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This question relates to people who are good in nature but mislead in practice and the situation they are raised within.

Obviously, Judaism has issues with Catholicism in the sense it contradicts basics of Jewish belief and practice.

  • G-d being a man
  • Forgiveness of sin through human sacrifice
  • The raising of humans to be worshipped like G-d (Saint system)
  • The idea G-d can change his mind and forgo the covenant
  • Symbolic cannibalism (eating host bread and drinking of wine as blood)
  • There are countless others as the list goes on.

The issues are obvious and I'm not ignoring that in this question.

What I'm speaking about is the idea of Hashem's mercy and the idea that a person can have been misled by the situation they were born into.

A Catholic believes their church is their authority. They are taught that their church is the authority on religious matters and that this authority is biblically derived. From their perspective, even if they agree that the interpretations of their church are wrong, they are still obligated to follow because their church officials are their equivalent to Rabbinical authority. Thus, they follow because the authority is what is being respected and not necessarily the idea being presented.

Rashi makes a claim that establishes the authority of the Rabbis:

ימין ושמאל. אֲפִלּוּ אוֹמֵר לְךָ עַל יָמִין שֶׁהוּא שְׂמֹאל וְעַל שְׂמֹאל שֶׁהוּא יָמִין, וְכָל שֶׁכֵּן שֶׁאוֹמֵר לְךָ עַל יָמִין יָמִין וְעַל שְׂמֹאל שְׂמֹאל (ספרי):

even if he (the judge) tells you about what appears to you to be right that it is left, or about what appears to you to be left that it is right, you have to obey him; how much the more is this so if actually he tells you about what is evidently right that it is right and about what is left that it is left

This establishes the idea that a Jew is obligated to follow the authority of the Rabbis even if it is crystal clear that the Rabbi got it wrong.

As Jews, We are taught the importance of Rabbinical authority. We are taught that our Rabbinical authority is derived from the same court system established by Moshe Rebbeinu as directed by Hashem. This makes it divinely established and thus we must follow that authority.

My question is simple.

Using this same logic from their perspective. Can it be argued that a person born into a Catholic situation and having this same yearning to submit to authority (which they believe to be divinely established)

Can it be argued that they are pious and G-d-fearing even if they have been misled? Can it be argued that because they aren't knowingly turning against G-d but genuinely believe in full rationality that this way is the best way to honor G-d that they aren't necessarily treated the same as other idol worshippers?

What I mean is when someone knows Hashem is G-d and they choose other faiths and traditions over Hashem, that is a separate thing from a Catholic born into a situation to believe that their Church authority is their equivalent to Rabbinical authority. They must follow even if it is wrong.

If this rationality is true, can it not be argued that Catholics who are pious may actually not be in bad standing with Hashem?

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    What practical difference can it make? – Avrohom Yitzchok May 3 at 8:43
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    Possibly related: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/20528/… – IsraelReader May 3 at 17:11
  • I don't think saints are considered to be in God-level. – Harel13 May 3 at 17:27
  • @Harel13 You're encouraged to pray to saints for specific purposes. They act as middlemen between your prayers. Patron saint of workers, patron saint of lost causes, patron saint of animals, patron saint of children, etc. They take over responsibility for certain prayers/issues/concepts and people build statues and pray towards them instead. That's pretty G-d-level if we're speaking in terms of idolatry. – user20915 May 3 at 21:19
  • @Michael if you want to argue that middleman means god, than you'll have to get around praying at tzaddikim's graves, doing stuff like giving tzeddakah to R' Meir Ba'al Haness tzeddakah boxes/that special prayer, and even the slicha of Machnisei Rachamim. A lot can be said about Christians and idolatry, but this, in my understanding, isn't exactly that. – Harel13 May 3 at 21:46
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Judaism is more concerned with keeping the peace and goodness than it is with dogma. We should not seek converts nor try to put Christians in a situation where they become alienated from their family and community. Unless they choose to seek the G-d of Israel independently, they should remain with their church and heed its authority as necessary. They are innocent dupes who have been misled, and G-d will judge them by their deeds, not creed. However, once a Christian is told the truth, they become responsible for their behavior. The authority "thing" only works so long as they are ignorant.

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  • "once a Christian is told the truth, they become responsible for their behavior." Only if they were told in such a way that one would expect a person to accept it. That doesn't sound easy to do, or easy for us to know that it has happened. – MichoelR May 4 at 10:41
  • Yes, @MichoelR, we agree. – Turk Hill May 4 at 17:18
  • @MichoelR The (currently) top-voted answer to "Will A Non Jew who did not keep the Noachide Laws be Held Accountable" cites Rambam to say "[a] non-Jew is accountable [for not keeping the Noachide Laws] because he should have learned the laws and he didn't". It then goes on to support it applying to all non-Jews by citing R. Elchanan Wasserman to say the non-Jew should have searched himself, and reached the conclusion that he is obligated. (Disclaimer: It is not my position on the matter.) – Tamir Evan May 5 at 7:38
  • Yeah, I know. And R' Moshe z"l on tinok shenishba for Jews. But the Ribbono shel Olam will decide such questions, and he will be fair. I personally find it hard to follow how someone should have "searched himself". I heard b'shem Rav Yaakov Weinberg z"l that if R' Shimon Shkop zt"l had grown up a non-Jew in India, it's hard to hear that he would have become a gadol b'Torah. Or a Jew, or anything at all. The same is true in Silicon Valley. In today's world, אין אונס גדול מזה. – MichoelR May 5 at 13:11