What's it all about?

Well, you can read that in the header to this page.

We trying to redress the balance and put the other side.

Crittenden's Religion Report program, needs to be read with this corrective.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

How he stirs the pot I

In our first piece, let's look at Crittenden's masterful analysis of the new Good Friday prayer for the Conversion of the Jews in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite.

Here's the transcript from this Wednesday's program, with our comments and emphases:


Stephen Crittenden: That's sung by the Hilliard Ensemble, Arvo Pärt's 'Miserere'.

Well now back to last week's story on how Pope Benedict has rewritten the Good Friday Prayer for the Jews.

You'll remember that last year the Pope revived the old Latin rite of 1962. [Well, no, actually: "all" this Pope did was make it clear that the Ancient Rite was never abolished and that individual priests had the right to celebrate this venerable traditional form of the Mass when they wish without any particular permission required from a Bishop. In doing so, this undemocratic Pope gave the ancient form of the Mass back to the people and the priests an circumvented the ignorance, obfuscation, meanness and disobedience to lawful authority that has characterised the last 40 years on the subject of the "old Mass". Nor is it the "old" Latin rite of 1962: that's just the last form of the official liturgical books which record it. The rite in this form goes back to sometime between the 3rd and 6th century AD, and of course traces its essence to the Last Supper. That's our Catholic Faith.] That was controversial enough [Meaning? That this was a bad thing that "liberals" and "progressives" couldn't stomach because they have an axe to grind? What should be "controversial" is the general disobedience of many Bishops and priests who point blank refuse to do what the Popes since Paul VI (you know, the one who ended the Second Vatican Council?) of allowing the Ancient form of the right to those who legitimately want it. This lack of a pastoral liberal approach is want Crittenden should describe as "controversial", but, hey, that's a "conservative" agenda that dare not speak its name. Let's just dismiss the surveys done in many European media which showed support for the "liberalisation" of the old Mass at between 70 and 90% (see for example the poll conducted by the Milanese newspaper Il Corriere della Sera where 75.1% were in favour of making the old Mass more available] , but there was particular concern [from whom exactly? the usual small section of non-Catholics and illiberal Catholics who don't want to do what the Pope and the Church legitimately tells them to do] about the somewhat offensive wording of one particular Good Friday prayer for the conversion of the Jews. [who says it's "offensive" , Crittenden? That's a value judgement that isn't borne out if you look at what other Jews are saying about this (more below) or even your own interviewee, wethinks.] Benedict has rewritten the prayer, taking out the offensive references, [again, let's keep the heart rate up folks] but the new prayer still [well, yes, we should think it does!] prays for the conversion of the Jews, something that mainstream Catholics using the modern rite, no longer do. [aye there's the rub, folks: the Man of Straw: that Catholics who pray in the traditional form are not "mainstream": where "mainstream" (whatever that means - protestant?) is what Catholics are called to be. Christ said something about being against the world and a sign of contradiction to the world, didn't he??]

Where this all gets interesting is that it points to a theological ambiguity [well, actually there is no ambiguity: Catholics pray for Jews so that they might accept what Catholics believe is the fullness of the Faith brought to its completion in Christ, the Messiah and Saviour of the World. Jews don't accept that, of course, which is fine: but Catholics will not, and cannot, say that this truth which Christ asks we proclaim to all the nations is something we are not going to talk about, but hide, because it might upsetting someone (even some sections of that People who were the first to hear the word of God] and that many Jews and Catholics [you mean the Roman Protestants, wethinks] thought had been resolved, but very definitely hasn't been. If it's no longer appropriate after the Holocaust, to pray for the conversion of the Jews, [Hello??? This is just plain nutty and mischievous, next the Catholic Church will be accused of inciting and encouraging the Holocaust] then what are Christians meant to imagine that Jesus was up to roaming around Galilee 2000 years ago? [We love the tone, folks, we love the tone. Crittenden v Pope: who's your money on?] And if the Pope is saying it still is appropriate, where does that leave the last 40 years of Interreligious Dialogue? [Well, it leaves us where it should have originally place it ought to be assessed calmly and rationally: through dialogue in truth and charity we come to a better understanding of what the other believes and what we believe and where they diverge and why; for good reason or just because of hardened and entrenched positions and misunderstandings. The aim of Ecumenism is not that the Catholic Church changes its beliefs or teachings that have always been held to part of Catholic faith and so are not open to change, just because non-Catholics and Roman Protestants don't like them].

