NCR’s John Allen on the older Mass and Jewish-Catholic relations

My friend Mr. John Allen, the well-balanced nearly ubiquitous former Rome correspondent for the über-lefty National Catholic Reporter has a blurb in his weekly notes about Jewish reactions to the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum.  This Motu Proprio derestricts the older form of Mass which on Good Friday includes a prayer for the conversion of Jews. 

Some Jews are angry that Christians should pray that everyone believe in Christ.  (Granted, they are also upset about the way that prayer expresses that wish.)

Here is Allen’s piece.  My emphases and comments.

Speaking of Catholic-Jewish relations, conversation continues to percolate on the subject of Pope Benedict’s early July motu proprio liberalizing permission to celebrate the pre-Vatican II Latin Mass. Many leaders in Jewish-Catholic dialogue have voiced concern that the Good Friday liturgy according to the old rite contains a prayer for the conversion of the Jews, which refers to "the blindness of that people," asking God to remove "the veil from their hearts" and to deliver them from "darkness."

One little-known wrinkle is that on March 7, 1965, Pope Paul VI decreed a set of changes to the pre-Vatican II rite which removed the word "conversion" from the title "Prayer for the Jews" and deleted the language cited above. Instead, the revised prayer recalls God’s "promises to Abraham and his seed." Church historians say that Paul made the revisions after the Second Vatican Council voted in favor of a more positive approach to relations with Jews, and the pope wanted to implement its new vision in the liturgy right away, even before the post-Vatican II Mass was ready.

Many experts seem to believe that those changes do not apply under the terms of the new motu proprio. Msgr. James Moroney, executive director of the Secretariat for the Liturgy for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, said Aug. 9 that the motu proprio refers to the 1962 Missal alone, not to any subsequent amendments.  [Mr. Allen called on this one too.  I agree with Moroney.  The text of the older Mass we can use is the 1962 version, not the version with the revisions of 1965.  Until there is some change from the Holy See about this, only the 1962, as is, must be used in the Triduum.  Similarly, elements of the Triduum from editions previous to the 1962 may not be interpollated either.  It works both ways.]

"As of now, it seems to me that it would not be possible to use texts published in 1965 when the permission is for the 1962 texts," Moroney said, though without excluding the possibility that the pope might wish to make changes in the future.

Some canonists, however, argue that because the 1965 revisions were never abrogated, they should be considered part of the 1962 Missal, [that is not what Summorum Pontificum says.  It says 1962, not 1962 with subsequent revisions.] just as subsequent amendments to the new rite issued after 1970 are still considered part of that Missal. Experts are awaiting clarification from the Vatican. Some believe that while the amendments from Paul VI were an improvement, the prayer remains problematic even with them, and would like to see it revised along the lines of the Prayer for the Jews in the post-Vatican II rite. That text asks that God help Jews "progress in fidelity to Your covenant."

On July 18, Bertone seemed to signal openness to such revisions, telling reporters that the Vatican had no intention of rolling back the clock on Jewish-Catholic relations and that "the problem can be solved."

Three other quick points are worth making in this regard.

First, the prayer for the Jews is not the only controversial bit of language in the Good Friday rite. There’s also a prayer for "heretics and schismatics," referring to other Christians, and to "pagans," referring to followers of other religions. Many experts say both pose equally serious questions in terms of consistency with Vatican II’s ecumenical and inter-religious vision.  [I am not one of them.  I don’t see any of these prayers, which have been used since the original indult for the older Mass as having changed inter-religious dialogue one way or another.]

Second, the pre-Vatican II rite has been available with the permission of the local bishop since 1984, which means that a certain percentage of Catholics have been hearing these prayers on Good Friday for the last 23 years. Whatever their theological limits, they did not prevent Catholicism from pursuing pioneering efforts in Jewish-Catholic dialogue over that time, [exactly!] including John Paul’s visit to the Rome synagogue in 1986 and the trip to Israel in 1999. That, perhaps, is an invitation to caution about worst-case scenarios in terms of what all this might mean.

