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Synod, Cardinal Question Jewish Claims

To Israel, mainly, but also to pretty much everything

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Pope Benedict XVI presides over the close of the Middle East Synod on Sunday.(Fillipo Monteforte/AFP/Getty Images)

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]
Related: Unconcern

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What is particularly absurd in their statement is that the only country in the Middle East where Christians are able to worship freely and the only country in the region where the Christian population is increasing is Israel.

Bamyan, baby, Bamyan. Let the Synod think upon that for a bit.
Jews sounding good now?
Oh, also, we don’t tell YOU how to interpret YOUR scriptures, so let’s play fair.
Chaval al d’avdin velo mishtakchin — we are sorry over the loss of John Paul II. He would not have supported this nonsense.

…in two or three generations there will be no Greek Christians in the Middle East, nor indeed Christians of any sort in the Middle East. Nor, for that matter, will there be many Greeks; with a fertility rate of only 1.37 children per female, one of the world’s lowest, Greece by mid-century will have a population two-thirds of which exceeds the age of sixty, and very little population at all by the end of the century. In a hundred years, modern Greek will be a dying language.

Israeli Jews, by contrast, have the highest fertility of any first-world population, and not only because of the fecund ultra-Orthodox; fertility among secular Israelis is far above replacement. By 2100, eighteen centuries after Constantine founded the Greek empire, more people will speak Hebrew than Greek.

Victoria says:

“Recourse to theological and Biblical positions which use the Word of God to wrongly justify injustices is not acceptable.”

Umm…isn’t that how ALL religions and its extremist members justify injustices? I mean isn’t that why there are no women priests? Why orthodoxy doesn’t support women rabbis? Why homosexuality is “wrong”? Why slavery was “justified”?

I’m so confused.

Who cares what the Catholic Church (or any other religion) thinks about Judaism?

Religions by their nature tend to “refute” the singularist faith claims of other religions. The mere existence of Judaism is a refutation of the claims of Christianity and Islam. I don’t care what they believe as long as they don’t have the political power to oppress others based on those beliefs.

A funny thing happen when I read Marc’s post about the Catholic Church’s supersessionism statement. If you take out all the religious stuff in Archbishop Bustros statement, it sounds like a Tablet approved Daniel Luban hit piece on Israel. Or any other lefty commentator whining about how ‘evil’ Israel is.

Go figure.

Lisa Kaiser says:

As the article points out, Archbishop Bustros’ statment re Jews as the chosen people contradicts the statements of Vatican II. His statement also contradicts Pope John Paul’s statement to Catholics: “Jews are or elder brothers in the covenant that has not been borken and that will never be broken.”

Lisa Kaiser says:

OK, let me fix my typos in my quotation of Pope John Paul’s statement to Catholics & other Christians:

“Jews are our elder brothers in the covenant that has not been broken and that will never be broken.”

Mr Mel says:

The man we need now to rebut Kyrios Bustros would be Jerry Falwell who unfortunately is now with his maker. It would have been one hell (forgive my word choice) of a debate and we could all use a good laugh about now.

As I said in my sermon Friday night and Shabbat, the Vatican (meaning: the Pope) has yet to issue a statement refuting, condemning, correcting or otherwise repudiating the archbishop’s expressed views. I would expect and demand nothing less if any form of “dialog” were to continue going forward. We have a Talmudic principle that says, Silence is tantamount to agreement. I think that applies to this situation. Does Catholicism reject the expressed written word of God in the Bible? As a religion with a long history of intolerance and which largely relies on hearsay and mythological elements as the basis for its “holy scriptures,” and one in which the silence of its most elevated leaders seems to indicate assent to pedophilia on the part of many of its priests, I. for one. think Catholicism ought to be the last one to cast a stone at Israel, don’t you? When the church stated that the Covenant between God and The Jewish People is eternally valid, did it not READ that Covenant with regard to the promised land of israel? Try some literacy sprinkled with at least a little integrity. I expect a proper reply and apology from the Pope himself before I, for one, will ever again “dialog” with a Catholic cleric!

It always amazes me how we, having been persecuted by the church for nearly two thousand years, have seen one of every two Jews born over the past one thousand years murdered at the hands of our neighbors (that according to Irving Borowsky, Overcoming Fear between Jews and Christians, published by Paulist Press, 1985; how is it that we still don’t get the point? What, if not that we are considered “superseded,” does the title they refer to their scripture, the “new” testament mean. We may choose to live in denial because we are comfortable in our life in the Diaspora, risks and all. But let us not feign indignation when a church father announces what their theology holds true, that we have outlived our place in their history.

The Holocaust was neither unique nor mysterious but rather the latest effort to operationalize that theology. And not the last.

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Synod, Cardinal Question Jewish Claims

To Israel, mainly, but also to pretty much everything

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