Thursday, April 03, 2008
Pope Benedict, The Jews and the "Good Friday Prayer"
In which I finally attempt to play 'catchup' and navigate the waters of controversy regarding the Pope's revision to the Good Friday Prayer for the Jews. This post may be updated as I come across additional pertinent articles. -- Christopher]
First, let's examine the prayer itself, its revisions, and the reaction of Jewish brethren, since therein lies the controversy. (Using as my source Wikipedia "Good Friday Prayer for the Jews -- with all the caveats about employing a public encyclopedia, and not being a liturgical expert I sincerely welcome correction should readers spot a mistake in reporting, translation or history ).
The "Prayer for the Jews" in its original formulation dates back to 1570, reading as follows:
Let us pray also for the faithless Jews [Latin: "perfidia iudaica"]: that Almighty God may remove the veil from their hearts (2 Corinthians 3:13-16); so that they too may acknowledge Jesus Christ our Lord. Almighty and eternal God, who dost not exclude from thy mercy even Jewish faithlessness: hear our prayers, which we offer for the blindness of that people; that acknowledging the light of thy Truth, which is Christ, they may be delivered from their darkness. Through the same Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever. Amen.In 1959, Pope John XXIII removed from the Good Friday liturgy the adjective "perfidi - while correctly translated as "faithless" or "unbelieving", there was a common misconception that the Latin perfidis was equivalent to "perfidious", leading to denunciations of the Jews as treacherous. (For further details, see the German edition of Zenit News service: "The Good Friday intercessions: a long history" February 6, 2008; translation via the blog Catholic Conservation).
According to Zenit News Service:
That same year, [Pope John XXIII] also eliminated from the rite of baptism the phrase used for Jewish catechumens: "Horresce Jusaicam perfidiam, respue Hebraicam superstitionem" (Disavow Jewish unbelieving, deny Hebrew superstition). ...It was Pope John XXIII's liturgical innovation that inspired Professor Jules Isaac to seek out an audience with him in 1960 and petition for the repudiation of what he referred to as the "teaching of contempt" -- certainly not the official teaching of the Church, but no less pernicious, which he believed culminated in the inexplicable silence and apathy of many Christians toward the Nazi persecution of the Jewish people.
According to various accounts, Isaac met with Pope John for three days. Upon leaving he said to the Pope, "Can I leave with hope?" And the Pope responded, "You are entitled to more than hope."
On Good Friday in 1963, John XXIII underlined the importance of this decision when the old formulation of the prayer for the Jews was read. The Pope interrupted the liturgy and asked that that the liturgical invocations begin again from the beginning, following the new text.
The Roman Missal adopted by Pope Paul VI in 1969, and put into effect in 1970, reformulated the prayer. Because of a similar potential for misinterpretation, the reference to the veil on the hearts of the Jews, which was based on 2 Corinthians 3:14, was removed. The 1973 ICEL English translation of the revised prayer is as follows:
Let us pray for the Jewish people, the first to hear the word of God, that they may continue to grow in the love of his name and in faithfulness to his covenant. (Prayer in silence. Then the priest says:) Almighty and eternal God, long ago you gave your promise to Abraham and his posterity. Listen to your Church as we pray that the people you first made your own may arrive at the fullness of redemption. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Concerns about the motu proprio "Summorum Pontificum"
On 7 July 2007, the Vatican released Pope Benedict XVI's motu proprio entitled, Summorum Pontificum which permitted more widespread celebration of Mass according to the "Missal promulgated by John XXIII in 1962".
