Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Prayer for the Jews: Letter in the Tablet

It has sadly become an established media narrative that references to the Church's relations with Jews, and the Vatican II document on the subject, Nostra aetate, must include an attack on the Traditional Mass. This was on display a few years ago in the disgraceful CTS pamphlet about 'Catholic Traditionalism' by Raymond Edwards (thankfully, no longer in print), but has been taken to new lengths in connection with the 50th anniversary of Nostra aetate. A really deplorable article in the Jewish Chronicle makes an unambiguous connection between Pope Benedict, the Traditional Mass, and antisemitism - though the article displays such a poor knowledge of the issues that I am more inclined to see the author, the historian Dr Geoffrey Alderman, as a victim of misinformation, rather than as a perpetrator of it.

The Jewish Chronicle has chosen not to publish my letter in reply. I can't imagine they have any interest in the Traditional Catholic liturgy; instead, they may rather like the narrative of Jewish-Catholic reconciliation after Vatican II, which my letter questioned by stressing the elements of continuity.

Now Christopher Lamb, The Tablet's new Rome Correspondent, has found another Jewish commentator, Edward Kessler, the founder of the Woolf Institute, willing to describe the Prayer for the Jews as 'a problem'. As with Alderman, I don't blame Dr Kessler for his reaction: after all, even a specialist in Jewish-Christian relations wouldn't necessarily be well-informed about the details of Catholic liturgy. It is the question he was asked which is the real problem, since it is part of an attempt by liberal Catholics to fight their intra-Church battles using Jewish indignation as a weapon. This indignation is something they have themselves nurtured, protecting it, like a candle flame, from the gusts of information which, by setting things into a wider context, could too easily extinguish it.

The Tablet has published my letter (in the 2nd Jan issue): here it is.

It is an irony that Christopher Lamb reports (‘View from Rome’, 19/26 December 2015) at this time of year, on misgivings about the ‘Prayer for the Conversion of the Jews’ found in the Extraordinary Form Good Friday liturgy. Before the next edition of The Tablet is delivered, your priest readers will have prayed, fervently, I assume: ‘may the Jewish people accept you [sc. Christ] as their awaited Deliverer [Latin: Messiah]’, in the Morning Prayer of the Ordinary Form Liturgy of the Hours, on 31st December.

These same priests will redouble their zeal for the conversion of the Jews at Easter, praying every day for a week, starting on Easter Sunday’s Evening Prayer: ‘Let Israel recognize in you the Messiah it has longed for.’

The Christmas season would seem an appropriate time for readers to consider whether sauce for the Extraordinary Form goose is also sauce for the Ordinary Form gander.

Yours faithfully,

Joseph Shaw
Chairman, Latin Mass Society

And here is Christopher Lamb's original news item.

ANYONE wishing  to describe the changes brought about by the Second Vatican Council ought to have the Church’s more positive relationship with Jews fairly high on their list. Last Friday, the Vatican published a new document on the topic to mark 50 years since the council’s Nostra Aetate declaration. The new text said the Church does not support any “institutional mission” to the Jews, one of the delicate points of Christian-Jewish dialogue. But if this is the case, why does the old rite of the Mass still include a Good Friday prayer titled “the conversion of the Jews”? In 2008, Benedict XVI rewrote the prayer for the Tridentine liturgy which asks God to “illuminate their hearts, that they acknowledge Jesus Christ is the Saviour of all men”. Speaking at the new document’s launch, Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, admitted the title of the prayer was a problem but defended the content saying it must be understood eschatologically (a prayer for the end times). Edward Kessler of the Woolf Institute, Cambridge, was less equivocal, describing the prayer as a “problem”.   

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  1. Edward Kessler was on the panel at the Vatican which presented the latest document on Catholic/Jewish relations. Cardinal Koch was responsible for that document but I am not clear as to whether Kessler was part of the team that wrote it. It proposes that the Church should not have an institution for the conversion of the Jews. I always thought that the Church was that institution but like St Peter who converted a whole lot of Jews on the day of Pentecost I must have been wrong. Neither of us are very bright so I hope we can plead ignorance. Anyway we are also told that St Paul's letter to the Hebrews was not written to the Jews. Silly me again.

    Edward Kessler is indeed founder and director of the Wolfe Institute which recently published the result of an inquiry under the chairmanship of Lady Butler-Sloss saying effectively that any manifestation of Christianity should be removed from public life. What next old Koch?

  2. It's undoubtedly my suspicious nature, but I fear that all this will do is to expand the demand for an alteration of the EF Good Friday prayer for the Jews to one also demanding that these prayers (doubtless oversights!) be expunged as well.

    1. For that to happen, they'd have to admit that the Novus Ordo was defective in some respects. That isn't going to happen any time soon.

  3. I fear that Edward Kessler must also be numbered among the victims of misinformation. At the Vatican press conference of 10th December 2015 upon which Christopher Lamb was reporting Dr Kessler not only opined that there was a problem with the EF Good Friday prayer, but immediately went on to complain about the word 'perfidis', not realizing that it was removed some half a century ago. Lamb doesn't give this away; I don't suppose it would support his narrative.

    1. Where did you read that?

    2. One could read about that here:
      "Next, Lamb asked about the Good Friday Prayer composed in 2008 ..." Then "Kessler diffidently said that the word Perfidia was rather questionable ... "

    3. A late reply to your question: I didn't read it; I watched an online video of the press conference. I assume Fr Hunwicke did likewise.