "improving
the lot of the Jews", the Jewish agnostic Alphonse Ratisbonne received
an apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary which resulted in his conversion,
his becoming a priest, and his founding a religious order to pray for
the conversion of the Jews.
Which brings me to the greatest single misconception that Jews have about
the Church, that it is anti-Semitic. It is ironic that Jews make this
accusation about the centuries when the Church actively evangelized the
Jews, which they see as having been an "attack" on the Jews
by the Church. In reality such evangelization is the greatest act of charity,
of brotherly love, conceivable. On the other hand, Jews tend to think
that today, in having abandoned its "mission to the Jews", the
Church has finally ended its reign of anti-Semitism. In fact the exact
opposite is true. What could be more anti-Semitic than refusing to share
the Gospel, the Good News, the joy and fulfillment and salvation brought
by the Jewish Messiah with the Jews themselves, through whom He first
Of course conversion must be left to the conscience of the individual,
and his relationship with God should be respected whatever framework it
is in, but the fullness of the Truth and the ultimate relationship with
God is only found in the Catholic Church. How can Catholics refuse to
even try to bring this treasure to the Jews? After all, it was to the
Jews that Jesus first came, born a Jew to be the promised Jewish Messiah
and to bring redemption to all mankind, but to the "Jew first and
also the Greek" (Rom 1:16, 2:9, 2:10).
Avoiding sharing the Gospel with Jews is one of the greatest possible
disservices to Jesus, who wept over the failure of His own to recognize
Him (Luke 13, Matthew 23), as well as one of the greatest possible acts
of "anti-Semitism" to the Jew, depriving him of his "own"
God, of the blessings and promises which were made first to the Jews and
only after were bestowed on the rest of humanity.
IgnatiusInsight.com: The second chapter is titled, "How
Well Did the Jews Do?" What is the focus of that question and what
is the short answer?
Schoeman: It is facile to think that because so few Jews followed
Jesus, they failed in the mission for which they were chosen, that is,
to bring the Messiah, salvation, to all mankind. But even to pose the
issue this way is to see how false this conclusion must be. For obviously,
the Jews did bring the Messiah to all mankind. Christianity has spread
throughout the world, and so the Jews must have fundamentally succeeded
in their assigned task.
They or at least some of them were faithful servants of God praying
for the Messiah before He came, faithful disciples of His during His life,
and effective apostles of His after His death, spreading the knowledge
of Him throughout the world. All these tasks were assigned to Jews, and
all of them were fulfilled successfully, or else the Church could not
have spread throughout the world. Of course this was the work of a relatively
small percentage of Jews, a "faithful remnant", but that is
the way God always works with mankind. The pattern is repeated time after
time. In Old Testament times, one can think of Noah, of how his virtue
resulted in the human race surviving the flood, of Sodom and Gemorrah
and how God was willing to spare them if only ten virtuous men could be
found, of how for the sake of Moses God spared the entire Jewish race
during the Exodus.
On and on and on, even to recent times, when during the 1930s Jesus
told St. Faustina that it was for her sake that He would withhold the
worst of His wrath, not only on Poland but on the whole earth. Thus it
is always a very small percentage a "Faithful remnant"
whether of Jews or of Catholics, who are truly pleasing to God
and bring down blessings -- who "carry the load" if you will
-- for the rest. This theme is developed quite fully in the book.
IgnatiusInsight.com: How has Judaism changed over the centuries,
especially since the first century A.D.? What is the present state of
Schoeman: In the book I detail three major shifts in Jewish theology
over the past two thousand years.
The first was the one necessitated by the destruction of the Temple in
Jerusalem in A.D. 70. The entire sacramental system of Judaism as laid
out in the Old Testament was dependent on animal sacrifices that required
the existence of the Temple in Jerusalem. When the Temple was destroyed
in A.D. 70 such sacrifices were no longer possible, and so the Jews were
left with no way to purify themselves or atone for sins. Thus the entire
system "broke down". In response to this crisis, the leading
Rabbis convened in nearby Jamnia and redefined the sacramental system
of Judaism, replacing the role of animal sacrifice with good works, prayer,
fasting, almsgiving, etc. This revision of Judaism is known as "Rabbinic
Judaism" as opposed to the former "Temple Judaism", and
serves as the foundation for the Judaism that still exists today.
The second major shift in Judaism occurred in part in response the threat
of Jewish conversion to Christianity, and in part simply as a result of
the "Enlightenment" with its the replacement of a theocentric
world view with a more materialistic one. That was the negation of the
expectation of a personal Messiah that had always previously been at the
very center of Judaism. Today, a minority of Jews still believe in the
coming of the Messiah, yet this is in direct contradiction to all that
Judaism had formerly held. For instance, the greatest of Jewish Rabbinical
authorities of the Middle Ages, Maimonides, taught that almost the only
thing a Jew could do which would sever him from the Jewish community,
and forfeit his share in the world to come, was to not believe in the
coming of the Messiah.
Finally, and perhaps most tragically, partly as a result of the Holocaust
and partly as a result of the further influence of modernism, many Jews
no longer even believe in an all-good, all-powerful, all-knowing God active
in human affairs. As one prominent contemporary Jewish theologian put
it, traditional views of God the Redeemer must be abandoned "in the
presence of burning children". Thus Judaism, which introduced to
all of mankind the knowledge of the all-good and all-powerful loving God
has come full circle, at least in its more modern manifestations. The
more orthodox "denominations", which comprise only a few percent
of todays Jews, have done a better job of maintaining the historic
IgnatiusInsight.com: Catholic-Jewish relations have had a high
profile in recent years. What have been some of the positives of discussions
between Catholics and Jews on an official (or semi-official) level? What
negatives, if any, have resulted?
