Saturday, January 17, 2009

Pope and Jews

In Italy especially, there seems to be a dramatic change in Catholic Jewish relations, John Allen identifies four reasons for this:

    • First, the most powerful movement in the internal life of the Catholic church today is what I've defined as "evangelical Catholicism," meaning a reassertion of traditional Catholic beliefs and practices, coupled with robust public proclamation of Catholic identity. Part of that identity is the conviction that Christ is the lone and unique savior of the world. If "respect," from the Jewish point of view, requires the church to renounce the claim that all salvation comes from Christ -- which Richetti's essay could be read to suggest -- then it's probably not in the cards.

    • Second, there's a generational shift underway. The pioneers of Catholic/Jewish relations, for whom the living memory of the Holocaust is a powerful motivating force, are passing from the scene. The new cohort remains committed to the cause, but its leaders may not feel the same sense of personal moral obligation.

    • Third, the demographic shift in Catholicism away from Europe and, to a lesser extent, North America, towards Africa, Asia and Latin America, means that increasingly leadership will be coming from regions where Catholic/Jewish relations yield pride of place to dialogue with other traditions, especially Islam and the religions of Asia. In the Catholicism of the future, Judaism will no longer be the paradigmatic religious "other," but rather one relationship among many, and in some respects not the highest priority.

    • Fourth, Benedict XVI's preference for "inter-cultural" rather than "inter-religious" dialogue, placing the accent on social and political cooperation rather than strictly theological encounter, may also drive Catholic/Jewish ties down the list of concerns. Theologically, Christianity's root relationship is with Judaism. In terms of geo-politics, however, relations with Islam, or Hinduism, or for that matter Evangelical and Pentecostal Christianity, often pack a greater punch. (There are roughly 13 million Jews in the world and 1.6 billion Muslims; you do the math.) Even in Europe, the rising Muslim population means that when Catholicism is looking for partners to influence social life, Islam is steadily replacing Judaism as the most obvious "live option."

Rorate also makes its own analysis tracing some of the problems to uber-liberal Milan and the Jesuits.

Another problem I suspect is a certain is a growing political fundamentalism in Judaism.


Anonymous said...

Both the present Pope and the last Pope have spoken of "our elder brethren in the Faith". Can this be said of any other group?

A careful reading of Pope Benedict's book on Our Lord shows just how Jewish a religion is Christianity and how much Jesus thought in Jewish terms.

The Mass itself is a fusion of the synagogue service with a Jewish meal transformed by the Lord.

Judaism is not a "tradition" it is God's Old Covenant which gave place to the New.

Vatican II it seems to me is very clear on the whole matter.

Fr Ray Blake said...

In Partibus,
Yes, but; I think part of the problem is a genuine fear of a return to an earlier theology of the substition of the New Covenant for the old, which is part of Catholic theology and needs to be harmonised with VII's understanding of the continuation of the Old Covenant.

Anonymous said...

As I said in a previous posting, Father, that harmonisation is easily done.

The covenant of Abraham established Israel as an imperishable people, and the covenant of David set kings over her. Both are permanent and irrevocable, because Jesus is a son of Abraham and of David. This is demonstrated by the fact that the Jews exist today as a people, let alone in their political organisation in the State of Israel. So does the Monarchy, the regal office of David, vested forever in Jesus Christ, who is by hereditary right the King of the Jews.

The covenant of Moses gave Israel a specific way of divine worship and an hereditary priesthood which were superseded by the New Covenant established by Christ. It had to be superseded, since the Law had to be changed to enable Jesus to be a priest.

He could not be a priest under the Old Law, but only under the New, because He is not a descendant of Aaron.

The supersession of the Covenant of Moses is demonstrated by the fact that the Temple was destroyed in AD70 and has never been rebuilt.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Not entirely convincing, Michael, sounds more convincing to US Christian Zionists, not Catholics.
One point, for example: The Sinai covenant was essentially moral, "keep my commandments and I will be your God", it predated the Temple, and Jews today would say post dates it too.

Simon Platt said...

Surely the mass owes more to temple worship than that of the synagogue? It is, after all, a sacrifice. Its description as a synagogue-meal fusion seems to me to be dangerous.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Temple worship seems to have been essentially about taking and killing or offering it was essentially the work of the priests.

The Liturgy of the Hours, the citation of the psalms, plus lections seems to be an exact mirror of synagogue worship.

From St Paul onwards the meal aspect of Eucharist happened at home. 1 Corinthians tells us it is a commemoration of Christ death. In its earliest form it seems to have been something added to a synagogue service.

Anonymous said...

Fr Blake - thank you for your clarification - perhaps I should have said "gave birth to the New"? After all it happened quite literally in the person of Our Lady.

Michael Petek - the first part of the Mass - the prayers and scripture readings - most writers trace back to the synagogue - the rest is surely a Jewish meal invested by the Lord with sacrificial significance.

gemoftheocean said...

Gee, how odd. Certain comments seem to have been removed which would tend to lend glee to the thought of Jews being thrown under the bus!

