I’ve got some errands to attend to, books to read, websites to update, so expect sporadic blogging in the future. Those who are in the mood for some combox chatter (and provocation) may want to check out:
- “Religion: A Test of Faith” – Amy Welborn (Open Book) responds to LA Times Religion reporter William Lobdell’s column on his loss of faith:
[Lobdell’s] justifiable anguish and shock (and God help us when we are not anguished and shocked by these things) could be shared by any Christian during any era, any place. Christianity has never been pure in the human sense, always been a difficult, challenging mix of mostly sinners and a few saints. . . . The whole thing is pretty much a mess. And always has been.
- More on Catholic Social Teaching and the “Living Wage”, by DarwinCatholic. July 16, 2007:
Some years back I was discussing politics with a senior co-worker, someone who lived in an million-dollar home in the Santa Monica Mountains, and hired a yard guy, a pool guy, a maid, etc. to keep it up for him.
“This ‘trickle down economics’ thing is idiotic,” he announced. “Why do they think that giving the rich more money will help anyone other than the rich?”
“So if you and your wife both lost your jobs,” I asked, “would you keep the yard guy and the maid, or would you start to mow your own lawn and vacuum your own house?”
- The phony “Catholic Right” and “Catholic Left”, by Michael Joseph. Vox Nova July 23, 2007. Pope Benedict XV said it first 😉
There is no need of adding any qualifying terms to the profession of Catholicism: it is quite enough for each one to proclaim “Christian is my name and Catholic my surname,” only let him endeavour to be in reality what he calls himself.
- Tortured Logic, by Daniel Nichols. Caelum Terra:
Contrary to what some conservatives say it is this–let’s call it faith in reason–and not the love of liberty or the rejection of oligarchy and oppression which is the fundamental error of the French Revolution and the Age of Reason.
I do not mean by this that unassisted reason cannot come to certain truths, only that it is highly prone to error, and that certain other truths are unattainable by reason alone. Unaided reason quickly becomes tortured logic.
I first became aware of the insufficiency of reason alone in the moral sphere when thinking about euthanasia. . . .
- On the Morality of Using Atomic Bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the Use of Atomic Bombs in General Outline for a Possible Dialogue in August of 2007, by I. Shawn McElhinney. Rerum Novarum July 22, 2007. Shawn lays the groundrules for a proposed debate on the moral use of nuclear weapons in World War II and asserts: “I have practically no confidence whatsoever that any Catholic will be able to meet the criteria as noted above.”
- Question of the day:
Yes, it is easy to say that a formation of geese in the skyline declares the order of the Creator. But what does the bulge of a struggling pig in the mid-section of a python tell us about the Designer of that order?
Discuss over at Treaders (for readers of Touchstone magazine).
- Fr. Philip Powell, OP asks: Are YOU a member of the Dissenting Cadre? Take the quiz and see!:
After a hard night hitting the “Spirit of Vatican Two Peace Bong,” you dream that twelve nine-year boys in black cassocks and white surplices are chasing you around a Baroque monstrance with their Latin breviaries. Inside the monstrance, the consecrated host is yelling, “Git ‘em, boys! Git ‘em!” . . .
You never cross yourself b/c it perpetuates the idea that God needed a bloody sacrifice to assuage his anger. . . .
You successfully forced your parish to sell its historic organ and use the money to buy a Casio electronic keyboard, a life-time subscription to America, and a stained glass window of Jesus portrayed as Che Guerra. . . .
. . . and some new sites:
The U.S. bishops have agreed to meet with a group of Catholic House Democrats to discuss how to pursue the goal of a “responsible transition” to end the war in Iraq. (Catholic News Service July 19, 2007):
“The current situation in Iraq is unacceptable and unsustainable,” wrote Bishop Thomas G. Wenski of Orlando, Fla., chairman of the bishops’ Committee on International Policy, in a July 17 letter to Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio. A copy of the letter was released July 18 by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Bishop Wenski’s letter was a response to a June 28 letter Ryan wrote to Bishop Wenski and Bishop William S. Skylstad of Spokane, Wash., USCCB president. Ryan’s letter, sent on behalf of himself and 13 other Catholic House Democrats, urged the bishops to increase their involvement in efforts to end the war in Iraq.
