Where Do Christian Zionists Err?

Regarding “The Christian Zionists” by Legionary Father Andrew McNair (Commentary & Opinion, Sept. 24-30):

It’s clear that, in his zeal to promote the very replacement theology that Pope John Paul II was well on the way to abandoning years before his passing, Father McNair has missed the central point of Christian Zionism, and instead gets lost in a tangential discussion over whether or not individual Jews are in fact saved, and whether they have a place in the “New Covenant.”

Zionism, however — Christian or Jewish — posits an entirely different matter. Religious Zionism holds that the most basic of the unambiguous and recurrent pledges of the Father of Mercies to the Jewish people are eternal and irrevocable, because:

— it is in the very essence of the one true God to remain true to his word throughout all of time;

— among those clear and persistent promises to the Jewish people is his unconditional bequest of the Holy Land as an everlasting possession; and

— among the promises of the eternal God is that there will always be a Jewish people on Earth — precisely to bear witness (yes, in their very flesh) to the fact that he does keep his word unto eternity.

A Christian Zionist, then, is simply a friend of Christ who believes in and takes seriously the Father’s promises to the Jews — the people who gave birth to Our Lord and raised him. If you believe these promises, then you are a Zionist. It’s that simple. And the notion that this means you must therefore “pledge your unconditional support to Israel” is a non sequitur and a red herring: Nobody supports any finite person (or group of same) “unconditionally.”

The decision of groups like Christians United for Israel to refrain from conversionary proselytizing is obviously grounded in the realization that the venue for their activities is essentially socio-political, and not a suitable forum for missionary work. It has nothing at all to do with “whoever is ashamed of the Son of Man,” etc. Father McNair’s “non-negotiable” claim that “we cannot keep silent about Christ” is flatly … graceless.

Shall we proselytize at a bar mitzvah? How about in the operating room on the surgeon who is performing brain surgery? At a tennis tournament — over the hush of “point, game, set, match”? In a public restroom?

“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.”


Michael Zebulon

Cotati, California

Father McNair responds: I commented on the strain of Christian Zionism that equates, on a soteriological level, God’s covenant with the Jews (laid out in the Old Testament) and his universal offer of salvation through Christ (explicated in the New Testament). In the Catholic tradition, such equivalence is an error. By making this fundamental distinction, I am not questioning the salvation of the Jewish people but pointing out a theological difference that needs to be made to clarify Catholic doctrine.

Also: I equate talking about Jesus with mature Christian witnessing. This entails prudence, respect and benevolence in presenting the Christian message to non-Christians. To not keep silent about Christ means primarily living coherently the Christian message by example. It does not mean shoving the Christian message down anyone’s throat. To make an explicit decision or policy not to talk about Christ at all with a particular group of people as a matter of principle seems extreme.

Conditional Forgiveness

In his column titled “For Christians, Forgiveness Isn’t Optional” (Sept. 17-23), Mark Shea makes the valid point that holding on to bitterness and refusal to forgive “hurts nobody but ourselves.” But he maintains that we are obliged to forgive even in the absence of repentance. He neglects to cite the conditions necessary for forgiveness.

Jesus said, “If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he wrongs you seven times in one day and returns to you seven times saying, ‘I am sorry,’ you should forgive him” (Luke 17:3-4).

Pope John Paul II, in his 1980 encyclical Dives in Misericordia (On the Mercy of God), wrote: “Reparation for evil and scandal, compensation for injury, and satisfaction for insult are conditions for forgiveness.”

And Cardinal Avery Dulles commented, in the 2005 McGinley lecture at Fordham University, that “forgiveness ordinarily presupposes certain conditions in the person being forgiven … that he be sorry for any wrong committed, be perceived to desist from continuing or repeating the evil action, and be prepared to make satisfaction as far as possible.”

Shea seems to differ with Jesus, the Pope and a cardinal.

Rita Reichardt

La Grange, Illinois

Mark Shea responds: All three of your citations refer to forgiveness in the context of the sacrament of reconciliation. It is quite true that the Church is obliged to see that the penitent is serious before absolving him of sin. But in the life of the individual believer, the command to forgive is absolute: “When you stand to pray, forgive anyone against whom you have a grievance” — note there is no mention of a condition of repentance — “so that your heavenly Father may in turn forgive you your transgressions” (Mark 11:25). Jesus himself modeled this by forgiving his completely impenitent murderers. So did Stephen. So have countless saints down the ages.