Third, Catholics who celebrate the pre-Vatican II Mass say that even though it’s sometimes called the "Missal of 1962," in fact many places don’t follow the ’62 Missal because it was expensive, hard to find, and quickly superseded by the new Mass. What people are actually using is often a Missal from the era of Pius XII or even earlier, because that’s what they have lying around. This may mean they’re still praying for the "perfidious Jews," because that language wasn’t taken out until John XXIII in 1960. [I made that point to Mr. Allen by phone and on this blog on various occaisions.  It is very important that, when the older form of Mass is celebrated, we use the CORRECT edition, or at least make the necessary changes to the edition we possess to bring it into conformity with the 1962 edition.]  They’re also often using catechetical materials and devotional aids utterly untouched by the vision of the council or the new Catechism of the Catholic Church. Some experts believe the spotlight on the old Mass created by the motu proprio will encourage these communities to bring themselves up to date. If nothing else, it should mean that the actual 1962 Missal will become more readily available, and that catechetical materials reflecting official post-conciliar church teaching will be produced.

Ironically, therefore, a decision perceived by a wide swath of the church and the outside world as an effort to roll back the clock, may instead by experienced by the people actually affected by it as an invitation to step forward.  [Yes.  One of the Holy Father’s objectives, for sure.]

This is a good, well-balanced presentation of the thorny issue of how some Jews are upset by those prayers. 

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. tim says:

    Fr., glad he’s your friend, but I don’t particularly enjoy his writings, including this one. To each his own, I guess.

  2. Derik says:

    If I understand well, the Catholic Doctrine asks to spread the knowledge of the salvation brought by Jesus Christ to all the inhabitants of the earth, starting with our (sometimes perfidious) selves. I don’t see the problem in praying for the Jews being loyal to God’s Covenant, I pray twice a day (Lauds and Vespers, Ordinary use) for my beloved friends who despise religion.

  3. techno_aesthete says:

    “They’re also often using catechetical materials and devotional aids utterly untouched by the vision of the council or the new Catechism of the Catholic Church.”

    Oh, the horror! The Church’s teachings have not changed. They may have a different emphasis after VII, but the fundamental teachings have not changed. When children are being taught basic Catholic doctrine, the Baltimore Cathechism is quite sufficient. (My local ordinary even said that one can’t go wrong with it.)

  4. techno_aesthete says:

    Oops! That should say “Catechism” – I noticed the typo as it was posting.

  5. Belloc says:

    With apologies to Mr. Heston:

    Mr. Allen, you can have my Baltimore Catechism when you pry it from my cold, dead hands!

  6. Marcus says:

    Ever since childhood, I’ve been confused about the Jewish people. We no longer pray for their conversion, but aren’t we obligated to pray for the conversion of everyone? It’s one of those cases of lex orandi lex credendi, no? If we do not pray for the conversion of others, that implies that we believe their conversion is not neccessary, or that intercessory prayer does not help. Maybe whatever anyone thinks will get them to heaven is OK for them. If we pray that Jews remain faithful to their covenant, or some such, but teach that observance of Mosaic law cannot bring salvation, how can we reconcile that?

    All this implies that there is more than one version of truth out there. Certainly not – the only Truth is God himself. All this suggests that the Catholic Church is not fully endowed of that truth or is not obligated to speak and observe it.

    Did Jesus not say “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations (Mt 28:19)” and in another place, “…beginning from Jerusalem (Lk 24:47)”?

    All this rambling is really a question. I’m still confused. As was famously said, any help that you could give would be most, er, helpful.

  7. My impression was that the new prayer for the Jews is just a more touchy-feely rewording of the same thing. That “fullness of redemption” is pretty clear, that they’re not being prayed for to simply have nice, happy, cuddly felt banner lives. The “fullness of redemption” in the new prayer is life in the Body of Christ and nothing else. It may be subtle, but the prayer is still one for conversion. I don’t see any other way to read it that is faithful to Roman Catholic ecclesiology. That it certainly can be interpreted in such a way that it is not referring to the conversion of the Jews is not in doubt. But I don’t think that was the intention of those who rewrote the prayer. The language is more gentle, but still firm: the iron fist in the velvet glove.

  8. Marcus says:

    Thanks, Kevin. That makes sense.