Rabbi David Rosen is Chairman of the IJCIC, the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations. He joins us now. Rabbi Rosen, the Pope seems to have taken a step forward and a step backwards. [We so hope, Crittenden writes his own scripts] Are you disappointed, or happy with what he's done?

David Rosen: It depends I suppose, where one is looking from. And because we were looking from the perspective of the 1970 missal, the language that is used throughout the Catholic world in the vernacular, [Actually, the definitive text is the Latin. The vernacular translations, are just that and largely hurried, poor translations of the Latin text that usually lose the richness and accuracy of the official prayer. A HUGE problem for Catholics - why not do a story into what's behind that Mr Crittenden?- which is why they are undergoing revision currently so they are more faithful to the original. But, we digress...] which is the prayer then composed during the regnum of Pope Paul VI ["regnum"! noted] which calls for God to show his love to the people he first covenanted with, that they be loyal to that covenant and find the fullness of salvation without, and leaving that final phrase open to different interpretation [You mean, a final phrase that's so meally mouthed that it fudges the clarity of Catholic teaching for fear of upsetting anyone and making Catholics believe "you know, we don't believe that stuff any more, that's gone out with the Second Vatican Council". Actually, we think if that was the intention of the prayer it was not the right call to make, precisely because it confuses people - especially Catholics - about what the Church believes], I would hope and imagine out of a certain sensitivity to these different theological world views. [So, the principle the Rabbi SEEMS to be putting is that the Catholic Church should amend her official public prayer to reflect that other people and faiths don't share the Cathoilc faith. IF that's what he is saying, that's EXTRAORDINARY] Unfortunately in the new Latin version, [The Rabbi presumably means the new version for the 1962 Missal, not the 1970 Missal] Pope Benedict hasn't done that. So he has improved on the original Latin text prior to the Second Vatican Council which had within it rather derogatory language towards the Jews, [Not even all Jews believe this is derogatory (and, if we go on, nor does the Rabbi) so this is a stretch. The Rabbi should be saying, the lanague that "some believe is derogatory"] and that doesn't appear there, so it's better than the original Latin text. But nevertheless it is not as open as the vernacular general text because it calls explicitly for Jews to recognise the fullness of salvation through Jesus of Nazareth, which of course is incompatible with Jewish faith. [Right: there it is. Newsflash: Catholicism and Judiasm disagree on who the Messiah is? Do the Rabbi (and Crittenden) want Catholicism to resile from the belief that Christ is the Messiah. Sorry, it can't, won't and shouldn't happen]. So many people would say, 'Well you know, good morning, that's what Christianity is all about', and they were probably right, [Thanks] but there was room for the Jews to assume, and many within the Catholic church, and indeed many cardinals even stated that the attitude of the Catholic church has changed since the Second Vatican Council to one that puts the Jews in a particular category. [And what makes us think that those Jews, Catholics and Cardinals were actually right? It's not what the Second Vatican Council said and its not what the Popes have said since. What they have repeatedly said is that any generalised attitude that is disrespectful (and worse!!) of the Jews as the first to hear the word of completely and utterly wrong and inappropriate. Not, that Catholics should not hope for the conversion to CHRIST of FIRSTLY, ourselves and SECONDLY all others (including the Jews)] So it's clear what Benedict's position is, it's a bit disappointing for those of us who hoped that his language would have the same openness [you mean, ambiguous and misleading?] as the 1970 missal as well.

Stephen Crittenden: You say that the recently created prayer by Pope Benedict is incompatible with Jewish faith, because it calls for the conversion of the Jewish people. [Oh, please: is he really suggesting that Catholic prayers should be compatible with Jewish faith??] That raises the question of whether that is or should be, offensive to Jews.

