10 December 2019

Nostra Aetate (1)

The German and English episcopates remarkably decided in 2015 to mount in collaboration an attack on the Good Friday Prayer for the Jews which Pope Benedict XVI composed and authorised (ONLY FOR THE EXTRAORDINARY FORM) in 2008.

Accordingly, I have decided to reprint, over some days,  a series of posts which I printed some little time ago. My usual posts should appear in the mornings; this old series in the evening (Greenwich Mean Time ... I mean, our Greenwich).

Since the Council, an idea has been spreading that Judaism is not superseded by the New Covenant of Jesus Christ; that Jews still have available to them the Covenant of the old Law, by which they can be saved. It is therefore unnecessary for them to turn to Christ; unnecessary for anybody to convert them to faith in Christ. Indeed, attempting to do so is an act of aggression not dissimilar to the attempt of Nazi Germany to exterminate that people. This is sometimes called the Two Covenant Theory.

This view is widespread among non-Catholic 'Ecumenists', and is increasingly taken for granted even within the Church by the professional 'Ecumenism' industry. It is suggested that this doctrine is mandated by the Council. And, underlying, reinforcing it, is the guilt felt by many in Western Society about the Shoah; and the determination of extremist interests to characterise anybody who dissents from this growing consensus as 'Anti-Semitic'. I had better say at once that my father served in two wars, the second fought against Nazism; that I was all of four years old when Hitler died; and I am dashed if I am going to be made to feel guilty for what Hitler did to the Jews and nervously rewrite my own beliefs so as not to offend some of them. Any more than I would consider it appropriate for the intellectuals of Tel a Viv to regard themselves as obliged to feel personally guilty for what the Turks did to the Armenians.

The Conciliar Decree Nostra aetate is central here, and is commonly cited as evidence that the Catholic Church now imposes the new consensus upon all Catholics; that anybody who attempts to evade this must be a holocaust-denier or even a crypto-lefebvreist (Lefebvre's father, incidentally, died in a German concentration camp ... I wonder how many of those who throw his name around as a term of abuse have as close a connection as he did to the Nazi death machine). A reading of the relevant sections of this document soon reveals that it does not come within a million miles of suggesting that the Jews are the only people who do not need Christ; or that the Jews are the only people to whom the Gospel should not be offered. It speaks with admirable force against anti-Jewish prejudice and discrimination; it rightly demands that the Jews should not be regarded as uniquely responsible for the killing of God Incarnate.

Two phrases in Nostra aetate might lead someone to suppose the novel dogma to be intended. The Jews, the Council says, should not be presented as 'reprobati' or 'maledicti'; rejected or cursed. Indeed, they should not. This phrase simply puts the Jews in the same position as every other race. They have "sinned and fallen short of the glory of God" ... just as each and every other race and every individual has done. But God has not placed them under some unique condemnation, any more than he has, say, the French or the Hottentots. They do not have some particular curse put upon them, any more than Chinese or Americans do. God's mercy is as available to them as it is to French, Hottentots, Chinese, and Americans; and on the same light and gracious terms. The paragraph concerned (4) needs to be read through to its end, which is a glorious passage about the all-embracing love of Christ, his death for all, the duty of Christians to preach the cross as Mercy for all. The Council Fathers make no suggestion that this applies to every human being, to every human grouping  ... except to the Jews. A number of other Conciliar documents talk about Faith, Mercy, Grace, the Gospel, as being for all, or all nations, or whatever. Are we seriously expected to believe that, in each case, the Conciliar Fathers expected us automatically to understand the tacit qualification and gloss {"except, of course, the Jews"}?

The other passage is Romans 11:28-29, a passage also cited in Lumen Gentium, which I plan to discuss in the context of the teaching of S Paul.

I think it is worth adding pro tanto that, in Tissier de Mallerais' admirable biography of Archbishop Lefebvre, I have not found any suggestion that the Archbishop had any problems with what Nostra aetate teaches about Judaism ... as he did and many others did with Dignitatis humanae, the document on Religious Liberty. Had the Council really reversed 1900 years of Christian doctrine about the status of Judaism, it is hard to believe that its critics in the SSPX and elsewhere would have failed to spot it and noisily to denounce such a radical doctrinal change. For the last half-century such people have been neither asleep nor quiescent. They have not been particularly inclined to gloss over problems in Conciliar documents. But neither in Archbishop Lefebvre's They Have Uncrowned Him nor in the correspondence between Fr Aidan Nichols and an adherent of the SSPX have I found any problem being raised about the section of Nostra Aetate which relates to the Jews.



Jacobi said...

