Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Pope was right to do this.

We are a Faith of Love. We are also a faith that has grown and survived over a period of 2000 years. This prayer may have been fine in the context of the 3rd century, but 1700 years have passed. There is no question of what we believe and Jews understand this.

I regard myself as a Traditionalist Catholic. I attend Latin Mass as often as I can. However, I am not blind to being a Catholic living in the 21st century. Simply put - Benedict is right.

Vatican caved on Latin prayer?
Feb 25, 2008 10:43 AM

Rebel Catholic traditionalists who champion the old Latin mass have accused Pope Benedict of caving in to "foreign pressures" by dropping negative comments about Jews from a rare prayer in the Church's official language.

The Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX), which was expelled from the Church in 1988, denounced the change in a Good Friday prayer that it said was one of the oldest in Christianity, dating back to the third century.

On February 5, the Vatican revised the prayer, removing a reference to Jewish "blindness" over Christ and deleting a phrase asking God to "remove the veil from their hearts".

Jews criticised the new text because it still says they should recognise Jesus Christ as the saviour of all mankind. It asks that "all Israel may be saved" and keeps an underlying call to conversion that Jewish leaders had wanted omitted.

"Following foreign pressures on the Catholic Church, the Pope felt obligated to change the very venerable Prayer for the Jews which is an integral part of the Good Friday liturgy," the SSPX news service DICI said in a report at the weekend.

"While the necessity of accepting the Messiah to be saved has been retained, one can only profoundly deplore this change," it said. DICI did not elaborate on the "foreign pressures".
The change in the prayer will only be heard by a tiny minority of Catholics who attend services on Good Friday, the day marking Jesus Christ's crucifixion, that are held in Latin rather than in their local languages as usual.

Rabbi supports pope Changing the Good Friday text was necessary after Pope Benedict allowed wider use of the old Latin mass last year. The Good Friday prayer said in local languages was revised in 1970 to drop all references that Jews had found offensive.

Widening the use of the old Latin or Tridentine mass was partly meant to attract followers of the SSPX back to Rome. The SSPX claims about a million followers, a small fraction of the 1.1-billion strong Church.

The leadership of the Swiss-based SSPX is still resolutely opposed to reforms of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), including changes in liturgy and in relations with Jews. The Vatican says they must accept the Council to be readmitted.

The SSPX was expelled from the Church in 1988 when its founder, French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, consecrated four bishops without Vatican approval.

Jewish groups have criticised the new text of the Latin prayer as offensive. An assembly representing Conservative rabbis worldwide expressed dismay over it and called on the Vatican to clarify the text's meaning.

But the Pope received support from a prominent Jewish scholar on Saturday. Rabbi Jacob Neusner of New York wrote in the German Catholic daily Die Tagespost: "Israel prays for non-Jews, so the other monotheists - including the Catholic Church - should have the same right without anyone feeling hurt."

Sometimes called "the Pope's favourite rabbi", Neusner was frequently cited in Benedict's 2007 book Jesus of Nazareth.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Pope: St. Augustine Defined "True Secularism"
Highlights Theologian's Political Contribution
VATICAN CITY, FEB. 20, 2008 (Zenit.org).-

St. Augustine contributed to the development of modern politics with a definition of "true secularism" that clearly marks out the separation between Church and state, says Benedict XVI.

The Pope said this today during his weekly general audience in Paul VI Hall. This was the fourth address he dedicated to the bishop of Hippo, whose text "De Civitate Dei" (The City of God) he said has contributed to "the development of modern political thought in the West and in Christian historical theology.

"Written between 413 and 426, the Holy Father explained that the text came about after the sacking of Rome by the Goths in 410, after which many pagans expressed doubt regarding the greatness of the Christian God who seemed incapable of defending the city."

It is this charge that was deeply felt by the Christians that St. Augustine answered with this magnificent work, 'De Civitate Dei.' He clarified what we should and should not expect from God," said the Pontiff.

He added, "Even today, this book is the source used to clearly define true secularism and the jurisdiction of the Church, the true and great hope that gives us faith."