Thank you for posting this item. I do not mind the pope having "dialogue" with any religion. But it bears keeping in mind that sometimes this is like St. Francis petting a wolf. And a wolf that is perhaps waiting for an opportune moment to bite.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Ah I might have rejected a comment by mistake, sorry, whoever sent it.

Anonymous said...

'Gem', why is Judaism similar to a wolf? What threat does Judaism pose to the Church? I don't think there's any. Mr Allen's point about the gradual fading of the Holocaust from the collective memory (with which I don't necessarily agree) might be vindicated by casual references to untrustworthy animals when speaking about Judaism and the Jews.
Father, how might the theology of 'substitution' be harmonised with the VII theology? Has it been done yet?
All, if we're convinced of the truth claims of the Church, why be afraid of dialoguing with others?

Fr Ray Blake said...

Joe, I think it is a "both, and" answer: substitution and continuation, like "God and Man".

Anonymous said...

Father, I've read in depth about US Christian Zionists, including a book by Stephen Sizer based on his doctoral dissertation.

He gives several classifications of Christian Zionism, but I think he errs in thinking that it is inseparable from dispensational premillennialism.

Classical premillennialism, a doctrine with Jewish antecedents, had a considerable following in the early Church, until it was condemned in favour of amillennialism.

Premillennialism is so called because it envisages a visible reign of Christ in glory on earth with the risen saints for a thousand years, before the general resurrection and judgement. It was a widely current opinion of distinguished teachers, such as Barnabas, Papias, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Methodius, and Lactantius.

Dispensational premillennialism is a modern version of the doctrine, the 'dispensational' component owing its existence to JN Darby and CI Scofield.

Dispensational premillennialism holds that there is a radical theological distinction between Israel and the Church; classical premillennialism holds that there is not.

I do not subscribe to either. What I do subscribe to is the repeated statements of Pope John Paul II that the divine covenant with Israel remains in force forever.

I differ from the US Christian Zionists chiefly on the following point: they affirm that the Jews collectively have a divine right to the Land of Israel (though they take different positions about its territorial delimitation).

My position is that the divine right to both the land and the allegiance of its people belongs to David and his legitimate successors, and ultimately the Messiah. The Jews' bond with the land, which is the principle of their desire to live there, is a divinely established fact.

I can understand why US Christian Zionists think as they do. As dyed-in-the-wool citizens of a republic, they find it harder than we do to understand monarchy, especially in its spiritual dimension.

Ideally the Jews are meant to live in the Land of Israel, though they can be - and have been - excluded from it as punishment for their sins. But the penalty of exile can be set aside by the Divine Mercy. I am particularly impressed that the date of St Faustyna's death in 1938 happened to coincide that year with the Jewish Feast of Yom Kippur.

Now, I take your point about the Sinai covenant. It predated the Temple only because the worship of God was originally meant to take place in a tent, as the Israelites were then nomads.

The First Temple was built by King Solomon on the initiative of his father David after he became concerned that that he was living in a palace while the Ark of God had to make do with a tent.

The last verses of 2 Samuel give the account of how David bought the site of the Temple Mount from Araunah the Jebusite.

Now, to revisit the topic of whether, and in what manner, Israel and the Church are distinct.

One is a nation with a divinely guaranteed potentiality to political sovereignty, the other is a spiritual society which is divinely guaranteed sovereignty in act.

Their mutual relations cannot be understood except in relation to Jesus Christ.

God promised Abraham to give the land of Canaan to his offpring the Messiah; and He promised David that the Messiah would come from his royal house.

The Nativity of Christ fulfilled these promises, in that Jesus has been King of the Jews from birth.

By necessity of His divine nature His Kingship has always been in the effective exercise of all the powers attached to the Crown. It is not of this world, for it is divine, not political, in the foundation of its rights and in the manner of the exercise of regal power.

What does all this imply for Christian Israelology?

(1) Once we accept that patriotism - pious reverence for one's native land and people - is a virtue, we must immediately affirm that it is an inherent quality of the sinless humanity of Jesus Christ and present in Him in the fullest degree of excellence.

(2) Jesus is a son of Israel, and for this reason we should expect His ardent love for His native land and people to have effects in maintaining a certain distinctiveness for the Jewish nation in the Christian economy, so that we can learn from Him the exercise of this virtue.

(3) The patriotism of Jesus Christ is not exclusive to Jews, but extends to every Gentile who is native to the Holy Land.

(4) The patriotism of Jesus Christ is a bond of charity, binding Him to Israel, which belongs to what Pope Pius XII called the sensible love of His Sacred Heart. It refers to the love He has for the persons and things He has ever apprehended through His senses and His full powers of feeling and perception.

Sensible love is within the compass of unaided human nature. In the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary there is not the slightest sin to impede it.

It is altogether distinct from the supernatural love which is infused in the Sacred Heart of Jesus by the Hypostatic Union, and communicated to the faithful in the forgiveness of sins and the gift of sanctifying grace. It far exceeds the powers of unaided human nature and unites the faithful to one another and to Christ in a bond in which there is neither slave nor free, Jew nor Gentile, male nor female, etc.