Funny thing: among these 14 Catholic Democrats — Tim Ryan (OH), Rosa DeLauro (CT), Jose Serrano (NY), Jim Moran (VA), Joe Baca (Ca), Hilda Solis (CA) — are those who publicly joined together in May 2007 to criticize Pope Benedict’s statement that pro-abortion politicians should not receive Communion.
Diogenes (Off the Record) comments on “our shared moral tradition”:
A practical politician might have told these 14 Democrats that if they don’t want to hear from the Catholic Church about abortion, they shouldn’t look to hear from the Church about the war in Iraq. A concerned pastor might have told them that if they disregard the Church’s teaching on a clear issue of moral teaching, they should not be so hypocritical as to invoke Church teaching on an issue that is not nearly so clear– an issue on which loyal Catholics can and do differ. But the USCCB leaders didn’t choose those options. Instead the USCCB implicitly accepted the lawmakers’ claim that they are the moral champions of Catholic teaching.
while Jay Anderson (Pro Ecclesia) is “awaiting 2 unlikely things to occur“:
- For howls of outrage from the usual (liberal) suspects regarding the Church involving itself in the political process, and regarding one of the major political parties trying to “co-opt” the Church for its own ends; and
- For the Bishops to similarly meet with pro-life Republicans in Congress and the Bush Administration to strategize on anti-abortion policy.
Polish Priest Remarks on Jews Condemned The Guardian July 19, 2007:
WARSAW, Poland (AP) – More than 700 people in Poland, including a former prime minister and foreign minister, signed an open letter condemning statements about Jews by a right-wing Roman Catholic priest who runs a controversial radio station.
A magazine had reported that Rev. Tadeusz Rydzyk, during a lecture earlier this year at a journalism school, described Jews as greedy and criticized President Lech Kaczynski for donating land in Warsaw for a Jewish museum.
Hundreds of people – including former Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki and former Auschwitz inmate and Foreign Minister Wladyslaw Bartoszewski – signed the letter, saying Rydzyk’s comments “revealed his contempt” for Jews and fellow Christians.
“As Polish Catholics, laymen and clergy, we express our moral protest against the worsening statements of the director of Radio Maryja,” the letter says. “It hurts us that the contemptible and anti-Semitic statements come from a representative of our church.”
Earlier this month, the Simon Weisenthal Center petitioned for Rydzyk’s removal after describing Polish president Lech Kaczynski, a “swindler” who had bowed to pressure from the Jewish lobby to compensate people for property lost during and after World War II:
“You know that it’s about giving $65bn,” to the Jews, he allegedly said. “They will come to you and say ‘give me your coat. Take off your pants. Give me your shoes’,” the magazine reported.
In May 2006, Pope Benedict XVI asked Polish Catholic leaders to reign in Rev. Rydzyk; however, this may be easier said than done (Papal Reprimand for Catholic Radio Der Spiegel May 2, 2006):
Under the Polish Pope John Paul II, the Vatican released lukewarm warnings to Radio Maryja about “self-restraint.” But the German Pope Benedict XVI has stepped up efforts to control the intolerant rhetoric. Through his envoys he’s let it be known that political engagement by priests is not sanctioned by Rome — and this counts as a “serious warning” to Radio Maryja.
But the Polish national clergy can’t just force Father Rydzyk into line. The 60-year-old priest belongs to the Order of Redemptorists, a missionary movement that stands outside the church’s traditional power structure in Poland.
According to Catholic World News, Rydzyk “has denied charges that he made anti-Semitic statements, and his religious superior has backed his statement.” (Polish priest rejects charge of anti-Semitism July 23, 2007).
(Via Liz at Christian Attitudes to To Jews, Israel and Zionism).
SummorumPontificum.net – Your source for news and information concerning the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum.
Vatican Reaffirms Catholic Primary Washington Post July 10, 2007:
The Rev. Augustine Di Noia, undersecretary for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said the document did not alter the Vatican’s commitment to ecumenical dialogue but was aimed at asserting Catholic identity in those talks.
“As you know,” he told Vatican Radio, “it is fundamental to any kind of dialogue that the participants are clear about their own identity. That is, dialogue cannot be an occasion to accommodate or soften what you actually understand yourself to be.”
