November 2, 2012
WASHINGTON—Jewish and Catholic leaders voiced concern over crimes of
vandalism against religious communities, especially recent attacks on
Christian churches and Muslim mosques in Israel. The need to prosecute
religiously-motivated violence and eliminate the teaching of contempt
for other religions from textbooks and curricula were focal points of
the discussion at the semi-annual consultation of the U.S. Conference of
Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and the National Council of Synagogues (NCS)
at St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore, October 15-16.
The dialogue was
chaired by Rabbi David Straus of the Main Line Reform Temple in
Philadelphia, Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta, and Bishop Denis
Madden, auxiliary bishop of Baltimore and chairman of the USCCB
Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Activities. Speakers
discussed the role of religion in the public square.
Speaking on “A
Jewish Perspective of Religion in the Public Square,” Washington
attorney Nathan Lewin addressed such concerns as the right of an
Orthodox Jew to wear a yarmulke while in military service or that of a
person to display a Menorah or other religious symbol on public
property, as well as the role of religion in education. Lewin voiced
personal opposition to any government attempt to coerce hospitals and
religious institutions to violate their consciences in the pursuit of
federal grants. Stephen Colecchi of USCCB’s Office of International
Justice, Peace and Human Development responded that religion’s role in
society is to form and mobilize public conscience, citing examples of
the key role religion played in battling apartheid in South Africa and
racism in America via non-violent means.
Robert Destro of Columbus
School of Law of The Catholic University of America (CUA) proposed
religious freedom is the cornerstone of human rights and expressed fear
that government intrusion in the form of taxpayer dollars funding birth
control may carry over to issues like assisted-suicide in the future.
Richard Foltin, director of the National and Legislative Affairs of the
American Jewish Committee, responded by drawing a distinction between an
“avowedly secular state” and a “secular state,” praising the separation
of church and state. He voiced opposition to the use of public dollars
for private and parochial schools, warning that people ought not to use
the power of the state to coerce others to their beliefs.
event concluded on a theological note with a group Scripture study
exploring the topic of “covenant” as understood in Jewish and Catholic
traditions, led by Rabbi David Sandmel of the Catholic Theological Union
in Chicago and Robert Miller of CUA.
The consultation between the
USCCB and NCS has occurred since 1977. More information about the
USCCB’s Jewish dialogues is available online at: www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/dialogue-with-others/jewish/.
U.S. bishops, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, National Council of
Synagogues, NCS, Catholic-Jewish dialogue, Secretariat on Ecumenical and
Interreligious Affairs, religion, public square, politics, Archbishop
Wilton Gregory, Bishop Denis Madden, Rabbi David Straus, Stephen
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