Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Mourning a Rabbi

This is an incredible story: Catholic woman becomes star rabbi in conservative Judaism, inspires many....

Rabbi Cynthia Culpeper, 43, believed to be the first pulpit rabbi to announce she was diagnosed with AIDS, died on Monday after a 10-year battle with the disease.

At the time of her diagnosis in 1995, she was rabbi of Agudath Israel in Montgomery, Ala.

A convert from Catholicism, she continued as the full-time rabbi there until early 1997 and then moved to Birmingham, where she was receiving cutting-edge care through the AIDS research clinic at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

She became a rabbi at large at the school, teaching classes and, for a time, speaking to Jewish communities nationally about AIDS. In 2000, she became the first female rabbi to lead religious services in Poland, conducting High Holiday services at the liberal congregation known as Beit Warszawa....

[A rabbi] remembered how Culpeper appeared at his congregation one Shabbat evening, a Catholic high school student with a report to write about Judaism. She asked him questions after the service, returned the next week with more questions, then came back the third week with one question – how to become Jewish.

One of the nuns at Culpeper's school later met with him. Instead of telling him to stay away, she said, "I know she will not make a good Catholic, so make a good Jew out of her."

Seriously, this is a beautiful story, a love story of religion. Heartbreaking at the end, though. But you've got to love the ecumenism of it. Well, if you love ecumenism....



Blogger Jon said...

"Heartbreaking at the end, though."

Indeed, apostasy and probable damnation always is.

31/8/05 10:08  
Blogger Gyrovagus said...

"apostasy and probable damnation"

Ah, thank you Jon!

Always nice to start the day by encountering the Friendly Face of Traditional Catholicism!

If only she had met your own good self in time, I'm sure you would have been just the one to lead the lost sheep home!

I can picture you now, just like Jesus, rummaging through the thorns and briers for a probably damned apostate, and then gently lifting the perfidious Jew to your shoulders and carrying her home to complete the paperwork and do a massive penance.

Good to know we've got such icons of Jesus on our side, folks, isn't it?

31/8/05 10:33  
Blogger duarted said...


I agree that the statement seems to presume a lot, namely that she was not invincibly ignorant. However, it is not "Traditional Catholicism" that requires a faith in Christ. It is Catholicism. Ecumenism is not the "I'm okay, you're okay" mentality. Objectively, a person who possesses sufficient knowledge of Christ and turns from Him will bring judgment upon themselves. If this occurred, only He knows.

31/8/05 11:01  
Blogger Jeff said...

No, duarted, you are wrong. Vatican Two was a great watershed for Catholics and it divided those claiming adherence to Roman Catholicism into (roughly) two schools. First, there are those who see the Council as one among many and it's decrees as being no more (perhaps less) important than, say, those of Vatican One.

Second, are those who see the Council as an event which digs up and lays bare the deepest level of Catholicism, obscured by centuries of only partial faithfulness. They have problems with dogma itself and with exclusive claims of salvation. Vatican Two is no mere compilation of decrees. Indeed the decrees are of secondary importance. Vatican Two is the begining of a vast movement of transformation. Any fellow "seekers" or "pilgrims" are accepted with joy, even if they seem to cling to very little of what would be recognized as the Catholicism of previous ages; even if they leave Catholicism itself. And we have as much to learn or more from secularism or non-Christian religions as they have to learn from us.

So, being actively homosexual, or questioning the existence or "meaningfulness" of the Trinity, or leaving the Church itself is met with smiles and understanding, even if the persons smiling might not agree completely with those they smile at. But, going against the Tide of Future Revelation HAS to be a sin and HAS to be condemned, because THAT's the one thing that IS CLEARLY wrong--clinging to outmoded forms from the past.

I don't--like some--claim that the second school is irrational. But I do claim that both of them can't be right. For those of us who belong in the first school, of course, those in the second school have sadly drifted away from the Faith and joined some new religion. And they hate and attack us for pointing that out, because we are the only thing that stands between them and sweet success. And if we seem to multiply and rise up and expand our influence their hate redoubles in potency. Because it's not supposed to work that way! The future belongs to them!

So, being disturbed by someone leaving the Faith is scorned and savaged as anti-Semitism or lack of charity, for example. Because an honest argument would have to admit that the first school, call it "Classical Catholicism", if you like, might be right. And, even worse, it focusses the argument on whether those of the second school belong in the Church at all. And if they DON'T, the whole meaning and purpose of their movement disappears; it becomes clear that theirs is no glorious advance and renewal, but just the same old tired stuff that has been going on in the world for almost two centuries now.

