I love opinionated non-PC people. This blog is to vent my opinions on life, the universe and everything. Which is 42 which in gematria is "My Heart" (LBY) according to Rabbi Abulafia. The Divine Heart is the centre of everything.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Open Questions on Jewish Observances: A Hebrew Catholic Opinion

If one listens to many self appointed "experts" on Jewish-Christian relations one would think that the Church has settled all questions about the validity of the Mosaic covenant and Torah observances by Catholic Jews. However this is not the case and this is an area of further theological speculation and development. There are still alot of open questions in this area. The Church has not definitively ruled on these questions for Jews in the Church. This is confirmed by Cardinal Avery Dulles before his death. He wrote:"The Second Vatican Council, while providing a solid and traditional framework for discussing Jewish-Christian relations, did not attempt to settle all questions. In particular, it left open the question whether the Old Covenant remains in force today. Are there two covenants, one for Jews and one for Christians? If so, are the two related as phases of a single developing covenant, a single saving plan of God? May Jews who embrace Christianity continue to adhere to Jewish covenantal practices?" The good Cardinal then seeks to give his personal understanding and position on these issues in the light of Catholic teaching. I personally would disagree with many aspects of the good Cardinals ideas and conclusions. However these discussions and disagreements are part of the theological process that may go on for many centuries yet before the Church makes a definitive ruling. This is dispute for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.

Since the Vatican II documents there are other important developments of understanding in this area to be taken into account especially the writings and teachings of John Paul II and Benedict XVI (both as a Cardinal and Pope) as well as Cardinal Lustiger, the Catechism of the Catholic Church and other theological opinions by leading theologians. The new Biblical and theological studies on the Jewishness of Jesus, Paul and the Gospels by those who have a comprehensive knowledge of Jewish tradition and sources will open up new ways of looking at these questions. Many of the mistaken ideas and conclusions of Cardinal Dulles are due in my opinion to the mistaken understanding of Paul by many generations of Gentile Catholics. The new studies on Paul from a Jewish perspective is crucial for clearing up many mistaken understandings of the role of the Jews in the New Covenant. Cardinal Dulles also writes : "...John Paul II was not content to let Judaism and Christianity go their separate ways. Speaking at Mainz in 1980, he called for ongoing dialogue “between the people of God of the Old Covenant, never revoked by God, and that of the New Covenant.” He expressed hope for an eventual reconciliation in the fullness of truth. In Crossing the Threshold of Hope (1994) he wrote of Judaism: “This extraordinary people continues to bear signs of its divine election. . . . The insights which inspired the Declaration Nostra Aetate are finding concrete expression in various ways. Thus the two great moments of divine election — the Old and New Covenants — are drawing closer together...The time when the people of the Old Covenant will be able to see themselves as part of the New is, naturally, a question left to the Holy Spirit. We, as human beings, try only not to put obstacles in the way.” ..."

One needs to have charity in these discussions and refrain from personal attacks on people who are in sincerity searching for a clearer understanding. Of course we do know from Vatican II and magisterial teaching since then that former approaches that were anti-Jewish or anti-Judaism are not valid. This means that if even a great saint or doctor of the Church should base his understanding on such a base it is today a valid reason to reject that saints understanding and conclusions in this area. Our present Pope clarifies this when he said as the Cardinal in charge of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith: "...Down through the history of Christianity, already-strained relations deteriorated further, even giving birth in many cases to anti-Jewish attitudes, which throughout history have led to deplorable acts of violence. Even if the most recent, loathsome experience of the Shoah was perpetrated in the name of an anti-Christian ideology, which tried to strike the Christian faith at its Abrahamic roots in the people of Israel it cannot be denied that a certain insufficient resistance to its atrocity on the part of Christians can be explained by an inherited anti-Judaism present in the hearts of not a few Christians. Perhaps it is precisely because of this latest tragedy that a new vision of the relationship between the Church and Israel has been born: a sincere willingness to overcome every kind of anti-Judaism, and to initiate a constructive dialogue based on knowledge of each other, and on reconciliation. If such a dialogue is to be fruitful, it must begin with a prayer to our God, first of all that he might grant to us Christians a greater esteem and love for that people – the people of Israel – to whom belong the adoption as sons, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; theirs are the patriarchs, and from them comes Christ according to the flesh, he who is over all, God, blessed forever. Amen. And this not only in the past, but still today, for the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable. In the same way, let us pray that he may grant also to the children of Israel a deeper knowledge of Jesus of Nazareth, who is their son, and the gift they have made to us. Since we are both awaiting the final redemption, let us pray that the paths we follow may converge. It is evident that, as Christians, our dialogue with the Jews is situated on a different level than that in which we engage with other religions. The faith witnessed to by the Jewish Bible (the Old Testament for Christians) is not merely another religion to us, but is the foundation of our own faith..."

