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Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The Patriachate of Jerusalem, Judaism and Catholic Doctrine

Christian Attitudes has a series of posts on the terror-supporting, Arafat-praising Latin Patriach of Jerusalem.

I have often noticed, in online discussions between Catholics and Jews, that there is a great deal of uncertainty as to the modern Church's theological positions on anti-semitism and relations with the Jewish people. In saying this, I interpose that Liz from Christian Attitudes is much better informed on this subject than I am, and that in juxtaposing this observation with her compilation of articles on the Patriach of Jerusalem, I am in no way implying any uncertainty on her part!

In any event, a helpful place to start is this Statement, by Walter Cardinal Kasper, the President of the Church's Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, Antisemitism, a Wound to be Healed looks at Christian (and in particular, Catholic) antisemitism in the context of contempory Catholic theological approaches to relations between Catholics and Jews. The article is two years old, and couched in an idiom that may be unfamiliar to non-students of Vatican documents, but is worthwhile reading for those who seek to understand exactly what Church teachings on "replacement theology" and antisemitism actually are. Replacement theology has been explicity rejected by the Catholic Church:

Consequently, as a "messianic people", the Church does not replace Israel, but is grafted onto it, according to the Pauline doctrine, through adherence to Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world, who died and rose; and this link forms a spiritual bond that is radical, unique and insuppressible for Christians. Although the contrasting concept - of an Israel once (olim) pre-chosen but later rejected by God for ever and now replaced by the Church - may have had widespread dissemination for almost 20 centuries, it does not in reality represent a truth of the faith, as can be seen both in the ancient Creeds of the early Church and in the teaching of the most important Councils, especially of the Second Vatican Council (Lumen Gentium, n. 16; Dei Verbum, nn. 14-16; Nostra Aetate, n. 4).

Nostra Aetate is the Second Vatican Council's Decree on relations between the Church and other religions. Citing Pope John Paul II, Cardinal Kasper continues:

Dialogue and collaboration between Christians and Jews also implies that "acknowledgment be given to any part which the children of the Church have had in the growth and spread of anti-Semitism in history; forgiveness must be sought for this from God, and every effort must be made to favour encounters of reconciliation and of friendship with the sons of Israel"

Secondly, one needs to consider the Joint Declaration of the 18th International Catholic-Jewish Liason Committee (Buenos Aires, July 2005):

we take note of the many positive changes within the Catholic Church with respect to her relationship with the Jewish People. These past forty years of our fraternal dialogue stand in stark contrast to almost two millennia of a "teaching of contempt" and all its painful consequences. We draw encouragement from the fruits of our collective strivings which include the recognition of the unique and unbroken covenantal relationship between God and the Jewish People and the total rejection of anti-Semitism in all its forms, including anti-Zionism as a more recent manifestation of anti-Semitism.[Emphasis added]

So where does that leave us?

First, the Church specifically rejects "replacement theology" and the "teaching of contempt" towards Jews, to a greater degree than many Orthodox Churches and protestant denominations.

Second, the Church unsurprisingly rejects anti-semitism.

Third, the Church rejects "anti-Zionism", as a form of anti-semitism.

But then we have the Latin Patriach of Jerusalem. I say, burn, heretic, burn! One of the great challenges faced by the Church today is to combat the vestigal attitudes of those within the Church who have not fully accepted the Magesterium's teaching on Jewish-Catholic relations. Against this, Arab Christians no doubt face persecution by their Mohammedan "bretheren", and are tempted to respond by "being more Arab than the Arab Nationalists". It is a shame and a disgrace that judenhass has become such an important component of Arab self-image.

Therein lies the moral challenge for the Church. It is a moral challenge for Catholics everywhere.

3 Comments:

Anonymous liz said...

Generally the Catholic Church is heading in the right direction, but there are still too many who want to apply the brakes and send her back the way she came - Christian Arabs like Bishop Sabbah do their best to encourage this!

6:26 AM  
Blogger David said...

I think this was the gist of my post.

But I do wish Cardinal Kasper would get himself a speech-writer. I heard him deliver an address once, expecting a discussion of Catholic-Jewish relations in the 21st century, but instead heard a German-accented academic treatise on "postmodernism and truth in modern religious belief". It was like having teeth drawn without anaesthetic!

8:43 AM  
Blogger Chip said...

The Catholic Church has some things going for it which used to be ballast dragging it down. The RCC is more amenable to science and Jews, to name two.

For me to say something nice about the RCC, you can take it to the bank.

5:03 AM  

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