David Rosen: Obviously, you know the witticism if you have two Jews, you have three viewpoints. But from my personal perspective, I don't think that somebody's belief that their faith is central for the salvation for the human personality and the desires of everybody should share that faith, I don't consider that offensive, [Right, so what's the point of this discussion then? Is it to just perpetuate a received anti-Catholic view that Catholics hate Jews? If not, what?] I consider it theologically problematic. I can't personally understand how any one faith can encapsulate the totality of the divine, and that any one faith can be the exclusive path. But I don't consider it offensive. [Newsflash: Catholics and Jews have theological differences of opinion. And the Catholic expression is not something this Rabbi finds offensive. So what is this interview and Crittenden's posturing all about??] So if somebody says 'I hope and pray for the day when you will be able to share my faith personally', [And that's what Catholics do in these prayers] I'm not offended by that. I know that there are some Jews who are mainly for historical reasons because of what it evokes, and the memories, the tragic memories of the past. [This is regrettable, of course, but not a reason why the Catholic faith should be changed] But I'm not offended by that, [So how many times is Rabbi Rosen going to dismiss the "offensiveness" premise of Crittenden's interview, one, two, three...] and therefore I didn't use language in terms of my reactions to the Pope's prayer that suggested that there was any offence involved. [Again] I've used the language of disappointment because I perhaps have deluded myself (but certainly there were others within the church who had helped that process) into thinking that actually the Catholic church doesn't believe that Jews have to believe in Jesus in order to find salvation, because the original covenant before Jesus' coming was a covenant of salvation with God and therefore the Children of Israel are in a category as a foundation of the covenant by which through faith in Jesus the nations of the world come into that covenantal relationship. [And that, Dear Listeneners, is the problem: there has been a concerted campaign by many Catholics, even Cardinals, who would have us all believe that the Catholic Church does not believe any more that it was founded by Christ and that the fullness of His Church subsists in the Catholic Church] And as I say, there have been many within the church, including Cardinals. Even the Cardinal who is responsible at the moment for relations with Jewish people, and his predecessor, Cardinal Cassidy, one of the greatest princes of the church, [we dare say the Rabbi uses "princes of the church" with a respect tone, whereas many others in the media (Mr C included) use it with disdain and as an insult, because they reject hierarchical nature of the Church, but we disgress] from Australia, have used language in the past that has led us to believe it, there is that special relationship and that the church would no longer have a formal prayer for the conversion of the Jews [But, Rabbi, the Oridinary Form of the Roman Rite, 1970, also has a prayer for conversion, it's just that the language is "open" as you say, because the composers decided to be less "in ya face" about it. But make no mistake, it's a prayer for conversion, all right], and it's clear that if that was the opinion of Paul VI and of John Paul II, [Well, no, neither Paul VI or JPII were of that opion, so the following statement is not correct:] it's certainly not the opinion of Benedict XVI.

Stephen Crittenden: Well this raises the most interesting aspect to me of this whole story, and that is the view I know of some commentators [No, please, whatever you do, Crittenden, don't name these commentators because that might just reveal that these are the usual ilLiberal, Progressive, non-Orthodox "catholic" commentators you usually resort to or, worse, those who don't know what they are talking about.] that what Pope Benedict has done here, is to take away a recent doctrinal progression, [Right, ceasing to be orthodox, is a "progression", yeah?] which many Catholics thought [You mean, duped into thinking] had occurred, namely that Jews have their own separate covenant with God, as you say, and that it's no longer appropriate to evangelise Jews, that he's taken that presumption away.

David Rosen: Yes. To be fair, anybody who is well informed did know that that was by no means a resolved issue within the church, and that there have been, since the Second Vatican Council, different opinions and different approaches. [Differing approaches, yes, but only ONE teaching, despite the differing academic debate. What has happened is those who disagreed wanted everyone to think that their disagreement and different view, was the new and official view. That's wrong.] And even, as I say, one of the great princes of the church, Cardinal Martini [Great example of a non-orthodox Cardinal] who now resides in Jerusalem, who has said, as indeed has said Cardinal Kaspar [and, arguably, another, that this orthodox Pope has had to reign in for his "excesses"], it is inappropriate for Christians to bring the Christian message to the Jews. [They would, wouldn't they.] He himself has clarified that he doesn't understand really however, what their full implications are. In other words, he recognises that there is some tension between affirming the eternity of the covenant and affirming the universal salvific nature of Jesus. But he's prepared to say, as many others in the church, there are some things in this world that we can't fully understand, it's in the Almighty's hands to resolve it but the eternal validity of the covenant with the Jewish people is unquestionable, and Vatican II affirms that. [Yes, but not quite in the way they would like it to].