Bishop Wolfgang Huber, head of the Evangelical Church in Germany, a Protestant umbrella group, said the new Vatican document effectively downgraded Protestant churches and would make ecumenical relations more difficult. He said the new pronouncement repeated the “offensive statements” of the 2000 document.
Bishop C. Christopher Epting, in charge of ecumenical and interfaith relations for the U.S. Episcopal Church, said: “For us as Anglicans I don’t believe it’s any different. It’s what they’ve said before. We’ve been in this dialogue for 40 years, but we continue to stay at the table and disagree with that position.”
A statement from the French Protestant Federation said that while the document was an internal pronouncement of the Catholic Church, it would have “external repercussions.”
Bryan Cones, the editor of U.S. Catholic and social justice website Salt of the Earth speculates on “another blow against the Council”:
Two documents in two days aimed at two crucial elements of Vatican II, the liturgical reform and ecumenism. Both seemed geared toward appeasing the extreme right wing of Catholicism (and alienating the broad middle?). What’s next, a document repudiating religious freedom–another complaint against Vatican II leveled by the Lefebvrites?
From Sandro Magister: Liturgy and Ecumenism: How to Apply Vatican Council II, by Sandro Magister http://www.chiesa July 16, 2007: “For Benedict XVI, there must not be rupture between the Church’s past and present, but rather continuity. He has given proof of this with his latest decisions – receiving less criticism than foreseen, and much more agreement. The comments of Ruini, Amato, De Marco” — including this bit on the timing of the documents:
Q: The last response repeats that the title of “Church” cannot be attributed to the Christian communities born from the Reformation in the sixteenth century.
A: This is a painful matter, I know, but as the Council affirms, these communities have not maintained apostolic succession in the sacrament of Orders, thus depriving themselves of an essential constitutive element of the Church’s being. Because of the lack of the ministerial priesthood, these communities have not preserved the genuine and complete substance of the Eucharistic mystery. For this reason, according to Catholic doctrine, they cannot be called “Churches” in the true sense.
Q: Is this also true of the Anglican communion?
Q: Your Excellency, what is the value of these “responses”?
A: They have an authoritative theological character. Authoritative. They are a clarification, formulated by our Congregation and approved expressly by the Pope, of the Council’s meaning.
Q: These texts were published a few days after the “motu proprio” that liberalizes the so-called “Mass of Saint Pius V.” Some might think that this was not a coincidence, but a precise strategy . . .
A: This is no ecclesiastical or media strategy. Our documents are published when they are ready. And that’s all. Otherwise, if we had to pay attention to these kinds of problems that have nothing to do with us we would risk, for one reason or another, never publishing these texts awaited by the bishops and many of the faithful.
The following should be read in connection with Cardinal Walter Kasper: Helping or Hindering the CDF?
Michael Joseph (Vox Nova) responds in Kasper’s defense Clarifying Cardinal Kasper on Ecumenism and Evangelization.
As Michael points out, any document issued by the Church is best read in context with past statements. (The copious use of footnotes are there for a reason). A lot of misunderstandings could be avoided by reading “within the totality of the greater context of magisterial and curial teachings on ecclesiology, ecumenism and mission.” The helpful documents in this case which Michael recommends (and bear repeating) are:
- Lumen Gentium
- Unitatus Redintegratio
- Orientalium Ecclesiarum
- Pope Paul VI’s Mysterium Fidei
- John Paul II’s Ut Unum Sint;
- and the CDF’s Communionis and Dominus Iesus.
Moving on to Michael’s objections . . .
