Rabbi praises Pope Benedict for his clear teaching and older Mass

I find this fascinating.  It is on Spero News.

My emphases.

 Rabbi praises Pope Benedict for his clear teaching
A rabbi from Monsey, New York, has lauded Pope Benedict XVI for reinstating the Latin Mass and affirming that only Catholic Church qualifies as the one, true Church
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
A rabbi from Monsey, New York, has lauded Pope Benedict XVI for reinstating the Latin Mass and affirming that only Catholic Church qualifies as the one, true Church.
In an article titled The Pope’s Got A Point and published in the July 18 issue of The Jewish Press, Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz says he is “not at all put off by the fact that the leader of another religion sees that religion as primary.”
“I’ve always found it curious that people of different religions get together in a spirit of harmony to share their common faiths,” he writes. “By definition, these people should have strong opposition to the beliefs of their ‘colleagues’ at the table. The mode of prayer of one group should be an affront to the other group.
“What the pope is saying – and I agree 100 percent – is that there are irreconcilable differences, and we can’t pretend those differences don’t exist,” he states. “I can respect the pope for making an unambiguous statement of what he believes.”
While all people, created in God’s image, and their beliefs are worthy of respect, “we don’t need to play games of ‘I’m okay, your okay’ with beliefs we find unacceptable,” he writes.
Rabbi Seplowitz notes that the original form of the Latin Mass included a prayer for the conversion of the Jews. When the Latin Mass was reinstated, the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations wrote to the Vatican, requesting that the conversion prayer not be reintroduced.
“I ask you, does this make sense? Where do we Jews get off making demands of Catholics that they only say prayers that meet with our approval?” he asks. “The audacity of Jews dictating to Christians how they should pray is simply mind-boggling.”
“Should we allow the Vatican to dictate what we say in our prayers? Or should we, perhaps, do a line-by-line analysis of the Talmud to make sure there is nothing there that people may find offensive?” he writes.

The rabbi says he is not suggesting Jewish leaders should not talk with Catholic leaders. “The pope needs to know, for example, that it is good to encourage his millions of followers to support Israel and that it is bad to hate Jews,” he writes.

But the dialogue need not be theological, he suggests. “There needs to be careful dialogue, but it needs to be a secular, common, needs-based dialogue. We should not be studying Talmud together and we should not be discussing prayer.”

 Isn’t this interesting?

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  1. Johnny Domer says:

    What I hate about the mass media is that it tends to promote these illogical mindsets that people have regarding some fairly simple distinctions in the Church’s stances against groups with whom we disagree/disapprove. Catholics are put off as being “anti-gay” or “anti-Jew” or “anti-Protestant.” It’s a neat little way of putting things for your article, but it is wholly inadequate. Just because we think homosexual acts are bad doesn’t mean we hate gays; on the contrary, the Church has deep charity and concern for them. Saying that you think Jews are incorrect in their religious belief and that you want them to convert does not mean you hate them or are trying to insult them. It’s merely a statement of fact: you believe this, I believe that; we disagree, and I wish you’d come to my position. No insult is intended, so WHY do people get insulted?

    How would we act if we really had malice for such groups? I think it’s quite obvious. We would think to ourselves, “Go ahead and rot in your sin/error, see if we care,” and then utter all sorts of florid postmodern nothings to make them feel as though nobody’s wrong. We would never try to convert anybody, never pray for anyone’s conversion, never say that their sins are evil or their beliefs are incorrect. We might even affirm those false beliefs or sins as being legitimate or non-sinful or some such thing.

    God bless this rabbi. I know, at the very least, that he is reasonable and that he has real concern for me and my fellow Catholics. If he didn’t care about us, he wouldn’t bother admitting that we are actually different.

  2. TJM says:

    This Rabbi is some guy. Unfortunately what he has to say will not be published in the American Pravda – aka – The New York Times. Tom

  3. Zach says:

    This Rabbi has hit the nail on the head. Why is it that many members of the Catholic Church don’t seem to get it, including members of the Roman Curia.

