Tuesday 19 February 2008

Good Friday and the Jews

I'm a little at a loss to know what to think about the change in the prayer for the Jews in the traditional Good Friday service.
Part of me resents any change to the 1962 Missal; there are many among the more hard-line traditionalists who allege that the whole purpose of changing the Missal in 1969 was precisely to change doctrine. This fuels their argument, and will certainly lead to their distrusting the efforts of Pope Benedict to reconcile them. What will be changed next? they might legitimately ask.
And yet, it is perfectly easy also to understand why the Jews are upset. Speaking of veils of blindness &c is hardly going to mollify them. For perfectly understandable reasons, the Jews are hypersensitive to signs of disapprobation in other quarters, and though we may honestly think their reaction can be over the top at times, the reason for it is plain to see. We do at least owe them the duty and courtesy of acting sensitively. The way our forebears behaved towards them is still a fresh and raw wound in their psyche.
The point at issue is—particularly for American Jews, it would appear—whether or not the old covenant was abrogated when our Lord initiated the new in his blood. Paragraph 4 of the Decree Nostra Aetate of the Second Vatican Council has been often cited by Jewish and (more liberal) Catholic commentators as the source for saying that the earlier covenant with Moses still endures. Well, look for yourself. I'm not sure that the text can be made to say that. It seems to be talking of the love that God has for the Jewish people because of his 'special relationship' with them throughout salvation history, and saying that this love still endures. So it does, of course. But it doesn't say that the former covenant endures.
An earnest desire that the Jewish people come to faith in our Lord seems to me to be a good thing. Before he ascended into heaven, our Lord commanded us to take the Gospel to all people, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. He did not say 'all people except the Jews'. A desire that the Jews be converted may come across as patronizing or even repugnant when viewed from the Jewish side, but it is important to stress that our enthusiasm is not based on any antipathy to them, but rather the reverse. It is the very importance of the Jewish people in the history of Salvation that makes us keen that they, too, share fully in all the benefits of Christ. The acceptance of Christ by the Jews is one of the signs of the Kingdom. It seems to me that the point of Nostra Aetate is a firm setting aside of any racist or anti-Semitic relics that may remain: Vatican II ended a mere 20 years after the end of World War II, after all. The Church proclaims firmly that the Jews are loved by God with a special love, and that we should respect that, and them.
But I cannot see that there is evidence in scripture, tradition, or the solemn Magisterium of the Church that the Mosaic covenant is still to be upheld by the Christian Church as still valid and itself a means of salvation, as has been asserted on some sites I have visited in the last weeks. For a Christian, Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation. We trust that God may save many others who behave well according to their lights, and above all, we pray, the Jews, but that is a different thing from saying that Judaism and Christianity are sort-of parallel ways of salvation.
The Jews, of course, will not see it this way. For them, the Mosaic covenant is their way to heaven. And if they follow it with all their hearts and seek God, and do justly, we may have confidence that Almighty God will save them for the sake of His Son, who died for them.
I'm not confident of my own stand enough, really. There seem to be so many conflicting opinions on this subject flying round the net at the moment. What do you think?


Dr. Peter H. Wright said...

How satisfactory is the new Good Friday prayer for the Jews ?

Well, the new Good Friday prayer for the Jews in the "old" form is so much better than the Good Friday prayer in the Novus Ordo, that I wonder why the former doesn't replace the latter.

It requires no more than a modicum of scholarship to translate it.

It wouldn't need an international forum.

As to changes in the "Mass of the pre-sanctified", it is a pity "Summorum Pontificum" (for which we are all very grateful) didn't choose the pre 1955 Missal.

After all, the later years of Pius XII saw the hijack of the liturgical movement by the modernisers who undertook the liturgical revolution after Vatican II.

By 1962, things were already on the slippery slope, liturgically,(albeit in a small way, compared with what was to come.)

Anonymous said...

The Pope's position seems clear. The Old Covenant is a stage towards and fulfilled in the New.