The Pope explained that the work is based on one fundamental interpretation of history -- "the struggle between two loves: love of oneself, 'even to the point of showing indifference toward God,' and love of God, 'even to the point of being indifferent toward oneself.'”

"Confessions"Benedict XVI also underlined primarily the importance of Augustine's "Confessions," written between 397 and 400, in which "one's misery in the light of God becomes praise for God and gratitude because God loves us and accepts us, he transforms us and raises us toward him."

"Thanks to the 'Confessions,'" the Pontiff added, "we can follow step by step the inner journey of this extraordinary man who was fascinated by God."

The Pope quoted St. Augustine, who commented at the end of his life on the aforementioned text: "They exercised such action on me while I was writing them and do so even now when I reread them. There are many brothers who like these writings."He added, "I should also mention that I am one of these 'brothers.'"

"Today more than 300 letters and 600 sermons from the bishop of Hippo have survived," said the Holy Father. "

Originally there would have been many more, perhaps even 3,000 or 4,000, fruit of 40 years of preaching.

"Quoting Augustine's friend and biographer, Possidius, Benedict XVI said the saint and theologian is "always alive" in his writings: "He truly lives in his works, he is present with us, and this is how we see the permanent vitality of his faith to which he had dedicated all his life."

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Doing NOTHING for Lent

Not strictly Benedict, but something interesting for Lent

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Pope of Hope

For Benedict, Christ’s promise of his second coming and the final judgment is a pledge that evil and injustice will not have the last word in human history.

from GodSpy.com

In an unsigned review printed in the New English Weekly in 1932, George Orwell remarked: “Very few people, apart from Catholics themselves, seem to have grasped that the Church is to be taken seriously.”

This is probably more true today than it was seventy-five years ago. And it is probably true too, unfortunately, with regards to Pope Benedict XVI.

Nearly three years into his papacy, Benedict has emerged as the wisest leader on the world stage today, one who has thought deeply about what ails us in these troubled times and has offered compelling answers for what we should do about it. But very few people, even among Catholics, seem to have grasped this or taken him seriously.

It may be that people aren’t paying much attention because of his age—he’s almost 81 now—and because he arrived on the scene only after a long apprenticeship in the Vatican and the long twilight of his beloved predecessor, John Paul II. But this is no caretaker Pope biding time until a more youthful helmsman can be found for St. Peter’s barque.

Commentary and media coverage, even to a large extent that found in the Catholic press, tends to focus on Benedict’s “positions” on whatever is the hot-button issue of the day—abortion, gay “marriage,” the war on terror, the Latin Mass, ex-communicating Catholic politicians, and the like.

But looking through this kind of reductionist lens, we’re bound to miss that aspect of Benedict that might have struck Orwell, though he himself was no fan at all of the Church or any organized religion.

What Orwell was honest enough to recognize about Catholicism is true about Benedict as well. Like the Church he leads, Benedict has a comprehensive, integrated vision of life and society that ranges from human psychology and spirituality to justice and peace within and among nations.
What he has offered the world in his few hundred speeches, homilies, and other statements over the last couple years represents the late work of a remarkable 60-year career as a theologian, pastor, and public intellectual.

You don’t find in Benedict any of the defensive, self-justifying chest-thumping and controversy-mongering that passes for so much of contemporary apologetics in this country.

Benedict gives account for the hope that is in him with the serene self-possession of one of the early martyrs. Jesus Christ is real, he tells us, and the Church’s claims are true. It is not only reasonable for us to believe these things; even more, these are truths worth dying for—and changing our lives to live for.

In Benedict we always catch an echo of the confidence of the early Church, of people like St. Ignatius of Antioch, who once wrote: “Christianity is not the result of persuading people. Rather it is something truly great.” (Ignatius wrote those words, incidentally, while behind bars waiting to be fed to the Roman lions.)

Saved by Hope

A good introduction to what Benedict has been up to is Spe Salvi (“Saved by Hope”), the encyclical letter he published last month.

