1 August AD 2007
Is the Mass Anti-Semitic?
In the discussion leading up to Pope Benedict XVI's motu proprio authorizing the Novus Ordo clergy to use the traditional Latin Catholic rite of Mass, a number of objections were raised by Jewish groups who complained that the Mass is anti-Semitic, and that any return to it would damage the relationships that have been formed by Jewish people with the Conciliar Church. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) objected particularly to the prayers on Good Friday for the Conversion of Jews. Some of the objections were a bit more general. Some of the objections were thinly disguised hatred of Catholics—particularly Catholics faithful to the Roman Mass.
The Good Friday prayer (as translated on the ADL website) is:
Before 1960 the last two references to "the Jews" were "the perfidious Jews," but that adjective was removed by Pope John XXIII and is not in the Missal Pope Benedict has restored to occasional use. (It is unclear whether or not any Novus Ordo clergy will use the 1962 Missal on Good Friday.) In any event, the prayer clearly asks God to do something good for the Jews. It is not as though we pray for spiritual or even material evil to come upon them. Our prayer is that Jewish people may come to share in an inheritance which we feel they have lost, and which we are pleased to share. Even without being "politically correct" one might admit that the adjective "perfidious" belongs to the hyperbolic style of a previous age, and is inappropriate in designating an entire group of people. As the prayer is given in the 1962 Missal, one might take offense at attributing "blindness" and "darkness" to Jewish people as a whole—but, what if such were true?—if, in fact, they reject the Messias sent by God, first of all, to their nation? Catholics believe that to be the case; Jews do not. After all, if the Catholics are wrong, their prayers will have no effect!
In discourse, insult may be stated or implied—or inferred. That is to say that the speaker can be purposefully offensive or subtly offensive—or the listener may take offense where none has been intended. Such inference may be groundless or it may be grounded in some truth of which the listener prefers not to be reminded.
When Annibale Bugnini and his cohort cobbled together Pope Paul VI's Novus Ordo liturgy, whatever theology remained from the Catholic Mass was as bland as possible, so as not to offend anyone. We usually think of the Novus Ordo as a compromise with Protestantism because it severely downplays the sacrificial nature of a true Mass and the Real Presence—but these very same aspects might also give a Jewish person cause to infer offense. The Sacrifice which is renewed in Holy Mass has Jesus Christ as Its Victim. That Sacrifice was effected by Romans in accordance with demands made by the Jewish Sanhedrin and Jewish crowd who called out "Crucify Him!" The Real Presence is the Presence of Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified. The members of that Sanhedrin and that crowd are dead for two thousand years—no one alive today is guilty—but the crucifixion still might be something one would be embarrassed to remember in the presence of those who consider Jesus Christ to be God. It would be far more comfortable to think of the Mass as the "memorial meal" of the Gentiles, in which they think of themselves as forming a completely non-corporeal Body of Christ.
Indeed, the "memorial meal" is closely akin to the Passover of the twenty-first century observant Jew, who gathers with his family and perhaps a few friends to recall the events of the miraculous delivery of God's people from Egyptian captivity. In that he no longer can take his lamb to the Temple to be sacrificed by the sons of Aaron, he may find comfort in the Novus Ordo appearing or even being similarly non-sacrificial. His synagogue is not the Temple of sacrifice, and his Rabbi claims no priesthood. There may be some comfort in knowing that many Conciliar clergymen hold a similar view of their churches and themselves.
The Last Gospel (John i: 1-14) was one of the early casualties of the liturgical "reform." It became optional in Masses followed by some other ceremony, and then altogether missing, even before the Novus Ordo came to be. Some might claim that its almost daily repetition was excessive—but they would be missing the point that this Gospel was the most clear and concise summary of God's relationship with mankind—in fact an inspired summary. "In the beginning was the Word," the Logos or Second Person of the blessed Trinity, "and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." "He came for a witness ... that all men might believe through Him." "He came unto His own, and His own received Him not." To some that might sound like an indictment; it might sound offensive to those "God's own" in being told that they "received Him not."
