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March 2008

Jews, Views & Good News


The February 6 announcement of a new Good Friday prayer for the conversion of the Jews, less than 5 months after the enactment of Summorum Pontificum, came as no surprise to our readers. While others held the view that such a change, if it happened at all, would occur only after a decent - prudent - period of time, CO flagged an immediate tampering with the 1962 Missal in keeping with the 'progressive/essentialising' theology of the present pontiff which we have examined at length in recent times, and briefly recap herein.

It is not necessarily the new prayer per se but more this underlying theological motivation for the change and where it might lead in the liturgical and ecumenical long term which is at issue. Many traditional commentators appeared to set this fundamental aspect aside in their delight at the Holy Father's restatement of Catholic doctrine. Moreover, in their rush to commend him for his "courage" in upsetting liberal Jews by reasserting, albeit more obliquely than before, the need for Jewish conversion to Christ and His Church, they sidestepped the real courage required to make this urgent doctrinal point: by retaining the crystal clear wording of the traditional prayer in the Old Mass, and using the new prayer to replace the weasel-worded text in the Novus Ordo.

One priest, a distinguished friend of tradition, even enthused that the orthodoxy of the new prayer is "the BEST news the Church has brought for traditional Catholics since the Motu Proprio last July 7." It's a point of view, though not one I share. Quite apart from the sad impression such a quickfire liturgical revision conveyed to the masses - of the Vicar of Christ reacting to noisy Jewish pressure groups - several good and better things have happened under this pontificate since last July, including:

  • the 8 December call by Cardinal Hummes, Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, for every diocese in the world to establish "cenacles" of perpetual Eucharistic adoration, with the aim of "sanctifying" priests through prayer - especially in reparation for sexual crimes perpetrated by a "minimal" but still significant part of the clergy: "for the grave injury that has been done, and to recover the dignity of the victims" (see CO, Jan. 2008).

  • the announcement by Cardinal Martins, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, in a L'Osservatore Romano interview of 9 January, concerning a new instruction due out this month to correct the "inflationary" approach toward canonisations and beatifications of recent years. Among other things, the instruction contains stringent norms for the gathering of documents; establishes greater guarantees concerning the "reputation of sanctity" as recognised by a large number of faithful (as opposed to Religious Orders pushing their founder or confreres); re-emphasises that in order for the cause to proceed "there must emerge absolutely no element that goes against faith or good morals"; and demands that "the seriousness of the investigations" into the alleged miracles "be safeguarded, [...] the procedures for the examination of which have, over the last twenty years, produced problematic elements."

  • the Holy Father dispensing with a portable altar set up to face the people in favour of facing the Sistine Chapel's ancient altar and crucifix during his 13 January Mass for the Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord - the first time since the promulgation of the Novus Ordo that a pope has celebrated a public Mass turned towards the Lord with the people.

As reassuring as it is to hear the Jewish Sanhedrin respond with such telling fury to the new version of Oremus et pro Iudaeis, the above events are far more heartening. Yet surely "the BEST news" of all for faithful Catholics since the publication of the Motu Proprio has been the Vatican support afforded to Bishop Athanasius Schneider - who argues for a restoration of kneeling for Holy Communion and the abolition of Communion in the hand.

These views of the 47-year-old Kazakhstan prelate were first publicised in the 8 January edition of L'Osservatore Romano. Then, a few weeks later, his book on the topic was released by the Vatican Publishing House with the curial endorsement that follows: a remarkable development which provides apposite material for reflection as we approach the memorial of the institution of the priesthood and the Most Holy Eucharist.

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