Brit and Baptism

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October 28, 2009 at 6:48 pm #3969


I don’t agree, PJ, but I doubt any of the above is going to be of more than academic interest to the original poster or to the other people in this thread. The bottom line is that it is understood that circumcision is neither forbidden nor required of Catholics by the Catholic Church in America. I doubt any priest the original poster consults would bat an eye at the circumcision. The Orthodox Church, at least, still celebrates the circumcision of Christ as a feast and the Church has been paying more attention to the Jewish origins of some of our traditions and the Jewish nature of Jesus Christ.

Sorry to hijack this thread, John. Good luck.

October 29, 2009 at 7:41 am #3971


I would like to object to PJ’s line of comments and suggest that they do not have a place in this discussion, and that the moderators should consider removing them.

In the context of this conversation, it is fine to discuss why to raise a child in one religion, or even why one religion or the other should be chosen based on where the parents are, the context of the situation, etc.  But, to my mind, PJ’s comments come very close to proselytizing.  He is actively promoting Catholicism on this site, quoting the New Testament to back him up, and then saying that the child can incorporate “Jesus’ holidays” (i.e. Jewish) into his Catholic upbringing, something that negates a Jewish upbringing and is not accepted by any branch of Judaism.  It is also, quite frankly, disrespectful to Judaism.  It certainly makes sense for Christians, looking at things through a Christian lens, to see Jewish holidays (or some of them, anyway) as ones that Jesus celebrated.  But it is not ok to impose that understanding on Jews or people looking to raise Jewish children (by comparison, I don’t have the right to tell Christians what Christmas or Easter is just because I see it a certain way as a Jew).

PJ’s comments may be very much in line with Dovetail’s mission, but not with InterfaithFamily’s mission of “encouraging Jewish choices.”  Comments that are hostile to intermarriage and come from the Jewish right are not viewed kindly on this site – nor should they be because they work against Interfaith Family’s mission.  Comments encouraging people to raise their children as Catholics (and we’re not talking Christmas trees here; we’re talking Baptism, understanding Jewish holidays through the lens of Christianity, etc.) do not seem to be any more appropriate.

Again, I am not questioning the value of a discussion about what to do in a situation where the parents are unsure.  But comments that directly and actively promote Christianity are not in keeping with this web site.  Let me be clear – there is absolutely no problem with Christianity or with bringing up children as Christians – this is just not the proper forum for that.

October 29, 2009 at 3:28 pm #3974

Debbie B.

I find it ironic that although PJ seemed to be promoting Catholicism as preferable because it could better accommodate celebration of Jewish holidays, he turns around and argues that Catholicism forbids circumcision, one of the most important rituals of Judaism, and certainly more important than holidays like Hanukah which is less important than the top half dozen Jewish holidays. One could as easily raise the counter-argument that Judaism is preferable because the child will not be told that the Catholic parent will not go to heaven (or worse that s/he will “go to hell”) since Judaism believes that non-Jews also have a place “in the world to come”. And some less religious Jewish households (even those with two Jewish parents) that have Christmas trees and celebrate it as a “secular” holiday, so Judaism is not completely incompatible with any celebration of Christian holidays. (My own children who were raised exclusively Jewish have often visited my parents during Christmas and received treats in stockings from “Santa”—although my husband and I explained the myth of Santa to them, so they understood the ritual as just a special way that their grandparents expressed their affection to them.)

But I feel that PJ illustrates precisely the WRONG approach to raising children in an interfaith household. It should not be some sort of “contest” between the parents to see who will “win” by getting the child to be raised in his/her own faith or convincing the child that his/her religion is better or more true. It is exactly the same dynamic that plays out when divorcing parents have custody suits, with similarly damaging effects on the unfortunate children who become pawns in the parents’ fight. And if interfaith parents cannot agree on how to raise their children, it will indeed be destructive of their marriage.