Psalm forty-two disappeared under the same circumstances as the Last Gospel. No doubt going "into the altar of God; to God who gives joy to my youth," sounded entirely too sacrificial to Bugnini and his Protestant advisors, who preferred the Lord's table to any altar. But the words are those of King David, and his altar was that one specific altar on which the priests offered sacrificial victims before the real divine Presence of God. One might understand the impatience of David's people, who can no longer do this, with those annoying traditional Catholics who claim to offer Sacrifice on an altar placed before the same real divine Presence of God in their tabernacles.
Not all that long ago, Catholics and Jews had very little interest in how the other group prayed. If anything, Hebrew was even more incomprehensible than Latin to those speaking Western languages. Catholics might be dimly aware of unflattering references to Jesus in the Talmud, but few would bother to look for themselves. Those who knew of the singing of the Kol Nidre on Yom Kippur may have viewed it with some suspicion. Certainly, in modern times, very few believed the libel that Jews made their Passover Matzoth with Christian blood! (An absolute violation of the kosher food laws!) Jews prayed as Jews pray, and Catholics prayed as Catholics used to pray—the vast number of believers did not care at all how the two groups prayed in the privacy of their homes, churches, or synagogues. At most, those of us from New York attended a Bar Mitzvah or two.
That "benign neglect," paradoxically, seems to have fallen prey to the false ecumenism of Vatican II and the movement toward a single world religion. Now, the Conciliar Popes seem determined to apologize to vast numbers of people for things over which they had no control, in the name of those who are in no way guilty of the offense for which they presume to apologize. Worse, instead of leaving each other alone, the various denominations seem preoccupied with issuing joint statements about how we agree with each other on this and that theological topic—whether there is basis for agreement or not.
In August 2002, William Cardinal Keeler, the moderator of the US Bishops for Catholic-Jewish relations released a document jointly with the National Council of Synagogues, called "Reflections on Covenant and Mission." In November of the same year, Walter Kasper, a Cardinal of the Roman Curia issued a similar statement. Both suggested the radical (heretical, from the Catholic point of view) idea that God's old covenant with the Jewish nation was still in force, and that one could be saved without Baptism by practicing the Jewish religious tradition. Such pronouncements, together with any number of good-will visits to synagogues and apologies by Popes, bishops, and priests, might well be taken by Jews to mean that the Church had admitted Her previous mistakes, and now really did recognize them as "our elder brothers in the faith."
Modernism is, of its nature, ambiguous. Its statements may, one day, be touchy-feely-think-good-thoughts and the next day they may approach reality. It is certainly not the fault of any Jewish person who belongs to the "reality based community" to become bewildered by this constant change—in this he is at one with traditional Catholics and others who know that truth and morality exist in the unchanging mind of God. Even if men of good will can debate what precisely is true or moral, we know that God knows, and that they can not change from day to day at the whims of "acting persons" and committees through some magical "dialogue."
Is the Mass anti-Semitic? No, it is simply the liturgical expression of the Catholic Faith. In no way does it incite animosity toward Jewish people or call down any wrath upon them, human or divine. One might even complain that it contains not enough prayers for Jews, Moslems, Hindus, Buddhists, and others whom we feel have been deprived by circumstances of the gift of the Faith, which we value so greatly. But insult does not have to be explicit or implied; it can be inferred. The inference that the Mass is some how anti-Semitic may come from the healthy distrust of people whose ancestors have been expelled (or worse) from Christian nations over the centuries—to these we must say that we hope for better times together in the future. The same inference may be claimed falsely by those who seek to profit from racial or religious tensions—or by those who seek political support—to these we can only say "shame!"
As Catholics, perhaps the greatest contribution we can make to keep others from drawing this false inference of anti-Semitism is to demand realism from our hierarchy. There should be no more make believe and raising of false expectations that we Catholics are going to give up the truths of our Faith en masse. Understanding does not come from "dialogue" that goes on until everyone falls asleep, or until someone gives up his faith, or until a cleverly weasel worded "joint-agreed-statement," saying nothing at all, is issued. Understanding comes only from knowing people as they are, and coming to the realization that in spite of our differences there are good things which we can do together.
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