Saturday, December 12, 2015

Rome and the Two Covenants heresy

Recently the Vatican put out a rather long document on the Church and Judaism. In it, we see a rejection of supercession and instead an enshrinement of Judaism as the "elder brother in faith" which is proclaimed as still a wholly valid path to salvation. This idea is alien to the Orthodox Church and, I believe, an alien idea to the Roman Church until very recently. Please do read it here. I am delighted to see a rebuttal of the dual covenant theory by the inestimable Fr. John Hunwicke in a blog post that I have republished below. More on the topic can be found in his blog here.

Lex orandi lex credendi. I have been examining the Two Covenant Dogma: the fashionable error that God's First Covenant, with the Jews, is still fully and salvifically valid, so that the call to saving faith in Christ Jesus is not made to them. The 'New' Covenant, it is claimed, is now only for Gentiles. I want to draw attention at this point to the witness of the post-Conciliar Magisterium of the Church; particularly that of the Liturgia Horarum. Critics who prefer the post-Conciliar Magisterium to that which preceded; who posit a rupture between the two; who hold in high regard the post-Conciliar liturgical dispositions; will be bowled over by this evidence!

The revisers, you remember, introduced a completely new set of lections to the post-Conciliar Office Book. I suggest that it would be instructive, as you read the LH daily, to make notes every time you catch the patristic lection saying or implying that the Jewish dispensation is superseded. If you had begun to do this last January, you would have made a marginal note against a phrase in the Homily (3) of S Leo which you read on Epiphany Day: "... benedictionem ... qua se filii carnis abdicant ..." [the Blessing of Abraham from which his children by the flesh are excluding themselves]. This is not some set-piece attack upon the Synagogue; S Leo speaks like this quite naturally, and does not need to argue the statement, because 'Supersessionism' is the basic assumed theological substructure of the Faith he shared with the other Fathers. "Intret, intret ..." he goes on: "let the fulness of the Gentiles enter into the family of the Patriarchs and let them, the children of promise, receive the Blessing". (Quite possibly it was S Leo who wrote the Supra quae of the Roman Canon in which we claim Abraham as our Patriarch.)

The following day, S Peter Chrysologus applies to the Jews and Gentiles the Dominical promise that the First will be Last and the Last will be First ... I doubt if he would have approved of a phrase I read somewhere recently that the Jew is the Christian's Elder Brother. A couple of days later, S Proclus of Constantinople says that to both Jews and Gentiles equally God grants salvation through Baptism. Another few days: S Faustus tells us that, "by Christ's working in Galilee, wine is made; that is, the Law recedes, Grace takes its place; the Shadow is removed and Truth is made clear ... the ancient observance is transferred into the New Testament [in novum testamentum observatio vetusta transfertur]".

But perhaps this is peculiar to the Epiphany Season? Plunge with me at random into the middle of the Weeks per annum ... let's take Weeks XVII and XVIII ... immediately we descend upon S Cyril, who is having no nonsense about Two Covenanants. Both Wednesday's and Thursday's readings find him unambiguously referring to the rejection and repudiation of the previous covenant; and asserting the replacement of the old Gathering* of God's people by the new Gathering*. And - goodness gracious - in the next week we find "Barnabas" in the Office of Readings - a writer not known for being what S Paul would have called a Ioudaizon; the second excerpt from him begins "tauta oun katergesen"[therefore he swept all that away].

Easter is going to be a particularly difficult time for those who try to combine the use of the Liturgia Horarum with the Two Covenants dogma as well as with a prohibition on praying for the conversion of Jews. At Evening Prayer on Easter Day (and also on the Third and Fifth Sundays of Eastertide for those who are forgetful), the Preces prescribe "Israel in te Christum spei suae agnoscat". And, to reinforce this message, the Patristic Lection for Easter Monday will be a very typical and typological passage taken from the (highly supersessionist) Homily of S Melito of Sardis (worth, incidentally reading in its entirety). Those with a nose for dishonest hypocrisy may be starting to wonder why such a fuss is made about an element used in the Good Friday Liturgy of a comparatively tiny number of traddy Catholics when every Novus Ordo Latin Rite priest in the whole world who prays the post-Conciliar Office is expected to pray on Easter Sunday (and twice more in Eastertide) that "Israel may acknowledge in Thee [Jesus] the Christ/Messiah for whom it has hoped" ... and not a word is said. Hush!! Don't wake up the bigots!

These lections (and preces) have the greater significance in that they are not accidental hangovers from the old Breviary; they were newly introduced (or composed) by the post-conciliar revisers. What all this clearly demonstrates is: not only did the conciliar decree fail in any way to mandate such a dogmatic revolution as the Two Covenants Dogma would have implied; but also that, as late as 1971, even those in charge of the liturgical revolution, up-to-the-moment trendies who saw themselves as the guardians and exponents of the 'Spirit of the Council', had not the faintest idea that they were supposed to be selecting patristic readings against a background of a Two Covenants Dogma. I add in 2015: the 2015 'Document' admits that "the Conciliar text is not infrequently over-interpreted, and things read into it which it does not contain ... example ... that the covenant that God made with his people Israel perdures and is never invalidated ... it cannot be explicitly read into Nostra aetate". And it goes on to date the first appearance of this idea to 1980. Nobody seems to have worried them [the post-Conciliar liturgical reformers]with the assertion that Nostra aetate made all those patristic readings unacceptable. Nor, thankfully and significantly, have successive revisions of the post-conciliar Office eliminated these passages. (Ouch ... I hope this piece of mine doesn't lead to loads of trendy bigots descending with deleting pencils on the Liturgia Horarum.) Until very recently, the supersession of the Old by the New Covenant/Testament would have seemed so clear and basic a part of the Christian hermeneutic of Scripture, the basic grammatical structure of how as Christians we read the Bible, that my examination of the texts I have just worked so laboriously through with you, would have seemed a time-wasting demonstration of the ******** obvious.