See this very fine Papal address 15 March 2006:


Benedict XVI like John Paul II seems to prefer to speak of the Old Covenant's fulfilment rather than its abrogation, implying that the Old is an early version of or stage towards the New, rather than something discontinuous with it. So it's not that, given the New, the Old Covenant has simply disappeared. It is continued in developed and perfected form in the New : and all, Jew and Gentile are like are called to form one People of God under the New Covenant. Which seems to be the obvious meaning of the 2008 prayer too. As the Pope says:

"After Mary, a pure reflection of the light of Christ, it is from the Apostles, through their word and witness, that we receive the truth of Christ. Their mission is not isolated, however, but is situated within a mystery of communion that involves the entire People of God and is carried out in stages from the Old to the New Covenant."

In fact there are at least three positions floating around the Catholic world:

(i) That the Old Covenant and the New are distinct and discontinuous, and with Christ the first has just been removed. (Some Traditionalists talk this way). Not that fashionable in Rome since the Council, but hardly heretical.

(ii) That the Old Covenant has been fulfilled in the New. So there is in a sense one single continuous Covenant-involving relationship between God and man developing through time that has been revealed in its final form in Christ, who is the one path to salvation for all, Jew or Gentile. Something like this seems the favoured view in Rome. And it does justice to the fact that Jesus is both the promised Messiah for the Jews and the Saviour of all humanity.

(iii) That the Old Covenant and the New are distinct and discontinuous, and both persist. So the Jews have a separate path to salvation from the Gentiles, and there is no right to pray for Jewish conversion to Christ. I think this position is arguably heresy, and certainly seems inconsistent with the New Testament and the view that Christ died for all and that the Church is to make disciples of all nations. But the view is favoured by liberals in the Tablet and numerous US theologians involved in dialogue with the Jews. I have seen some such US theologians openly deny that Jesus should be seen as the Messiah for the Jews.

The 1970 prayer is ambiguous, but unfortunately can be understood in terms of (iii) as well as (ii). It is hard to reconcile with (i). The 1962 and 2008 prayer surely rule out (iii), but are strictly consistent with both (i) and (ii). Though the more 'positive' atmosphere of the 2008 prayer arguably breathes the spirit of (ii) rather than (i), even so the Jewish failure to see the New Covenant as fulfilling the Old does involve a veil or darkness - a failure to understand the truth - so 1962 is not inconsistent with (ii).

Surely both (i) and (ii) require us to pray for Jewish conversion. What seems less clear is whether Rome currently favours, over and above the Church's general witness to all, missionary strategies targetted specifically at the Jews. This question is not really an issue of whether Christ is the sole means to salvation - Rome takes that for granted - and is not settled by either the 1962 or the 2008 prayer. A mission specifically to the Jews is disapproved of by Kasper, but it is unclear whether this is simply pragmatic disapproval given delicate Christian-Jewish relations, or a belief that when it comes to addressing the Jews specifically as Jews, (rather than evangelising people in general), it is up to God to do the enlightening.

Many Traditionalists find Cardinal Kasper very objectionable and tend to lump him in with supporters of (iii). But he's fairly clearly in the (ii) camp with the Pope. A lot of Kasper's recent utterances are about distancing the 2008 prayer from any prospect of Rome launching a mission specifically to the Jews. I find Kasper's views debatable as policy, and his utterances not so much clarifying as emollient in a way designed to fudge issues that might upset Jewish leaders - but I don't think he's really the heretic that some Traditionalists suppose him to be.

I would like to know how many Traditionalists currently venting outrage about Kasper in the blogs actually intend to spend this weekend outside their local synagogue distributing pamphlets calling on the Jews to convert, knocking on doors in Golders Green personally inviting those within to abandon their darkness etc. I suspect not many will be doing this, and for perfectly sensible reasons. It might not actually foster that much actual conversion. Which is partly Rome's point on this issue. Pray and hope for Jewish conversion - but think twice about the pamphlets and the cold calling.

