George Weigel [“Christian supersessionism … is heresy and must be firmly rejected“] and Unresolved Juxtapositions
Fr Hunwicke’s Mutual Enrichment
17 December 2015
So some American neocon called George Weigel has assured us that ‘supersessionism’ is a heresy. A bit lordly; who is this inquisitorial individual that he has the competence to tell us that we are heretics? The Vatican Document on Catholic-Jewish relations which I have been discussing itself informs us that supersessionism was the teaching of many of the Fathers and of the medieval, not to say post-medieval, Catholic world. And the Document itself describes itself as non-Magisterial, non-doctrinal. But, if my memory serves me, this is the same Weigel who wrote a hagiographical extravaganza about S John Paul II, in which just about the only criticism he could bring himself to make is that the Holy Pontiff was insufficiently enthusiastic about neocon- and zionist- backed military adventures in the Middle East. And he’s a tough man, Weigel, on anybody who doesn’t accept his own favoured option with regard to the horns of the dilemma left to us by Dignitatis humanae (he had his reservations about rapprochement with the SSPX).
Most people who are into this sort of stuff know that the text of Dignitatis humanae of Vatican II began by saying that it changed nothing of the Church’s previous doctrine about Religious Liberty; and then went on to give teaching that most people (both those who liked it and those who disliked it) thought contradicted that earlier Magisterium. And no hermeneutic was offered to guide anybody who wanted to fit these apparent polar contradictions into a unity.
My own instinct is that this is an unhelpful way of carrying on. But I accept that disagreement is possible here. Perhaps such teaching can helpfully impel theological practictioners towards a valuable new synthesis. I’m open to persuasion. You convince me.
The Vatican discussion Document on Catholicism and Judaism plays the same game. It asserts with ringing clarity that all men need Jesus for Salvation, and repudiates the idea that there can be two covenants, one for Jews and one for Gentiles. Those who put the Document together understand the fundamental grammar of the Christian Faith well enough for this. But they then place beside it the idea that God’s covenant with Israel is not revoked. Realising the prima facie contradiction, they fall back upon invoking Divine Mystery.
S Paul, also, believed in both of these truths. But he did not leave the matter dangling between unresolved polarities. For him
(1) Israel is God’s Olive Tree.
(2) When the Messiah came, most of Israel did not believe, while a few did.
(3) This is within the familiar Old Testament theme of the small Faithful Remnant.
(4) So the unbelieving Jewish branches are broken off the Olive Tree and thrown aside.
(5) And wild olive branches, believing Gentiles, are grafted into the old stem in their place.
(6) But at the End, when the fulness of the Gentiles has accepted God’s offer, then the broken off branches, moved by jealousy at this Gentile success, will turn to God.
(7) And will be grafted back in.
(8) So that God will, indeed, have been true to his Covenantal promises to Israel.
What this means is that in the Now, the Age between Incarnation and the End, unbelieving Jews are in a broken-off state; not part of God’s Olive Tree. God has certainly not revoked his Covenant; but unbelieving Jews have walked away from it and their privileges are occupied by the abiding faithful covenantal community composed of the Faithful Jewish Remnant and of Gentiles who by that same Faith have joined them; videlicet the Catholic Church. [In other words, the Vatican Document deftly hides (4) out of view like the hired conjuror at a children’s party, and, having distracted you from it by sleight of hand, loudly trumpets a version of (8) which has been denuded of the logical and biblical substructure given in (2), (3), (4), (5), (6), and (7). This is the sort of jiggery pokery you always end up being served in ‘ecumenical’ documents. And it is the sort of slipshod game played by Weigel in his article.]
I imagine that the embarrassing conclusion I have [emphasized] above is the practical reason why the Vatican Document (not to mention Weigel) steers clear of S Paul’s perfectly logical construction with all the fastidiousness of your maiden aunt giving a wide berth to a hippy orgy.
Or perhaps your maiden aunts are all liberated ladies.