There is a telling interview by Stephen Crittenden on the Religion Report with Rabbi David Rosen about the Good Friday prayers. I have already refered readers of this blog to Rabbi Jacob Neusner’s comments in his interview with Zenit.
In particular I point you to this statement from Rabbi Rosen:
But from my personal perspective, I don’t think that somebody’s belief that their faith is central for the salvation for the human personality and the desires of everybody should share that faith, I don’t consider that offensive, I consider it theologically problematic. I can’t personally understand how any one faith can encapsulate the totality of the divine, and that any one faith can be the exclusive path. But I don’t consider it offensive.
So if somebody says ‘I hope and pray for the day when you will be able to share my faith personally’, I’m not offended by that. I know that there are some Jews who are mainly for historical reasons because of what it evokes, and the memories, the tragic memories of the past. But I’m not offended by that, and therefore I didn’t use language in terms of my reactions to the Pope’s prayer that suggested that there was any offence involved.
I’ve used the language of disappointment because I perhaps have deluded myself (but certainly there were others within the church who had helped that process) into thinking that actually the Catholic church doesn’t believe that Jews have to believe in Jesus in order to find salvation, because the original covenant before Jesus’ coming was a covenant of salvation with God and therefore the Children of Israel are in a category as a foundation of the covenant by which through faith in Jesus the nations of the world come into that covenantal relationship.
I appreciate his distinction between being ‘offended’ and ‘disappointed’ and also his point that there are still some who fear Christian proselytism because of past historical experience and memory. However, I think the “delusion” that Rabbi Rosen speaks of is real. There has been a delusion and we have allowed people (both Jewish and Catholic) to be deluded over what the actual teaching of the church is.
My own suggestion is that the reality is not either/or the Paul VI prayer in the Ordinary Form or the new BXVI prayer for the Extraordinary Form, but rather taking both together at the same time and that the truth is both inclusive of and between the content of the two prayers. As such, I like to see the two prayers as two ‘bookends’ in the realm of Catholic theology about the relationship between the Church and the Jewish people.
In this, Rabbi Rosen is surely correct when he says that “there is some tension between affirming the eternity of the covenant and affirming the universal salvific nature of Jesus.” He is wrong to suggest, however, that Benedict opposes the former while affirming the latter. It is quite clear from Ratzinger’s previously published works that this is not the case, just as it is clear that he is happy for the Paul VI prayer to remain the ordinary and usual prayer for the Jews on Good Friday.
There is, however, undeniabley a great deal of work to be done in Catholic theology regarding the way in which the Covenant in Jesus Christ is related to the Covenant of Sinai. All that has been definitively said is that the Covenant of Sinai has not been annuled by the covenant in Christ. This does not mean that the universal covenant in Christ has no application to the Jewish people or that the Jewish people are somehow an “exception” to the proclamation of the Gospel. This would make no sense in the light of a good deal of the New Testament, the Gospels included.
So it is my hope that we get off our high horses in this matter and start doing the hard work that remains to be done. As Rabbi Rosen says in the conclusion to this interview, the one thing necessary is that we are “open and clear about what is the nature of our relationship.”