    However, do not underestimate: felt is a powerful fabric. Very powerful…

  9. Chris Garton-Zavesky says:

    1. “Balanced”, surely refers to the fact that “lefty” isn’t known for objectivity or balance.

    2. If Vatican II teaches something different CONTENTWISE, it is false, for the essentials can’t change.

  10. danphunter1 says:

    We should pray for the conversion of everyone, except the Jews.
    Theirs is a seperate covenent and Christ left them alone for they have attained salvation previous to His Incarnation.
    God bless you

  11. David Andrew says:

    I’m confused. In the unofficial English translation I downloaded
    on July 7, Article 2 states, ” . . .and may do so on any day with the exception
    of the Easter Triduum.” Does this not mean that the Roman Missal promulgated by
    Paul VI in 1970 is the one that must be used for the rites of the Triduum?

  12. Ian says:

    danphunter1: Didn’t Jesus spend almost his entire ministry preaching conversion to the Jews? Maybe my Bible isn’t the right translation. I’m also pretty sure that all of the apostles (and the first pope) were Jews.

  13. David Andrew, that refers to private masses, none of which, ordinary or extraordinary form, are to occur during the Triduum.

  14. However, do not underestimate: felt is a powerful fabric. Very powerful…

    So true, Marcus. Especially those circles where the glue has seeped through it and hardened.

    I’m sure there’s a homily in there somewhere….

  15. Tom says:

    There is no doubt that Summorum Pontificum meant to allow the 1962 Good Friday prayers. There is explicit backing for them from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. This backing has been given publicly, in a highly authoritative form, in Avvenire, the offcial paper of the Italian bishops’ conference, by Archbishop Amato, the Secretary: see report by Sandro Magister –

    “Q: Your Excellency, there are those who accuse the motu proprio “Summorum Pontificum” of being anti-conciliar, because it offers full citizenship to a missal in which there is a prayer for the conversion of the Jews. Is it truly contrary to the letter and spirit of the Council to formulate this prayer?

    A: Certainly not. In the Mass, we Catholics pray always and in the first place for our conversion. And we strike our breasts for our sins. And then we pray for the conversion of all Christians and all non-Christians. The Gospel is for all.

    Q: But the objection is raised that the prayer for the conversion of the Jews was definitively surpassed by the one in which the Lord is asked to help them to progress in fidelity to his covenant.

    A: Jesus himself affirms, in the Gospel of Saint Mark: “Repent, and believe in the Gospel,” and his first interlocutors were his Jewish confreres. We Christians can do nothing other than re-propose what Jesus taught us. In freedom and without imposition, obviously, but also without self-censorship.”

    There are many things behind the Motu Proprio. One may be the intention of scotching heterodox interpretations of Nostrae Aetate and other Vatican II documents. These interpretations gratuitously embody a hermeneutic of rupture, and falsely view ecumenism or interreligious dialogue as inconsistent with the continuing Divinely given mission of the Church to convert all peoples, Jew and Gentile alike, to Christ. I am sure the CDF was consulted about the Motu Proprio and all its possible doctrinal implications, given that the Missal of John XXIII is now, as fully part of the modern Roman rite, as determinative of the Church’s lex orandi and credendi as that of Paul VI.

  16. Richard says:

    OK, here’s that supposedly unacceptable prayer:

    “Oremus et pro Iudaeis: ut Deus et Dominus noster auferat velamen de cordibus eorum; ut et ipsi agnoscant Iesum Christum Dominum nostrum…”

    And here is a word from the New Testament:

    “Cum autem conversus fuerit ad Deum aufertur velamen.” (2 Cor. 3:16)

    The literary parallels for the light/darkess imagery in the second half of the controversial collect, and probably for its talk of the Jews’ “blindness” as well, are found a few verses down the page in chapter 4. This is Sacred Scripture we’re talking about, and a foundational text at that (the antithesis of letter vs. spirit, so freighted with significance today, enters our tradition through 2 Corinthians 3).

    I certainly hope that they are scrupulously consistent, and that 2 Corinthians will be expurgated while our scribes and Pharisees (woe to them!) are busy refashioning the Good Friday collect. Then they can move on to the real “problem”, which is of course John’s Gospel.

