On the Good Friday prayer of Pope Benedict XVI

    In the guise of “political correctness,” Pope Benedict XVI determined that the Good Friday prayer for the conversion of the Jews had to be revised in the John XXIII missal used by Novus Ordo Catholics who attempt to celebrate the traditional Mass.  As one might have predicted, the move upset both traditional Catholics, and Jewish people who, in the light of the Conciliar Church's updated teaching on salvation see no reason to convert.

    Pope Benedict's new prayer is a bit more polite, but still calls for Jewish conversion to the Faith.  As there had been a lot of “dialogue” suggesting that the Old Covenant remained a valid method of salvation, the Pope's action was somewhat unexpected.  Those who try to stir up animosity against the Church or between Catholics and Jews have joyfully criticized the Holy Father.  The following is from our local paper, and adds my reply.

Pope trying to convert Jewish 'elder brothers'
By Steve Gushee
Special to The Palm Beach Post
Friday, February 22, 2008
[Link to Original]

The Pope could easily lose the respect his office deserves by the divisive decisions he has recently made. He offended the Jewish community directly and, indirectly, insulted every thoughtful person.

Save that such actions are tragic for the church and the world, they would be quickly dismissed in any rational consideration of the church catholic.

Quite appropriately, Benedict XVI seeks the respect of the world as leader of more than a billion Catholics. He behaves, however, as if he were running an exclusive club with no need to consider the sensibilities or intelligence of that world.

The Pope approved a revision of a prayer for the Good Friday liturgy that asks God to enlighten the hearts of Jews "so that they may acknowledge Jesus Christ, the savior of all men." That is such an affront to the Jewish community that the international assembly of Conservative Rabbis meeting this week is considering a resolution to condemn the prayer for endangering the mutual respect engendered in recent years.

The Pope's revised prayer would undo much of the good will that his predecessor, John Paul II, did for Jewish relations. John Paul called Jews his "elder brothers" in the faith. Benedict wants to convert them.

He seems intent to undo the remarkable work of the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s to engage the contemporary world.

He declared a plenary indulgence for anyone who visits the French shrine at Lourdes during its 150th anniversary this year.

That kind of spiritual abuse triggered the 16th-century Protestant reformation. Luther objected to indulgences offered by Pope Leo X in exchange for money to rebuild St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. A plenary indulgence allows the faithful to bypass purgatory, escape God's judgment and proceed directly to heaven.

Playing games with the souls of the faithful worked for a while in the Middle Ages, but since Luther it has been seen for what it is: A fund-raising marketing tool that mocks the mission of the church, the theology of Scripture and the justice of God.

The Pope needs to choose the role he wants to play. He can act the cult leader catering to the emotional needs of his followers and the power lust of his institution. He can take a responsible place in the world's religious community, embrace his "elder brothers" and give up the indulgence fantasies.

He can't do both.

23 February AD 2008

The Palm Beach Post
P.O. Box 24700
West Palm Beach, FL

    The publication of Steve Gushee’s article “Pope trying to convert Jewish ‘elder brothers’” suggests that The Palm Beach Post subscribes to the idea that anti-Catholicism is the one remaining socially acceptable form of bigotry in the modern world.

    The metaphor of the Jewish people being our “elder brothers” is not a bad one, for the Faith that is Catholicism springs directly from that of Moses and Elias. And certainly, there is nothing unusual about family members praying for one of their own whom they believe to be following the wrong road in life. Surely a believing Jew-or any person committed to a Faith he believes to be of divine origin-would pray for the “correction” of a relative who considered conversion to another religion. Even if he mourned the son or daughter as “dead” for taking such a step it is likely that he would continue to pray for the lost one’s return. No one faults Moses for pleading with God for the earthly survival of the Jewish people (Exodus xxxii)-and no one should fault Catholics for praying for the eternal happiness of Jewish people in heaven.

    At the risk of further “un-hinging” the Reverend Gushee, I will tell you that on Good Friday, even before we pray for the salvation of the Jews, we will pray for him and for other Christians who have departed from the Faith. We are as concerned for the salvation of our “younger brothers” as we are for the “elders.”

    The Vatican II era Popes may be guilty of many things-perhaps the most significant being the “moral relativism” decried by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger in a sermon given shortly before his election to the papacy, but which, as Pope Benedict XVI, he has done little to correct. This moral relativism is the direct product of the false philosophy of existentialism. In particular, Pope John Paul II thought it was possible to alter reality through some sort of dialectic-that the very real differences between people of conviction could be resolved by thinking happy thoughts and engaging in “dialogue”-as if good will and lots of talk could change the truth. Pope John Paul seemed to have forgotten that people can live peacefully with one another while “agreeing to disagree” about their beliefs. His forgetfulness made a lot of people expect the Popes to apologize for everything Catholic and to say nothing controversial. If Pope Benedict XVI seems overly concerned about the salvation of Jewish or other people, it is because his near predecessors were confused by ideas of universal salvation-that everyone would be saved, and there was no need of prayer for anyone.

    You can bet your bottom dollar that Pope Benedict is receiving nothing at all for indulgences granted for visiting Lourdes-or for any other indulgences.

    Gushee’s attack on the doctrine of indulgences is ludicrous. His words suggest indignation that anyone might “bypass Purgatory,” but it is hard to believe that he considers Purgatory as anything more than a “papist innovation.” Catholics generally take our Lord’s word literally. We believe in things like the Real Presence and the power of priests to forgive sins on Jesus’ word (Matthew xxvi, John vi, John xix, etc.). As the successor of Saint Peter, Pope Benedict has the power to “bind and loose” things on earth and consequently in heaven (Matthew xvi).

    Martin Luther, with his notion of “private interpretation,” was obviously wrong. His revolt against the Church created a near infinity of non-authoritative opinions about what it means to be a Christian. The churches he spawned are founded on sand instead of the rock promised by Christ.

    The Pope does not require the respect of the world-not even the respect of Steve Gushee. Indeed, often the respect of the world is incompatible with being a Christian (cf. John xv-xvi). What the Pope needs, above all, is to preach the truth, for Christ is the Truth, and the Pope is His vicar. If the Pope is Christ-like he will urge everyone to pray for those who are not yet part of the Church which Christ established.

    We will be praying for you and for the Reverend Gushee, and for all those who could come closer to Christ. And yes, I would be pleased to have your prayers as well.

    I remain your brother in the Faith,

The Reverend Father Charles T. Brusca


in XTO,
Fr. Brusca
Send him mail

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