A “New Pentecost” dawning? By Louie Verrecchio

Source: Renew America

January 11, 2013
A “New Pentecost” dawning?
By Louie Verrecchio

A peculiar thing happened on the way to the present day from Pentecost; the Church suddenly stopped calling the Jews to conversion.

Sure, if we’re honest, we must admit that the Church in our day is reticent to explicitly call anyone who dwells beyond the fold into the one true religion that is the Catholic faith, but in the decades since Vatican II, the Jewish people have evidently become the “untouchables” in the minds of many a churchman.

On Pentecost, St. Peter called his Jewish brethren to conversion saying, “Do penance: and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of your sins. And you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is to you and to your children and to all that are far off, whomsoever the Lord our God shall call… and there were added in that day about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:38-39, 41).

And what of the present day?

In reaction to news that the Superior General of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX), Bishop Bernard Fellay, had referred to the Jews (along with Masons and modernists) as being among those “enemies of the Church” who vehemently oppose the Society’s canonical regularization, Father Federico Lombardi expressed shock. He issued a statement saying that the Church is committed to “dialogue and deepening relations” with the Jewish people, an approach that he said is reflective of the Vatican II document, Nostra Aetate,as well as the statements and initiatives of the Holy See in the decades since.

Engaging in dialogue with an eye toward cordial relations is all well and good, but not when it becomes, as in practice it most certainly has, a substitute for the mission that Jesus gave to His Church

Where once the Apostles risked death in order to evangelize the Jews, their successors often seem content to take shelter in the safe harbor of polite conversation. The contrast is so startling that if the Holy See’s public relations apparatus had been present at the time of Pentecost, one can well imagine it would have distanced itself from St. Peter with a speedy apology!

The SSPX has since issued a statement of its own clarifying that Bishop Fellay’s comment was aimed at the “leaders of Jewish organizations” and not the Jewish people, either individually or at large.

“The word ‘enemies’ used here by Bishop Fellay is, of course, a religious concept and refers to any group or religious sect which opposes the mission of the Catholic Church and her efforts to fulfil it: the salvation of souls,” the statement said.

One might immediately think of Sacred Scripture wherein we are told, “No man spoke openly of Jesus, for fear of the Jews” (cf John 7:13), and yet we simply accept that this does not mean to say that every individual Jew was to be feared; rather, it clearly refers to that well-organized group of which it is written, “the Jews consulted together to kill Paul” (cf Acts 9:23).

The Council’s treatment of the Jews in Nostra Aetate, regardless of its merit with respect to the Church’s mission, also deals in religious concepts. The document primarily concerns itself with what one might call an “inter-religious” relationship that is animated by the shared spiritual patrimonies of our respective faith traditions.

It must be said, however, that many of the most vocal so-called “Jewish leaders” of our day are not to be confused with men of religion; rather, they deal primarily in the stock and trade of political activism, conveniently hiding behind the Mogen David even as they worship at the altar of humanism.

Consider, for example, Abraham Foxman of the ADL, one of the vociferous opponents of the Society’s regularization to whom Bishop Fellay was presumably referring.

In the last several years alone, Foxman and his organization has launched an all-out offensive against Summorum Pontificum (Pope Benedict XVI’s motu proprio on the Traditional Latin Mass), the canonization cause of Venerable Pope Pius XII, and the Holy See’s doctrinal discussions with the SSPX, all in an obvious attempt to turn the Church’s internal affairs into a series of PR initiatives and fundraising gimmicks.

Men such as these are not, and never have been, a party to the inter-religious relationship of which Nostra Aetate speaks.

By contrast, there are men like Rabbi Yehuda Levin, the outspoken representative of the Union of Orthodox Rabbis and the Rabbinical Alliance of America, who shared with me in a conversation concerning the Church’s often strained relationship with certain Jewish groups, “There can be no question that [the Church’s] affection for traditional Jewish morality [with regard to life, marriage and family] is where the real problem lies.”

Any group, Jewish or otherwise, that seeks to hamstring the work of the Church, promoting such evils as abortion and homosexuality, even going so far as to oppose the celebration of Holy Mass according to ancient usage, is clearly an enemy of the Catholic Church, and by extension, her divine Founder. Of this there can be no dispute.

The degree to which certain individuals are invested in opposing the Lord and His Church — relative to full knowledge, invincible ignorance, or something in between — is a matter for the Just Judge to decide, but we mustn’t forget that Our Lord had something to say about how we are to treat our enemies.

This brings me back to the sea change in the Church’s approach to the Jews in recent decades.

“Love your enemies: do good to them that hate you: and pray for them that persecute and calumniate you,” says the Lord (Matthew 5:44).

Tell me, who does more good, those who behave as though the Jewish people have no need of conversion simply because they call upon God as”Avinu, Malkeinu!” (Our Father, Our King), or those who will endure every persecution while emulating St. Peter in approaching his kinsman, making known the duty incumbent upon them to worship Jesus Christ, their long-awaited Messiah?

Who has more love, those who speak as though the people who reject the Sovereignty of Our Lord are as yet in God’s will, or those who persevere in making it known that rejecting Christ the King is tantamount to despising “He who sent Him?” (cf Luke 10:16).

We often hear that Vatican II was intended to bring about a “New Pentecost.” Fifty years hence, we desperately need one.

I’ll believe that day is dawning when our churchmen once again call upon those “of whom is Christ, according to the flesh” (Romans 9:5) to repent and to come to the waters of baptism, exhorting them, saying, “Save yourselves from this perverse generation” (Acts 2:40).