  4. Timothy James says:

    This IS interesting Father! How refreshing to see see such an attitude of uncompromising in an American Religious Leader! My first thought was that this Rabbi would make a great Catholic! Unfortunately this will not be possible according to his understanding of dialog. I’m not sure exactly what he means by purely “secular” dialog… what does he want us to talk about, the weather? I agree that we should not be changing traditions because of the requests of other religions, but still I think he is overly pessimistic of dialog. Dialog does not necessarily mean compromise! There is no reason to believe that we could not dialog with other religions about theology while remaining uncompromising about our own doctrines. In this sense he seems almost like a Jewish-lefebvre.

  5. EJ says:

    This is interesting and edifying news. This Rabbi’s congregation is blessed to have someone of such clarity and fairness – if only we had more prelates and priests of his caliber in our own Church. This is the stuff that encourages authentic respect among different religions – it separates what respect and reconciliation among different peoples should be all about rather than a banal, ambiguous and syncretistic approach that in the end doesn’t resolve to do anything but confuse and divide even more.

  6. Chironomo says:

    This is amazing in a number of ways… I do have a problem with the modern concept of “ecumenism”, which has taken on the meaning of “let’s all agree what core beliefs we have, and then promise to marginalize all of those beliefs that we do not hold in common.” It’s also a bit biased, whereas Catholics are expected to accept the idea of “communion as symbolic” although the protestants are not expected to accept the idea of the real presence… as the good rabbi said, “it is mind boggling”.

  7. Vincentius says:

    “Unfortunately what he has to say will not be published in the American Pravda – aka – The New York Times”

    How do you get off comparing The NY Times to Pravda? – They must have moved to the right since I last read them!

  8. Syriacus says:


    SERMO XIV. De Ecclesia fidelium Christianorum;
    et de Synagoga Judaeorum perfidorum.

    Look in: http://www.binetti.ru/bernardus/86_1.shtml

    (From St. Bernard’s Opera Omnia on-line: http://www.binetti.ru/bernardus/ , Russian site)

  9. Jordan Potter says:

    The good Rabbi’s got a point . . .

  10. Franklin Jennings says:

    “My first thought was that this Rabbi would make a great Catholic! Unfortunately this will not be possible…”

    Hehe, says you! I didn’t come into the Church because of theological exchanges with Catholics, but rather because the Lord went out searching for me. The rabbi is no less a man than I.

  11. michigancatholic says:

    The good rabbi is being logical and expecting the reader to be logical as well. I applaud him. He can tell one thing from another which is no mean feat these days.

    Timothy, to expect religions to dialog on their “similarities” treats religions as though they are simply laundry lists of beliefs with no underlying truth structure. Maybe some religions are like that but the major ones generally aren’t. Christianity and Judaism are both most emphatically not just a laundry list of dos and don’ts; they both have a deeper structure that “hangs together” and must be intact for the faith in its fullness to be present, in each case. The expectation that we can do some sort of mix-&-match or 2-for-one sale on these articles of faith is superficial, illogical, even silly as the good rabbi rightly points out.

    On the other hand, it is perfectly possible to talk about practical cooperation between groups of people on a non-religious basis. Jews and Catholics for instance could work together in very practical ways to defeat abortion or promote care for the poor, each inside its own theology and in cooperation with each other not expecting the theologies to be the same (similar to working with Mormons on the same issues).

    It is also possible for practical respect to occur. In other words, for Catholics to respect the civil rights of Jews but to understand and be willing to recognize that we disagree on key points–and vice versa. As a practical matter, it is okay to say that Jews are wrong on the identity of Christ from a CAtholic point of view. Jews would say we are wrong on the same thing from a Jewish point of view, simply because they deny the divinity of Christ. This is basic. The two points of view are not reconcilable, of course–it either is the case that Christ is God or it is not. That doesn’t mean I need to go out and commit idiotic behavior toward a Jew, or vice versa. I can accept them as people while believing them to be wrong about the divinity of Christ. They can accept that. Why can’t Catholics?