The Pope’s Personal Thought

Your editorial headlined “Sept. 12” (Sept. 24-30) tries mightily to frame and mitigate Pope Benedict’s intent in quoting Emperor Manuel II’s words about Mohammed creating a religion “evil and inhuman” by saying the Pope did not agree with the emperor. In his address, the Pope called the emperor’s statement “startling brusqueness, a brusqueness which leaves us astounded.”

Days later, the Pope reiterated that the emperor’s words do not express his “personal thought.”

Since the Pope has never apologized for using the quote, I contend that he believed the emperor’s statement was truthful but his brusqueness was not diplomatic and he, the Pope, would have used less confrontational words to make the same point. Why use a quote you don’t agree with unless you argue to disprove it? 

James P. Graham

Agoura Hills, California

Editor’s note: Here is what Pope Benedict XVI said: “These in fact were a quotation from a medieval text, which do not in any way express my personal thought.”

Theology of the Marital Bond

It was very encouraging to read the essay titled “Marriage Prep With John Paul II” by Legionary Father Walter Schu (Commentary & Opinion, Sept. 17-23). It is so comforting to see that so many make theology of the body the foundation of marriage preparation.

On Sept. 8, Bishop Michael Sheridan promulgated a new marriage-prep policy for the Diocese of Colorado Springs. During their one-year marriage preparation, engaged couples now have to do the “Foccus” inventory (the word is an acronym for Facilitating Open Couple Communication, Understanding & Study), take training in natural family planning and complete the Catholic Marriage Prep program, along with a parish- or diocesan-based retreat. They also must meet with their priest or deacon, along with liturgy and music directors. The new policy was voted in unanimously last April.

The Catholic Marriage Prep program (CatholicMarriagePrep.com) is made of in-depth classes, taught in a live setting or online. The sessions follow the teachings of the Church and are based on John Paul’s theology of the body. One session per week, rolled out over a four-week period, gives the engaged couples ample time to discuss thoroughly together and process what they have received. It gives them also time to read several important documents.

According to feedback from the last 1,000 couples, 80% of the engaged couples involved in these classes, both online and in person, decide to abstain from sexual relations until their wedding day and 75% of them choose to practice NFP in their marriage.

The online classes allow a one-on-one relationship between each couple and their instructor. Lots of couples don’t live in the same state or country; this is especially true with couples in the military. The fruits are beautiful, as Michael K. and Sarah wrote recently: “I would also like to let you know that we are very impressed with this [online] class. I hate to admit that, as a very orthodox Irish-Catholic, I half-expected this class to be very ‘watered down.’ Instead, I have found that this class strongly enforces the Church’s teachings and is very effective. Bravo!”

Kudos to all dioceses heading in this direction for the best interests of the engaged couples and the building of strong Catholic families.

Christian and Christine Meert
Office of Marriage and Family Life

Diocese of Colorado Springs (diocs.org)

Religious Democrats

Regarding “Democrats Woo Religious” (Aug 6-12):

I think the only “conversion” Barack Obama and many of the other Democratic politicians are interested in is converting any gullible religious conservative voter to their party without changing what the Democratic Party holds dear (abortion, “gay marriage,” etc.).

Obama’s statement that religious conservatives need to “translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific values” shows that he doesn’t understand that religious values are universal, and eternal as well. To me, this misunderstanding is exemplified by John Kerry’s acknowledging that human life begins at conception while supporting partial-birth abortion.

Why do we put in public office those who contradict reason, logic and morality all at the same time?

Joe Marincel

Flower Mound, Texas

Fire Up the Photocopier

Whoever wrote the Sept 24-30 editorial (titled “Sept. 12”) should get a raise. It was just plain on the money and so well stated.

I love your paper, as I get news I never read anywhere else. Not to mention its solid Catholic stance.

Also, may I add that your front-page interview with Father Samir Khalil was the best thing I’ve read regarding the Pope’s controversial comments (“What the Pope Said — and What the Muslims Heard,” Oct. 1-7). I read from many sources, but this article should be put into a little booklet to save me the time of photocopying it.

Eugenia Heim

Wall Township, New Jersey