Monday, April 28, 2008

Two Jews, Three Opinions: Different reactions from Jewish Communities to the Holy Father

The Tablet is carrying the news that the Austrian Grand Rabbi has announced suspension of dialogue with the Church because of the Good Friday prayer.

Which is just one more indication of the truth of the old joke that the Jews themselves tell of "Two Jews, Three Opinions".

In the meantime, in New York, we get scenes like this:



Do they look unhappy? Do they look like they are about to "suspend dialogue". I don't think so. On the other hand, it might just be a case of the difference between Europe and the US on matters of faith.

When there is a disagreement, on any issue, the only way it will be solved is if both parties remain open to dialogue.

5 Comments:

At Monday, April 28, 2008 2:36:00 pm , Anonymous Peregrinus said...

I see from the report that the Austrian Jewish community is taking a path already taken by the German and Italian Jewish communities.

You suggest that this “might just be a case of the difference between Europe and the US on matters of faith”, but in fact Austria, Germany and Italy have more in common than the fact that they are European. The Jewish communities of all three countries were deeply affected by the Nazi holocaust. The Jews of other countries, just as European as Germany, Austria and Italy, have not taken this course.

All Jews are sensitive to antisemitism, but German, Austrian and Italian Jews have a particular reason to be sensitive. And this in turn makes them sensitive to anything, which might present a threat to the continued identity of the Jewish people, or to their survival as a distinct community, including Christian proselytism. The historical experience of American Jews has perhaps given them reason to be a little more confident of their communal survival.

Is there a lesson for us? I see at least two.

First, obviously we deeply regret the decision of the German, Austrian and Italian communities; we much prefer the stance taken by American Jewish organisations and spokesmen who, however unhappy they may be with the Good Friday prayers, choose to remain in a relationship in which that unhappiness can be discussed rather than to terminate the relationship. But the fact that American (and other) Jews have taken this path doesn’t invalidate the decision of the German, Austrian and Italian communities, or undermine it, or allow us to dismiss it as somehow unimportant. It is just as much an authentic Jewish response to the latest variation in Catholic liturgy as the American stance. We have to deal with it, and we can’t deal with it by pointing to the Americans and saying “why can’t you be more like them?”

Secondly, although Jews are the victims of anti-Semitism, the historical legacy (and present reality) of anti-Semitism affects us all. Catholics have to work in an environment where Jews feel as they do about any perceived or actual desire for their conversion.

 
At Monday, April 28, 2008 3:48:00 pm , Blogger Schütz said...

All true, of course, as usual, Peregrinus.

However, I do think the whole episode has been healthy for the Catholic Church too in bringing us to a point where we needed to say something definite about our relationship with the Jewish people. The position expressed by the writers of "Reflections on Covenant and Mission" back in 2002, that the Covenant in Jesus Christ was for gentiles only and not for Jews, simply could not be allowed to stand. The issue of the Good Friday prayers has brought this to a head.

Worth looking at is Cardinal Tauran's assessment of the new phase of Interreligious dialogue under Benedict XVI. See: http://einews.blogspot.com/2008/04/cardinal-taurans-address-to-nairobi.html

Actually, I might blog on that...

 
At Monday, April 28, 2008 7:09:00 pm , Anonymous Peregrinus said...

I think one of the fruits of interreligious dialogue is that having to articulate what we believe, and what we hope for, and Who we look to, helps us to understand and develop our own faith. And I see this not as a step-change, to be achieved once, but as a continuing process with continuing advantages.

But it can be a haphazard process. It’s perhaps unfortunate that this particular step has arisen in the context of an adjustment to the EF liturgy, which in turn is being “promoted” in a way that it has not been recently, in part in response to pressures and concerns from what we might term “traditionally-minded” Catholics.

Because, of course, the subtext here is that we both know that there is more than a whiff of anti-Semitism associated with some – I stress “some” – elements within the traditionalist tendency. This is especially true in Europe and, I like to think, more true of schismatic traditionalists than of those remaining within the fold. But that can be a blurry line.

All of which means that the context in which this particular expression of the Catholic understanding of the relationship of Christ to the Jewish people is a difficult one. It sharpens dreadfully sensitivities and concerns; is Rome seeking a form of words which can accommodate the anti-Semitism of some traditionalists? Rome may be doing nothing of the kind, but it is practically impossible to prove that, and it is a virtual certainty that fears of this kind will arise, and will colour the reaction of some to the changes.

You and I will both see this as a very minor aspect of the Extraordinary Form. Practically nobody will ever attend a Good Friday liturgy celebrated in the EF and, of that that do, few if any will have enough Latin to understand the prayer in question or will have a missal giving the new version of the prayer, and a translation into English. But, for Jews, this is the aspect of the EF which interests and concerns them most, and the fact that this prayer is approved to be said is of far more significance to them than the issue of how many people will ever say it.

 
At Monday, April 28, 2008 11:24:00 pm , Blogger Schütz said...

"is Rome seeking a form of words which can accommodate the anti-Semitism of some traditionalists? Rome may be doing nothing of the kind, but it is practically impossible to prove that"

Of course it bloody isn't trying to accomodate anything of the sort, Perry. And it is easy to prove: the repeated reaffirmations of Nostra Aetate from both Benedict and Kasper should be more than sufficient.

What Rome is trying to do is defend the Church's right to give witness to the gospel at every opportunity to whomever will listen--and certainly its right to pray for all human beings without distinction that they accept Jesus for who he is.

That's what this is about. Nothing to do with anti-semitism from Rome's end--the Holy See is a staunch opponent of anti-semitism, indeed of all racial prejudice whatsoever.

It is some of members of the Jewish community themselves who choose to see the prayer as "anti-semitic", for the simple reason that they interpret "acknowledging Christ" as a betrayal of their Judaism. And that is fair enough too--from their point of view, but they can't expect us to share it!

 
At Tuesday, April 29, 2008 11:57:00 am , Anonymous Peregrinus said...

I don’t seriously imagine that the Vatican harbours antisemitic views, or that anybody engaged with the Vatican in interreligious dialogue imagines that it does. But the revision of the Good Friday EF prayer takes place in a context in which Rome is making overtures towards a group, some members of which undoubtedly do hold anti-Semitic views or attitudes. Rome may not be intending to accommodate their anti-Semitism with this version of the prayer, but it is not impossible that some of them will receive or read the prayer in this light.

My point is that this particular context is a difficult and unfortunate one in which to refine the church’s expression of its beliefs about the relationship between Christ and the Jewish people. The church is doing this in the course of a dialogue, not with Jews, but with groups suspected of harbouring anti-Semitism, who are obviously going to have their own understanding of what emerges. Jews, meanwhile, are excluded from this process. You can see, can’t you, how this magnifies the potential problems from the Jewish point of view?

 

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