On 30 July 2012, The Jewish Daily Forward published Professor John Connelly's essay, 'Converts Who Changed the Church.'


"Fifty years ago this fall, Catholic bishops gathered in Rome for a council that would bring the church 'up to date' by making it speak more directly to the modern world. After three years of deliberation, the bishops voted on and accepted statements that permitted the faithful to attend mass in their own languages, encouraged lay reading of scripture and entreated Catholics TO THINK OF OTHER RELIGIONS AS SOURCES OF TRUTH AND GRACE.

The council referred to the church as 'people of God' and suggested a more democratic ordering of relations between bishops and the pope. It also passed a statement on non-Christian religions, known by its Latin title, Nostra Aetate ('In our times'). Part four of this declaration, a statement on the Jews, proved most controversial, several times almost failing because of the opposition of conservative bishops.

Nostra Aetate confirmed that Christ, his mother and the apostles were Jews, and that the church had its origin in the Old Testament. It denied that the Jews may be held collectively responsible for Jesus Christ’s death, and decried all forms of hatred, including anti-Semitism. Citing the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans, NOSTRA AETATE CALLED THE JEWS 'MOST BELOVED' BY GOD. These words seem commonsensical today, but they staged a revolution in Catholic teaching.

Despite opposition from within their ranks, the bishops knew that they could not be silent on the Jews. When the document stalled in May 1965, one of them explained why they must push on: 'THE HISTORICAL CONTEXT: 6 MILLION JEWISH DEAD. (This establishment figure is now widely dismissed by historians) If the council, taking place 20 years after these facts, remains silent about them, then it would inevitably evoke the reaction expressed by Hochhuth in ‘The Deputy.’' This bishop was referring to German playwright Rolf Hochhuth’s depiction of a silent and uncaring Pius XII in the face of the Holocaust. That was no longer the church these bishops wished to live in…

As I discovered while researching my recently published book, 'From Enemy to Brother: The Revolution in Catholic Teaching on the Jews, 1933–1965,' these experts did not begin their work in the 1960s. From outposts in Austria and Switzerland, several had tried to formulate Catholic arguments against anti-Semitism under the shadow of Nazism three decades earlier. They were as unrepresentative of Catholicism as one can imagine. Not only were they, Central Europeans, brave enough to stand up to Hitler when it counted, but THEY MOSTLY HAD NOT BEEN BORN CATHOLIC. THE CATHOLICS WHO HELPED BRING THE CHURCH TO RECOGNITION OF THE CONTINUING SANCTITY OF THE JEWISH PEOPLE WERE CONVERTS, MANY OF THEM FROM JEWISH FAMILIES.

Most important was JOHANNES OESTERREICHER, born in 1904 into the home of the Jewish veterinarian Nathan and his wife, Ida, in Stadt-Liebau, a German-language community in northern Moravia. As a boy, he took part in Zionist scouting and acted as ELECTED REPRESENTATIVE OF THE JEWS IN HIS HIGH SCHOOL, but then, for reasons that remain inexplicable (he later said he 'fell in love with Christ'), OESTERREICHER took an interest in Christian writings (Cardinal Newman, Kierkegaard and the Gospels themselves), and under the influence of a priest later martyred by the Nazis (Max Josef Metzger) HE BECAME A CATHOLIC AND THEN A PRIEST.

In the early 1930s he took over the initiative of the Diocese of Vienna for converting Jews, hoping to bring family and friends into the church. In this his success was limited. Where HE HAD AN IMPACT WAS IN GATHERING OTHER CATHOLIC THINKERS TO OPPOSE NAZI RACISM. To his shock, OESTERREICHER found this racism entering the work of leading Catholic thinkers, who taught that Jews were racially damaged and therefore could not receive the grace of baptism. HIS FRIENDS IN THIS ENDEAVOR INCLUDED FELLOW CONVERTS LIKE PHILOSOPHER DIETRICH VON HILDEBRAND AND THE THEOLOGIAN KARL THIEME AND POLITICAL PHILOSOPHER WALDEMAR GURIAN. In 1937, GURIAN, OESTERREICHER and THIEME penned a Catholic statement on the Jews, arguing, against the racists, that JEWS CARRIED A SPECIAL HOLINESS. Though it constituted orthodox teaching, not a single bishop (let alone the Vatican) signed on.

OESTERREICHER escaped Austria when the Nazis entered, in 1938, and continued work from Paris, broadcasting German-language sermons into the Reich, INFORMING CATHOLICS THAT HITLER WAS AN ‘UNCLEAN SPIRIT' AND THE 'ANTIPODE IN HUMAN FORM,' and describing Nazi crimes committed against Jews and Poles. In the spring of 1940 he barely eluded an advance team of Gestapo agents, and via Marseille and Lisbon he made his way to NEW YORK CITY and ultimately Seton Hall University, where he became THE LEADING EXPERT ON RELATIONS WITH JEWS IN AMERICA’S CATHOLIC CHURCH…

If the battle before the war was against the superficial assumptions of Nazi racism, after the war it took aim at the deeply rooted beliefs of Christian anti-Judaism… In the years that followed, THE CONVERTS HAD TO STAGE A REVOLUTION IN A CHURCH THAT CLAIMED TO BE UNCHANGING. They did so by shifting church teaching to Paul’s letter to the Romans, chapters 9–11, where the Apostle, without speaking of baptism or conversion, proclaims that the Jews remain 'beloved of God' and that 'all Israel will be saved.'

