New questions raised about implications of old prayers for current Jewish-Catholic relations.
Servite Fr. John Pawlikowski, an American, wrote to Kasper on March 29 on behalf of the executive body of the International Council of Christians and Jews. Pawlikowski, an expert in Catholic/Jewish relations at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, told Kasper that although the phrase “perfidious Jews” was lifted from the pre-Vatican II Mass by Pope John XXIII, the older Mass still contains other prayers for Jews, Muslims and other Christians that Pawlikowski called “profoundly demeaning.”
“The expanded validation of such prayers,” Pawikowski argued, “will rightly challenge Catholic integrity in terms of the proclamations of the last four decades,” meaning advances in ecumenical and inter-faith relations, especially with Jews.
Pawlikowski’s letter does not specify which prayers in the 1962 Missal his group finds objectionable. A Web site sponsored by the Center for Christian-Jewish Understanding at Boston College, however, offers a background document on the older Mass, along with a critical statement from a “Jews and Christians” group of the Central Committee of German Catholics. The two texts cite concerns widely voiced by experts in Catholic-Jewish relations.
For example, the Good Friday Mass contains a prayer “For the conversion of the Jews,” which reads: “Let us pray also for the Jews, that the Lord our God may take the veil from their hearts and that they also may acknowledge our Lord Jesus Christ. … Almighty and everlasting God, You do not refuse Your mercy even to the Jews; hear the prayers which we offer for the blindness of that people so that they may acknowledge the light of Your truth, which is Christ, and be delivered from their darkness.”
The background document on the Boston College site asserts that the prayer is problematic.
“The references to ‘even the Jews,’ ‘their darkness,’ and ‘blindness’ and for their conversion runs counter to the respect for ongoing Jewish covenantal life throughout historic time that was expressed in Nostra Aetate, 4,” it says, referring to the Vatican II document on Judaism and other religions. “Similar problems might be found elsewhere in the Missal simply because it was uninformed by subsequent developments in Catholic understanding.”
The document from the German group highlights other objections.
“The pre-conciliar Roman Missal is inseparably connected to the old lectionary,” it states. “In its sequence of about 60 diverse formularies for the celebration of Mass for Sundays and holy days, there is no reading from the Old Testament for each Sunday, except in only three cases … This is blatant Marcionism, which devalues the first part of the two-part Christian Bible — namely the Bible of Israel — to insignificance.”
The German group also questions the underlying worldview of the old Mass.
“Its theology and spirituality … contradicts much that was theologically central to the Second Vatican Council,” it says. “This concerns, not least, the unique relationship between the Church and Judaism (see Lumen Gentium, 16 and Nostra Aetate, 4).”