  12. Liz F. says:

    I think we ought to pray for his conversion.

    It doesn’t sound as if he’d mind and it couldn’t hurt.

    God bless, Liz (new reader of your great site.)

  13. Magister says:

    That’s SOME rabbi!

    He made a great point! Sure, dialogue on the best way to
    alleviate suffering in the secular sphere, to create a
    political climate that is favorable to religion, et cetera,
    but that’s that.

    The adherance to a set of religious beliefs assumes the
    rejection of another set of religious beliefs that in some
    way contradicts them. To make light of it or to pretend
    that this rejection does not impact relations is ludicrous.

    The rabbi apparently knows what many of us refuse to admit:

    Christians are supposed to be trying to convert everybody –
    including the Jews – to the Catholic Faith.

    The rabbi – because he’s a Jew – does not want to be Catholic.

  14. By “secular,” he almost certainly means discussing and cooperating on social issues and concerns held in common, not just the weather or politics or sports. I’ve heard this discussed before, that the more conservative religious groups are going to have to start cooperating in such matters so as to present a unified front, which they already possess morally, even though they’re worlds apart religiously. The impact could be powerful.

  15. michigancatholic says:

    It will not be powerful if it involves lying about what we believe doctrinally. That is precisely the point.

  16. Woody Jones says:

    I find this article fascinating as well the others and my first reaction was to say: well, there’s one rabbi who would not go to one of those darned Assisi meetings. And I agree, too, that he is really a man (a “mensch” I believe is the Yiddish?) and would be really, really good as a Catholic. I have for some time harbored the thought that Jewish Catholics may well be the best Catholics–not just because of Our Lord, Our Lady and the Apostles, but in view of more recent times: I think not only of St Theresa Benedicta (Edith Stein) but most especially of Ven. Francis Libermann, the re-founder of the Holy Ghost Fathers (Spiritans) and a man of such nobility and sweetness of character and zeal for souls that he inspired multitudes to go on the misisons to Africa, so often to die there. And this is not mention his patient endurance of trials, even of anti-semitisim from fellow churchmen. And then of course we cannot forget the Ratisbonne brothers. Interestingly, both Fr. Libermann and the Ratisbonnes were clients of Notre Dame des Victoires in Paris, and members of the Archconfraternity of Our Lady, Refuge of Sinners, as were so many others, like St. Theophane Venard, one of my very special favorite saints.

  17. Larry says:

    Well, the Rabbi’s got a point… but I don’t think it’s the same point of view that the CDF holds, and it’s definitely not the same point that proceeds from the document! No, this man is taking the CDF’s document and spinning it in such a way as to claim “never the twain shall meet”…

    He says, “By definition, these people should have strong opposition to the beliefs of their ‘colleagues’ at the table. The mode of prayer of one group should be an affront to the other group“; but that’s not what we believe as Catholics. Do Protestants offend us with their prayer services? Of course not! Of course, as the CDF’s document points out, their services are not sacramental (most importantly, they’re not Eucharistic). Did the document say that we take some personal affront, though? Of course not!

    Seplowitz also says, “What the pope is saying – and I agree 100 percent – is that there are irreconcilable differences, and we can’t pretend those differences don’t exist.” (First off, a quibble: the CDF is saying this, not the pope, per se.) Now, then … what the Church maintains is that the differences, even though they exist, are not irreconcilable! In a true spirit of ecumenism, though, we can’t give up those beliefs that are at the core of Catholic Christianity; after all, ecumenism is not some sort of negotiation! Nonetheless, Seplowitz’s statements are divisive, whereas the Catholic position on ecumenism invites Christians to discover what the Church really believes, and why she believes it.

    Here is the meat of what the rabbi has to say: “the dialogue need not be theological, he suggests. ‘There needs to be careful dialogue, but it needs to be a secular, common, needs-based dialogue.'”