Cardinal Kasper and the Jews
There is also the delicate question, frequently addressed by Kasper, on the relationship of the Jews to the Catholic Church. Kasper has described the Jewish faith as “salvific” on several occassions. Regrettably, many Catholics have misread these statements–likely due to having little theological reading under their belt–and contorted them into suggesting that the Jews can be saved simply by being Jewish. But such an interpretation is far too heavy for Kasper’s words to bear. The covenants of God with Israel are stages in “salvation history,” which means that each covenant reveals or discloses the salvific plan of God for humanity, sanctifying those with whom the covenant is made. That said, Kasper’s use of “salvific” is really quite simple: the Jews already participate in salvation history by means of their covenants with God (cf. Romans 9-11). Vatican II expressly stated that the Jews are “most dear for the sake of the fathers, for the gifts of God are without repentence,” that they are included in “the plan of salvation” (Lumen gentium, no.16), and that the “Church of Christ acknowledges that in God’s plan of salvation the beginning of her faith and election is to be found in the patriarachs, Moses and the prophets” (Nostra Aetate, no. 4). Salvation history does not begin with Jesus, yet it is fulfilled with Jesus, who said himself “Salvation comes from the Jews” (John 4:22). Thus, Jews, by virtue of their covenants with God, participate in the salvific plan for humanity in a way wholly unlike any other non-Christian faith. The Jews are already “on the way” to Christ, so to speak, and so evangelization of the Jews is an altogether different affair than evangelization of, and mission to, members of other faiths.
However, the covenants of Israel coalesce and culminate in Jesus, so salvation is a full reality only through faith in Jesus the Christ. The chosen people of God, the Jews, are predisposed as a people for receiving Christ as their Messiah. But that final step of faith into the fulfilled covenant of the blood of God is still necessary, and Kasper has never denied this.
Michael provides a general summary of the Church teaching on the question of the Jews. None of this is particularly news — I’ve discussed this and other issues in Jewish-Christian relations (probably to the point of overkill) since this blog began, and I’m familiar with the Catholic contributions to this field (Cardinal Johannes Willebrands, Msgr. John Österreicher, Eugene Fisher, Fr. Flannery, Fr. Palikowski, Fr. Hans Hermann Henrix) and not a few Jews or Protestants.
I should point out, however, that as educational as Michael’s summary may be, it is hardly sufficient and not “really quite simple” as he suggests: a cursory reading of those involved in Jewish Christian dialogue reveals a range of differing interpretations, and as far as this topic is concerned I don’t think another passage is contested more heavily between Jews and Christians, and between Christians vs. Christian, than “the covenant has not been revoked.”
My concern with Cardinal Kasper on this subject lies not so much with his personal theological opinions but his public statements, and the general impression given to his audience through his choice of words.
The Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews is quite clear on the correct interpretation of Nostra Aetate, insofar as the salvation of the Jews is concerned:
7. “In virtue of her divine mission, the Church” which is to be “the all-embracing means of salvation” in which alone “the fulness of the means of salvation can be obtained” (Unit. Red. 3); “must of her nature proclaim Jesus Christ to the world” (cf. Guidelines and Suggestions, I). Indeed we believe that is is through him that we go to the Father (cf. Jn. 14:6) “and this is eternal life, that they know thee the only true God and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent” (Jn 17:33).
Jesus affirms (ibid. 10:16) that “there shall be one flock and one shepherd”. Church and Judaism cannot then be seen as two parallel ways of salvation and the Church must witness to Christ as the Redeemer for all, “while maintaining the strictest respect for religious liberty in line with the teaching of the Second Vatican Council (Declaration Dignitatis Humanae)” (Guidelines and Suggestions, I).
As far as rejecting the ‘parallel ways to salvation’, Kasper does touch on this all-too-briefly in the discussion which I quotes (his address to the Jews concerning Dominus Iesus in 2001):
One of these questions is how to relate the covenant with the Jewish people, which according to St. Paul is unbroken and not revoked but still in vigour, with what we Christians call the New covenant. As you know, the old theory of substitution is gone since II Vatican Council. For us Christians today the covenant with the Jewish people is a living heritage, a living reality. There cannot be a mere coexistence between the two covenants. Jews and Christians, by their respective specific identities, are intimately related to each other. It is impossible now to enter the complex problem of how this intimate relatedness should or could be defined. Such question touches the mystery of Jewish and Christian existence as well, and should be discussed in our further dialogue.
Catholics may allude to the possibility of Jews being saved by Christ even through the expression of their own fidelity to their covenant but insist nonetheless — quoting Michael Joseph — “on the final step of faith into the fulfilled covenant of the blood of God is still necessary.” Jews on the other hand will more often than not interpret that phrase (when stated in isolation) as meaning they have no obligation to consider the claims of the Church.
