Synod, Cardinal Question Jewish Claims
To Israel, mainly, but also to pretty much everything
The Catholic Church’s Synod of Bishops for the Middle East, which concluded Sunday, was not expected to produce something that Israel would cheer. And its official “Message,” reports John J. Allen, Jr., does “refer to the damaging consequences of Israeli ‘occupation,’ as well as the security wall, military checkpoints, political prisoners, and efforts to alter the demographic balance of Jerusalem.” However, it also “acknowledges the ‘suffering and insecurity in which Israelis live,’” condemns anti-Semitism, and backs a two-state solution.
But there is one big problem. In reference to relations with Jews, the Message reads: “Recourse to theological and Biblical positions which use the Word of God to wrongly justify injustices is not acceptable.” And there is a bigger problem: Speaking at a press conference, Greek Melkite Archbishop Cyrille Salim Bustros—who is actually based in Newton, Massachusetts (so you would think he would have some sense of relations with Jews)—commented on that passage, saying, “We Christians cannot speak of the ‘promised land’ as an exclusive right for a privileged Jewish people. This promise was nullified by Christ. There is no longer a chosen people—all men and women of all countries have become the chosen people.”
The word you’re searching for is “supersessionism”: it is the dogma, which Bustros appears to subscribe to, that holds that Christians, and their holy books, replace (or supersede) Jews and theirs where there are points of conflict. It is important to note—as Allen, who owns the Vatican beat as few reporters own few other beats, does—that the landmark Second Vatican Council “has been understood to reject” supersessionism. It is also important to note that supersessionism is a deeply offensive doctrine. Writing some years ago, Tablet Magazine contributing editor Leon Wieseltier named it “the ancient grounds of anti-Semitism,” and noted, of supersessionism’s implicit corollary that Christians have an obligation to proselytize, “An affirmation of the Christian mission to the Jews is a delegitimation of Jewish belief.”
It is Bustros’s statement that has Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon condemning “a libel against the Jewish people and the State of Israel” and the Anti-Defamation League accusing him of “effectively stating that Judaism should no longer exist.” On the Website of the Catholic journal First Things, Tablet Magazine contributor David P. Goldman argues that the Middle Eastern bishops are effectively betraying their own flock, who live in a region where, he argues, the real threat is Iran. Allen reports that the question of whether Middle Eastern Christians are best off in Israel was a subject of debate within the synod.
The Vatican’s attempt at damage control has been to de-emphasize Bustros’s press conference statement, saying, “If you want a synthetic expression of the positions of the synod, you have to look at the ‘Message.’”
But, again, the Message itself reads, “Recourse to theological and Biblical positions which use the Word of God to wrongly justify injustices is not acceptable.” The good news is that Jews are not exactly bound by Catholic synods. As Wieseltier put it, “My honor makes me unconcerned, except politically, about the Vatican’s view of the Jews.” The bad news is that, politically, this seems cause for concern.
Acrimony with Israel Clouds Close of Middle East Synod [National Catholic Reporter]
Disappearing Middle Eastern Christians, Disappointing Bishops [On The Square]
ADL Protests Archbishop’s Outrageous Remarks About Judaism [ADL]
Daily rate: $2
Monthly rate: $18
Yearly rate: $180
WAIT, WHY DO I HAVE TO PAY TO COMMENT?
Tablet is committed to bringing you the best, smartest, most enlightening and entertaining reporting and writing on Jewish life, all free of charge. We take pride in our community of readers, and are thrilled that you choose to engage with us in a way that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. But the Internet, for all of its wonders, poses challenges to civilized and constructive discussion, allowing vocal—and, often, anonymous—minorities to drag it down with invective (and worse). Starting today, then, we are asking people who'd like to post comments on the site to pay a nominal fee—less a paywall than a gesture of your own commitment to the cause of great conversation. All proceeds go to helping us bring you the ambitious journalism that brought you here in the first place.
I NEED TO BE HEARD! BUT I DONT WANT TO PAY.
Readers can still interact with us free of charge via Facebook, Twitter, and our other social media channels, or write to us at email@example.com. Each week, we’ll select the best letters and publish them in a new letters to the editor feature on the Scroll.
We hope this new largely symbolic measure will help us create a more pleasant and cultivated environment for all of our readers, and, as always, we thank you deeply for your support.