Like OESTERREICHER, the thinkers who did the intellectual work that prepared this revolution were overwhelmingly converts. Soon after the war, THIEME joined with concentration camp survivor GERTRUD LUCKNER to publish the Freiburger Rundbrief in southwest Germany, where they made crucial theological breakthroughs on the path to conciliation with the Jews. In Paris, the Rev. PAUL DÉMANN, A CONVERTED HUNGARIAN JEW, began publishing the review Cahiers Sioniens and, with the help of fellow CONVERTS GEZA VERMES and RENÉE BLOCH, REFUTED THE ANTI-JUDAISM IN CATHOLIC SCHOOL CATECHISMS.

In 1961, OESTERREICHER was summoned for work in the Vatican II committee tasked with the 'Jewish question,' which became the most difficult issue to face the bishops. At one critical moment in October 1964, priests GREGORY BAUM and BRUNO HUSSAR joined OESTERREICHER in assembling what became the final text of the council’s decree on the Jews, voted on by the bishops a year later. LIKE OESTERREICHER, BAUM AND HUSSAR WERE CONVERTS OF JEWISH BACKGROUND.

They were continuing a trend going back to the First Vatican Council in 1870, when THE BROTHERS LÉMANN — JEWS WHO HAD BECOME CATHOLICS AND PRIESTS — presented a draft declaration on relations between the church and Jews, stating that Jews 'are always very dear to God' because of their fathers and because Christ has issued from them 'according to the flesh.' WITHOUT CONVERTS TO CATHOLICISM, IT SEEMS, THE CATHOLIC CHURCH WOULD NEVER HAVE 'THOUGHT ITS WAY' OUT OF THE CHALLENGES OF RACIST ANTI-JUDAISM.

The high percentage of Jewish converts like OESTERREICHER among Catholics who were opposed to anti-Semitism makes sense: In the 1930s they were targets of Nazi racism who could not avoid the racism that had entered the church. In their opposition, they were simply holding their church to its own universalism. But by turning to long-neglected passages in St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, THEY ALSO OPENED THE MIND OF THE CHURCH TO A NEW APPRECIATION OF THE JEWISH PEOPLE.

What were the impulses behind their engagement after the war? In a generous review of my book in The New Republic, Peter Gordon suggests that THE CONVERTS’ WILLINGNESS TO ADVOCATE FOR THE OTHER WAS DRIVEN BY A CONCERN FOR THE SELF. They had retained a sense of themselves as Jews even in the Catholic Church. Gordon reminds us of SIGMUND FREUD’s skepticism about the possibility of love of other. True love, FREUD believed, 'was always entangled with narcissism: it is not the other whom I love but myself, or at least it is only that quality in the other which resembles me or resembles the person I once was.' Yet IN OESTERREICHER WE SEE AN ENDURING SOLIDARITY WITH THE COMMUNITY THAT ONCE WAS HIS, MOST IMMEDIATELY HIS FAMILY…

In 1964, OESTERREICHER personally crafted that part of Nostra Aetate according to which the church no longer speaks of mission to the Jews, but looks forward to the day when all 'peoples will address the Lord in a single voice and ‘serve him shoulder to shoulder’… After this point Catholics involved in Christian-Jewish dialogue tend not to be converts. They live out of THE NEW UNDERSTANDING THAT JEWS AND CHRISTIANS ARE BROTHERS. The converts crossed a border to the other while IN SOME DEEP SENSE REMAINING THEMSELVES, but by recognizing the legitimacy, indeed the blessing, of our differences, they helped bring down a wall separating Jews and Christians.”
So the Jew converts to Roman Catholicism and rises to to somewhere near the top of the Christmas tree within it.

At which point he begins doing what he can to change the Church to suit himself. Sound familiar? As Connelly tells us: 'In Oesterreicher we see an enduring solidarity with the community that once was his.'

I don't blame the Jew. History tells us that the Jew is what he is and he does what he does. I blame those in high places who, knowing what he is and what he is liable to do once he is enfranchised, give him the office to do it.

In The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, Protocol 17 tells us this:

"We have long past taken care to discredit the priesthood of the goyim and thereby to ruin their mission on earth... Day by day its influence on the peoples of the world is falling lower… Now only years divide us from the moment of the complete wrecking of that Christian religion...

The King of the Jews will be the real Pope of the universe, the Patriarch of the international church… While we are reeducating youth in new traditional religions and afterwards in ours… we shall fight against them by criticism calculated to produce schism."

The Protocols as they are today emerged in the last decade of the nineteenth century. Thus, if the authors of that contentious work knew their stuff, the 'wrecking of that Christian religion' has been in the planning for quite some time.

John Connelly is Professor of history at the University of California, Berkeley, and the author of 'From Enemy to Brother: the Revolution in Catholic Teaching on the Jews, 1933-1965.'


Source:[/B] THE ENEMY WITHIN: Jewish converts who changed the Catholic Church