Michael is right: Kasper “has never denied” that Jews must take the “final step of faith into the fulfilled covenant” — But could he have stated that more forcefully? Did his Jewish (and Christian) audience take that from his 2001 address? Or come to other conclusions?
It comes as no suprise to me that the authors of Reflections on Covenant and Mission (a 2002 joint release by The Bishops Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, USCCB and the The National Council of Synagogues) based their reflections on the same May 1, 2001 address from Cardinal Walter Kasper, stating that while the Church accepts individual converts from Judaism “out of respect for religious liberty”:
. . . it also acknowledges that Jews already dwell in a saving covenant with God. However, this evangelizing task no longer includes the wish to absorb the Jewish faith into Christianity and so end the distinctive witness of Jews to God in human history.
Thus, while the Catholic Church regards the saving act of Christ as central to the process of human salvation for all, it also acknowledges that Jews already dwell in a saving covenant with God. . . .
Jews are also called by God to prepare the world for God’s kingdom. Their witness to the kingdom, which did not originate with the Church’s experience of Christ crucified and raised, must not be curtailed by seeking the conversion of the Jewish people to Christianity.
There was considerable and understandable criticism of the ambiguities in the document upon its release: Cardinal Dulles responded in America; Deal Hudson (Crisis); Carl Olson (then editor of Envoy Magazine); Fr. James V. Schall, SJ, Dr. Ronda Chervin, Fr. Francis Martin and others voiced their criticism of the document in a symposium for the National Catholic Register.
In the end, Cardinal Keeler was obliged to distance himself, stating that the document “does not represent a formal position taken by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) or the Bishops’ Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs (BCEIA)” (it was removed as well from the USCCB website; to this day the reference appears, but no link to the actual text).
I cannot say whether Cardinal Kasper’s views cohere exactly with those of the authors of Reflections on Covenant and Mission (has he ever commented on that debacle?), nor do I wish to place the blame squarely upon his shoulders. However, there is no question the authors took inspiration from his 2001 address and his selective presentation of Church teaching.
[Update – Donald McClarey offers a bit of background on Cardinal Kasper’s role in the meetings which culminated in the release of this document.]
Kasper and the CDF’s “Responses to Some Questions”
Michael omits Kasper’s reported grumbling against Dominus Iesus as reported in an interview with the , in which he expressed his personal offense at the suggestion that churches born of the Reformation were not “churches in the proper sense,” describing the language of Dominus Iesus as “clumsy and ambiguous.” The fact that he now informs his Protestant critics that they are likely overreacting to the CDF is certainly heartening.
My chief concern, as indicated in my previous post, is the overall effect that Kasper leaves on his ecumenical audience by the manner in which he “clarifies” the documents in question.
Michael contends that:
The drive behind ecumenism is not to draw Protestants and Orthodox into the Catholic Church. The drive is to remove the obstacles to unity so that Protestants and Orthodox have no reason to remain divided or alienated from the fullness of the Church of which they are already a part, albeit imperfectly. And this includes the humble housekeeping within the Catholic Church so that it is truly an example of holiness and a worthy recipient of the esteem of other Christians.
Perhaps I misinterpret Michael, but it seems as though the intention of the first sentence is phrased in opposition to the second. I wouldn’t perceive them as being exclusive. Q: Wouldn’t the “removal of obstacles to unity” likewise serve the aim of bringing Protestants and Orthodox into full communion with the Church?
I admit that whenever I hear these phrases like “removing obstacles to unity” and achieving “full communion” in the context of ecumenical dialogue and particularly with Protestants, I have to wonder: do Catholics and Protestants share the same understanding of these phrases? — I could name a few “obstacles to unity” for Protestants which Catholics understand to be normative to our faith and practice.
