Interfaith Dialogue in St. Louis and New York

The Catholic Archdiocese of St. Louis is angry at Rabbi Susan Talve, senior rabbi at Central Reform Congregation, for hosting an illicit ordination of two Catholic women. Other Jewish leaders are distancing themselves from the synagogue. NCR; St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

I certainly understand Archbishop Burke’s anger. This is rather insensitive on the part of Talve. But I’ve seen instances where Jews were angry and hurt and were met by insensitivity on the part of Catholic officials–including times when senior Catholic leaders refused even to meet with Jewish leaders to hear of their hurt. That’s where dialogue must start–and until the Catholic Church is ready to do that, it really shouldn’t be complaining.

I had a Houston incident in mind when I wrote that, but then found this very recent example illustrating the other side. The Simon Wiesenthal Center was alarmed that a controversial Croatian nationalist singer, Marko Perkovic (aka “Thompson,” after the submachine gun), was to be performing at a Catholic Church in New York earlier this month. The Archdiocese of New York dismissed the concerns and let the concert take place on archdiocesan property. See also New York Daily News and Jerusalem Post. The Washington Post reported on the concert.

Update: Follow-up.

7 thoughts on “Interfaith Dialogue in St. Louis and New York

  1. At least St. Louis’ Jewish Community Relations Council issued a release distancing itself from Rabbi Talve’s indiscretion.

  2. It should be noted that the two womenpriests, from what I have read, will be ‘celebrating mass’ weekly at the First Unitarian Church across the street from Central Reform Congregation. The same church that CRC rented space from in its first fifteen years before building their own synagogue. So there is historical/emotional rationalization for the ordination having occurred there

    And I feel once the Church declared Womenpriests not to be Catholic, as they have, it ceases to be an ‘illicit ordination of two Catholic women’ and becomes a ‘licit ordination of two Womenpriests’ and it is hard for them to say that hosting the ordination is an affront to Catholicism, since they’ve just said they aren’t Catholic. Hosting the ordination of Protestant clergy wouldn’t be an affront to Catholicism.

  3. The women, however, clearly claim that they are being ordained as Catholic priests. And the rabbi clearly sees this as being an action aimed at protesting Catholic teaching on this point.

  4. The archbishop put up a smoke screen for the Catholic Church to stop working with Rabbi Talve on interfaith activities in St. Louis. When he said the two priests were no longer in the church, he released any jurisdiction over them. Therefore he has no say or concern in what they did Sunday at CRC. That was not between Rabbi Susan and the Catholic church; it was between CRC and the two women.

    At Sunday’s event I found myself questioning: Is being inclusive something we think we will just arrive at, or is it something we strive to have in our lives on an ongoing basis, putting aside our differences and celebrating our similarities in an atmosphere of peace and acceptance?

    For some people, like Rabbi Susan, doing the right thing comes easier than for most of us. We might think about what others might think or say; sometimes letting our egos get in the way. I’ve watched her pray with the utmost care to be about moving forward in serving her community with holy intent. She weighs everything before making hard decisions she is well aware will affect those around her.

    This past Sunday, I was immersed in sounds of inclusiveness vocalized by the multi-denominational choir on one side of me and a smorgasbord of chatter from interfaith volunteers in our kitchen on the other side. Looking around the room, I could visualize the truth of this interfaith event as the choir sang “All Are Welcome.” I felt a little closer to everyone around me when the choir sang a litany of our shared ancestors; the same ones we mention each Shabbat: Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and Miriam. I looked around again and realized our shelter of peace was filled with those seeking refuge for the holy intent found in their hearts. I said a silent prayer asking God to give these women the strength they will need for the road they are about to walk down.

    I realized my purpose for being there was to continue my education, witness a holy event experienced through my Jewish faith and interaction with other faiths to create inclusiveness on a regular basis, and learn how to walk in the ways of my words. There is power in our words and how we choose to use them. When we say we are inclusive, we don’t get to say… “Except for…”

    I can retell Sunday’s events only from my perspective of a Jew by Choice. I feel it has enriched my spiritual growth to see our words put into actions supporting our values. While we all see God from different perspectives, there is only one Source of all Creation and we are all part of that Oneness. Acceptance of our differences would seem to be the key to… Shalom.

    Michele C. Long
    former Catholic and now “Jew by Choice”

    p.s. The Jewish faith teaches you to question everything. It is this theory that the Catholic church has a problem with; they would rather tell you what to think. This is control. The Jewish faith does not seek to control, yet guide.

  5. Actually, from the Catholic standpoint, it was their actions in going forward with a pretended ordination that caused their automatic excommunication from the Church. He was simply warning them prior to that. From the Catholic perspective, their action amounted to flagrant defiance of Catholic teaching and discipline, and of his authority as archbishop. The archbishop would see the synagogue as aiding and abetting in this.

    Yes, authority is an issue for Catholicism in a way that it isn’t for Judaism.

    But I think you have to be honest and admit that the rabbi wants to be provocative here, and wants to assist them in taking a stand against Catholic teaching. If these women were saying that they were starting their own Protestant church, there would be no issue. It is that they are claiming to be Catholic, claiming to be ordained as Catholic priests, claiming to want to change Catholic teaching (“Our major reason for doing this is to reform and renew the church”)–that’s why the rabbi is supporting them, is it not?

    The Jewish Light newspaper also says straightforwardly that it understood they were “Roman Catholic women leading a service in a Jewish synagogue to ordain two local Catholic women as priests.”

    Fresen said she was ordained a bishop by three male bishops in good standing with the Roman Catholic Church, although the identities of the bishops will not be released until after their deaths.

    “The validity of ordination in the Catholic Church is linked presumably to the time of the apostles of Jesus, so if you are ordained by someone who has been ordained within that apostolic order, it makes the ordination valid,” McGrath said.

    “So even though we’re breaking one law, we are validly arguing our standing as Roman Catholic priests,” she said.

  6. Bill:
    Thank you for respecting my perspective. Isn’t this what it’s all about anyway? I realize it’s hard for the authority that represent the Church to be open minded to listening to something different when their flock are making request for valid changes. Their rule is by blind faith in the men representing God. Every man on this earth is human and subject to “missing the mark” now and then. It takes a big man to admit he might have acted without considering everyone’s perspective, as it does a Rabbi who acts with holy intent. Here’s what I learned a long time ago: I can say something or do something and that’s all there is to it. It’s the meaning you put behind what I said or did that makes it what it is for you. There are those who walked away from Sunday with a better understanding of what interfaith respect means, and there are those walked away thinking it was all about them and offensive to them. You have to ask yourself which will I feed: my ego or my desire to forgive. I choose to forgive those who can’t see the holy intent of the people of the St. Louis community.

    Make a great day and thanks for keeping open.

    Michele Long
    former Catholic, now Jew by Choice

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