Now it seems to me that Benedict XVI, and I'm not a psychologist here, but I'm playing sort of amateur psychologist, [ok, so we should be giving this coming statement credence? Wait for it...] in terms of not just theological world view, but in terms of his personality, doesn't like living with ambivalence and leaving these things open, but insists that there has to be a very clear categorical position. [So, that's a bad thing??] And therefore in this new version he's affirmed what he believes to be the orthodox position and that any doubts or ambivalences need to be put aside. [So, that's a bad thing?]

Allow me to add one thing, which gives enormous insight I think for me, into the mindset of Pope Benedict. I met with him first for a real conversation 20 years ago, here in Jerusalem. And he said to me something really interesting. He said: 'You the Jews if you are true to Torah, to God's revelation, you are pure. You are religiously pure. You are not corrupted by anything outside, as has happened even within other religions with the Christian world.' I said to him, 'Well I understand and am deeply moved by that, Your Eminence, [The future Pope Benedict complementing the Jews? Surely not, given that he's generally so "offensive"] but we're pure but we're not complete?' He said, 'That's another matter'. So then, in rather an impertinent way [Would Crittenden call this "offensive" perhaps?], I said to him, 'Well, Your Eminence, if I've understood you correctly, you're saying we do this, we are true to Torah, we will go to heaven, [Well, yes, that what the Catholic Church teaches, you know] but we won't get first class row seats.' So he laughed, and he said, 'You know, well I wouldn't put it that way.' [Seriously, as if he would. What he would say is that he's only a Cardinal not God and has no idea whether Jews are or are not in the highest choirs of Heaven] But the very fact that he said he wouldn't put it that way, [er, no, Rabbi, actually, no] means that that's actually his theological world view. Jews are in a state of redemption, but it's not complete redemption, because complete salvation only comes through faith in Jesus, according to him. [Not quite: the uncontroversial interpretation is that Christ came to call all, and some do not hear and others do. He is accepted by some and not by others. He has not be accepted (for various reasons) by the Jews who practice their Jewish faith. Clear, and uncontroverial, no?]

Stephen Crittenden: Interesting to see a number of online comments about this story in The Jerusalem Post for example, where Jews are saying, 'We should revise some of our prayers as well that are hurtful to Christians.' [Applause, Mr Crittenden: at least you have mentioned this and hinted that there might be a bigger issue here, but let's see where you take it...] I don't know what those prayers would be, [Well, shouldn't you know the other side of the story before you go on a rant and so you can probe your interviewee in case he's wrong? That's what we can RESEARCH, Mr Crittenden, research] but you might tell me.

David Rosen: I don't know of any prayers that are specifically directed at Christians. [?? Er, we won't presume to tell Rabbi Rosen, but let's look at the prayers that an ortodox Jew says in relation to his/her non-Jewish bretheren, not once a year, but daily: see Fr Z's analysis "Jewish prayer about Gentiles and Catholic prayer for the Jews". There is a passage in one of the prayers at the end of the service, that talks of those that bow down to emptiness and to spittle within the context of looking forward to the elimination of idolatry in the world. And there have been those at certain times in history who have sought to attribute that as a reference to Christianity. And actually, because of accusations from Christian sources within most of the Ashkenazy Jews, Jews from Christian lands, that phrase as already been excised. But there are many that say it never actually was intended to refer to Christianity anyway. But there's nothing whatsoever explicit in relation to Christianity. [Er, really. Well, given that The Religion Report is all about insightful analysis, why don't we look at a piece entitled "New Good Friday prayer & “shelo asani goi”: the logic of monotheism and its eschatological hope" being the analysis of legendary Fr Z, who points out that there are some Jewish leaders, like Professor Jacob Neusner, who understand that if Catholics believe as they believe, Catholics are bound to pray for the Jews]