Cardinal Avery Dulles also wrote about the letter of an Orthodox Jewish theologian Michael Wyschogrod to Cardinal Lustiger about the Torah observances of Jews in the Church: "...In a letter to Jean-Marie Cardinal Lustiger, then archbishop of Paris, Michael Wyschogrod pointedly asked what the cardinal meant when he wrote that in becoming a Christian he had not ceased to be a Jew and had not run away from the Jewish tradition. For Wyschogrod, it seems, Jewish identity would require observance of the Torah and Jewish tradition. By forbidding converted Jews to observe the Torah, he holds, the Church fell into a supersessionism from which it is today seeking to extricate itself. If Lustiger had responded he might have pointed out that according to the teaching of Paul, which is normative for Christians, circumcision and the Mosaic law have lost their salvific value, at least for Christians, and in that sense been “superseded.” But I do not wish to deny that the observance of some of these prescriptions by Jews who have become Christians could be permissible or even praiseworthy as a way of recalling the rootedness of Christianity in the Old Covenant..." Dulles seeks to answer for Lustiger but I think Lustiger's silence was his answer. By his silence I believe he agreed with Wyschogrod but due to his position in the Church he felt he could not say this at that time realising that the bulk of the Church was not ready to accept this position without further theological development and understanding. In a sense his funeral was his answer, when he organised that both traditional Catholic and Jewish rites would be part of his funeral he was giving his answer to Wyschogrod and the world. Dulles however is totally wrong in his response and demonstrates his lack of understanding of Judaism and thus his misreading of Paul. To be fair to Dulles most Catholics misunderstand the Jewish position. The keeping of circumcision and other aspects of the Mosaic Law by Jews is not a question of salvation but of obedience to the divine Will and the pursuit of holiness or sanctification. Jews look forward to salvation in the coming of the Mashiach not in circumcision or the Mosaic Law. According to those who personally knew him Cardinal Lustiger approved of Hebrew Catholics circumcising their sons, not for salvific reasons but as part of preserving the identity of their sons with the Jewish people.

In fact many years ago I was told that certain Hebrew Catholics asked Cardinal Lustiger whether they should circumcise their sons first and then baptise them or the other way around. Many conscious of the Gentile Catholic sensitivity on this felt that it might be better to circumcise them first before they became Catholics in baptism. However Cardinal Lustiger advised them to baptise them first and then circumcise them. I was puzzled by this until I realised that Cardinal Lustiger was saying by this that it was totally appropriate for Hebrew Catholics to circumcise their sons, not for salvation but as part of the perservation of Jewish Identity in the Church. Haaretz an Israeli newspaper reported on the funeral of Lustiger: "...Lustiger's faith remained complex throughout his life - he never rejected his Jewish identity, and the multifaith funeral appeared to be a symbol of that. He always claimed he was still a Jew, which caused a certain amount of anxiety and concern within parts of the Jewish community, said Rev. John T. Pawlikowski, president of the International Council of Christians and Jews. "It is highly unusual for the Mourner's Kaddish to be read among mourners for a convert from Judaism," said Rabbi Joel Roth, an expert on Jewish law at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York. "It's important to emphasize that it's not possible to be both Jewish and Catholic," he said. "That is what this could suggest to some people."..." This is exactly what Cardinal Lustiger did believe- he was a Catholic who was still a Jew and he never ceased to proclaim this to both Jews and Catholics. He also had this truth placed on a plaque on his tomb at Notre Dame in Paris.


Anonymous said...

Hello Athol!
Agree that the new perspective on Paul can help clear away some historical confusions and obstacles in this whole area.
Good post.


Athol Bloomer (Aharon Yosef) said...

Thanks Todd,

It is always encouraging when people leave a comment. i loved the part where Ratzinger spoke about a "new vision" in the light of the Shoah. We have reach a place in salvation history where the old way of seeing these relationships is coming to an end so that a new and positive vision can take hold that is in accord with the deposit of the faith.

cheers Athol

Mike said...

Jesus Christ ended 'an eye for an eye' for Christians with the New Covenant. How can a Catholic follow both the Old and New Laws and still call themselves a Catholic? The Church does not need to extricate itself from supersessionism when you consider Galatians 3:7, Galatians 3:16, Galatians 3:29 and Galatians 6:12-18.

