As write this after lunch on Thursday, I have not yet discovered the new document on Catholic-Jewish relations on the Vatican website; but one can find, on the Vatican Player TV, its interesting Press Presentation. Behind the table were the sempiternal Fr Lombardi; Cardinal Koch; a Fr Hoffmann (of whom I had not heard); Ed Kessler, who runs the Woolf Institute in the other University and is a Fellow of S Edmund's College there; and the always immensely impressive Rabbi David Rosen, who was once Chief Rabbi of Ireland and now works in Jerusalem as Adviser on Interreligious Affairs to the Israeli Chief Rabbinate.
It is not my purpose to give you an account of the Presentation; you can watch/listen yourselves. (The two Jews spoke in English, and Cardinal Koch sometimes did.) I think you will not be sorry if you find the time to do this. Ah ... I should have mentioned ... Rosen and Kessler were not part of the group who produced the new document, and I think you will find that the criticisms they made of it ab extra were of no little interest.
But what had me keeling over with laughter was ... the Questions! And whod'yethink asked the first one? No contest! Christopher Lamb, Rome Correspondent of the wad'yethink ... the Tablet! And wad'yethink he asked? He had two questions, utraque quaestio tablettissima.
(1) He pointed out that the document, as it is self-described, was non-doctrinal and non-magisterial, and asked whether there should now be a second Nostra aetate. You get it? I think he has read (which most people haven't) Nostra aetate and he realises that it doesn't actually say the stuff he wants; so now he demands something "doctrinal and Magisterial" so as to be able to rub in the gravel the noses of those of us who are not of the Tablettentendenz. The Tablet has not always been so enthusiastic about getting new doctrinal Magisterial statements from Rome nor always so very ostentatious about its adherence to what the Magisterium has already uttered. When Professor Ratzinger presided at the Palazzo of the Holy Office, the Tablet was not always hanging around his door whining "Please Eminence give us more Dogma"! But now ...
Nobody on the Panel seemed inclined to run with this idea. Rosen, in particular, was grandly dismissive.
(2) Next, Lamb asked about the Good Friday Prayer composed in 2008 by the Holy Father Pope Benedict for use in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. Yes! Uncanny ... one might almost call the Tablet the House Journal of the English Bishops ... and of course, of those nice German ones too. But the poor little fellow got precious little out of his brave attempt to Give a Helping Hand to the Bishops' Campaign. Kessler diffidently said that the word Perfidia was rather questionable ... strange, don't you think, that a Fellow of St Edmund's, a 'Catholic' college, isn't aware that Perfidia exited the text in the time of S John XXIII. (But it does at least demonstrate that there hasn't been much debate among academic Jews about Benedict's prayer of 2008, otherwise Kessler would not have been so poorly informed about the question.) Cardinal Koch explained that the Benedict Prayer had not been properly understood; and gave an account of its eschatological thrust (its teaching that, as S Paul taught, it is at the End that all Israel will be converted). Rabbi Rosen clearly wasn't interested in Lamb's puerile attempts to make trouble; he very courteously observed that only a tiny percentage of the Catholic world used the Latin prayer and that most of it used the prayer in the Novus Ordo ... a prayer which he called "very fine". He thought that the problem about the EF was not in the Prayer but in the title. Koch then observed that this was like a problem one so often got with journalists: a good article but a bad heading. This seemed to amuse the panelists more than it did the journalists. Hoffmann and Koch both thought that Benedict's prayer would be a valuable stimulus to further discussion and dialogue.
A few moments later, Rabbi Rosen praised Benedict XVI for his wisdom and his humour, observing that people did not often notice the latter (I do). Perhaps this will be next Friday's Tablet banner headline:
TOP JEW PRAISES POPE BENEDICT'S WISDOM AND HUMOUR
What odds would you offer me on that possibility?
If Ecclesia Dei does make any change with regard to Pope Benedict's prayer about which the English bishops have got themselves so strangely excited, my money would be on a tweaking of its title. I can't help wondering if some of our Fathers in God, the more thoughtful ones, might be rather wishing that somebody or other hadn't got them all mixed up in this unnecessary little piece of Germanic nastiness ... which, on today's showing, doesn't seem to have gone down very well in Rome.