Yet there was the most almighty hooha a few years ago about the EF and its Good Friday prayer for the Jews, even including criticism of Pope Benedict XVI when he supplied a new collect strictly, even slavishly, in line with the words of Romans. And it is not unusual for Christians (both Evangelical and Catholic) who withold consent from the Two Covenants Dogma to be criticised. This is done not only by rabbinic interests naturally and understandably anxious to deter any erosion of their flocks but, perhaps more vehemently, by 'Christian' participants in inter-faith dialogue ... such as members of Councils of Christians and Jews. I wonder how balanced such groups are; in other words, I wonder whether it is only the sort of people who are ardent adherents of the novel dogma that put themselves forward for such groups; whether those who select the membership are careful to exclude Biblical Evangelicals and Patristic Catholics, so as to ensure that our Jewish brethren are protected from the risk that anyone might explain to them what two Christian millennia have taught.

I recall with wonderment the decision of the Anglican diocese of Manchester some years ago to call off the sale of a redundant church to the SSPX because of its adhesion to the traditional Good Friday prayer for the Jews. What other potential purchasers besides the SSPX would have elicited the Bishop of Manchester's ill-judged and nutty veto? (Does he refuse to sell properties to Moslems?) Presumably that illiberal diocese keeps the Prayer Book Society** firmly under a rigorous diocesan ban; presumably the "MPs, peers, Manchester City Council" who, so the Church of England told us, were all such fierce and expert critics of the SSPX, have their eagle eyes upon the PBS too. I hope so. Otherwise we would have to suspect that the whole business was just a spiteful recrudescence of the basic old ancestral English no-Popery anti-Catholic hysteria ... of plain common and garden bigotry. Nothing has changed ... except that nowadays the English RC Church joins in the persecution.
To be continued.
**"Have mercy upon all Jews, Turks, Infidels, and Hereticks, and take from them all ignorance, hardness of heart, and contempt of thy word; and so bring them home, blessed Lord, to thy flock, that they may be saved among the remnant of the true Israelites, and be made one fold under one shepherd, Jesus Christ ..." Part of the Prayer Book Good Friday Oratio Sollemnis for the Jews .... and for others ...

*Greek ekklesia.



  2. The Law of the Old Testament is not in substance detrimental, even though it is incomplete and temporary. The Law has a pastoral and soteriological character. Even the incomplete law of the Old Testament is necessary as a “pedagogue in Christ”. As decreed by the 82nd Canon of the Sixth Ecumenical Synod: “Therefore, embracing the ancient types, and the shadows, as symbols of the truth and patterns given to the Church, we prefer grace and receiving it as a fulfillment of the Law” (Gal. 3:19-25).

  3. Interesting discussion of the coverage of "The Gifts and the Calling of God are Irrevocable" in the New York Times, which notes a subtlety that critics of the document may also have missed.

    Specifically, the article's highlighting of "the 'two paths' section of 'The Gifts and the Calling of God are Irrevocable' and another section that focuses on PERSONAL, as opposed to INSTITUTIONAL, evangelism":

    1. "There are not two paths to salvation according to the expression 'Jews hold to the Torah, Christians hold to Christ.' Christian faith proclaims that Christ’s work of salvation is universal and involves all mankind. God’s word is one single and undivided reality which takes concrete form in each respective historical context. ... Since God has never revoked his covenant with his people Israel, there cannot be different paths or approaches to God’s salvation. The theory that there may be two different paths to salvation, the Jewish path without Christ and the path with the Christ, whom Christians believe is Jesus of Nazareth, would in fact endanger the foundations of Christian faith. Confessing the universal and therefore also exclusive mediation of salvation through Jesus Christ belongs to the core of Christian faith. . . . [T]he Church and Judaism cannot be represented as 'two parallel ways to salvation.;"

    2. "In concrete terms this means that the Catholic Church neither conducts nor supports any specific institutional mission work directed towards Jews. While there is a principled rejection of an institutional Jewish mission, Christians are nonetheless called to bear witness to their faith in Jesus Christ also to Jews, although they should do so in a humble and sensitive manner, acknowledging that Jews are bearers of God’s Word, and particularly in view of the great tragedy of the Shoah. [i.e., the Holocaust] (GCGI 40).'

    Basically, the document doesn't say what its critics say it says. It basically acknowledges the Church's complicity in crimes against Jews and refuses to evangelize in any institutional way, while calling for the more personal way of individual, humble witness. It is also clear in its teaching that there is space between strict supersessionism and I'm-ok-you're-ok universalism.

    It's even summarized accurately in the NYTimes piece:

    "...the commission wrote that the church was 'obliged to view evangelization to Jews, who believe in the one God, in a different manner from that to people of other religions and world views.' It specified that 'the Catholic Church neither conducts nor supports any specific institutional mission work directed towards Jews.'"

    The full critique is available here: