Saturday, August 07, 2010

Hermeneutics of Discontinuity? JP2 vs. Florence on the Revocation of the Mosaic Covenant

Commemorating the 565th Anniversary of the Closing of the Council of Florence

The previous post on Pope John Paul II's claim that the Church did not have a philosophy drew many interesting comments.  I would like to try another topic within the same broad theme of the apparent discontinuity between traditional Catholic doctrine and post-Vatican II doctrine: the supposed non-revocation of the Mosaic covenant.

In an allocution to the Jewish community of West Germany at Mainz (November 17, 1980), Pope John Paul II spoke of "... the people of God of the Old Covenant, which has never been revoked.'" 

[Information Service No. 57, 1985/I, 16-21, 16. Comp. H. H. Henrix in: Hinweise fuer eine richtige Darstellung von Juden und Judentum in der Predigt und in der Katechese der katholischen Kirchen - 24. Juni 1985 (Arbeitshilfen 44), Bonn o. J. (1986), 12-44.]

Compare this with Session 11 of the Council of Florence (4 February 1442, Bull of Union with the Copts):

It [The Holy Roman Church] firmly believes, professes and teaches that the legal prescriptions of the old Testament or the Mosaic law, which are divided into ceremonies, holy sacrifices and sacraments, because they were instituted to signify something in the future, although they were adequate for the divine cult of that age, once our lord Jesus Christ who was signified by them had come, came to an end and the sacraments of the new Testament had their beginning. Whoever, after the passion, places his hope in the legal prescriptions and submits himself to them as necessary for salvation and as if faith in Christ without them could not save, sins mortally. It does not deny that from Christ's passion until the promulgation of the gospel they could have been retained, provided they were in no way believed to be necessary for salvation. But it asserts that after the promulgation of the gospel they cannot be observed without loss of eternal salvation. Therefore it denounces all who after that time observe circumcision, the sabbath and other legal prescriptions as strangers to the faith of Christ and unable to share in eternal salvation, unless they recoil at some time from these errors. Therefore it strictly orders all who glory in the name of Christian, not to practise circumcision either before or after baptism, since whether or not they place their hope in it, it cannot possibly be observed without loss of eternal salvation...."  (Denzinger 712)

Are these reconcilable?  Comments from all positions are welcome, but especially those who argue using the scholastic method (Major, Minor, and Conclusion, etc.).

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