    Quamdiu, Domine?

  17. Marcus says:

    Dan, I don’t think Ian, St. Paul, and I agree with you. I don’t have the mental wherewithal to always converse clearly about these intricate and weighty things, but if the prior Covenant was adequate, then the final Convenant would not have been necessary. I’ve never read anything that stated that the Jewish people are definitively to be saved under the first Covenant, or that Jesus was not to reveal himself to his people. Having asked priests how God will save the Jews, I’ve always gotten an answer along the lines of, “I don’t know. It’s a mystery.” No doubt.

    The Catechism covers Divine Revelation in sections 50-141:

    51: “It pleased God, in his goodness and wisdom, to reveal himself and to make known the mystery of his will. His will was that men should have access to the Father, through Christ, the Word made flesh, in the Holy Spirit, and thus become sharers in the divine nature.” It does not conclude with, “except the Jews.”

    No.63 does say, “Israel is the priestly people of God”, but does not stop there.

    Nos. 72 & 73: “God chose Abraham and made a covenant with him and his descendants. By the covenant God formed his people and revealed his law to them through Moses. Through the prophets, he prepared them to accept the salvation destined for all humanity.”

    “God has revealed himself fully by sending his own Son, in whom he has established his covenant for ever. The Son is his Father’s definitive Word; so there will be no further Revelation after him.”

    This all points, esp. 72, to the OT preparing the Jewish people for the coming of the Savior.

    Dan, if you could share the source of your thinking, that would be useful for the discussion; but somthing is amiss here.

  18. danphunter1 says:

    I was being facetious.
    God bless you.

  19. Marcus says:

    Dan: You got me too. I was thinking, “That can’t be the same damphunter1, can it?” Peace, brother.

  20. Marcus says:

    At least that made me brush up on the (new) Catechism.

    I love the Baltimore Catechism and use it in adult education classes as well as children’s catechesis. I encourage the kids to ask basic questions from the BC to their parents, who are mostly stumped. I’m sure I’ll get a talking to one day…

  21. Jay says:

    Evngelisation of Jews as sometimes quite efficient. For example, St Vincent Ferrer was given a ‘license’ to preach to Spanish Jews after AD1414 Congress of Tortosa. He manage to convert 25000 Jews and he whole Toledo was converted. I suppose that grandparent of St Teres of Avila was converted at that time. We would not have such a great Carmlite Saint if V2 would tak place (unthinkable at that time) 500 years earlier.

  22. tim: glad he’s your friend, but I don’t particularly enjoy his writings

    Gentlemen can disagree and still be friends. I find Mr. Allen’s analysis of Catholic issues to be, in the main, very fair. He presents facts and clearly identifies his own opinions. That’s fair.

  23. Ian says:

    Okay Dan, you got me.

  24. M Kr says:

    I find Allen’s comments regarding “updating” catechesis and devotion disturbing, since the Church’s teachings don’t change. Unless he means the way in which those teaching are expressed or the particular emphasis given.

  25. Patrick Rothwell says:

    Wouldn’t it make sense for PEC to allow the Pauline amendment to the prayer for the Jews as an option for those few priests who love the old mass, but hate the “spiritual blindess” bit? (I know for a fact that a few exist.) On the other hand, I fail to see how mandating the Pauline prayer to placate Jewish lobbying organizations, but creating a big stink amongst the rad trads in the process, really accomplishes anything.

  26. DoB says:

    The point is there is very little catechesis and even less devotion in the post concilar Church. Is this his idea of updating? Well if it is it will not work.
    I wonder how many Jews have converted since the now ordinary form. Judging by our ridiculous exit figures I would have to guess very few. The only way our Church will grow and prosper is the same way it has always grown and prospered – by producing Catholic saints, not by appeasing the world for the world will always rail against her. No prayers, catechesis or devotions will turn away a possible convert. Our poor faith is the only barrier. So please, let us have a Mass that builds our faith, that states the truth – we want Jews to accept Christ and convert. Particularly Jews because Jesus was theirs and their scriptures tell them he has come. Theirs is a particular blindness that is special and more serious for being revealed. We should be praying particularly for them. Sure they do not understand or maybe resent the attention, that should not stop us doing our work, not hidden in a felt glove but open and honestly.