While the term "perfidis" was indeed removed, the 1962 missal's references to the Jews is still subject to theological criticism. For what it's worth, a summary of the objections can be found in the Statement of the Discussion Group "Jews and Christians" of the Central Committee of German Catholics (April 4, 2007):
The Missale Romanum of 1962 contains the Good Friday Intercession "for the conversion of the Jews" (pro conversione Iudaeorum). Although this rite no longer includes the denigrating descriptions of the Jews as acting "perfidiously" (perfidus) and/or as "perfidious" (perfidia), the Good Friday Intercession otherwise expresses the overall [demeaning] perspective of the text as it has been prayed in the Liturgy of Good Friday since the Middle Ages. The intercession speaks of the "blindness" (obcaecatio) of the Jewish people and says that the Jewish people walk "in darkness" (tenebrae). This contradicts in a striking way the conciliar declaration Nostra Aetate, which states in chapter 4:Pope Benedict revises againSounding the depths of the mystery which is the church, this sacred council remembers the spiritual ties which link the people of the new covenant to the stock of Abraham. [...] the apostle Paul maintains that the Jews remain very dear to God, for the sake of the patriarchs, since God does not take back the gifts he bestowed or the choice he made. (see Romans 11,28-29; see Lumen Gentium 16). [...] the Jews should not be spoken of as rejected or accursed as if this followed from holy scripture. Consequently, all must take care, lest in catechizing or in preaching the word of God, they teach anything which is not in accord with the truth of the Gospel message or the spirit of Christ.To revive the 1962 Missal with the old Good Friday Intercession means the denial of a substantial theological paradigm change made by the Council: in fact, the biblically-justified new understanding of the relationship of the Church to Judaism with the accompanying change to Church's own self-understanding. The traditional Good Friday Intercession still beseeched categorically that the Jews would acknowledge "our Lord Jesus Christ, the light of truth." The post-conciliar revised version is more open: it recognizes the way of salvation of the Jews, founded upon God's design, even if it asks that the Jews may "arrive at the fullness of redemption."
On February 7, 2008, Zenit News reported that Pope Benedict decided to modify the the prayer for the Jewish people prayed in the Good Friday liturgy according to the 1962 Roman Missal. The changes were conveyed in a note from the Vatican Secretariat of State, published in L'Osservatore Romano.
In the revised form, the prayer now reads in English translation:
Let us also pray for the Jews. May the Lord our God illuminate their hearts so that they may recognize Jesus Christ as savior of all men. Almighty and everlasting God, you who want all men to be saved and to gain knowledge of the truth, kindly allow that, as all peoples enter into your Church, all of Israel may be saved.(As reported by Sandro Magister), a note in La Civiltà Cattolica explained the reason for the change:
"In the current climate of dialogue and friendship between the Catholic Church and the Jewish people, it seemed right and opportune to the pope [to make this change], in order to avoid any expression that might appear in the least to offend or displease the Jews."The note concluded:
"This contains nothing that is offensive toward Jews, because in it the Church asks God what St. Paul asked for Christians: that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ may enlighten the eyes of the Ephesians' hearts, that they may understand the gift of salvation that they have in Jesus Christ (cf. Ephesians 1:18-23). The Church, in fact, believes that salvation is only in Jesus Christ, as is said in the Acts of the Apostles (4:12). It is clear, besides, that Christian prayer can be nothing other than 'Christian', meaning that it is founded upon the faith – which is not that of all – that Jesus is the Savior of all men. For this reason, the Jews have no reason to be offended if the Church asks God to enlighten them so that they may freely recognize Christ, the only Savior of all men, and that they too may be saved by the One whom Shalom Ben Chorin, a Jew, calls 'Brother Jesus'."
