Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Nostra Aetate

Hugh Hewitt had a session yesterday on the restoration of the Latin Mass by the Roman Catholic Church. Both Dean Barnett and I called in. I followed my call with a long e-mail to Dean at Soxblog@aol.com. Today, at Hugh Hewitt.com, in a post entitled Abe Foxman vs. Everybody, Dean quotes my e-mail at length and then incredibly states, "This letter actually hits upon and amplifies what really drives me bonkers about Foxman. ...Both on the air and in his email, my correspondent mentioned that Catholics had a duty to be cognizant of Jewish sensibilities. I assume he makes this argument not because he’s worried about Jewish sensibilities actually being offended, but rather because he’s concerned that the wrong phrase at Mass could turn an entire Church into foaming anti-Semites or at the very least trigger revivals of 150 year-old kidnappings."

Well, no, I merely believe that one cannot ignore history, or pretend or pretend that the respect accorded Judaism by the Roman Catholic Church today has always been the case and always will be. Dean's post ignored the fact that one Catholic caller to Hugh's show, rejoicing over the restoration of the Latin Mass, remarked that a repudiation on Vatican II positions on religious liberty should follow. That remark was almost certainly directed against Nostra Aetate, the 1965 Vatican II Declaration on the Relation of the Church with Non-Christian Religions, issued by Pope Paul VI.

Nostra Aetate repudiated the concept of the collective guilt of the Jewish people for the death of Jesus. It condemned anti-Semitism in all its forms and at any time. Finally, the Declaration stated that all men are created in God's image, and that it is contrary to the teaching of the Church to discriminate against, show hatred towards or harass any person or people on the basis of colour, race, or religion. The very fact that a Catholic caller enthusiastically viewed the change in the mass as presaging a re-examination of Nostra Aetate gives good reason for Jewish apprehension.

My concern was only heightened by the on-air response of David Allen White and Father Fessio to my explanation that Jewish apprehension stems from a historic experience with Catholics who, motivated by concern for saving the souls of Jews, often have campaigned for conversion through compulsion rather than persuasion. Mr. White and Father Fessio dismissed my statement as a distortion of history, as if we Jews imagined Christian persecution, or provoked it.

Today's atmosphere of Catholic tolerance for Judaism is the product of decades of effort by persons such as Popes John XXII, Paul VI, and John Paul II. If taken for granted, their work could be undone.
After mischaraterizing and trivializing my position, Dean Barnett responded to my e-mail in his post at Hugh Hewitt.com by noting that the greater threat to Jews and Judaism today is from radical Islam, not from Chrisitan conversion efforst. Of course that is true, but it is a facile response to my expressed concern. One does not ignore a cold because it is not as dangerous as pneumonia. Indeed ignoring the lesser affliction can lead to the more serious disease.

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