The need for a new papal statement on Christian hope may not be immediately self-evident. But Benedict has believed, at least since his days as a professor at Tübingen in the 1960s, that underlying the many problems in the world today is a crisis of hope.

And on one important level, Spe Salvi is about how to find happiness, the true meaning of life, in a world of tears and injustice, suffering and disappointments. The questions are: What makes life truly worth living? What can we truly hope for? Or, in Benedict’s words: What “goal is great enough to justify the effort of the journey” of our lives?

For all his scholarly credentials and book-smarts, Benedict remains a pastor of souls. He knows the existential drama that roils just below the surface of modern life. It is striking how personal and direct this encyclical reads:

“Ultimately we want only one thing—the ‘blessed life,’ the life which is simply . . . ‘happiness.’ . . .
We want life itself, true life, untouched even by death. Yet at the same time we do not know the thing towards which we feel driven. We cannot stop reaching out for it, and yet we know that all we can experience or accomplish is not what we yearn for. This unknown ‘thing’ is the true ‘hope’ which drives us, and at the same time the fact that it is unknown is the cause of all forms of despair and also of all efforts, whether positive or destructive, directed towards worldly authenticity and human authenticity.”

Compressed in those words is the wisdom of a priest who has been hearing confessions for more than half a century. We hope for happiness, but we don’t know what it is; it remains an “unknown thing.” Because we don’t know what true happiness is, we don’t know how or where to look for it. Yet the thirst for this “unknown” grail drives us, impelling all our efforts—some of which turn out for our good while others prove painful and even ruinous.

Benedict says that what we’re all looking for, whether we know it or not, is assurance that this life isn’t all there is, that death is not the end. We’re looking for what Jesus and his apostles called “eternal life.”

Yet he acknowledges that such language is hardly attractive to modern ears, conjuring up as it does images of a kind of endless succession of calendar days, each as boring and repetitious as the last, world without end. Understood in this linear way—heaven as a continuation on another level of our days on earth—the prospect of living forever understandably seems “more like a curse than a gift,” Benedict remarks.

But his response is sublime and beautiful. We must instead think of eternal life as “plunging into the ocean of infinite love, a moment in which time—the before and after—no longer exists. We can only attempt to grasp the idea that such a moment is life in the full sense, a plunging ever anew into the vastness of being, in which we are simply overwhelmed with joy.”

The Protest Against God

As in Jesus of Nazareth (Doubleday, $25), the book he issued last Spring, Benedict’s theological ruminations and biblical interpretations in Spe Salvi often lead us to the thresholds of contemplation and prayer. The new encyclical’s passages on suffering, heaven, hell, and purgatory include some of the most eloquent and moving words ever written about these subjects in the Church’s tradition.

Benedict knows that at the root of the modern revolt against God are the problems of evil and the suffering of the innocent. A world in which so much bad happens can’t possibly be the work of a good God—or any God, for that matter. So the atheist argument goes.

Yet Benedict responds: “To protest against God in the name of justice is not helpful. A world without God is a world without hope. Only God can create justice. And faith gives us the certainty that he does so.”

For Benedict, Christ’s promise of his second coming and the final judgment of all souls is a pledge that evil and injustice will not have the last word in human history. “I am convinced,” he writes, “that the question of justice constitutes the essential argument . . . in favor of eternal life.”

In an extraordinarily rich passage, in which he draws from St. Hilary of Poitiers, Plato, Dostoevsky’s The Brother’s Karamozov, and Christ’s parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19–31), Benedict makes this confession of faith in reply to the strongest of atheist objections:
“God is justice and creates justice. This is our consolation and our hope. And in his justice there is also grace. . . . Grace does not cancel out justice. It does not make wrong into right. It is not a sponge which wipes everything away so that whatever someone has done on earth ends up being of equal value. . . . Evildoers, in the end, do not sit at table at the eternal banquet beside their victims without distinction, as though nothing had happened.”