I think Pope Benedict's 2008 prayer is very fine, as is his March 15th address. I cannot see why an orthodox Catholic should object. The fact that this prayer outrages both some SSPX supporters and the editor of the Tablet is depressing - but this is not the first instance of such shared outrage. Good on Pope Benedict for introducing this prayer, and may it come to the Ordinary form of the Mass too!

Anonymous said...

Hi! I like blog and this article. I'm too kind of split on this issue. There are some good argument for and some against. I think that the new prayer reaffirmed the traditional belief that even Jews must covert to be saved. It also makes it clear that the Extraordinary form is still relevant and should be used. But whether we think the change was good or bad, we must not reject the ruling.

" And if they follow it with all their hearts and seek God, and do justly, we may have confidence that Almighty God will save them for the sake of His Son, who died for them. "

Yep, if they truly seek God they won't be punished for their ignorance (thought I wonder how many Jews are truly ignorant of the Gospel). In that case there is still hope for them. But I think it's still important that we do not suppose salvation of non-Catholics. I know this might be a very unpopular view but I think it's the only one that makes a complete sense. There is no salvation outside of the Church and it's no good if we let our children play with loaded guns since there is always some chance that the trigger will get jammed. The logical approach is to suppose that someone will get shot.

Anagnostis said...

Dear Father

Welcome back - you've been sorely missed.

I am very, very discouraged by this development, for a whole variety of reasons. Here is the sequence of events:

1) Vatican II promulgates a document on Judaism which is so ambiguous that it opens the door to dispensationalist and near-dispensationalist "dual covenant" heresies, which had not been on the radar beforehand. (I'm not sure that the text can be made to say that. It seems to be talking of...)

2) Subsequently, the heretical interpretation is given pretty nearly a free run in the "spirit" of the Council, which is alleged to have "changed" the Church's teaching. This view is widely received and seldom challenged.

3) The Novus Ordo prayer opens the door still further, to the point of positively insinuating the heretical understanding.

4) During the subsequent thirty-seven years, the understanding of Catholics at every level is formed by the Novus Ordo prayer (lex orandi, etc). The consequences are everywhere evident.

5) Summorum Pontificum re-introduces the majority of Catholics to the traditional understanding of the Church, from which the majority appear to recoil to varying degrees.

6) Instead of correcting the scandalous Novus Ordo prayer, a new prayer is imposed on the Traditional liturgy which, while susceptible of an orthodox understanding, nevertheless also opens the door to dispensationalist/dual covenant theology. An ambiguity has been introduced where there was none before. The "hermeneutic of continuity" is thus to be construed in terms of continuity also with the older Novus Ordo formula, which has formed the understanding of nearly two generations of Catholics.

It is impossible, IMO, to resist the conclusion that a "drift" the faith of the Church is being legitimised to some extent, by a positive refusal to exclude it from the Liturgy, which matters far, far more than any number of speeches or paper documents in defense of the Tradition. It cannot be understood as "develpment" (despite the rush to declare it an "organic" development) because it is a reversal and a contraditiction of the bimillenial understanding of the Church.

This is not a small matter. Every year, on the solemn commemoration of the saving Passion and Death of the Lord and the rending of the Temple veil, something contrary and inadmissible is being insinuated in the liturgical Vox Christi. It is profoundly disturbing.

Anonymous said...

Welcome back, Father.

I think that Scripture says 'new covenant', but in the Liturgy, the Canon seems to clarify this with 'new and everlasting covenant' i.e. that the mosaic covenant wasn't eternal - it has been fulfilled/superceeded. The formula in the Canon is beyond all doubt.

However I agree that there is something very special about our brothers, the orthodox Jews.

Anonymous said...

I am Roman Catholic and upset at the change, privately i will say the prayer to myself, because i recently bought the 1962 edition of the Roman rite missal.