My friend KK sent me the following article from the Kansas City Star, to which I have applied my own emphases and comments.
Prayer retains veiled remarks
Kansas City Star
Earlier this month Pope Benedict XVI ordered good changes in a Latin prayer used in some Good Friday services. He removed language that called Jews blind and that asked God to “remove the veil from their hearts.”
Almost all Jewish leaders who expressed an opinion about the changes were grateful for the deletion of the offensive words. [It is hard to comment on whether something is truly "offensive". After all, this is very subjective. The one hearing the words has his own perspective. I think that has to be taken into account by those who are critical of Pope Benedict having changed the Good Friday prayers.] At the same time, they were profoundly disappointed that Benedict left these words in the prayer: “Let us also pray for the Jews. May the Lord Our God enlighten their hearts so that they may acknowledge Jesus Christ, the savior of all men.”
The clear sense of those words is that the pope and any other Catholic who prays them in the old Latin Mass want all Jews to become Christians. [Well… YAH! That’s right!] The prayer devalues Judaism. [No, it doesn’t.] It assumes that Christianity has replaced Judaism and thus made it not just irrelevant but irredeemably wrong. [I think this is unreasonably narrow. Catholics do not see Judaism as "irrelevant" or "wrong" in an absolute sense. We don’t so much see Judaism as being "replaced" by Christianity as being "brought to its perfection" in Christianity. Judaism is therefore of priceless value to us, and we venerate what God worked through the Jewish people. But we nevertheless see that God has taken the next steps in the economy of salvation. Just because we believe that Christ is the fulfillment of the faith of the Jews, that doesn’t mean we therefore think that Jews are "irredeemable". On the contrary!]
That certainly would begin to explain the unhappiness many Jewish leaders expressed when they learned what the pope had left in the prayer. [Some would say "added to". In many ways the new prayer is stronger!]
But there’s much more to their displeasure than that. It is rooted in an acute awareness of century after century of official anti-Jewish church teachings and actions, of which this is only the latest. [Ummm…. noooo…. again, the prayer is not "anti-Jewish". We must deny this premise. Remember when reading to check the premises the author wants you to accept before moving along with his arguments.] The church finally showed a willingness to move away from this anti-Judaism [See?] in 1965 with a Vatican II document that said Jews no longer should be considered Christ killers. [ggrrrrr] Later, relations between Catholics and Jews improved dramatically under Pope John Paul II.
But the relentless and shameful anti-Judaism [See?] in Christian history is a story that many American Christians seem to know little about. And yet it helped to create modern anti-Semitism, without which the Holocaust would have been inconceivable. [So Christianity, not original sin, is responsible for the Holocaust?]
So when a Jewish leader such as Abe Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, reacts to the pope’s prayer change by telling Reuters news service that “it is less offensive in its language but it still is in contradiction to changes that the late Pope John Paul brought about,” [I disagree. John Paul II did change the landscape of Christian-Jewish relations, but he did not sell out Christian faith in Christ as the only Savior of mankind.] he is taking into account not just what Benedict and John Paul did but the whole sad history of Jewish-Christian relations.
“John Paul taught that the Jewish people are the older brothers of Catholics and that Judaism has its own merits and viability,” Foxman said. [Yes, of course! "Merits and viability", just as I was describing above. Again, that does not mean that any Pope ever thought that what is good in Judaism can be considered good apart from God’s plan, which includes the Word made flesh, the Messiah, who was crucified and raised from the dead.]
Foxman has identified the issue precisely. [Not so precisely, I think.] The prayer the pope revised still raises this question: Is Judaism a legitimate religion? [See my comments above.]
That prayer, even though it removes some objectionable language, suggests the answer is no. By implication, it argues that God has somehow abrogated the covenant with Abraham in which God chose the people of Israel to bear the heavy burden of being a light to the nations. [Abrogated? I don’t think that is quite the way to put it. I would say that God brought that covenant to its perfection with a new covenant. God is, after all, the perfect master of a hermeneutic of continuity.] It says this to Jews today: Your people missed the boat 2,000 years ago, and it’s time you recognized that and converted.
Each religion, of course, must determine its own doctrine and beliefs. [Including the Catholic Church? Apparently not, according to some.] If official Catholicism [As opposed to which other Catholicism?] wants to teach that Judaism has been superseded and is irrelevant, [See? There is that premise from above that we refused to accept.] it is free to do so. But in that case, all the Jewish-Catholic dialogue of the last several decades can have had only one ultimate Catholic purpose: the conversion of Jews. [And everyone else, too. This is a surprise? At the same time I recognize how foreign this idea may be to Jews, who do not attempt to make coverts.]
I know Jews who have freely converted to Christianity, and I’m happy to welcome them into my own Protestant faith community. [This author isn’t Jewish, but he sure has a bone to pick with the Catholic Church!] But it must be terribly difficult for Jews to ponder becoming Christian when Christianity has spent almost 2,000 years denigrating Judaism and oppressing Jews. [Grrr…]
So the pope and other Catholics should not be surprised when Jews express offense at the newly revised prayer. [I can live with that. I can live with practicing Jews praying the infamous, and racist, "shelo asani goi" every day.] Any such surprise is evidence of a mysterious tone-deafness that fails to imagine or anticipate how one’s words will be heard by others. [This raises the question about whether we simply choose to be offended or not.]
If the church’s liturgy continues to promote the belief that Jews are lost infidels beyond God’s redemption, [This smacks of the hysterical.] Catholics should not expect Jews to rejoice in so demeaning a designation.
To reach Bill Tammeus, send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit his Web log at http:// billtammeus.typepad.com.