(5) Jesus is not only a son of Israel, He is also her King because He is the legitimate Heir of David. It belongs to the perfection of His Sacred Humanity that He leaves no royal duty undone. The King must protect and preserve his people and shepherd them in the way they should go.

Accordingly, He expects and demands the same things of His Israeli and Palestinian compatriots today as He did when He walked this earth: that they follow Him, acknowledge His Kingship in public affairs as well as private and obey His commandments.

If they do not, then they cannot say that Pope Pius XI (in Quas Primas) didn't warn them!

Physiocrat said...

What concerns me is that there are passages in the New Testament which could be construed as overtly antisemitic without proper explanation and such explanation is not always given.

In the New Testament narratives, "The Jews" are often - usually - the baddies. The fact that Jesus and all the disciples were also Jews tends to be overlooked. When it isn't, the question becomes "which Jews are the baddies?" and it is obvious that it is the religious establishment. And it is perpetually the case that religions are vulnerable to decay from within their establishments, which is a message which should never be forgotten. How many of the English bishops, for instance, opposed the Reformation? And one can read one's Trollope to see that it religions are at their most vulnerable when their hierarchies go to the bad.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Michael, I am going to respond to your very long comment, have you considered getting your own blog?

I am not quite sure that kingship in terms you put it forward has ever been a Catholic concern, it seems very Protestant. Kingship amongst us has always been seen as a divine gift. He is the Christ because of his Divine nature and the annointing of the Holy Spirit. His Kingdom is not of this World. Never has the Church seen it the temporal terms you seem to suggest.

I do not have time to respond to excessively long posts, in future they are likely to be rejected.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you, Father, about the nature of the Kingship of Christ, as I frequently read Quas Primas and also have an eye on Cardinal Manning's lectures on the Fourfold Kingship of Christ. Ian Bradley's God Save the Queen - The Spiritual Dimension of Monarchy is also an excellent read.

The term 'Messiah' has several layers of meaning, including the one you state.

The chief difference between Christ's Kingship and temporal kingship is that temporal kingship is political in its origin and in the manner of its exercise. Christ's is divine in both respects, in that He possesses and exercises kingship solely by a divine power properly His own. The chief role of His Sacred Humanity is to reveal it to men; to show us what God is doing.

I could say more, but I must learn brevity!

Anonymous said...

The Catholic Church has not walked away from Dialogue, the Jewish Dialogue partners have. Surely, "we're only prepared to dialogue if you pretend that your not Catholic" is no basis for any dialogue at all.

Anonymous said...

"The Church ever keeps in mind the words of the Apostle about his kinsmen,"who have the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenant and the legislation and the worship and the promises; who have the fathers, and from whom is Christ according to the flesh(Rom.9:4-5) the son of the Virgin Mary.The Church recalls too that from the Jewish people sprang the apostles, her foundation stones and pillars, as well as most of the early disciples who proclaimed Christ to the world". ( Vatican 2. Declaration on the Relationship of te Church to Non-Christian Religions).

Need one say any more?

gemoftheocean said...

Joe, it is HAMAS who is a wolf. You must be new. It is I and a few others who notice that as far as many europeans are concerned Israli innocents could be bombed from now until kingdom come before any protests would be mounted re: unprovoked Hamas attacks. These same pseudosophisticates then will turn around and claim they are not anti-semitic. When Israli children get killed, crickets chirp, for all Europe cares. But let Hamas hide behind some diapers and both get killed in retaliatory strikes, and Scotsmen are throwing shoes at the US embassy. Brilliant.

epsilon said...

For our American friends who enjoy a daily diet of lies about the world, and especially the Middle East because of US expansionist plans:

A review of Ilan Pappe, an Israeli historian who was a senior lecturer at Haifa University, but now a professor at Exeter University -

“...Palestinians then [1940s] and today have almost no rights including being able to live in peace and security on their own land in their own state that no longer exists. Survivors then and their offspring either live in Israel as unwanted Arab citizens with few rights or in the Occupied Palestinians Territories (OPT) where their lives are suspended in limbo in an occupied country in which they're subjected to daily institutionalized and codified racism and persecution. They have no power over their daily lives and live in a constant state of fear with good reason. They face economic strangulation; collective punishment for any reason; loss of free movement; enclosures by separation walls, electric fences and border closings; regular curfews, roadblocks, checkpoints, loss of their homes by bulldozings and crops and orchards by wanton destruction and seizure; arrest without cause, and routine subjection to torture while in custody...”

By the way, Barack Obama won’t do much to change the status quo, he’s well locked in to towing the American party line, because if he doesn’t he’ll be out on his ear.

This is how your government sees the world:
Page 60 of 90
Rebuilding America’s Defences, published 2000

“...advanced forms of biological warfare that can “target” pecific genotypes may transform iological warfare from the realm of terror to a politically useful tool...”

Anonymous said...

Its tragic when a good post, with some very interesting and constructive comments is derailed by comments like Epsilon's. Probably time to kill this thread Fr.

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