Schoeman: Probably the greatest good that has resulted is the diminution
of some negative stereotypes held by some on both sides, and the recognition
of the goodwill, earnestness, and love of God shared by genuinely religious
Jews and genuinely religious Catholics. There has also been a gratifying
increase in the appreciation Catholics have for Judaism and the Hebrew
scriptures. The Jewish side has come to understand that, rather than having
contempt for Judaism, genuine Catholicism holds it in the highest regard
as the religion and people into which God incarnated. I think it was St.
Ignatius who said that he would consider it the highest honor if found
he had Jewish blood in him, thus being related by the flesh to God made
There has been, however, also a very notable downside. Both sides have
an interest in establishing ground rules that enable the dialog to move
forward in an atmosphere that minimizes tension and conflict. One of those
rules seems to have been an initial understanding that there would be
no attempt on the Catholic side to evangelize the Jews. This "understanding"
seems to have evolved into the theology that the Catholic Church now understands
that such evangelization is inappropriate -- that Jews have their own
way to God, the Old Covenant, and the Catholics theirs, the New.
This "dual covenant" theology seems to have been adopted to
avoid the intrinsic, basic conflict at the heart of the Jewish-Catholic
dialog. That is that either the Catholic Church is itself the continuation
of Judaism after the coming of the Jewish Messiah i.e., the Church
is post-Messianic Judaism or it is nothing at all. After all, according
to the Catholic Faith, Jesus was the Jewish Messiah. Jesus was the point
of Judaism, the fulfillment of all its hopes, for which the Jews had prayed
for millennia. When He came, He came to the Jews as a Jew, to bring the
Jews themselves first into the new relationship between God and Man that
we know as the Catholic Church. A Jew who does not recognize this is fundamentally
missing the central point of his own religion, however beautiful the accoutrements
Naturally, such a view openly expressed would immediately torpedo the
goodwill and collegiality of the dialog group, yet without it there is
not much Catholic Faith left. So the hard Truth must be replaced either
by meaningless verbal meanderings, or outright heresy such as the "dual
covenant" theory. Such a theory poses no threat to the Jews, since
according to it Jesus came only for the Gentiles, not for the Jews, and
never intended for the Jews to convert. This preserves the convivial atmosphere
and enables the meetings to continue year after year, but at the cost
of negating the Faith. It was just such heresies taking root in ecumenical
circles that necessitated the basic restatement of the Faith in "Dominus
Iesus", and the firestorm that that document produced in Catholic-Jewish
dialog circles is evidence of how sorely it was needed.
(Read Part Two
of this exclusive interview with Roy H. Schoeman.)
author, Roy H. Schoeman, was born in a suburb of New York
City of Conservative" Jewish parents who had fled Nazi
Germany. His Jewish education and formation was received under some
of the most prominent Rabbis in contemporary American Jewry, including
Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg, probably the foremost Conservative Rabbi in the
U.S. and his hometown Rabbi growing up; Rabbi Arthur Green, later
the head of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College who was his religion
teacher and mentor during high school and early college; and Rabbi
Shlomo Carlebach, a prominent Hasidic Rabbi with whom he lived in
Israel for several months.
His secular education included a B.Sc. from M.I.T. and an M.B.A. magna
cum laude from Harvard Business School. Midway through a career of teaching
and consulting (he had been appointed to the faculty of the Harvard Business
School) he experienced an unexpected and instantaneous conversion to Christianity
which led to a dramatic refocus of his activities. Since then he
has pursued theological studies at several seminaries, helped produce
and host a Catholic Television talk show, and edited and written
for several Catholic books and reviews. This is his first full-length
Visit Roy's website, which contains much more information about Salvation
is from the Jews, at www.salvationisfromthejews.com.
is from the Jews:
The Role of Judaism in Salvation History from Abraham to the Second Coming
Author: Roy H. Schoeman
Length: 395 pages
Your Price: $16.95
Salvation is From the Jews traces the role of Judaism and the Jewish
people in Gods plan for the salvation of mankind, from Abraham through
the Second Coming, as revealed by the Catholic faith and by a thoughtful
examination of history. It will give Christians a deeper understanding of
Judaism, both as a religion in itself and as a central component of Christian
To Jews it reveals the incomprehensible importance, nobility and glory that
Judaism most truly has. It examines the unique and central role Judaism
plays in the destiny of the world. It documents that throughout history
attacks on Jews and Judaism have been rooted not in Christianity, but in
the most anti-Christian of forces.
Areas addressed include: the Messianic prophecies in Jewish scripture; the
anti-Christian roots of Nazi anti-Semitism; the links between Nazism and
Arab anti-Semitism; the theological insights of major Jewish converts; and
the role of the Jews in the Second Coming.
Perplexed by controversies new and old about the destiny
of the Jewish people? Read this book by a Jew who became a Catholic for
a well-written, provocative, ground-breaking account. Some of the answers
most have never heard before.
Ronda Chervin, Ph.D., Hebrew-Catholic