I would also like to point out that every family is different and that each family needs to find what will work for them. Some variables to take into account: What was the religious training/background of each parent? How would each parent be able (or not) to support a particular religious upbringing/education of the child? Church/synagogue membership, CCD/Hebrew school costs, taking child to classes and  services, helping with religious studies homework…  Acceptance of an interfaith family by particular religious institutions. Support/proximity of relatives who practice either religion. And the couple should talk to their own clergy about religious issues. (I totally agree with Chanya that PJ’s pushing of his own religious viewpoint is inappropriate in this forum. The Catholic man who put up the original post should discuss various matters such as circumcision with his own priest—not take the lay advice by a very partisan anonymous forum participant.)

I think that the religion in which you can do the best job of educating the child and giving the child that religious identity is probably the best one to choose as the “primary” religion, with plenty of exposure and teaching about the other religion in the context of that being “Mommy’s/Daddy’s faith”. Contrary to what was stated or implied in another post, parents can give a child a stronger religious background than what they themselves received. (That’s probably true for more than half the families in my congregation.) For my own future grandchildren, although I would be very disappointed if they were not raised as Jews, I would rather that they be raised as proud and emotionally healthy Christians than as confused or emotionally troubled children with an uncertain religious affiliation or children who are only exposed to superficial aspects of religion.

Side note to Chanya: the reference to “Dovetail” was by Andrea, not PJ. I looked at the site and it doesn’t seem anti-Jewish. My main objection to it is that it is that most of its resources are for *purchase*, not available for free as are the resources on this IFF site.

October 29, 2009 at 5:44 pm #3975


The comment addressed to Andrea was meant to clarify for her (and for John, who is Catholic) what the Catholic Church has said about circumcision. It was not intended for those who are not Catholic, so no proselytizing was intended.  John says right up front that he is Catholic and is seeking direction.  Catholics who are seeking direction look to their Church to see what the Church has said.  It is a good idea for John to seek guidance from a good Catholic priest as to what his responsibilities are to his children.

Debbie seems to suggest that Catholics believe that non-Catholics don’t go to heaven.  As a Catholic, I know that that is not what the Catholic Church teaches, so I don’t know where that comment is coming from.  I was surprised to read that.

I do know that daily and every Sunday, Catholics hear readings from both the Old and the New Testament.  We hear and learn about every person from Genesis forward.  The Christian faith has Judaism as its foundation.  A child raised as a Catholic is exposed to the entire Old Testament, but I think it’s safe to say that  Jewish children are not exposed to the New Testament at any synagogue.  To see that Catholics hear the Old Testament, just listen to the readings during the daily Masses on EWTN television.  The Psalms are also sung frequently.

I have a Catholic cousin who married a Jewish woman.  He raised his children as Catholics as he was required to do, but he and his wife also had their children celebrate all the Jewish holidays with their mother.  There was no conflict in doing this.  They were no doubt enriched by being exposed to the religious background of both parents. Perhaps John would like to get the book written by Catholic Cokie Roberts and her Jewish husband.  I haven’t read their book, but I know they discuss the challenges they faced raising children in an interfaith home.

October 29, 2009 at 8:07 pm #3977

Debbie B.

“Debbie seems to suggest that Catholics believe that non-Catholics don’t go to heaven.”
I know some Jewish converts who were told by their Catholic parents that they would go to hell. Perhaps those Catholics did not understand their own religion correctly. But I just checked out what the Vatican has on the Internet and it really looks like heaven is “through Christ”, so since Jews do not believe in the divinity of Jesus, that would certainly seem to be problematic. In addition, it is clear that Catholicism teaches that there is only “one faith”. In contrast, Jews believe that other people do not need to be Jewish.