Athol Bloomer (Aharon Yosef) said...

Hi mike,

I think you miss the point. There is only One Law of God but an old and new way of relating to it. Galatians was written to and for Gentiles- I suggest you read up on the new perspectives of Paul taking into account his Jewishness. You also seem to miss the point about an eye for a eye. Jesus is challenging those who take the law into their own hands and use this verse as a reason for personal vendetta. The original context was as a justice principal for the justice laws of the Israel state. Jesus is not attacking the Law recorded in the Old Testament- which is the Word of God but is challenging those who misuse it for their own selfish ends.

cheers Athol

BenYachov said...

>How can a Catholic follow both the Old and New Laws and still call themselves a Catholic?

I reply: This way QUOTE"it cannot be absolutely asserted that that man judaizes who does something in the Church which corresponds to the ceremonies of the old Law. "If a man should perform acts for a different end and purpose (even with the intention of worship and as religious ceremonies), not in the spirit of that Law nor on the basis of it, but either from personal decision, from human custom, or on the instruction of the Church, he would not sin, nor could he be said to judaize. So when a man does something in the Church which resembles the ceremonies of the old Law, he must not always be said to judaize"."

"4. But others remarked wisely that some, surely, of the ceremonial rites of the old Law could be observed under the new Law if only they were not done as obligations of the old Law, which was abrogated, but as a custom, or lawful tradition, or as a new precept issued by one enjoying the recognized and competent authority to make laws and to enforce them, as Vasquez observes (vol. 3, in the 3rd part of the Summa, disp. 210, quest. 80, art. 7)."END QUOTE

Ex Quo- Pope Benedict XIV March 1, 1756J

Aharon Yosef Bloomer said...

In the Catholic Church we have the belief as expressed by Cardinal Newman of the development of doctrine. We also do not read statement out of context but interpret them in accord with Scripture and the whole Tradition of the Church. For example we have the doctrine of 'there is no salvation outside the Church' in the past many Catholics in a extremely literal manner interpreted that to mean that everyone who was not a formal Catholic within the visible structures of the church were damned and go to hell. However over the centuries the church deepened its understanding of what this meant and when Father Feeney in the 1950's taught this interpretation he was excommunicated and told his idea was heretical. The church through theological reflection had come to a deeper understanding of the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ that was not limited to the visible hierarchical Church on earth. Vatican II clearly clarified this interpretation. As for this statement by Benedict XIV we need to know how to read this in the light of the development of doctrine as renewed in its biblical roots in the original deposit of Faith. Firstly we need to understand what a Judaiser is- there are two kinds of Judaisers- the Gentile kind who believes and teaches that the particular Torah observances appropriate for Jews are obligatory for Gentiles and are a means of salvation- the Jewish kind is those Jews that also teach that the particular Torah observances appropriate for Jews are obligatory for Gentiles as a means of salvation. Benedict is here not adressing Jewish Catholics but Gentile Catholics. it is thus interesting that he should say that Gentiles may keep those ceremonies of the Law appropriate for Jews (even if outwardly they appear as the old literal way of observing before the coming of Christ)for three reasons- 1. for a person decision (ie as a personal spiritual devotion)2. from human custom and 3.instructed by the Church. we also need to know what the church means by the Old Law and the New Law- this Cardinal Lustiger helps us stating that there is only One law of God but the newess is the deeper penetration of the law in the Messiah. Thus the Old law refers to the intention of observing the Law before the coming of Christ as Promise and the new Law refers to the deeper messianic interpretation and intention of observing the Law as reality. How one does this in the practical differs depending on whether one is a Jew or Gentile, male of female, child or adult, roman or byzantine etc

Aharon Yosef Bloomer said...

Yacov I think I will put this on as a blog post as i have some more to say.

Benyachov said...

Sorry to reply late Athol old bean. But NYC employees are being laid off from work. I think I'm safe because I have a lot of seniority but
I will breath easier in a few days. Anyway the point of the quote from Pope Benedict XIV is that the mere observance of an Old Testament or Jewish ceremony does not constitute automatic mortal sin(as certain extremists who have posted here in the past have contended). Rather under certain circumstances & with the right intention it is perfectly fine to have such observances. So to those who want to bash Athol for keeping Jewish observances I say go peddle your anti-Catholic/anti-Semitic nonsense over at Fred Phelps' website or something.

Cheers Bro. Keep me in your prayers.