10 December 2015

Jews and Christians dialogue in Rome: a bad day for the Tablet

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:


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.


carl said...

Dear Father, I suppose you've seen it by now, but here is the full text: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/chrstuni/relations-jews-docs/rc_pc_chrstuni_doc_20151210_ebraismo-nostra-aetate_en.html#5._The_universality_of_salvation_in_Jesus_Christ_and_God’s_unrevoked_covenant_with_Israel

KaeseEs said...

I for one appreciated Benedict's humor, especially as he expressed it with his choice of stoles when making ecumenical visits.

Anonymous said...

I read it last night. Paragraph 35 upholds all the essential Christian truths quite clearly. But then paragraph 36 flatly contradicts what has just been affirmed! The author(s) try to resolve this by just saying that, well, God is very mysterious ... To my mind, they misapply various Scripture passages to try to bolster this dishonest get out clause from their own confused position. Definitely "not magisterial". But why was it published by the Vatican at all?

Nicolas Bellord said...

I have read the document and my ignorant self was struck by certain passages e.g.

That the Jews are participants in God’s salvation is theologically unquestionable, but how that can be possible without confessing Christ explicitly, is and remains an unfathomable divine mystery.

Well if that is the case what are they on about? Why not admit defeat and shut up?

However they seem to rely on the Jews being converted at the last moment and in the meantime we need not bother:

Here we confront the mystery of God’s work, which is not a matter of missionary efforts to convert Jews, but rather the expectation that the Lord will bring about the hour when we will all be united, “when all peoples will call on God with one voice and ‘serve him shoulder to shoulder’ ” (“Nostra aetate”, No.4).

So their conclusion is that:

In concrete terms this means that the Catholic Church neither conducts nor supports any specific institutional mission work directed towards Jews. While there is a principled rejection of an institutional Jewish mission, Christians are nonetheless called to bear witness to their faith in Jesus Christ also to Jews, although they should do so in a humble and sensitive manner, acknowledging that Jews are bearers of God’s Word, and particularly in view of the great tragedy of the Shoah.

So we must not try to convert them officially but we can do it unofficially! Can anyone help me with the logic of that? Or is it a case of just letting the clerics off the hook and leaving it to us laypeople? Lazy so and sos.

Perhaps Jesus just got the destination wrong in being born in Bethlehem and he really meant to go to Bethnal Green?

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel?

Woe to we if we do preach the Gospel?

Upon the correct answer to one of those questions depends the future of our political accommodation with those who deny the Messias for the first time a Pope enters a Synagogue and preaches Christ and Conversion is the last time he does that even though continuity is sempiternally claimed despite the obvious rupture in praxis between what Peter and The Apostles did (Acts) in entering private homes and synagogues and preaching Christ and Conversion and the modern papa praxis of not preaching the Gospel to those who deny the Messias.

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

"The Sinai covenant," writes Cardinal Ratzinger, "is indeed superseded.

Nicolas Bellord said...

The argument seems to me to be this. You have a covenant. You then put in place a new covenant. Is the old covenant abolished or is it just amended? The new document about relations with the Jews claims it has just been amended by the new covenant. Therefore the old covenant can still be regarded as still valid. But, as a matter of logic, that simply does not follow.

Think of legislation. You have a Companies Act which requires Company Directors to file certain information or be fined. You then have an amending Companies Act which changes the information that has to be filed but otherwise confirms the earlier Act. The earlier Act is still valid insofar as not amended by the amending Act. However if a Director files information in accordance with the earlier Act ignoring the amending Act he will be fined. It is no defence to say that the earlier Act is still valid.

Then there are Acts which completely abolish earlier Acts. Again it is no defence to say you acted in accordance with the earlier Act which is definitely no longer valid.

Thus whether a covenant or a law has been abolished or merely amended is utterly irrelevant as to which covenant or law you should follow. You have to comply with the new covenant or law regardless of whether it is completely new or merely amends an earlier law.

I think Christ made it clear that he was amending or fulfilling the law not abolishing it.

This document on relations with the Jews seems to me to set up a straw man that is utterly irrelevant to the question as to whether we should try and convert the Jews. What on earth was Christ doing if not bringing them a new covenant? This new document may please the Jews but intellectually it is an abysmal attempt to square the circle that fails utterly.

Highland Cathedral said...

If the Jews have to wait until the end times before they are converted what happens to all the Jews who have died before that time? Or is this like the opposite of the collective guilt of the Germans after the Second World War: because the Jews who are around at the end times are converted that somehow results in the conversion of all Jews, no matter when they lived - and died?

As to dubious documents being published by the Vatican, how about that one that told us unequivocally that global warming is current and is caused by human activity?

There is also a document published by the Pontifical Biblical Commission (The Inspiration and Truth of Sacred Scripture) which I wish someone qualified to do so would comment on. Okay the PBC is not part of the Vatican but according to the edition published by Liturgical Press it has been 'approved' by Pope Francis.