Stephen Crittenden: A last question. You're a man of culture. [Oh please, Crittenden: the Rabbi is a man of culture, you say, but when the Pope reminds us of the cultural riches that are integral to this particular form of the Roman Rite (Latin, Gregorian Chant, sacred architecture and music), you refuse to call him a "man of culture" he has an abnormal facination with old music, lace, dead languages and is pandering for a by-gone era??] All of the three religions have various aspects of their liturgy or their artistic heritage that may be hurtful or insulting to others. [Fair point, but we don't see the Catholic Church officially or any one else lobbying for their change] There are perhaps [perhaps? Are there or aren't there?] references to Jesus in the Talmud, there are paintings of Mohamed burning in hell on the walls of Bologna Cathedral. [And plenty of ordinary Catholics, popes and clergy too, in similar depictions the world over, telling us that we' are ALL liable to end there. Wake up, Crittenden] There's the wording of the old Tridentine Rite which I guess has been revived in a sense [no, in no sense, actually], as a kind of museum piece. [wrong again, Crittenden] Don't these things actually belong to history, to the museum, don't they actually need to be carefully preserved? [The Tridentine Rite is a rite that nourished so many saints of the Church that comments like this beggar belief, unless you aim to be insulting, offensive, ignorant or misleading. And given the state of the liturgy that has prevailed over the last 40 years in most places in the Catholic world, this Pope want to ensure that this Rite continues to live as a heritage, made current in the present and to take us into the future.]

David Rosen: I think that's a very fair comment that one needs to have a certain degree of respect and also distance from matter of a historic legacy in different times and place.

Stephen Crittenden: That's what I meant by the word museum. [Of course, you did]

David Rosen: Right, and therefore those who want to blot out such beautiful- even if disturbing- mosaics or paintings [what about the music, the language (Latin), the sacred architecture, and the beliefs and truths they express?] anyone [including the majority of the il"liberal" "progressive"bishops and priests that the poor, suffering Catholic has to deal with? Or the errant journalist?] who would want to do that I think deserves to be rapped over the knuckles. [Mr Crittenden, wethinks you are being rapped over the knuckles by a Rabbi] I think that there needs to be a respect even for cultural heritage of cultures [little wonder that the Rabbi respects his heritage because it is critical to his faith and the faith of Jews; something that Catholics (and journalists) would do well to remember] that may have been of ones oppressors and persecutors. [perhaps going a bit far, if by this he means that Catholic culture is oppressive and one of oppresion! If he means individual Catholics are and have been, then of course he is absolutely and undeniably correct] That's very different to what your current liturgical expressions are. Again I re-iterate. I don't think it is the business of the Jews to tell the Christians what they should or shouldn't pray. It's just a matter of being open and clear about what is the nature of our relationship. [So, remind us, what the point of this piece again? That these prayers were offensive to Jews and mainstream Catholics, who were manning the barricades and protesting vociferously and the injustice and offence they cause??. Thanks, Mr Crittenden, for your insightful, impartial and helpful analysis]

Stephen Crittenden: Rabbi David Rosen.

Well that's all this week. Thanks to producers Noel Debien and Leila Schunnar. I'm Stephen Crittenden.

Soon we'll look at Crittenden's interview on yhis subject to get the "catholic" perspective.

1 comment:

Schütz said...

Good start to what promises to be a great blog, N. [Nb. "N." stands for "insert name here" in traditional ritual books--I wish I knew your name!]

Many of your comments are exactly the comments I would make if I were to take this approach.

The fact is that while there may be no "ambiguity" there is certainly tension between the two "poles" of official Catholic teaching in regard to our relationship with the Jews. On the one hand we affirm the eternal validity of God's Covenant with the Jewish people, on the other hand we will never back away from our confession that Jesus Christ is the universal and unique Saviour of Mankind.

While I don't know if we will ever resolve that tension--in the sense of fully understanding the mystery--I can tell you that we won't find the solution in opting for one pole without the other.

The two Good Friday prayers (the Ordinary and the Extraordinary) nicely mark out both poles (lex orandi lex credendi), and the hard work must now be done without the "delusions" of the past.