Rabbi James RUDIN. Cushing, Spellman, and O’Connor: The Surprising Story of How Three American Cardinals Transformed Catholic-Jewish Relations. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2012. pp. 147. ISBN 978-0-8028-6567-0. Reviewed by Erik RANSTROM, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA 02467
Rabbi James Rudin offers readers a fascinating story of how Richard Cardinal Cushing, Francis Cardinal Spellman, and John Cardinal O’Connor influenced and shaped Catholic-Jewish relations in the 20th century. Rudin’s narrative scope is broad. It stretches back to the origins of both the Church and the “New World,” follows their respective histories with the religious “other,” and concludes by telling the tale of how the American and Vatican destinies came together during the Second Vatican Council and beyond. Rudin hearkens back to another era; he looks kindly upon the moral leadership exerted by post-War Americana in the mid-20th century and the American “experiment” of civil religious tolerance. In this vein, Rudin develops an interplay between the personal and the contextual as he underscores why the American context and the individual charisms of Cushing, Spellman, and O’Connor were equally crucial in moving the Church from supersessionism to a lived commitment to religious liberty and fraternal affection for the Jewish people. Rudin holds that personal relationships with Jews in the American context proved more helpful to the eventual ratification of Nostra Aetate than mere theological constructs of Jews “devoid of flesh and blood reality.” (119) Scholars interested in the category of “interreligious friendships” will find this angle particularly helpful.