Do you recall that His Eminence Francis Card. George of Chicago had made a pretty interesting observation that, after we Catholics had adjusted our prayers on Good Friday (in the pre-Conciliar Missale Romanum), the Jews might try not calling Jesus a bastard, as had happened in some Talmudic literature?
His Eminence gave a clarification to my old pal the former Rome correspondent for the lefty National Catholic Reporter, the nearly ubiquitous John L Allen, Jr. He put it in his Friday mailing:
Speaking of cardinals, two weeks ago I interviewed Cardinal Francis
George of Chicago, who will likely soon take over as president of the
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Our conversation was
wide-ranging, and at one point I asked the cardinal for a reaction to
Jewish criticism of the pre-Vatican Latin liturgy, and specifically its
prayer for the conversion of Jews on Good Friday.
I asked if the prayer could be changed, and this was George’s response:
"Of course it can be done, and I suspect it probably
will be, because the intention is to be sure that our prayers are not
offensive to the Jewish people who are our ancestors in the faith. We
can’t possibly insult them in our liturgy … Not that any group has a
veto on anybody’s prayers, because you can go through Jewish texts and
find material that is offensive to us. But if we’re interested in
keeping the dialogue strong, and we have to be, we should be very
cautious about any prayer that they find insulting. ‘They,’ however, is
a big tent. What my Jewish rabbi friend down the block finds insulting
is different from what Abraham Foxman [national director of the
Anti-Defamation League] finds insulting. Also, it does work both ways.
Maybe this is an opening to say, ‘Would you care to look at some of the
Talmudic literature’s description of Jesus as a bastard, and so on, and
maybe make a few changes in some of that?’"
That comment apparently drew protest from some Jewish leaders who
felt George was mixing apples and oranges, comparing the normative
liturgical prayer of the Catholic church to dusty rabbinical
commentaries from centuries ago.
In response, George offered the following clarification, which I am happy to present in full:
the possible change or omission of some texts in Talmudic literature
that are offensive to Christian believers, the point is not to compare
relatively obscure scholarly texts with liturgical prayers that have a
much wider audience and influence, but to suggest that the controversy
surrounding the texts in the 1962 Roman Missal might be an occasion for
opening a wider dialogue. An endless cycle of recrimination neither
reflects nor advances the strong and friendly relations that are now
taken for granted by many in both the Jewish and the Catholic
communities. Trusting in these relationships, why can’t we discuss
texts that are hurtful to either Jews or Christians and, if
appropriate, suggest changes?"