The important thing to remember, Father, is that Catholic doctrine was exactly the same before, as after Vat II. The Council documents, including Nostra Aetate, “defined no dogma at all”.

So, the New Testament is, as the Church had already held, the fulfilment, “the perfection”, of revealed law in the Old Testament, and completes and replaces the Old Testament. This understanding is binding on Jew and Gentile alike. It is the work of the Holy Spirit. All of this is in CCC.

Nostra Aetate does however, effectively confirm what was held about other religions, including Judaism, that while they may contain some truth, they are defective insofar as they fail to hold the full Truth of the Catholic Church - but it says it rather nicely.

In particular it is clear in saying that it was Mankind who crucified Christ, not the Jews, or the Romans for that matter. Christ died, “because of the sins of men”.

Amateur Brain Surgeon said...

There is the problem of speaking about Jews individually and collectively.

It seems one is permitted to speak of all Jews as having been blessed collectively but not as Jews who were cursed collectively even though various covenants had both blessings and curses.

And then there is Luke 19:26,27

I have always thought it troubling that the 1st Pope and The Apostles (Acts) went into Synagogues and the homes of Jews and preached Christ and Conversion whereas our modern Popes go to Synagogues and don't preach Christ and conversion.

Where is the continuity here?

Anonymous said...

Almost twenty five years ago I remember first being introduced to this lunacy by a professor of mine at St. John's Theologate in Camarillo, CA. I remember opining to him that if the Apostles had followed his logic Holy Mother Church would consst of 12 (actually 11) old Jewish men in Jerusalem.

the Savage said...

I think your interpretation of Nostra Aetate is perfectly correct, and the Church (still) teaches that the Jewish covenant has been superseded. Furthermore, you are in excellent company in thinking this. As Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger wrote in his short book Many Religions - One Covenant "The Sinai covenant is indeed superseded. But once what was provisional in it has been swept away we see what is truly definitive in it. The New Covenant, which becomes clearer and clearer as the history of Israel unfolds.., fulfills the dynamic expectation found in [the Sinai covenant]."

Rabbi David Berger comments very intelligently on Ratzinger's position on the Jewish covenant: "We need to distinguish, however, between two forms of supersessionism, and in my view Jews have absolutely no right to object to the form endorsed by Cardinal Ratzinger. There is nothing in the core beliefs of Christianity that requires the sort of supersessionism that sees Judaism as spiritually arid, as an expression of narrow, petty legalism pursued in the service of a vengeful God and eventually replaced by a vital religion of universal love. Such a depiction is anti-Jewish, even antisemitic. But Cardinal Ratzinger never describes Judaism in such a fashion. On the contrary, he sees believing Jews as witnesses through their observance of Torah to the commitment to God's will, to the establishment of his kingdom even in the pre-messianic world, and to faith in a wholly just world after the ultimate redemption... For Jews to denounce this sort of supersessionism as morally wrong and disqualifying in the context of dialogue is to turn dialogue into a novel form of religious intimidation."

Colin Spinks said...

Jacobi, Father,

Indeed, the Nicene Creed states: "Crucifixus etiam pro nobis sub Pontio Pilato" NOT "...sub Judaeis". And nobis is taken to mean any Jew and Gentile who identifies as part of that "nobis". Neither is blame explicitly directed at Pilate personally, or even the Romans in particular, he stands for "earthly power" in general; whoever it had been would have done the same is the implication. Vide Ps 2: Quare fremuerunt gentes, et populi meditati sunt inania? Astiterunt reges terræ, et principes convenerunt in unum adversus Dominum, et adversus christum ejus. Reading this psalm in its Christological sense, it is clear that all conspire "against the anointed", the "gentes" (Gentiles) and "populi" (Israel), the "reges terrae" (imperial powers) and "principes" (chief priests).

John Patrick said...

I am no theologian but it seems to me that St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans specifically eschews the possibility of justification through the works of the law.

There is also the issue that modern day Judaism has out of necessity abandoned the Temple sacrifices that were so central to the Torah and therefore can they even claim to have full justification through the Law without the sacrifices? Christian belief is that the sacrifices of the Temple were no longer necessary as Christ's sacrifice on the Cross was sufficient for all people and for all time. It would seem to me a dual covenant would require that the Jewish people would have to either restore their sacrificial system, or accept its supersession by Christ's sacrifice at which point they essentially become Christian.

PM said...

Indeed it seems to me that the nobis for whom Our Lord was crucified is the 'nos homines' for whom he became incarnate - in other words the whole human race in its bondage to sin.

Pulex said...

This particular piece of the legacy of Benedict XVI actually deserves to be combatted, albeit for different reasons. If only Benedict, having "liberated" the traditional rite, had it left alone!