Not quite the reaction the Vatican expected
John Allen, Jr. reports on the reactions to the prayer's revision (National Catholic Reporter February 8, 2008):
As is clear from comparing the two versions, Benedict has removed some of the language that critics found offensive: references to lifting "the veil from the hearts," the "blindness of that people," and the "darkness" of the Jews. As is also clear, however, the new version does not retreat from asking that Jews may recognize Jesus Christ as Savior, so that it remains a supplication for conversion.John Allen Jr. also mentions "A further constituency" of critics: "liberal Catholics who don't care for the old Mass for a variety of reasons, as well as veterans of Catholic/Jewish dialogue who see all this as a headache they don't need." He cites Fr. John Pawlikowski of the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago:
"Even though only a small number of Catholics may pray the new version of the prayer, it creates a situation of the church seemingly speaking with two voices (the 1970 prayer and the new prayer) that do not dovetail easily. Which represents the more authentic theology of the Catholic Church with regard to the Jewish people? This situation compromises Catholic integrity."Pawlikowski elaborates on this in Praying for the Jews: Two Views on the New Good Friday Prayer Commonweal March 14, 2008 / Volume CXXXV, Number 5):
The 1970 Missal, the definitive response to the liturgical changes mandated by Vatican II, further revised the 1965 prayer. It acknowledged the Jewish people’s faithfulness to God, but left open the eschatological resolution of the apparent conflict between Christ’s universal salvific action and the Jews’ ongoing covenantal com-mitment. The 1970 prayer is clearly in the spirit of Nostra aetate, which totally rejected almost two millennia of Christian theological perspectives on the Jews, but failed to offer a definitive replacement. That task was left to subsequent generations of theologians and biblical scholars, work that has in fact been taking place since the end of the council. Two such ongoing efforts are the Christ and the Jewish People consultation, jointly sponsored by Boston College, the Pontifical Gregorian University, the Catholic Theological Union, and the Catholic University of Leuven with the encouragement of Cardinal Walter Kasper; and the multiyear study project on Paul and Judaism at the Catholic University of Leuven.
Contrary to Vatican II?
The Discussion Group "Jews and Christians" of the Central Committee of German Catholics, voices similar complaint, calling it "A New Burden on Christian-Jewish Relations"
On the one hand in the prayer of 1970, which is said on Good Friday in the ordinary Rite of the Roman Catholic Church almost everywhere, the church expresses unequivocally her appreciation of the dignity of Israel, God’s chosen people, to whom God has given the promises and a Covenant, that was never revoked and will never be revoked (cf. Rom 9:4 and 11:29 and the Declaration of the Second Vatican Council, Nostra aetate, 4). On the other hand the Church acknowledges that the Jews who are faithful to God’s covenant and live in the love of His name are on the path to salvation. She asks that God lead Israel to fulfillment along this path. The church does not speak here of a Jewish confession of Jesus Christ to be a condition for salvation, because she trusts that their being faithful in God’s covenant will lead the Jews to their salvation. This conviction was also clearly expressed in our discussion group’s statement, “Jews and Christians in Germany: Responsibility in Today’s Pluralistic Society” of 13 April 2005: “According to Christian faith, Jesus Christ is 'the Yes and the Amen' (2 Cor 1:20) of God’s irrevocable fidelity to Israel and to the whole world. Nevertheless, there is salvation for Jewish people who do not believe in Jesus as the Christ because of God’s covenant with them.”
Shortly after the release of "Summorum Pontificum", Avvenire featured an interview with Archbishop Amato of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in which he responded to the view which pitted the extraordinary form of the prayer for the Jews against Nostrae Aetate:
Q: Your Excellency, there are those who accuse the motu proprio “Summorum Pontificum” of being anti-conciliar, because it offers full citizenship to a missal in which there is a prayer for the conversion of the Jews. Is it truly contrary to the letter and spirit of the Council to formulate this prayer?Two Ways of Salvation or One?
Reading Fr. Powlakowski and the response of the Central Committee of German Catholics, one receives the impression that Jesus Christ plays no role in the salvation of the Jews; the The Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, however, is quite clear on the correct interpretation of Nostra Aetate on this subject ("On the correct way to present the Jews and Judaism in preaching and catechesis in the Roman Catholic Church" June 24, 1985):
7. "In virtue of her divine mission, the Church" which is to be "the all-embracing means of salvation" in which alone "the fulness of the means of salvation can be obtained" (Unit. Red. 3); "must of her nature proclaim Jesus Christ to the world" (cf. Guidelines and Suggestions, I). Indeed we believe that is is through him that we go to the Father (cf. Jn. 14:6) "and this is eternal life, that they know thee the only true God and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent" (Jn 17:33).Responding to the "Two Ways of Salvation" thesis ("there is no need to offer the Jews entry into the new covenant in Jesus Christ as God's covenant with the people of Israel was never revoked, and is alone salvific"), Christoph Cardinal Schönborn stated in The Tablet (Judaism’s way to salvation March 29, 2008):
... according to the New Testament and from the Christian point of view there is only one salvation in Jesus Christ, but two clearly distinguishable ways of proclaiming and accepting this salvation. In this respect it must be made clear that the overture/offer to the Jews to recognise Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah cannot simply be equated with Christ's mandate to evangelise all (heathen) nations and make them his disciples (cf. Matthew 28: 18-20).