Consider the press release of the World Council of Churches, which if I read the news correctly is the body to whom Kasper was responding in his cautionary letter. Responding to the CDF, Setri Nyomi (Rev. Dr.) General Secretary expressed the WCC’s specific problem with the statement that “These ecclesial Communities which, specifically because of the absence of the sacramental priesthood, have not preserved the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic Mystery cannot, according to Catholic doctrine, be called ‘Churches’ in the proper sense,” stating:
Since Vatican II, our dialogues have sought to understand and overcome differences we have had for centuries, and to build common agreements over things we hold dear in our common Christian faith. The outcomes especially of Reformed-Catholic dialogues on “Towards a Common Understanding of the Church” and “The Church as Communion of Common Witness to the Kingdom of God” have given hope to our journey of overcoming differences and affirming our oneness in the Church of Jesus Christ.
An exclusive claim that identifies the Roman Catholic Church as the one church of Jesus Christ, as we read in the statement released today, goes against the spirit of our Christian calling towards oneness in Christ.
Kasper was right to point out that the CDF’s proclamation was “nothing new” and “clarifies positions that the Catholic Church has held for a long time” and that this was a “clarification of the dialogue” (would that he have adopted this approach more firmly at the time of Dominus Iesus, when the Church likewise asserted “nothing new”). But was it enough to say that Catholic and Protestants “mean different things by ‘church'” or to point to the “recognition of baptism . . . and a series of positive statements about the Protestant eucharist (Decree on Ecumenism 22)”?
In my opinion (for what it’s worth), to suggest that Unitatis redintegratio is a “positive” statement of the “Protestant eucharist” is questionable and I suspect that Setri Nyomi would find it just as offensive, having declared his adamant opposition to the Church’s self-conception as “the Church of Jesus Christ” and the Catholic belief that Protestants “have not preserved the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic Mystery” because of the absence of the sacramental priesthood.
Kasper seems most optimistic in believing can proceed from there; I do hope the WCC will reconcider and respond in the desired manner.
There is a passage from John Paul II’s Ut Unum Sint that leapt out at me and to this present pseudo-“crisis”:
Ecumenism implies that the Christian communities should help one another so that there may be truly present in them the full content and all the requirements of “the heritage handed down by the Apostles”. Without this, full communion will never be possible. This mutual help in the search for truth is a sublime form of evangelical charity. . . .
The documents of the many International Mixed Commissions of dialogue have expressed this commitment to seeking unity. On the basis of a certain fundamental doctrinal unity, these texts discuss Baptism, Eucharist, ministry and authority.
From this basic but partial unity it is now necessary to advance towards the visible unity which is required and sufficient and which is manifested in a real and concrete way, so that the Churches may truly become a sign of that full communion in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church which will be expressed in the common celebration of the Eucharist.
This journey towards the necessary and sufficient visible unity, in the communion of the one Church willed by Christ, continues to require patient and courageous efforts. In this process, one must not impose any burden beyond that which is strictly necessary (cf. Acts 15:28).
79. It is already possible to identify the areas in need of fuller study before a true consensus of faith can be achieved: 1) the relationship between Sacred Scripture, as the highest authority in matters of faith, and Sacred Tradition, as indispensable to the interpretation of the Word of God; 2) the Eucharist, as the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ, an offering of praise to the Father, the sacrificial memorial and Real Presence of Christ and the sanctifying outpouring of the Holy Spirit; 3) Ordination, as a Sacrament, to the threefold ministry of the episcopate, presbyterate and diaconate; 4) the Magisterium of the Church, entrusted to the Pope and the Bishops in communion with him, understood as a responsibility and an authority exercised in the name of Christ for teaching and safeguarding the faith; 5) the Virgin Mary, as Mother of God and Icon of the Church, the spiritual Mother who intercedes for Christ’s disciples and for all humanity.
In this courageous journey towards unity, the transparency and the prudence of faith require us to avoid both false irenicism and indifference to the Church’s ordinances. Conversely, that same transparency and prudence urge us to reject a halfhearted commitment to unity and, even more, a prejudicial opposition or a defeatism which tends to see everything in negative terms.
To uphold a vision of unity which takes account of all the demands of revealed truth does not mean to put a brake on the ecumenical movement. On the contrary, it means preventing it from settling for apparent solutions which would lead to no firm and solid results. The obligation to respect the truth is absolute. Is this not the law of the Gospel?
It is with this in mind — this attentiveness to revealed truth and an intolerance for “apparent solutions which would lead to no firm and solid results” that we should receive the Congregation’s latest release.