At the heart of Spe Salvi is a critical reading of the intellectual history of the modern age.
Here we see a startling, unprecedented feature of this encyclical.

Popes have been writing letters to the faithful since the days of St. Peter. In the modern period, papal encyclicals have taken up such big-ticket issues as Nazism, fascism, Marxism, evolution, industrial capitalism, and more.

But never in these letters do the popes “name names,” or critique or comment on specific politicians, policies or authors. Never do they quote persons other than saints, earlier popes, or other figures and documents from the Church’s orthodox tradition.

Benedict here bends all the rules past breaking. The middle section of Spe Salvi amounts to a critical survey of some of the chief architects of the modern mind. Bacon, Kant, Engels, Marx, Lenin, Horkheimer, Adorno, the “great thinkers of the Frankfurt School”—all enter into the conversation.

These are not straw men or polemical foils for Benedict. Though he vigorously disagrees with many of them, he treats their ideas and motivations with the seriousness and respect they deserve—Marx, for instance, is praised for his “incisive language and intellect” and the “acuteness of his analysis.” Here again we have another lesson that all our scorched-earth culture-warriors and neo-traditionalists might take to heart.

The Age of Reason and Revolution

The Pope locates the foundations of the modern age in the rise of the scientific method and new technologies beginning in the late-16th century. These developments led the elites to believe that man no longer had any need for God, that men and women need only rely on their own devices—their ingenuity, know-how, and technological inventions.

In this new era, reason and freedom were exalted as the be-all and end-all of human existence. Humanity exchanged belief in God for “faith in progress.”

Hope in God and in the life of the world to come was eclipsed by hope in humanity—the belief that through reason and science mankind could achieve redemption, righting all wrongs and creating a heaven here on earth. Thinkers like Immanuel Kant even used the biblical language of “the kingdom of God” to describe the world that would be ushered in when “ecclesiastical faith” was replaced by a religion shorn of dogma and reestablished on the basis of reason alone.

Traditional religion and piety was sequestered as something “private and other-worldly,” while the churches, along with Europe’s monarchies and political systems, were cast as the enemies of reason and freedom, destined for the dustbin of history.

Thus, the new ideas of the modern age had revolutionary consequences. The first shots were fired in the French Revolution of 1789, with its infamous Reign of Terror against the Church and aristocracy, and its erection of the Cult of the Supreme Being, the ultimate idol to human reason. There followed in short order the revolts of 1848 and the Marxist revolutions of the 20th century.

For Benedict, the lessons of this history are clear and the evidence incontrovertible.

Man’s material progress has not been matched by his moral and ethical progress. He quotes approvingly Theodor Adorno’s quip that progress is progress from the sling to the atom bomb. Human efforts to build a better world without reference to God and without recognition of the human capacity to choose evil are doomed to descend into cruelty, injustice, terror, and totalitarianism. “We have seen it, and we see it over and over again,” he writes with the authority of one who has, beginning as a youth in Hitler’s Germany.

Star of Hope Rising

Despite the collapse of the communist empire and the intellectuals’ declarations that we now live in “post-modern” times, we remain children of the modern age of reason and revolution, according to Benedict.

We inhabit an almost militantly secular world, in which God is excluded from public life and people are encouraged in ways more or less coercive to live as if God doesn’t exist. Without God we are prisoners of materialism, ruled by the iron-fisted laws of biology and physics. Without God, we have no standards for knowing what is true and good, for preferring any one thing to anything else. Everything is relativized, made a function of what “works” or what any given individual might feel at any given time.

Underneath it all is a crisis of hope. The horizon of human hope has receded to its vanishing point. What we hope for now is all self-centered, small-scale, and this-worldly. We hope for ourselves alone or for those near and dear to us. We hope to find a good job, to find love that will last, to be comfortable, to provide good things for our children.

These little hopes are vital and they keep most of us going day to day. But they are not enough, Benedict says. We need what he calls “the great hope.” We need God.

“God is the foundation of hope. Not any god, but the God who has a human face and who has loved us to the end—each one of us and humanity in its entirety. His kingdom is not an imaginary hereafter, situated in a future that will never arrive. His kingdom is present wherever he is loved and wherever his love reaches us. His love alone gives us the possibility of soberly persevering day by day . . . in a world which by its very nature is imperfect. His love is at the same time our guarantee of the existence of what we can only vaguely sense and which nevertheless, in our deepest self, we await: a life that is ‘truly’ life.”

Here Benedict faults the Church for its halting response to modernity. “[W]e must also acknowledge that modern Christianity . . . has to a large extent restricted its attention to the individual and his salvation. In so doing it has limited the horizon of its hope and has failed to recognize sufficiently the greatness of its task . . .”

Benedict worries that our faith has become insular and in-grown insular, that we have taken a selfish, every-man-for-himself approach to salvation. For ordinary American Catholics there is much room for self-examination in light of Benedict’s frank critique—the churlish fear and hatred we express in the debates over immigration; our comfortable indifference and me-firstism in the face of injustice, suffering, and need; our farcical rigidities and joyless obsessions with ritual and “tradition.”

It’s not enough to want to save our own souls or those of our loved ones. True Christian hope opens us to the world, says Benedict. Hope in Christ is a call to holiness, to live like saints. It requires a radical love for our neighbors, a willingness to suffer with them and for them so that they might know the hope that is in us—so that they too might know Jesus Christ.

“As Christians we should never limit ourselves to asking: how can I save myself? We should also ask: what can I do in order that others may be saved and that for them too the star of hope may rise?”

Benedict’s call to hope is a call worth taking seriously. How many will grasp that, and how many will have ears to hear, remains an open question.

Orwell himself never held out much hope for the dialogue of faith and unbelief. In that same 1932 review he wrote: “There can be little real contact of mind between believer and unbeliever.”

Benedict doesn’t believe that. And he would not have us be deterred. As he writes in Spe Salvi: “It is never too late to touch the heart of another, nor is it ever in vain.”

David Scott is a contributing editor of Godspy.com
Copyright © 2008 GODSPY.com. All rights reserved.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Jews and the Vatican: A New Clash

By Jeff Israely (from TIME Magazine Feb. 7th issue)

Bringing back an ancient rite risked reopening ancient wounds. And so after Pope Benedict XVI introduced wider use of the old Latin rite last year, top Vatican officials promised to adjust a Good Friday prayer from the ancient liturgy that had called for the conversion of the Jews. The text of the updated version — released this week in the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano — deletes offensive language referring to Jews' "blindness" and the need to "remove the veil from their hearts." But the substance is left in place: "Let us pray for the Jews," the prayer says, according to an unofficial translation from Latin. "May the Lord our God illuminate their hearts so that they may recognize Jesus Christ savior of all men."

The wounds, according to top Jewish leaders and rabbis, have been reopened. They say the prayer, which in reality had never been scrapped completely, recalls past centuries of forced conversions and a lingering incomprehension of their faith. And while several well-known Jewish voices in New York and Jerusalem spoke of their "disappointment," the loudest — and indeed angriest — response to the revised text came from those closest to home. Late Wednesday, having had 24 hours to absorb the news and study the text, the Italian Rabbinical Assembly announced they were suspending the decades-long Jewish-Catholic dialogue for a "pause of reflection" in light of the Good Friday prayer.

Rome's chief Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni told reporters that the prayer brings Catholic-Jewish relations "back 43 years," noting that the 1960s Second Vatican Council had spoken of an "alliance" between the two faiths. Di Segni spoke indignantly about reassurances he said he'd received from Church leaders that his concerns about the conversion language would have been addressed. It raises questions about just what is the "image of the Jewish people for the Church," said Di Segni. "It's an old question: What are the Jews doing here on earth? If this [prayer] is the requirement for dialogue, it is intolerable. Evidently, the Church is having problems rediscovering the foundations of its orthodoxy."