    There you go — what he’s trying to tell us is the only conversations that Jews and Christians (and Catholics and other Christians) should have are water-cooler discussions: “how’s the weather?”, “didja see that Steelers game?”, “have a nice weekend!”. In fact, he’s dictating that there should be no substantive, in-depth dialogue between believers of different faiths on precisely the topic of most importance to them: their beliefs! That certainly doesn’t wash with a Christian perspective…

  18. Mary says:

    Larry —

    As I recall it, the CDF’s document does not address Judaism, only Protestantism and Orthodoxy. The rabbi’s comments address both the TLM and the CDF’s document, but from a Jewish point of view.

    All your examples supporting ecumenicism relate to Catholic vis à vis Protestant, and I very much doubt that these differences much interest the rabbi at all — most religious, observant Jews, even those well-disposed (as well-disposed as possible for them) to Christianity, who have read the New Testament with some attention, tend to understand Christianity as a kind of mish-mash of Protestant and Catholic, with the emphases all wrong, to my ear anyway. (For an example, see Harry Kemelman’s Rabbi Small mystery series.)

    I’m not sure you’re remembering what Christianity looks like to an orthodox Jew — to such a Jew, God (or should I write “G-d”?) is one and utterly transcendent; the idea of the Incarnation is, to put it without the civilized varnish, blasphemous or idolatrous. An orthodox Jew is not supposed to enter a building marked by a Cross (which makes me wonder if those bishops opposing the TLM on the grounds of “anti-Semitism” will next propose removing all Crosses so as not to offend our Jewish cousins). Israelis don’t even use the plus sign as we know it — they use ⊥ to avoid the cross.

    I hope I don’t sound anti-Semitic here, because I’m not. I studied Hebrew for 10 years (have a Master’s in it), mostly at a small Jewish college, where I also worked for a few years. (Never worked anywhere that I felt more loved!) They knew I was Catholic, and found it amusing when I spoke only Hebrew there for Lent (I was nervous about speaking), and an old Polish professor was charmed by my ashes on Ash Wednesday — which he hadn’t seen since his childhood in Poland.

    I like the rabbi’s comments — I think he nails it! There’s no call for hostility, but truth is truth and it does no good to pretend otherwise.

    But I think any “ecumenical” approach to Jews is more at the level (in C.S. Lewis’ phrase in a not unrelated context) of “Put down your gun, and we’ll talk.”


    That’s only “shalom,” Father, in case you were wondering! ;-)

  19. Larry says:


    I agree with you that the CDF is talking about ecumenism — that is, “the restoration of unity among all Christians” (Unitatis Redintegratio, 1). Therefore, in examining the Rabbi’s comments, we must ask an important question: is he critiquing the CDF’s approach to unity within the Christian fold, or is he using the document as a springboard to address Catholic-Jewish relations?

    I would argue that he’s doing a bit of both; his views are somewhat problematic, in both instances! For instance, where he addresses the responses to the document (as I’ve quoted above), he’s addressing the non-Catholic Christian response. In addressing the reaction of Jews to Catholic prayers, I would agree with you that he’s looking at Jewish-Catholic issues, but I think he’s doing a bit of dis-service to the efforts of the Jewish and Catholic groups in dialogue.

    In his critique of those who have responded to the document negatively, I would assert that he’s making the exact same misinterpretations that the mainstream media and non-Catholic Christian communities have made! The only difference here is that he’s dispassionate about it. Both he, and the media and non-Catholic Christians are saying that the CDF document is all about “irreconcilable differences”. Since we’re talking about the realm of ecumenism, I would disagree:

    “moved by a desire for the restoration of unity among all the followers of Christ, it wishes to set before all Catholics the ways and means by which they too can respond to this grace and to this divine call” (UR, 1)

    “No one is unaware of the challenge which all this poses to believers. They cannot fail to meet this challenge. Indeed, how could they refuse to do everything possible, with God’s help, to break down the walls of division and distrust, to overcome obstacles and prejudices which thwart the proclamation of the Gospel” (Ut Unum Sint, 2).

