Saturday, August 4, 2018


Retired Pope Benedict accused of anti-Semitism after article on Christians and Jews

PARIS – Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, head of the Roman Catholic Church from 2005 to 2013, is being accused of fostering anti-Semitism after publishing a controversial essay in a German-language theological journal.

Both Jewish and Catholic leaders say that the retired pontiff’s essay on Jewish-Catholic relations suggests he harbors anti-Semitic views despite his visits to synagogues and cordial relations with Jews during his papacy. Articles both criticizing and defending the essay have appeared in German, Austrian and Swiss media in recent weeks.

The central point of debate is Benedict’s denial the Catholic Church ever adopted “supersessionism,” the theological belief that God’s covenant through Christ replaced the covenant God made with the Jewish people, and his insistence at the same time that the Christian lens for reading the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) is the only valid one.

“Whoever describes the role of Judaism like this is building the foundation for a new anti-Semitism on a Christian basis,” said Rabbi Walter Homolka, executive director of the School of Jewish Theology at Potsdam University in Germany.
“Benedict’s suggestion that Christians should teach Jews how to read selected parts of the Hebrew Bible in a Christological way is very problematic,” said the Rev. Christian Rutishauser, head of the Jesuit order in Switzerland and an expert on Jewish-Christian relations.

Benedict pledged at his surprise 2013 resignation that he would remain “hidden from the world” and not get involved in church debates. He wrote his essay as a private text last fall and passed it on to Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, who read it and convinced him to publish it.

Critics say the recent essay seems to walk back efforts in the past half-century to undo the Catholic Church’s long history of anti-Semitism. After nearly two millennia of hostility, the Catholic Church’s Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) acknowledged Christianity’s close historical ties with Judaism and absolved Jews of the stereotype of being “Christ killers.”

Benedict’s essay in Communio, an international theological quarterly he helped found in 1972, seemed to walk some of that back to almost pre-Vatican II views. It has not yet been translated into English.

In the essay, Benedict notes that the term supersessionism – a sensitive issue for Jews who reject this view as Christian arrogance – was not listed in leading Christian theological lexicons. Building on this point, he argues that Christianity had never seen itself as completely overtaking Judaism, but just as replacing some Jewish rituals such as animal sacrifice with the Eucharist.

An association of Christian-Jewish dialogue groups said Benedict’s essay undermines Vatican teaching since the 1960s and even contradicts declarations he had made as pope.

“The future of Christian-Jewish dialogue could falter in the face of this thoroughly critical questioning of its theological foundations,” the German Coordinating Council of Societies for Christian-Jewish Cooperation said in a statement.

Some Catholic theologians have come to Benedict’s defense. Bochum University theologian Thomas Söding said the essay was “not an irritation, but an inspiration for Jewish-Christian dialogue.”

Likewise, Vienna University theologian Jan-Heiner Tück said the essay aimed not to roll back some Catholic positions but to further dialogue between the two religious traditions. Tück said that Benedict’s essay left open the difficult question of what role in salvation Catholicism saw for Judaism since it viewed the Jewish covenant with God as unbroken but the Christian covenant as the true bond. A Vatican document in 2015 said both covenants were paths to salvation, but how this worked was “an unfathomable divine mystery.”

“That should have been made clearer,” Tück said. Benedict was not trying to roll back progress in Christian-Jewish dialogue, he said, “but maybe there’s a certain gap in the description of the positive meaning of Judaism for salvation.”

Critics said Benedict’s essay could help explain why he rewrote the Latin text of the Good Friday prayer for the Jews in 2008. Until the late 1950s, the prayer had worshippers praying that the “perfidious Jews” would open their hearts and accept Jesus as their Lord. The revised 1970 prayer was softened, simply saying the Jews should grow in their love for God.

But in 2008, Benedict changed the wording so that Catholics would pray “that our God and Lord may illuminate their hearts, that they acknowledge Jesus Christ is the Savior of all men.”


Anonymous said...

"If you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins. " Either you are with Christ or you are with those who continue to reject Him. Is Christ a liar? He told the Jews they would be rejected. What's the problem here?

Fr Martin Fox said...

I love and appreciate Pope Benedict, and I miss him, however; I don't understand why he would do this.

Once he resigned, he should have kept these things to himself. That's what it means to resign.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

It is peculiar having a pope writing from the “tomb.”

I would love to know, nonetheless, his thoughts on the current pontificate and if he is dictating a manuscript on that to be revealed post, post Mortem?

TJM said...

Same rule should apply to former US presidents

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

To describe the response by some to Benedict's essay as "hate" is very misleading and, I think, inflammatory.

It is entirely possible to disagree, strongly, with another person without harboring the least bit of "hatred" for that individual and what he/she has written or said.