  27. michigancatholic says:

    Marcus, Derik, DoB, all great posts. I don’t understand this touchiness about the Jews either. I think it has less to do with evangelization than history and that’s the stalling point for many poeple who look at it prima facie. People have to learn to separate the two issues which are really quite distinct. Yes, we must evangelize everyone–Christ left us that task. No, we don’t have to carry on with anyone (ala Jewish ghettos). I think that the fact that the two issues have been conflated was and is still the problem. MUDDY THINKING.

  28. michigancatholic says:

    BTW, I enjoy history and I’m not one to rewrite it or apologize for it. It is the case that ghettos did exist, however it is also the case that the commonsense framework “out there” changes over time. It is no good to second guess these things.

    In the commonsense framework we now have, there is the capacity to evaluate the 2 issues as the separate issues they are. I suggest we do that.

    BTW, there is an interesting trend among Jews. I was just reading a lot about it the other night. It seems that, just like any group, they are interested in making sure that their cultural/religious values are maintained too. It seems that studies have shown that those who marry outside the faith don’t tend to pass on their faith, and there’s a lot of marriage outside. They are suggesting that new spouses who are not Jewish are converted to Judaism for the sake of the children, who will have Jewish lives instead. There’s a lot of bad-mouthing Christmas trees and such included in this. Thus this sort of thing:

    I already knew this, having had friends who married Jews and converted. (I pray for them.) There are also other groups for whom intermarriage is a problem: Druze, Bahai, etc. (Some religions can’t accept converts so they are strictly forbidden from marrying out, but it doesn’t stop some of the members.)

  29. Xavier says:

    Three thoughts:

    1) Do serious Jews care any more about how Catholics pray for them than Catholics care about how Baptists pray for “the Whore of Babylon?” (I am very happy that the Baptists are honestly praying for me, no matter how they do it. If they are still praying for me, they aren’t coming after me!)

    2) Is not a watered-down prayer less than truthful, therefore, objectively less efficacious? If I change (the meaning of) a prayer to make someone dislike me less, am I not placing myself before the one for whom I pray? If a higher authority changes the prayer, is this not a chastisement against the one for whom the Church prays?

    3) Politically charged words may need to change with the times, for example: “retarded” becomes “special” becomes “mentally challenged”, but we see the consequences of changing the meaning of words – the absence of any real dialogue.

  30. michigancatholic says:

    If “serious Jews” object to our prayers for their conversions, then maybe someone ought to point out documents like the one I linked above. For them to maintain the essentials of both points of view is contradictory. Ie. If they can seek to convert non-Jews to Judaism (spouses of Jews in order to maintain households), we can also seek the conversion of Jews to Christianity. Let’s not be hypocritical about this.

  31. CPKS says:

    I suspect that the apparent over-sensitivity of the Jews to some elements in the usus antiquior may be due to the fact that there are apparently anti-semitic elements in some of the traditionalist organizations (for example the SSPX bishop Williamson has been quoted as denying the Nazi genocide).

  32. “They’re also often using catechetical materials and devotional aids utterly untouched by the vision of the council or the new Catechism of the Catholic Church.”

    And need to be updated ?

    No, NO and NO!

    The purpose of catechesis and the job, therefore, of a catechism is to teach the unchanging and unchangeable truths of the deposit of faith and morals which are necessary to be believed and lived for eternal salvation.

    The “new insights” of Vatican II (let alone of its “spirit”) cannot be necessary for salvation. Not even one of them has been imposed definitively.

    The “Catechism of Christian Doctrine” published by Pope St. Pius X in 1912 is still the most authoritative catechism for beginners. (Please note: “for beginners”. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, and its Compendium are not *directly* addressed to children or beginners.)

    I write from the catechetical wasteland which is Canada, where the “nouvelle catéchèse” started to take place three years before the beginning of the Council.

    I am myself a victim of the Canadian Catechism.

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