Monday, November 22, 2010

Pope Benedict's Equivocal Position on Judaism (Revised)


The Church and the Synagogue
Quaeritur: Would you care to possibly comment on this other excerpt about the Jews from the book The Light of the World.

Respondeo: This is a better example than the condom comment of a point in which "[i]t goes without saying that the Pope can have private opinions that are wrong," as the Holy Father himself admits in his book.  The theologically objectionable point is the claim that the traditional Good Friday prayer for the conversion of the Jews was erroneous because he realized the profound unity of the Old and New Testaments:

"... in such a way that one did not pray directly for the conversion of the Jews in a missionary sense."

The rest seems to amount to an unclear and rather circumlocutious pair of premises that are somehow being offered as support for the above conclusion.  The argument contains little discernible propositional content by way of premises; it rather expresses a theologically misguided desire for ecumenism. (A desire cannot be false in the strict sense, just misguided or disordered.)  But one can perhaps boil all that down to the proposition that there is a natural unity between Judaism and Christianity.  This seems to be the hidden premise of the argument that he uses to get to the conclusion, i.e., the quote above.   Thus, what the Pope offers us is an enthymeme (an implied syllogism), which we can reformulate into an explicit syllogism:

Major Premise: If there is a natural continuity between Judaism and Christianity, then we must not pray for the Jews' conversion in a 'missionary sense' --i.e., that they change from a false religion to the one, true religion.
Minor Premise: There is a natural continuity between Judaism and Christianity.
Conclusion: Therefore, we must not pray for the Jews' conversion in a 'missionary sense' (as the Old Missal does), but for the perfection of their religion (as the New Missal and Pope Benedict's 'proclamation of the Christian faith' does).

For the sake of precision, allow me to express my refutation of his reasoning as a scholastic distinction:

I concede the major.  It is a statement of the self-evident proposition that one cannot convert from religion to religion b if, in the ultimate analysis, a = b.  Conversion (in the 'missionary sense') involves changing religions that are essentially distinct.

I distinguish the minor (i.e., this premise is true in one sense, but false in another).  That there is a natural continuity between pre-Christian Judaism and Christianity, I concede; but that there is a natural continuity between modern Judaism and Christianity, I deny. The Holy Father's reasoning is faulty insofar as it does not take into account this important distinction. Pre-Christian Judaism, i.e., the religion of the Old Testament, is essentially the same religion as Christianity, the religion of the New Testament: Christianity is the perfection of pre-Christian Judaism. Pre-Christian Judaism prefigures Christianity; Christianity perfects Pre-Christian Judaism--every bit as much as the Old Testament prefigures the New, and the New perfects the Old.

But post-Christian Judaism, and I specifically mean the religion of the Jewish race after the destruction of the Temple, is a new religion distinct from the religion of the Old Testament. Judaism, in other words, underwent a sort of substantial change at that point. Not only was it redefined due to the impossibility of observing the Old Law (no Temple, no sacrifice, no Judaism); but also a new, anti-Christian element came into the definition of this new religion. The core of Jewish belief is no longer merely the awaiting of a Messias, but also the belief that Jesus of Nazareth is NOT that Messias. As a consequence, a modern Jew who thinks that Jesus IS the Messias is not considered a Jew by the Jews themselves. This shows that modern, i.e., post-Christian Judaism and Christianity are not continuous.

In short, pre-Christian Judaism is pro-Christianity, whereas modern Judaism is anti-Christian.

I distinguish the conclusion: That therefore, we must not pray for the pre-Christians Jews' conversion, I concede; but that we must not pray for the modern Jews' conversion, I deny.  Given the distinction of the minor that I made above, the conclusion can only be true in the sense that we don't pray for the conversion of pre-Christian Jews.  But they're all dead, so that's obviously not what the Pope means.  In the other sense, the sense in which the Holy Father means it--that modern Jews cannot convert from their religion to Christianity, and the Old Missal is incorrect in praying for that intention--in this sense the conclusion is false.  

The fact that the argument's conclusion is false can be stated positively: modern Judaism is a false religion and modern Jews, therefore, have the obligation to abandon their errors and accept the true religion revealed by God through Jesus Christ and the Church; consequently, the traditional liturgy does right in praying for their conversion: 

Let us pray also for the perfidious Jews: that almighty God may remove the veil from their hearts; so that they too may acknowledge Jesus Christ our Lord. 
Almighty and eternal God, who dost not exclude from thy mercy even Jewish perfidy: hear our prayers, which we offer for the blindness of that people; that acknowledging the light of thy Truth, which is Christ, they may be delivered from their darkness. Through the same our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.

Caritas non nisi in veritate.


Unknown said...

that was very clear. thanks.

Roberto Javier Rodríguez Santiago said...

I understand your thinking. But I think the Pope is trying to improve relationship between Catholic Church and Jew Community. And I'm with him.

Don Paco said...

I'm afraid that cannot be done except by being honest. Caritas non nisi in veritate.

Kinga said...

The point of contention here is the use of the word 'perfidious' and not necessarily praying for conversion. Of course, we should pray for the conversion of those who do not believe. However, it also goes without saying that it is condescending, self-righteous and entirely inappropriate to use 'perfidious' to describe the Jews. It helps no-one: it does not help the Jews since it offends them and it does not help the praying Christians since it introduces a false sense of superiority. Honesty and truth are different from bluntness. Bluntness is too counter-productive to use as support for any argument. Since feelings are strong on both sides in this case, bluntness aggravates the situation and provokes unnecessary emotional reactions. It does nothing for the argument itself.

Passerby said...

Actually, pre-Christian Judaism subsists today in a small minority: Karaite Judaism.

Anonymous said...

I'm a Marrano descendant. What Don Paco says in this post is true. While we should try to improve relationships between us and the Jewish community, we can't do anything unless both sides are honest about themselves and their history. The Jews are always claiming they're the eternal victims of Christian or gentile mistreatment. While it's true some Christians have mistreated Jews down through the ages, the history of Jewish activities against Christians and others is rarely brought up. If you try to bring it up, they'll say, 'We suffered more, your sufferings are nothing compared to ours!' To make such a ridiculous claim in the face of true history is a guarantee that religious and ethnic strife will continue between the two parties.

Ben G said...


You write: "it also goes without saying that it is condescending, self-righteous and entirely inappropriate to use 'perfidious' to describe the Jews."

This certainly does not go without saying. I recommend you read the article by Br. Alexis Bugnolo (no relation to Bugnini!) on the Seattle Catholic website, called “A Note on the Latin Phrase perfidus Iudaeus”. He shows that this phrase was used by St. Bonaventure and that this prayer is extremely ancient. The word perfidus is thus appropriate, because I don’t see how the Church could have approved for centuries something that was contrary to the Gospel in her liturgy. It means “faithless”, which the Jews clearly are, since they don’t have faith in Christ, the only light of the world. I doubt you want to accuse St. Bonaventure of self-righteousness and condescension. Thus, St. Bruno said in his profession of faith: “I believe the same Son of God was captured by the hatred of some of the Jews who did not believe”.

Ben G said...

You also write: “it does not help the Jews since it offends them and it does not help the praying Christians since it introduces a false sense of superiority.” In my opinion, this is the Gospel of PC, not of Jesus Christ. Our Lord and the Saints were never afraid of offending people. Anyone who thinks otherwise should read Matthew 23. The same Good Friday prayers have several things that could offend followers of false religions. We pray that God will remove the iniquity from the hearts of the pagans, and also that God will rescue heretics and schismatics from their errors, since they have been “led astray by the deceit of the devil” and are entangled in “heretical evil”. These statements are far stronger than references to the “perfidious Jews”. And yet we should not be afraid of offending Lutherans or monophysites, or whoever.

I’m not sure what you mean by avoiding “superiority”. If you mean that we shouldn’t refer to the fact that the Catholic faith is superior to the Jewish faith, you are wrong. If you mean that we shouldn’t gloat in our own “superior sanctity”, you are right. But praying for the “perfidious Jews” does not do this. We have the true faith only by the grace of God, not by our own righteousness.

Anonymous said...


"it also goes without saying..."

[then why say it?]

"...that it is condescending, self-righteous and entirely inappropriate to use 'perfidious' to describe the Jews."

-- They are indeed perfidious, and as St Paul said, they killed our Lord Jesus and the prophets and are the enemies of all humanity. Or do you reject the New Testament as "antishemitic hate speech"?

Kinga: "It helps no-one: it does not help the Jews since it offends them and it does not help the praying Christians since it introduces a false sense of superiority"

-- The Truth shall not set us free?

-- Christians are obviously superior to Jews, in the corporate sense, in spite of individual failings.

-- If you're not offending Jews, then you must be doing something wrong. Was Christ afraid of offending the Pharisees?

+ + +

Roberto Javier Rodríguez Santiago: "I think the Pope is trying to improve relationship between Catholic Church and Jew Community. And I'm with him."

He is not, He is Jewing the Church and the Faith.

Relations with "Jew Community" would be improved if they turned from their Satanic ways, their Kabbalh, their filthy Talmud, their Jewsury, their promotion of infanticide, porn and all other sorts of subversion.

+ + +


"Actually, pre-Christian Judaism subsists today in a small minority: Karaite Judaism."

Wrong. Karaites are a breakaway sect from the Pharisaical Talmudic cult. They reject the *authority* of the filthy Talmud, but they do not reject it as their scripture. They are also as likely as any other Jew to practice kabbalistic sorcery. They are involved in Zionist and other forms of societal, political, fiscal, etc. subversion. And they are just as Anti-Christ as all other Jews.

Anonymous said...

How many converts have these "non PC" Catholics made lately?

How many?



Someone who insists on calling another "perfidious" is obviously not experienced in missionary work.

Don Paco said...

Dear Anonymous,

How many converts has traditional Catholicism made? Good thing that you ask. It has made LOTS. I am one of them. Traditional Catholicism is taking over the Church.

In fact, if you think about it, before Vatican II--or, more precisely, before the modernist crisis--there was nothing else BUT traditional Catholicism. All Catholics were traditional Catholics (and were not "PC" as you say).

What is so attractive about traditional Catholicism over novel, "PC" forms of 'Catholicism' is its superior inner coherence and correspondence to the tradition... or, let's say, it's the only coherent kind of Catholicism, and the only one that fully corresponds to the bi-milleniar tradition of the Church.

Just read the encyclicals of the pre-Vatican II popes (from Bl. Pope Pius IX to Ven. Pope Pius XII) and you'll see why. Traditional Catholicism is not a recent invention: it is Catholicism as it has been known to mankind from the First to the Twentieth Centuries.

Don Paco said...

PS. Anonymos, remember also it was the Church's venerable liturgy that came up with the expression "oremus pro perfidis judaeis." That self-same liturgy that brough millions of pagans in the early Middle Ages into the Church. Hence, it would be absurd to say that the traditional liturgy (or traditional Catholicism) has no power to convert infidels.