“I do know that daily and every Sunday, Catholics hear readings from both the Old and the New Testament. ”
But PJ, you yourself said that the New Testament supplants the Old Testament which is why you think that a Catholic should not circumcise his son. Calling the Hebrew Bible “Old” indicates the viewpoint. Also the writings are interpreted quite differently. Catholics do not believe that most of the commandments in the “OT” are binding on them, for example kashrut, most of the Sabbath observances, the holiday observances, etc. I have seen Christian interpretations of OT writings that are very different from Jewish interpretations. For example, almost everything in the OT that Christians believe foreshadow Jesus are not interpreted that way by Jews. So OT readings in a Catholic context are simply not Jewish.

A Catholic child celebrating Hanukah and going to a Passover seder may well be the equivalent of a Jewishly raised and educated child who decorates a Christmas tree and dyes eggs at Easter with his Catholic parent. I think you would agree that the latter case is not really giving equal treatment to Catholicism. I’m not saying that it isn’t OK for a child in an interfaith family to be brought up as a Catholic (I know people for whom that worked just fine, in fact), but I think you are portraying “celebrating Jewish holidays” as being “fair” to the Jewish side, which is not being honest that Catholicism in that case is the primary religion. Families with Catholic children who celebrate Jewish holidays typically have non-observant Jewish partners, like the Jews I know who celebrate Hanukkah as basically a secular holiday and don’t know what the important religious holiday of Shavuot is. As I said, it is a valid choice, but it is choosing Catholicism, not “both”.

October 29, 2009 at 11:18 pm #3978


My understanding of the current (post Vatican II) Catholic teaching is that the original covenant between God and Jews still stands.  That Jews can be saved by Jesus without believing in him directly.

This would be analogous to the Jewish teaching that Christianity is not idolatry for Christians but is idolatry for Jews.

Pope Benedict seems to be bringing back some of the more tradition pre-Vatican II teachings, but I do not think that this teaching has changed.

In any case, certainly, from a Jewish perspective a belief in the divinity of Jesus is not a Jewish teaching. 

It is best to be honest and to tell the children that they are being raised as Christians so that they won’t expect their beliefs to accepted as Jewish by Jews.

October 30, 2009 at 2:39 am #3979


Phaco, as far as I know that isn’t quite correct. The Church would prefer that people, including Jews, be baptized, believe that Jesus Christ is the Savior, etc. and believes that people are saved by those means. It also has always taught that perhaps we can trust to God’s grace to save those outside the Church. The Jewish covenant with God is recognized as special and giving glory to God but that doesn’t mean quite the same thing.

The Church wants a continued dialogue with Jews and recognizes that proselytism in those discussions would damage the relationship. Proselytism on other occasions to individuals would not be considered out of bounds, but if that person said, “Go away and leave me alone” the Catholic would have to end it. The modern Catholic Church doesn’t believe in compulsion in religion.

But none of this is probably helping the original poster. I hope he’ll talk to people in his town and his family to decide what he wants to do.

November 16, 2009 at 6:13 am #4038

”Debbie wrote:

For the bris, it depends on the rabbi, the synagogue, and the mohel, but there may be restrictions on doing a Jewishly valid bris if the baby has or will be baptized. Note that you can do a bris anywhere (my son’s was done in our apartment), not just in a synagogue, and a rabbi need not be present. You’ll have better luck finding someone who will do a bris for a child who will also be baptized with a Jewish ob/gyn or other doctor who is Reform or Jewish Renewal and who also does circumcisions. Otherwise, most other mohelim tend to be Orthodox, and they would probably not be comfortable with the idea of a child who would not be brought up solely Jewish. I would be upfront with any mohel about this issue to avoid having it come up right before the ceremony.

Note that if a circumcision is done (say in a hospital) without religious intent and the proper blessings, it is not really equivalent to a “brit milah’ or “bris” which is a welcoming of the baby boy into the covenant and is not merely a surgical procedure.

It is time to move away from the Brit.  We do not have the right to circumcise our sons in the name of religion.

November 22, 2009 at 6:11 am #4057


Excuse me?  Do you know the story of Abraham?  Obvously you do not.  And, by the way:  many Gentiles have their children circumcised for health reasons. I cannot believe what you have written!

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