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?"
It would be enormously uncharitable to change the Good Friday prayers in the 1962 Missal that pray for the conversion of the Jews, since the 62 prayer reflects a deeply powerful and and concerned care for the spiritual welfare of the Jews, any change would water down the precise meanings of these prayers.
For god sake!
Why shouldn’t we pray for the conversion of jews?? Don’t we catholics deserv
that the jews and the whole world recognize Christ as the messiah, our god
Geeze, this is so ridiculous. The cardinal should have been a bit more tactful in what he said too and not allowed himself to be baited. Rather than throwing stones back, he should have just explained the Catholic position in a truthful but prudent way and been done with it. I don’t think any amount of him explaining things will do much good for those who are keeping this “issue” alive, since they have clearly hardened their hearts. Those prayers are just a scapegoat used by others to either falsely bash the Church or prevent the older form of Mass (even if those prayers are used only once a year).
OK, maybe \”baited\” was not the case. But still, why make a bigger issue out of it than is necessary, especially for our part?
I think good ol’ Cardinal George is up to the mischief that I loved him for several years ago when he referred to the “Lefebvrism of the Left” while speaking to the USCCB.
I think he did the right thing by putting the ball back in their court. And what did they do? They cried: “It’s not fair!!! Whaaaaaa!” Real diaglog can’t happen unless someone like Cardinal George speaks the truth and says: “This stuff goes both ways!!!”
Cardinal George, I was worried that you had lost your fire. I haven’t heard about you getting out there and fighting in a long time. Good to have you back!!!
To think that any part of the Roman liturgy could be changed to meet the demands of modern day pressure groups is disgusting. The liturgy reflects OUR beliefs. The unpopular ones are the ones that need the most menioning. I can’t believe the Cardinal would say this. I find it quite offensive that an entire nation of people would refuse to recognize the divinity of Christ, but I would be appauled if all of those people stopped professing their own beliefs to calm me down.
More importantly though, is he correct that the prayers will probably be changed?
It should also be mentioned that people can be offended for the wrong reasons. In daily life, if you’re offended by something I say, and you tell me, I can explain to you that you misunderstood me and you stop being offended. In politics, it doesn’t matter what you mean, it’s what the victim tells you you mean. Logic, not emotions or feelings, should dictate how we respond to other people’s complaints. In identity politics, and ecumenism too, I suspect, saying “that offends us” is all one has to claim to get he upper hand, provided you’re a member of a victimized minority. And if you make the assumption that the majority is against you, you’ll find “negative conotations” in everything they say about your people. This doesn’t stop until you’re saying only what they tell you to say. For example, we all know that to say mankind isn’t cruel to women, but some people would have us believe it is, and they’ve convinced the people in power that it is too. As a result, every textbook used in public schools has to use gender inclusive language, when there was never a gender exclusive language to begin with! This is the danger in letting the people who feel offended dictate what can and can’t be done. You’re setting yourself up for manipulation, just like His Eminence is here.
“Cardinal George, I was worried that you had lost your fire. I haven’t heard about you getting out there and fighting in a long time. Good to have you back”
Comment by James — 19 October 2007
James,I don’t know if you read the Cardinal’s columns in the New World (available thru the Archdiocese of Chicago website),but IMO he never stopped zinging… he just throws his zingers with great care. He is very good at indirect zinging too–an example of this is his column on the alternative lifestyle conference being held locally (I won’t mention the name because I don’t want to give it any more press). He is also a terrific wordsmith. Can you tell I like this guy?
I liked Cardinal George’s original comment for its “zing”, but not for its substance. The Talmud is a book. You can’t equate changing a book with changing a liturgy that is still in use.
On the other hand, the Talmud is not a “dusty rabbinical commentary” or a “relatively obscure scholarly text”! Not only do the Orthodox read the Talmud regularly, so does at least one Conservative Jewish friend of mine.
On the gripping hand, I think that these texts should remain what they are. It is a fact that Christians and Jews in the early centuries of the Church had a certain amount of hostility towards each other. This was due to cultural factors (which are subject to change) and to theological factors (which are not).
I’m fine with the Vatican issuing a revision of the Extraordinary Form that updates this prayer (as long as it retains some sort of prayer for the Jewish people, of course). All those truly loyal to Catholic tradition should hope for an update to the 1962 missal! If the missal is never updated, then it is dead! Think about it…. in the year 2100, do you want the Roman Rite to have two forms: the Ordinary Form which has been updated and revised a dozen times since Paul VI, and the Extraordinary Form which has not been updated since 1962? Not at all.
Seriously, why is the modern world so concerned about “being offended”? I can understand asking the Jews to avoid saying things that are blasphemy, because they are blasphemy…though I am not sure if I would really think it advisable, but for Christians to ask Jews not to say certain things because they make us feel offended seems silly.
In the same way, it seems silly for us to change our prayers which are biblical references. It is nice that the distinction is here made between the prayers actually used and “obscure scholarly texts”, since if it is going to go both ways, references to the veil etc. come from the New Testament.
In short we do pray for their conversion, just like we pray for the conversion of our family members of have left the Church…that is charity. The Church prays less directly for the conversion of the Jewish people even in the new liturgical books, for instance in the shorter intercessions of the breviary for Friday: “Ad foedus novum voca Iudaeos”…what if people find that offensive? Where will it stop?
We need to get back to the reason for praying for the Jews in particular; theres no equivelance here with politally correct minorities. Our Lord came to save the Jewish people primarily and they rejected Him, betrayed Him. This is why we pray for their conversion. They are a unique case, a unique race.
Cardinal George is being very gentle, and trying to stick to the Talmud’s odd nasty comment about Jesus. The fact of the matter is that certain Jewish traditional prayers, prayed in synagogue as part of their liturgy, pray for some pretty awful stuff to happen to Christians. (And pagans and several groups. The rationale is that we are denying God, and therefore should have horrible nasty judgment come down on our heads, preferably while still alive and on earth.)
Most Jewish people certainly don’t want to have horrible things happen to Christians (or pagans or Muslims), so they put these prayers out of their minds (and out of their synagogues, depending on the synagogue). But they’re there, and a lot longer than either of the Catholic liturgical prayers to which Jews object. Whether or not the reporter knows what George is talking about, the Jewish people do know.
But honestly, I think it is right and pastoral for Cardinal George not to be drawn into stirring up any kind of anti-Semitic feeling. There’s more than enough of that lately, without scum having a cardinal to quote as supposedly agreeing with them or giving them reason to hate.
Don’t forget — as bishop of Chicago, Cardinal George is responsible to God for the welfare and the souls of everyone living inside his diocese. The Jewish people are part of his flock, too.