Saturday, January 24, 2009

Judaism and the Vatican

It seems the Vatican is making a lot of news waves lately. The Pope's baffling and absurd statements about homosexuality about a month ago, and then the Pope establishing his own channel on YouTube to control his image yesterday.

Then there are two recent stories relating to Judaism and the Vatican. One relating to antiquity and medieval issues and the other much more modern; the first regarding the many Hebrew manuscripts the Vatican houses and preserves, and the other, the Holocaust or the Shoah.

Let's take the MSS first:

Vatican catalogs its Hebrew manuscripts
January 21, 2009

ROME (JTA) -- With the help of Israeli scholars, the Vatican has published a catalog of the Hebrew manuscripts kept in its library.

Publication of the work, a Vatican communique said, "represents a significant example of co-operation between the cultural institutions of the Holy See and of Israel."

The book, edited by the technical staff of the National Library of Israel, will be formally presented at an event Jan. 30 that will feature the Israeli ambassador to the Holy See as well as the Vatican librarian and former director of the Institute of Microfilmed Hebrew Manuscripts of the Jewish National and University Library.

The book includes all Vatican manuscripts in Hebrew script -- a total of approximately 800 items distributed over 11 collections.

Yet in the midst of this cooperation, there is more sinister activities going on relating to the reinstatement of a Holocaust-denying bishop:

January 25, 2009
Pope Reinstates Four Bishops, Including Holocaust Denier
VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI, acceding to the far-right of the Roman Catholic Church, revoked the excommunications of four schismatic bishops on Saturday, including one whose comments denying the Holocaust have provoked outrage.

The decision provided fresh fuel for critics who charge that Benedict’s four-year-old papacy has proven increasingly hostile to moderates and to the sweeping reforms of the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s that sought to create a more modern and open church.

Most contentious was the inclusion of Richard Williamson, a British-born cleric who in an interview last week said he did not believe that Jews died in the Nazi gas chambers. He has also given interviews saying that the United States government staged the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks as a pretext to invade Afghanistan.

The four reinstated men are members of the Society of St. Pius X, which was founded by a French archbishop, Marcel Lefebvre, in 1970 as a protest against the modernizing reforms of the Second Vatican Council. Archbishop Lefebvre made the four bishops in unsanctioned consecrations in Switzerland in 1988, prompting the immediate excommunication of all five by Pope John Paul II.

There is something unsettling here. All of these bishops want to roll back Vatican II. One is a Holocaust and, now, a 9/11 denier. And their initial consecrations were unsanctioned anyway. So, to (re)instate bishops who had questionable consecrations who were for a Latin mass that calls for the conversion of the Jews with a Holocaust denier seems suggests some larger motive from Benedict XVI. He has been rolling back Vatican II since he got there, especially in the infamous statement the Vatican made a year or so ago on "Questions & Answers on Vatican II," in which it explained Vatican II rulings in the opposite manner that the plain reading of those rulings state. With these questionable bishops, he has found some like-minded individuals...and that is troubling that they are like-minded...especially joining a Holocaust denier with an ex-Hitler Jugend.

Here is the end of the article:

In welcoming the cleric back into the church, Benedict is “making a mockery of John Paul II, who called anti-Semitism ‘a sin against God and man,’ ” Rabbi Rosen added.In revoking the excommunications, the Vatican said it was responding to a letter sent in December by the director of the Society of Pius X, in which the bishops said they were “firmly determined to remain Catholic and to put all our efforts to the service of the church.”

The letter appeared to stop short of saying that the society would embrace, or even accept, the reforms of the Second Vatican Council.

“This is certainly a major concession to the traditionalists, part of a long effort by Rome to heal the only formal schism after Vatican II,” said John L. Allen Jr., a columnist for the National Catholic Reporter.

“Politically, this certainly emboldens the conservative reading of the council and emphasizes what Benedict XVI has repeatedly called the ‘continuity’ of Vatican II with earlier periods of church history,” he added.

Pope John Paul II had some problems--we can recognize that. But he seemed to recognize the need to reach out to many different peoples, including non-Catholics and people of other religions. Benedict XVI, by seeking "reconciliation" with this schismatic group or by this "inclusionary" measure, will be alienating many Catholics, as he has already alienated many Christians in his statement on the relative positions of different Christian groups, and alienating Jews...while, at the same time, the Vatican controls 800 Hebrew manuscripts, and not just biblical, but Rabbinic as well: cooperation conjoined with alienation.


Liam said...

I would have no problem with reinstating these guys (although I don't think that's really the right word -- they're not being given dioceses or anything, just getting their excommunications lifted) for the sake of unity and charity, as odious as they are, if it weren't for the fact that B16 has no problem alienating everybody else. It seems that you can be as mistaken as you want, and in horrible ways, as long as you are right-wing.


NJZimmermann said...

The vacating of the excommunications of the leading members of the Society of Saint Pius X also known as the "Lefebvrists." signals a disturbing shift towards the outer reaches of the conservative wing of the Roman Catholic Church.

As an American Catholic I am alarmed by this event because, it seems that Pope Benedict XVI is trying to construct a papacy that bears the hallmarks of the papacies of Pius IX, Leo XIII, Pius X, and Benedict XV. By that I mean I fear that the Pope is attempting to reform the Church in such a way that it will be negatively transformed in an attempt to recreate the Church as it existed from 1846 to 1922. Without givinng due regard to those developments that occurred following the death of Benedict XV in 1922.