    Clearly, Seplowitz’s understanding of Christian ecumenism differs from the Catholic understanding.

    His understanding of Jewish-Catholic dialogue also contrasts with the Catholic understanding. As we read in Nostra Aetate, “since the spiritual patrimony common to Christians and Jews is thus so great, this sacred synod wants to foster and recommend that mutual understanding and respect which is the fruit, above all, of biblical and theological studies as well as of fraternal dialogues.” (NA, 2).

    So, Mary, I think I have to disagree with you on both counts — in the area of ecumenism, Rabbi Seplowitz misreads the document in much the same way that others have; and, in the area of Jewish-Catholic dialogue, he’s a voice for a certain theological apartheid that’s at odds with the views of the Church.

  20. Mary says:

    A Jew with views “at odds with the views of the Church” — who’da thunk??? LOL!

    I don’t think you’re exactly disagreeing with me as much as you’re talking past me — about something else entirely! Nevertheless, שלום

  21. Larry says:

    A Jew with views “at odds with the views of the Church”—who’da thunk??? LOL!

    :^) OK… You’ve got a point!

    Nonetheless, I don’t think I’m “talking past you”. You said that the Rabbi “nailed it”. I’m breaking down the Rabbi’s comments to see if, in fact he has…

    When the Rabbi addresses the response to the document, he’s addressing the response of non-Catholic Christians, no? If so, then his response reflects his perspective on Catholic/(non-Catholic-)Christian relations, vis-a-vis the CDF document, right? (If so, then I stick with my point — that he’s got it wrong in exactly the same way other Christians got it wrong… it’s just that, as a Jew, it doesn’t particularly bother him. From this perspective, he doesn’t “nail it”, then…)

    If he’s not talking about the CDF document vis-a-vis Catholic/Christian dialogue, then he’s making a different point: how the document also reflects Catholic opinion of Jewish/Catholic relations. As you and I agree, the CDF doc addresses ecumenism, not Jewish/Catholic relations, so his perspective differs not only from the Church’s stance on Jewish/Catholic relations, but also, from those in Jewish communities who are working with Catholics in any areas besides “secular, common, needs-based” topics…

  22. I used to live in Monsey and there is a VAST Hasidic population there and I would bet anything he is Hasidim. They know what it means to take their religion seriously.

  23. Mary says:

    Larry —

    You’re OK! But I still don’t think we’re talking about the same thing. I’ll try again. :)

    I think that — first off — the rabbi sees no particular merit in ecumenism (referring to it as a “game of ‘I’m okay, you’re okay'” is the tip-off here), so it’s not terribly surprising that he’s not inclined to explicate the differences between a “church” in the precise sense used in the CDF document and an “ecclesial community” and he’s apparently not interested in understanding, much less acceding to, the Church’s view of ecumenism. His only point on the CDF document is that it’s perfectly right for the Pope to claim that the Catholic Church is the one, true Church — he’s the Pope, isn’t he? OK, he added his obiter dicta about ecumenism, but it really sounds as if you’re faulting him for not writing a column he never wrote or intended to write.

    The second part of the column (or at least the quotes given — and, no, I didn’t bother to track down the original either) seems to deal with the Jewish reaction (or anyway Abe Foxman’s) to Summorum Pontificum, not with whatever Catholic-Jewish dialogue might be going on. He apparently has little use for such dialogue, and whatever Jewish groups take part in these talks have no standing to speak for anyone but themselves as individuals.

    You seem to be expecting an analytical piece on ecumenism in keeping with the CDF document, and you find that the rabbi’s column falls short. Well, it does, I guess. But to fault it for that seems to me like criticizing a dog because he doesn’t purr.

    Anyway, that’s how I see it. But I’m just a simple peasant type! ;-)

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