Schonborn reminds us that "There is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call upon him" (Romans 10:12) -- at the same time, it does not follow that the difference was abolished; "Even within the Church, St Paul retains a certain diversity of appeal and differentiates between Jews and Gentiles":
... St Paul distinguishes between the two vocations, between those who believed in Jesus as the Messiah who came "from circumcision" and those who converted to Christ and came "from the Gentiles". The difference lies in the way in which they communicate with each other in the Church and impart the same blessing to the world which God conferred on human beings through Jesus Christ, "For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the circumcised on behalf of the truth of God, in order that he might confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy" (Romans 15,8-9).If the Church has apologized for all forms of compulsion ("proselytism" in the negative sense), it does not follow that they havea abandoned Christ's mandate to proclaim the Gospel "to the Jews first"; rather,
it means that this mandate must be carried out in the most sensitive way, cleansed of all un-Christian motives. Prayer, the offering of life, tokens of unselfish love and above all recognition of Jewish identity should win "the goodwill of all the people" (Acts 2:47) for the disciples of Jesus so that bearing witness to their faith in Christ, proposed with due respect and humility, may be recognised by them (the Jews) as the fulfilment - and not as a denial - of the promise of which they are the bearers.Schonborn also recommends in the context of this article Cardinal Dulles' critique of dual-covenant theology "Covenant and Mission" (America October 21, 2002).
In the past I admit I have been critical of Cardinal Kasper, head of the Vatican's Commission for Religious Relations With the Jews. In the past, he has often served as foil to then-Prefect Cardinal Ratzinger, "watering down" the CDF's forceful teaching on the salvific role of Christ, his Church and evangelization.
In fact, Cardinal Kasper address at a joint meeting between the Rabbinic Committee for Interreligious Dialogue and the USCCB's Office of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs seems to have contributed to such an erroneous "dual covenant" understanding.
Discussions at this meeting later culminated in the 2002 statement, Reflections on Covenant and Mission -- which concluded that "evangelizing task [of the Church] no longer includes the wish to absorb the Jewish faith into Christianity" and that "Jews already dwell in a saving covenant with God." The ensuing controversy prompting Cardinal Keeler to later distance himself, stating that the document "does not represent a formal position taken by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) or the Bishops' Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs (BCEIA)."
In light of which, there are some indications that Cardinal Kasper is "stepping up" in his presentation:
From Catholic News Service: Vatican cardinal defends reformulation of Tridentine prayer for Jews February 7, 2008:
The pope removed language that spoke of the "blindness" of the Jews, which Cardinal Kasper said was "a little offensive."
Haaretz reports another conversation with the Cardinal (Vatican rejects criticism of new prayer for Jewish conversion February 7, 2008):
"We think that reasonably this prayer cannot be an obstacle to dialogue because it reflects the faith of the Church and, furthermore, Jews have prayers in their liturgical texts that we Catholics don't like,"
Also, On Good Friday, Cardinal Kasper published a commentary on the new prayer in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung -- a full English translation will hopefully be forthcoming, but Dr. Thomas Pink, Centre for Philosophical Studies, King's College London), provides four key points worth considering:
Not all Jews expressed adverse reactions, according to Zenit News Service. Among those expressing understanding and sympathy was Rabbi Jacob Neusner (prominently featured in a chapter of Pope Benedict's Jesus of Nazareth):
Among the reactions, an article published Feb. 23 in the German newspaper Die Tagespost is noteworthy. The article, written by Jacob Neusner, professor of History and Theology of Judaism in Bard College, supports the explanation given by the cardinal, explaining that the prayer does nothing more than express Christian identity.The full text of Rabbi Neusner's article was republished by Sandro Magister, alongside a biblically-rich explication by Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the pontifical council for culture:
This intense hope is obviously proper to the Church, which has at its center, as fountain of salvation, Jesus Christ. For the Christian, he is the Son of God and is the visible and efficacious sign of divine love, because as Jesus had said that night to "a ruler of the Jews," Nicodemus, "God so loved the world that he gave his only Son... God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him" (cf. John 3:16-17). It is, therefore, from Jesus Christ, son of God and son of Israel, that there arises the purifying and fecundating stream of salvation, for which reason one can also say in the final analysis, as Christ does in John's Gospel, that "salvation is from the Jews" (4:22). The estuary of the history hoped for by the Church is, therefore, rooted in this spring.See A Bishop and a Rabbi Defend the Prayer for the Salvation of the Jews by Sandro Magister. www.Chiesa. March 7, 2008).
German Jews severe ties
In March 31, 2008, the Jerusalem Post reported that the president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Charlotte Knobloch, severed relations with the Catholic Church out of disappointment with the prayer:
"As long as Pope Benedict does not return to the previous wording, I assume that there will not be any further dialogue [such as we had] in the past," said Knobloch. ...Der Spiegel also carried an interview with prominent German rabbi Walter Homolka:
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Mr. Homolka, you -- and around 1,600 rabbis worldwide -- are sharply protesting the Vatican's revival of the Latin Good Friday Prayer, which reads: "Let us also pray for the Jews: That our God and Lord may illuminate their hearts, that they acknowledge that Jesus Christ is the Savior of all men." Do you consider Benedict XVI to be anti-Semitic?
Rabbi Homolka is clearly prone to hyperbole, but Germany's Jews have had a rough time of it in recent years (anti-semitism appears to be on the rise in Germany).
Even so, Van Wallach of the "liberal, hawkish" Jewish blog Kesher Talk questions the outrage over the prayer ("That's Right, We Bad, We Perfidious: The Upside of the Latin Mass"):
Alarm about the Latin Mass assumes people understand Latin. How many do? Wouldn't that signal a widespread return to classical learning in the West, instead of a threat to Jews, if Latin revived? If Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ couldn't ignite pogroms, then I hardly think a few Latin references, however troubling, will cause outbreaks of violence. That only happens when the culture is already well fertilized with Jew hatred. If a society is primed to despise Jews, well, that's going to happen whether the Mass contains a few references to us or not.Vatican plays "damage control"
On April 2nd, JTA (Jewish & Israel News) reported that Pope Benedict XVI was preparing to clarify the Vatican’s position on the controversial Good Friday Prayer for the Jews:
The Vatican will issue a letter within a week aimed at easing Jewish fears that the Catholic Church wants to convert them, said the chairman of the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations, Rabbi David Rosen.
On April 4th, the Vatican press office issued a communiqué released today by the Vatican press office on the publication of the new "Oremus et pro Iudaeis" for the 1962 edition of the Roman Missal:
The Holy See wishes to reassure that the new formulation of the Prayer, which modifies certain expressions of the 1962 Missal, in no way intends to indicate a change in the Catholic Church's regard for the Jews which has evolved from the basis of the Second Vatican Council, particularly the Declaration Nostra Aetate. In fact, Pope Benedict XVI, in an audience with the Chief Rabbis of Israel on 15 September 2005, remarked that this document "has proven to be a milestone on the road towards the reconciliation of Christians with the Jewish people." The continuation of the position found in Nostra Aetate is clearly shown by the fact that the prayer contained in the 1970 Missal continues to be in full use, and is the ordinary form of the prayer of Catholics.Despite the Holy See's hope that the statement would clarify any misunderstanding, some remain dissatisfied:
The Anti-Defamation League said a statement from the Vatican that the new formulation of the prayer "in no way intends to indicate a change in the Catholic Church's regard for the Jews," did not go far enough.According to the head Rabbi of Rome, "We are not satisfied: what we wanted was to hear a Vatican statement in touch with the times and to hear that the Church does not pray for the conversion of Jews, or at least that it will not pray for this until the forever and that God only helps one group of people ... [the Vatican's statement] did not clarify this point: the question remains completely unresolved"."