31/8/05 12:23  
Blogger Gyrovagus said...

Thanks for the catechism lesson; I'm passingly familiar official Roman Catholic theology.

I was not challenging the fact that Catholicism teaches that Jesus Christ is the incarnate Son of God, whose passion, death and resurrection have won for us eternal life, and that there is "no other name" by which we are to be saved. With all of the additional nuances and clarifications which may be found in the Catechism.

My point was your point: the statement by our poster Jon does seem to presume a lot.

My further point was that you generally hear THAT KIND OF TONE from self-anointed Trads (am I the only one who thinks this? who has experienced this?).

And my final point would be: there are ways of expressing our official Catholic teaching with both conviction and compassion.

Jon didn't do that - at least for my money.

Speaking of money, pick up Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger's TRUTH and TOLERANCE: Christian Belief and World Religions. He does it.

31/8/05 12:23  
Blogger John Hearn said...

A little O/T.

I don't want to ruin everything by saying this, but I think that Catholics like Gyrovagus and Rock here are a real sign of the renewal in the Church in this country. I may be off base, but in the essential things the orthodox Catholics believe, you guys both see perfectly orthodox and seem to truly love the Church. There is an emotional prejudice in your hearts against "EWTN" and "Traditional" Catholics (in the usual meaning of that word, what other kinds of Catholics are there?), but you both seem subscribe to almost everything these folks believe, you just seem to dislike their tactics.

I have no real proof that you represent a trend (I think that Todd may even be included in this group), but if it does, then there this is, I think, a true indication of that the "Springtime of the New Evangelization" that JP Magnus of loving memory proclaimed is bearing fruit.

I feel in my own heart the yearning for real unity with my brothers and sisters in the faith and am trying to discern the truths we must all subscribe to as faithful Catholic Christians and those that can be debated.

31/8/05 12:24  
Blogger Gyrovagus said...


You're making it much more complicated than it is or needs to be.

The issue is not Catholic Truth.

Dismissing that woman's whole sad tragedy with the expression "probable damnation" is cheap - even by Trad standards (and we've been treated to Williamson's anti-Semitic rantings and ravings and his judgment that Cardinal Ratzinger is a very great enemy of the Church).

Deep breath . . . untwist the panties . . . and deal with the issue:

Jon's a nasty Trad.

And not all Trads are nasty.

But the empirical evidence IS mounting!

Conviction and compassion: the Pope seems to have struck the balance . . . maybe it CAN be done.

31/8/05 12:30  
Blogger Jason C. said...

While Christ alone will judge this woman, apostasy is one of the gravest sins a person can committ, as St. Paul tells us in Hebrews 6; (ironically, he was writing to Hebrew Catholics):

For it is impossible in the case of those who have once been enlightened and tasted the heavenly gift and shared in the holy Spirit, and tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to bring them to repentance again, since they are recrucifying the Son of God for themselves and holding him up to contempt.

31/8/05 12:32  
Blogger Jeff said...

Okay, Gyrovagus. On the one hand, you have a blog post which PRESUMES that leaving the Faith and joining another religion is a matter for joy and celebration. That elicits no comment from you.

On the other, you have someone who presumes--as practically anyone would have done for all the centuries of the Church's existence--that leaving the Church is a disaster and a scandal and that eternal salvation hangs in the balance. THAT's what seems to bother you.

Whatever problems of tone the first commenter might have had seem to me to pale into insignificance when compared to the substantial disagreement. That is, unless Rocco is pulling our legs and just stirring up the hornet's nest for fun. I keep hoping that's the case.

31/8/05 12:33  
Blogger John Hearn said...

One of the nuns at Culpeper's school later met with him. Instead of telling him to stay away, she said, "I know she will not make a good Catholic, so make a good Jew out of her."

It seem to me that she may have been only a nominal Catholic anyway. At least as a liberal Jew, she could practice her faith without coming up against the dogmas and teachings of that faith, assuming that they have any.

As for her place in the next life, she may be surprised that there is one, but I fervently hope that she found love and forgiveness as that would mean that *I* might find them too.

31/8/05 13:25  
Blogger Jon said...

