The SSPX, the Jews, and the Tridentine Mass

Rod Dreher discusses the recent First Things article, the SSPX, and the concerns of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein.

… Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein, director of Interfaith Affairs at the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles writes that the pope’s motu proprio liberalizing use of the old mass is confusing, in part because it is, among other things, an outreach to bring the schismatic Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) back into the Catholic fold:

Did the Pope restrict the use of the ’62 Missal’s Good Friday prayer for the Jews, or has he elevated it to a prime-time option? Does it even matter?For while it is clear that the Pope was rolling out a welcome mat for traditionalists to come in from the cold of Vatican disapproval, observers are concerned about unsavory characters who could try prying the opened door even wider, and force themselves back in with some unwanted baggage in hand.

Everyone understands that the motu is not a document on relations with non-Catholics, but an outreach effort to hundreds of thousands of Catholics for whom the mystery and tradition of the older Latin Mass resonates. Pope Benedict responded by meeting their need to be reunited with a liturgy that holds meaning for them. All pretty reasonable.

Looming ominously, however, is an overture to a group that preaches classic, theologically-based antisemitism, the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX). In the letter to bishops that accompanied the motu, the Pope mentioned this group by name and his disappointment that they have not been brought back into the fold.

Jews have every right to be wary of overtures to this group. SSPX insists that many Vatican II changes are inauthentic and illegal. We get some idea of their drift from documents on their websites.
Jews are “directly responsible for the crucifixion,” and all subsequent generations of Jews cursed with the “blindness to the things of G-d and eternity.” Jews as a people stand “in entire opposition with the Catholic Church.”

Further, they assert that “Christendom and Jewry are designed inevitably to meet everywhere without reconciliation or mixing. It represents in history the eternal struggle of Lucifer against G-d, of darkness against the Light.” Jews, SSPX insists, “should neither be eliminated from among us … nor given equality of rights.” And “Jews are known to kill Christians.” Its Bishop of Canada defends the notorious Czarist forgery, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

Many read in the Tridentine Mass a hope that Jews will know the full blessing of connection to G-d that some feel can come only from the Church. This is no different than the claim of many groups (including Jews!) to have a special relationship or tradition on serving G-d, which they wish to share with others. However, there are still those who see in that prayer confirmation of the essential damnation of a people, its faith, and its covenant.

The Church’s effort to bring disaffected Catholics back into the tent is no one else’s business, except if it leaves the impression to the most extreme of traditionalist groups that the Vatican might consider retreating somewhat from the advances of Vatican Council II. If ’62 was seen to be less than appropriate before the motu, how did that change in the course of the previous week? Is there a reasonable explanation, or are both Catholic-Jewish relations and the Church’s view on Judaism being downgraded?

Darío Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos, Prefect of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, said in an interview with Il Giornale, “With this motu proprio, the door is widely opened for a return of the Fraternity of Saint Pius X to full communion.” Will overt antisemites soon be allowed to disseminate their venom in the name of the Church? What does all this mean?

Like lots of other folks out there with different concerns, we wish we had been clued in.

I think the rabbi’s “all pretty reasonable” instincts are correct: for most people who love the Latin mass, they only want to connect with tradition in a positive way. But you can’t read those SSPX documents on the Jews without sympathizing with the rabbi’s concerns. Look at this passage from this document from the SSPX website:

The only protection of the Gentile people against enslaving itself to the material superiority of the Jewish people is the Catholic life. This is because Jesus Christ alone is the Savior of all mankind. Note that the Middle Ages did not succumb to material mastery for centuries.Cautious of its theological disposition, the Catholic Church applied wise laws to the Jewish people, and was vigilant against their perversion of Catholics. …Under pain of sin, Catholics cannot hate the Jewish people, cannot persecute them or prevent them to live, nor disturb them in their private practice of their laws and customs. But, they must nevertheless preserve themselves from the danger they represent. Catholics are not to enter into commercial, social, nor political relations which are bound hypocritically to seek the ruin of Christendom. Jews must not live together with Christians because this is what their own Jewish laws ordain and also because their errors and material superiority have virulent consequences among other peoples. If the other peoples reject these precautions, they will invite upon themselves these consequences, namely, to serve the Jewish people to whom belongs superiority in the kingdom of the material.

This is not what the Catholic Church teaches today, thank God! And I don’t believe that the Catholic or the Jewish world has to worry seriously about this kind of thing coming back. In my life as a Catholic, I almost never encountered Catholic anti-Semitism, though I must admit on the rare occasion that I did, it always came from the mouth of a Traditionalist. Still, I don’t think it’s fair or accurate to tar the Pope’s liberalization of the old mass with anti-Semitism.

Even so, the material on the SSPX site is so repulsive that one can easily understand why Jews would worry that reconciling the SSPX to the Church of Rome would open the door to reviving anti-Semitism within the Church. It won’t do for Catholics (and sympathetic non-Catholics) who welcome the return of the Latin mass to dismiss as a mere intra-church political ploy the concerns about anti-Semitism and the old mass — as, frankly, I had done prior to seeing the official SSPX site with its shocking and offensive material about the Jews. I was startled and saddened to read this on the SSPX site, because I’d always assumed they were on the up and up.

I hope Pope Benedict will speak out on this point, and in this context, to make clear that there is no tolerance for this sort of thing among Christ’s people.

That’s a good presentation of the issues involved. Will the pope finally speak, or will he maintain the Vatican’s long silence on the SSPX’s antisemitism?