© Louie Verrecchio

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7 comments on “A “New Pentecost” dawning? By Louie Verrecchio

  1. A Precarious Moment in Catholic-Jewish Relations
    By Abraham H. Foxman
    National Director of the Anti-Defamation League

    Posted: September 14, 2009

    NEW YORK — America’s Catholic bishops recently approved two new documents that strike at the very heart of a trusting relationship between Catholics and Jews.

    The first paper reintroduces the idea that Catholics can use interfaith dialogue as a means to invite Jews to Christian baptism.

    The second removes a catechism teaching that God’s Covenant with Moses and the Jewish people is eternally valid. This profound change, affirmed by the Vatican, raises for many Jews the specter of a possible return to such odious concepts as supersessionism and the teaching of contempt, which have caused Jews irreparable harm over the centuries.

    These new developments are the latest in a series of troubling reversals in the relationship since the summer of 2007, and have some in the Jewish community seriously reassessing the conditions for continuing the dialogue.

    How did we get to this point?

    The transformation of the Catholic-Jewish relationship began with Nostra Aetate (Latin for “In Our Time”) adopted in 1965 at the Second Vatican Council. This historic text laid the foundation for a new positive relationship and declared that the Jewish relationship with God endured.

    The Vatican followed up with guidelines, issued in 1974, stating that Christians “must strive to learn by what essential traits Jews define themselves in the light of their own religious experience,” and urging dialogue with a view toward “mutual understanding and respect.”

    In November 1980, Pope John Paul II, speaking in Mainz, Germany, affirmed that Jews are the people “of the Old Covenant, never revoked by God.” He called Jews “the present-day people of the covenant concluded with Moses.” In 2000, the pontiff stood on Mount Sinai and took note of the moment, stating, “But now on the heights of Sinai, this same God seals His love by making the covenant that He will never renounce.”

    The Pope’s powerful statements helped the nascent Jewish-Catholic dialogue develop a sense of trust and honesty.

    Additional church documents and statements deepened the relationship. In 2001, the Pontifical Biblical Commission issued the report “The Jewish People and Their Sacred Scriptures in the Christian Bible,” which talks of the permanent election of the Jewish people and suggests that its “Jewish messianic expectation is not in vain.” Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, played an important role in producing this work.

    Also in 2001, Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Vatican Commission on Religious Relations with the Jews, affirmed the validity of the Sinai Covenant, calling God’s covenant with the Jewish people “a living heritage, a living reality.”

    But something has changed over the past three years. The Vatican ship has shifted course, and the dialogue is backsliding in a slow, subtle process that threatens the trust and honesty we have worked so hard to achieve. In 2007, Pope Benedict XVI revived the Latin Good Friday “Prayer for the Conversion of the Jews,” a clear break from the previous 1970 version that avoided any mention of conversion. And this year, Pope Benedict opened the door to the potential return to the Church of a traditionalist schismatic group, the Society of St. Pius X, which rejects Vatican II reforms and whose leadership includes a Holocaust-denying bishop.

    In June, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, without consultation or warning to their Jewish partners, issued “A Note on Ambiguities Contained in Reflections on Covenant and Mission,” which rejected a clear statement that there can be no attempts to convert Jews as part of the interfaith dialogue. Instead the U.S. bishops approved language that Catholic-Jewish dialogues could explicitly be used to invite Jews to baptism. They told us the change was directed by the Vatican.

    On Aug. 27, the bishops announced that the Vatican had officially affirmed its decision to jettison a teaching in the American adult catechism that the “covenant that God made with the Jewish people through Moses remains eternally valid for them.” The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops had several options to update its adult catechism, but chose instead to no longer affirm the validity of the Sinai covenant.

    There is no getting around that these two documents are a one-two punch against a continuing trust in the permanence of the Catholic Church’s reform in its teachings about Jews.

    Thus we find ourselves at a crossroad, one that raises more profound questions about the reasons for these changes. Why must the Bishops Conference, which has been a model to the rest of the world in forging a new relationship with the Jewish people, now issue documents that threaten to undo the dialogue’s basic foundations? And why devalue the Mosaic covenant, which is central to Jewish self-understanding, by removing a clear affirmation of its eternal validity, therefore insinuating that the Mosaic covenant has been superseded?

    The Bishops Conference speaks for a church that claims to want honest dialogue with Jews. To issue statements about Jews that demonstrate little concern for Jewish self-understanding would seem fundamentally at odds with that goal.

    These are challenging times indeed for the Catholic-Jewish relationship. Still, the process is not finished, and much work remains to be done. We will voice our concerns honestly and forthrightly, with every hope that the relationship will continue on a solid footing.

    We only ask that our interlocutors and friends in the Catholic Church listen to our concerns, take them seriously and try to understand why we are so pained.

    The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world’s leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.

  2. “The second removes a catechism teaching that God’s Covenant with Moses and the Jewish people is eternally valid. This profound change, affirmed by the Vatican, raises for many Jews the specter of a possible return to such odious concepts as supersessionism and the teaching of contempt, which have caused Jews irreparable harm over the centuries.”

    I think this pretty much goes to the heart of the matter.

    The Jews think that Nostra Aetate rolls back the teaching of supersessionism. The words of BJP2 definitely gave them hope for this interpretation.

    When I read that someone actually had the guts to correct the Catechism in this manner, it was a little sliver of sanity in a world gone insane.

    Oh Well, back to the insane world.

  3. tradical said: “The Jews think that Nostra Aetate rolls back the teaching of supersessionism.”

    The problem is: present day Rome thinks the same.

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