Thank you, Jason.

It always amazes me how, ahem, "others" presume "nasty trads" are just that, nasty. Yessir, I delight in putting the witch to the stake or pressing her under a big fat rock. In no way would I be praying out of fraternal charity for her soul's salvation. That's beyond me, "nasty Trad," that I am(who, btw, attends a Novus Ordo Mass daily but one Sunday a month when I'm blessed to enjoy my bishop's "generous" indult of the Traditional Mass) No, why would I want her to remain a Catholic?

For that matter, why would this guy?

"Such is the nature of the Catholic faith that it does not admit of more or less, but must be held as a whole, or as a whole rejected: This is the Catholic faith, which unless a man believe faithfully and firmly, he cannot be saved." Benedict XV, 1914,Encyclical, Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum.

Magna veritas et praevalet.

31/8/05 15:54  
Blogger Henry said...

who, btw, attends a Novus Ordo Mass daily but one Sunday a month when I'm blessed to enjoy my bishop's 'generous' indult of the Traditional Mass

Sorry, Jon, this makes you nothing more than a 3% Trad. And by my standards that makes you hardly a Trad at all. (I apologize if this harsh judgement is unfair.)

No, if for his own tangled reasons Rocco must condemn you, then surely it's gotta be for being 97% Novus Ordo. Which is ok with me. That's about what I am.

But your Trad part sounds quite unthreatening, and your Novus Ordo part uncommonly orthodox. So let's color you just good, solid Catholic. Now, as for Rocco, he's obviously got his own complex and perhaps deep-seated problems, ones that defy any deft analysis of similar clarity, at least by such a simple mind as mine.

31/8/05 16:54  
Blogger Jeff said...

Oh, Jon, Jon, you retrograde, you! 1914? That's long before Vatican Two. What do you want? To bring back the fifties or something?

Don't worry, the arguments from the anti-orthodoxy side here are usually pretty low octane. Mostly argument by intimidation.

We have intimidation through Expertise: "I know all about the Rite of Lyons, you unwashed scum. You have no right to an opinion."

Then there's intimidation through Insinuation and Insult. Call your opponents "Anti-Semitic" or call them "homophobic" (="you hate people, you're mean, so shut up!) Or even better, insinuate that they THEMSELVES are homosexual or at least effeminate cross-dressers by telling them not to "get their panties in a twist." That'll take the fire right out of them and you don't even have to make an argument!

It's really low octane stuff, don't worry too much about it.

Todd's a little tougher, but not much. He defends dissent and insinuates that maybe you don't really have to accept the exclusively male priesthood as a matter of faith. (Not what the CDF and Pope John Paul said, but, Hey, who are they?) But you got just the right quote for him. Take it ALL (all that's been defined) or you don't have the right to the name "Catholic."

Then they're just reduced to mewling, "You're mean, I don't like your TONE." That's not even low octane; that's mixing the gasoline with water. Bad for the engine.

31/8/05 17:08  
Blogger Gyrovagus said...

Jeff, let's forget how the panties are doing and ask a more technically appropriate question:

is your computer OK?

You've completely skipped the part where I talk about "no other name" by which we may be saved, and the incarnation and atoning death of Christ: solid, orthodox Catholic teaching, by the way (and I think apostasy is bad, too, and Catholicism is not one option among many. Whew! That's done).

Nope, Jeff's reasoning is so strong in this posting, he's gotta go back a bit . . . way back:

That "Rite of Lyons" thing - from how many posts back? - really must have pushed the old Jeff-off-the-wall buttons. And did I call anyone "unwashed scum" during my remarks (Or "apostate" or "probably damned" - like your new buddy Jon?).

Damnable expertise! God forbid that ANY intellectual considerations get in the way of a good old fashioned Trad-Rant!

And, of course, fair-minded person that you are, Jeff (for your own argumentation is so strong you clearly don't have to stoop to ad hominem, now, do you?), you carefully omitted the context: I am an almost-daily Tridentine Mass person: I guess that makes me even less Novus Ordo, percentage-wise, than your new budster!

It's just that in the Novus Ordo we've been reading from Matthew's gospel each Sunday. And, you know what Jeff, OVER AND OVER AND OVER AGAIN, Jesus talks about good fish in the net and bad, weeds among the wheat, and so forth and so on, and he keeps saying: Let it grow till the harvest . . . at the end - AT THE END, NOT NOW - the ANGELS, not us, not the other workers or fishermen, but God's angels - will do the separation.