Cardinal Walter Kasper, the Vatican's pointbman on Catholic-Jewish relations, responded to the criticism in a Thursday morning interview on Vatican radio. He said great progress has been made in interfaith dialogue with Jews, but it requires that "we respect each other's diversity." "We have much in common, but there's a specific difference. Jesus is the Christ, that means the Messiah, the son of God, and you cannot hide this difference. The Holy Father wanted to say: Yes, Jesus Christ is the Savior of all men, including the Jews. This is said in the prayer," Kasper said. "But this does not mean we have the intention of evangelizing [Jews]. We must give witness to our faith. But in the past the language was with disrespect. Now there is respect."

Huge steps forward have in fact been made since the days that Catholics blamed Jews for Jesus' death, and when the original Good Friday conversion prayer spoke of the "perfidious Jews." Pope John XXIII and Pope Paul VI began to rewrite Catholic teachings, paving the way for John Paul II's historic outreach to Jews, including visits to the central synagogue in Rome and the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, and his characterization of the People of Israel as "older brothers" to Christians.

Reached in his office in Jerusalem, Rabbi David Rosen of the American Jewish Committee, a veteran of Catholic-Jewish dialogue, said that he too had his "hopes raised" that an explicit reference to conversion would have been excised. Rosen noted that the expansion of the Latin rite "had nothing to do with this prayer, and nothing to do with the Jews," but was rather an attempt by the Pope to mend fences with Catholic arch-traditionalists. Still, the language of the Good Friday prayer sounds to Jews to be "exclusivist and triumphalist," said the rabbi.

Rosen, who has worked with Benedict since he was a Vatican cardinal, said he worries that the Pope seems to "insulate" himself from top advisers who might alert him to potential fallout. Still, Rosen called his Italian rabbinical colleagues' break in dialogue with Catholics a "rash" decision. "There's so much at stake for Jews and Catholics and Benedict himself that we must ensure that this difficulty will not torpedo the commitment to advancing Jewish-Catholic relations," Rosen said. "Yes, we must speak up. But there is nothing to be gained from making this a casus belli." With reporting by Francesco Peloso/Rome

Friday, February 08, 2008

Modified Prayer

U.S. Bishops Note Pope's Concern for Jews

My Note - unfortunately, this change is not translating well with Jews. More about that to come.

Say Modified Prayer Reflects Vatican II's "Nostra Aetate"

WASHINGTON, D.C., FEB. 7, 2008 (Zenit.org).- U.S. bishops voiced their support for Benedict XVI's change to the 1962 missal's Good Friday prayer for the Jewish people.

In a statement from Auxiliary Bishop Richard Sklba of Milwaukee, chairman of the U.S. episcopal conference's Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, the bishops note that the Pope responded to concerns raised by Jewish communities.

"The Holy Father has heard with appreciation the concerns of the Jewish community that the prayers of Good Friday should reflect the relationship between Jews and the Church put forward in 'Nostra Aetate,' and implemented by the late Pope John Paul II," the note said, recalling the Second Vatican Council declaration on the relation of the Church to non-Christian religions.

"As Vatican II states," Bishop Sklba continued, "'God holds the Jews most dear for the sake of their Fathers; He does not repent of the gifts he makes or of the calls he issues -- such is the witness of the Apostle.'"

The message added: "The Holy Father has chosen to omit from his revision any language from the various editions of the (Latin) Missal of 1962 that have long been associated with negative images of Jews. For example, there are no references to the 'blindness of the Jews,' to the 'lifting of a veil from their heart,' or to their 'being pulled from darkness.'

"Pope Benedict XVI has chosen to present the relationship of the Church and the Jews within the mystery of salvation as found in St. Paul's Letter to the Romans [cf. Rom 11:11-32]. Central to the concerns of the Holy Father is the clear articulation that salvation comes through faith in Jesus Christ and his Church. It is a faith that must never be imposed but always freely chosen."

"The Catholic Church in the United States," Bishop Sklba's message concluded, "remains steadfastly committed to deepening its bonds of friendship and mutual understanding with the Jewish community."