When the Church proclaims her teaching regarding gays and lesbians, we are accused of "hatred" which, you know, to be false. Yet you use the same divisive tactics of those who wrongly accuse Benedict.

This is most unfortunate and unhelpful.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Hmmm! I was paraphrasing Jesus! If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.

19 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.

You imply, knowingly or not, that Jesus Christ's words are most unfortunate and unhelpful.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

No, you were not paraphrasing Jesus.

Luke 14:26 "If any one comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple."

Did you "hate" your father and mother, your siblings? I am sure you did not.

Allan, you did this before in a letter to the editor in Macon when you accused President Jimmy Carter of "hating" Catholicism because he said he thought that ordination should be open to women.

Carter does not "hate" Catholicism any more than those who disagree with Benedict "hate" him. It is inflammatory and unhelpful hyperbole.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Hmm, so again you are implying, knowingly or not, that Jesus in the text you quote is creating "inflammatory and unhelpful hyperbole." Interesting.

But you switch and bait whereas my Scripture selection was from John:

This is My command to you: Love one another. 18If the world hates you, understand that it hated Me first. 19If you were of the world, it would love you as its own. Instead, the world hates you, because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world.…

Jesus Christ, you believe by your comments, uses inflammatory and unhelpful hyperbole and anyone who quote Jesus does the same. Interesting.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Now I await your legitimate diatribe against those who use the inflammatory and hyperbolic name calling of antisemetic towards our Holy Father emeritus.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

"Hmm, so again you are implying, knowingly or not, that Jesus in the text you quote is creating "inflammatory and unhelpful hyperbole."

No, I am not. Your words, not Jesus' words, are the target of my comments. Your words, not those of Jesus, are inflammatory and hyperbolic.

This is, as I noted, a common practice for you. It is unfortunate and unhelpful.

TJM said...


Chew on this !

Anonymous said...

Kind of a dumb argument. The world hates Hitler, does that mean believing Catholics should listen to him?

Anonymous said...

The best response to TJM's reference to Breitbart:

I'm Popeye the sailor man
I'm Popeye the sailor man
I'm strong to the fin-ich
Cause I eats me spin-ach
I'm Popeye the sailor man.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

The way St. John's Gospel uses world is in the negative, all things false, evil or untrue, powers and principalities, the devil and his pinions, thus the world did not hate Hitler, it loved Hitler.

But, that brings up a good point about Pope Francis revision of the catechism on the death penalty saying it is inadmissible; it is based upon the human dignity of all people even mass murderers like Hitler. Cardinal Blase Cupich reiterated that even mass murderers have an inviolable human dignity.

Thus Catholics and all Christians are to love Hitler but hate his sins. The world, though, loves his sins.


Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Using the word "hate" in speaking about the reactions to Benedict's essay is an example of the victim mentality.

"Victim mentality is a psychological term that refers to a type of dysfunctional mindset which seeks to feel persecuted in order to gain attention or avoid self-responsibility."

Rather than responding to the criticisms leveled, rightly or wrongly, against the Pope Emeritus, the cry goes up, "Oh, the world still hates Pope Benedict!"

No, it doesn't. To return to my earlier example, "When the Church proclaims her teaching regarding gays and lesbians, we are accused of "hatred," although that is not the case.

When people criticize President Trump, they are accused to "hating" him, which is not the case. When people call for more strenuous efforts to curtail illegal immigration, they are accused of "hating" people of color, which is also not the case.

It is a defensive maneuver designed to shut down the criticism and to shift responsibility to those who are doing the criticizing, rather than dealing cogently and effectively with the criticisms.

And if the devil has "pinions," does he also have a rack to go with it...? Enquiring minds want to know.

Anonymous said...


I'm trying to reconcile the Breitbart story to another one that came out recently
about he fact that in 2016 there were more white deaths than births in 26 states,
which is up from 17 states in 2014. In only one state was there more black deaths than
births(West Virginia). If the black population has net positive growth in all but one
state, can there really be that many abortions in their population group?

johnnyc said...

@ Fr. Kavanaugh.....hey you liberals perfected the art of accusatory name calling to shut down dialogue. No matter how charitable one is in proclaiming the Truth of Jesus Christ and His Church liberals yell hater, homophobic, intolerant, racist, and any other name that buries the Truth in relativism. It is a liberal tactic designed to shut up Faithful Catholics.

Not to mention the Vatican's favorite.....rigid.

Anonymous said...

Johnny, you don't watch the reports of many Trump rallies, do you? Those right wingers can be just as intolerant as anyone else

Unless, of course, you believe the President when he tells you it's all "fake" newsand that what you see and hear isn't what you really see and hear ..