And he will do the blessing and condemning - that gospel will be on the LAST Sunday in Ordinary Time, Christ the King . . . the separation of the sheep and goats in Matthew 25 . . . and the surprise regarding what gets you into heaven and kept out of it? But relax! No expertise, there, just sharing!

No matter, I'm just one of those low octane types on Rocco's blog . . . but, you know what, I'll stick with the low octane, because - didn't you hear?

In the aftermath of Katrina, there's a gas shortage, and there are heretics to burn - we might as well do what we KNOW FOR SURE God's already got planned for their souls, right? And save a little bit of the high octane for those books full of expertise, too!

31/8/05 17:31  
Blogger Jeff said...

Wow, Gyrovagus, talk about rant, that's about as hefty a rant as I've ever seen. What button did I push, for heaven's sake?

Okay, so you attend Tridentine Mass. Like you said, there are good fish and bad in the net. Who said, Everybody in the Church is saved, for heaven's sake? And who said, Everybody outside is damned?

We were talking about PRESUMPTIONS, for heaven's sake, that's all. It's not all the same, whether you're in or out of the Church. And the PRESUMPTION is, if you're out, your not saved, ordinarily. When people leave we worry, we don't rejoice. It's called apostasy, right? Isn't that waht apostasy IS? Or is use of that term in bad taste?

But why argue with naked fury? I'll leave you time to calm down and take a deeeeeep breath....

31/8/05 18:36  
Blogger Jon said...


"I am an almost-daily Tridentine Mass person."

Jiminey Cricket! Where do you live? Can I move there?

31/8/05 18:52  
Blogger Gyrovagus said...


I thought "probable damnation" to be a bit much. You have no problem with it, and - together with Buddy Jon - have a much clearer insight into the Divine Mind as regards deceased apostate rabbis, so . . . rock on!

You've wisely skipped over the rest of your rant that raised the fury (although I'm available for consultation on the Mozarabic Rite, Latin or Spanish, pre- or post-Vatican II, if you're ever interested), so we'll let that all go. It wasn't naked fury, though, for which we can all give thanks to God - in Latin, English and any other tongues known to mortals and to angels. Ooops, inclusive slip there, make that MEN and angels.


Tridentine Mass: almost-daily (actually IT is daily, I'm just not daily) - right here in, of all places, Kennedy-Country. You just have to know where to look!

Not that it's helped the politicians much that I can see (either the secular or the ecclesiastical ones! :-)

31/8/05 21:08  
Blogger Jeff said...


I "skipped over" the Tridentine Mass aspect of all this because I couldn't for the life of me see what it has to do with whether one should leave the Church and become a rabbi. What DOES it have to do with that? Is it supposed to mean that since you attend the Tridentine mass, whatever you say about the Faith must be sound? Or what? You can have the Tridentine Medal of Good Conduct, as far as I'm concerned; I'm not competing for it. Good Catholics can like the Tridentine Mass, the Novus Ordo, the Melkite Rite...or the Roman Rite, Use of Lyons as far as I can see. They can even love the Good News Bible, St. Louis Jesuit music, and those little blackened brass wall do-dads from the seventies that say, "AS FOR ME AND MY HOUSE, WE WILL SERVE THE LORD!" But I don't think they rejoice when people leave the Church and then die, even if it is one in the eye for those nasty Retro-Caths. I suppose that makes me a vicious savage, though.

And, Yes, you did talk about Christ's divinity a while back. You called it "official Roman doctrine," I think. Not the terminology I would employ as a confession of my faith, but you're welcome to it.

Look, I'm going to back off--for now. I'm savaging you a bit, but then, read over your posts from the last couple of weeks. You've done you're bit of savaging, too! The biter bit must not complain. So, don't take it too hard, for heaven's sake. I take it as a given that you're a fine fellow, that I could learn things from you (No, I already have!), and that I'm sure I'd enjoy a hearty evening's conversation over beers with you sometime. We'll stipulate that you wouldn't gain as much from MY company. And I certainly think that some of what you say has merit, I just think you carry it too far. And I sometimes think you're TONE is a bit much, that's all.

So, Pax for now and have at me--I leave you the last word!

31/8/05 21:49  

Post a Comment

<< Home