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( Cleveland Jewish News )
The Catholic-Jewish Colloquium tackles issue of fundamentalism.
Fundamentalism is flourishing in the 1990s for several reasons: economic booms and busts in a global economy which seems out of control; American dissatisfaction with our government; and the apocalyptic factor as we stand on the threshold of a new century and a new millenium.
That was the observation of the Rev. Thomas O'Meara, professor of theology at Notre Dame University, keynote speaker at the ninth annual Catholic-Jewish Colloquium sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League and the Cleveland Catholic Diocese. A response to his remarks was given by Dr. Ronald A. Brauner, professor of Judaic studies at the Cleveland College of Jewish Studies.
There is a difference between Protestant and Catholic fundamentalism, Rev. O'Meara points out. Catholic fundamentalism, he says, manifests itself in the belief that medals have magical properties and can ward off illness and accidents; or in visions of the "blessed Virgin"; or in the belief that all answers to perplexing questions can be found in the pope or the sacraments. These people believe that everyone not involved is not a good Catholic.
Fundamentalism, says the Catholic scholar, is the opposite of the theological vision of Catholicism. The latter does not begin with an evil universe and a condemned sinner before an angry God. On the contrary, God is the loving source of both creation and redemption.
The fundamentalist mind prefers the miraculous to the ordinary and finds God's grace in random cures and magical phenomena. The Catholic Church does teach the possibility of miracles and visions, he concedes, but views them as very rare.
The great enemy of fundamentalism is history, maintains O'Meara. Like Judaism, Catholicism has had a long history of pluralism. "The Roman Catholic Church is an organized family of countless religious orders, movements and theologies - and when the Orthodox churches are added, even larger and more diverse."
In summing up, O'Meara says that the traditions of Judaism and Catholicism illustrate that God works patiently in a long history and that the presence of God in life and liturgy is real but not magical. Ultimately, walking humbly before God and loving God and neighbor are the miracle.
In his response, Brauner said Jews are concerned not only with what fundamentalism says, but with what it does. A healthy religion is opposed to infantile concepts of God. Judaism, he points out, is essentially behavioral and secondarily doctrinal, the reverse of Christianity.
A man who says he is a Christian but disavows the role of Jesus is not a Christian at all. On the other hand, a Jew can deny the existence of God and still be entitled to the rights, privileges and obligations of any other Jew.
( Cleveland Jewish News )
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