Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Good Friday prayer & the papal office

Apparently the international media are abuzz with unconfirmed reports that Pope Benedict may alter the traditional Good Friday prayer for the conversion of the Jews in response to agitation from various Jewish groups, such as Abe Foxman’s Anti-Defamation League. Foxman has been targeting the Good Friday prayer ever since the Pope liberated the old Mass in his Motu Proprio, Summorum Pontificum (July 7, 2007). Why? Because, says Foxman, it is “a theological setback to the reforms of Vatican II.”

In an article on the subject, "Peter and the Wolves" (Remnant, January 21. 2008), Christopher A. Ferrara writes:
At stake in this matter is nothing less than the dignity of the papal office. Should Benedict cave in to pressure and neuter the Good Friday prayer, he will have sent the message that the Pope may be lobbied at will by groups and people demanding compliance with “the reforms of Vatican II.” And where will it end?

Even John Allen of the liberal National Catholic Reporter can see where this is heading, and he clearly does not like it: “The Good Friday liturgy also contains prayer for heretics and schismatics (meaning Protestants) and for pagans (meaning non-Christians). Should those prayers too be revised, since they don’t reflect the more sensitive argot of Vatican II? More broadly, some critics charge that much of the symbolism and language of the old Mass is inconsistent with the vision of the council. Should all that be put on the operating table? If so, one might fairly ask, what was the point of Benedict’s ruling in the first place?”

The demand that the Good Friday prayer be altered to suit people like Foxman is all the more intolerable when one considers that Rabbi Jacob Neusner, who has been corresponding with the Pope since 1993, has no problem with the prayer, and notes that “the synagogue liturgy has an equivalent prayer which we say three times a day, not just once a year.” (Free Republic, July 20, 2007) Here is the synagogue prayer exactly as it is translated in The Talmud of the Land of Israel, Volume 1: Berakhot, published by University of Chicago Press and edited by none other than Neusner:
“Blessed [art Thou, O Lord, our God, King of the Universe,] who did not make me a gentile.” (p. 318).
Shortly thereafter, Ferrara says, "We can only hope the reports are false, or that the Pope, if he does alter the prayer, does so in a way that leaves intact the Church’s unambiguous call for the conversion of the Jewish people, no less than the other peoples of the earth." He then quickly adds a caveat to deflect any rash paranoid judgments that any amendment of the prayer would evidence "a neo-modernist plot to Summorum Pontificum as a Trojan horse to overthrow the traditional liturgy." He then demonstrates the decisive pattern of restoration evinced by recent events in the pontificate of Benedict XVI:
  • the Motu Proprio, a fulcrum on which world history will undoubtedly turn;
  • the Pope’s directive to correct the mistranslation of “pro multis” as “for all” in the Novus Ordo consecration formula, and the mistranslation of “Credo” as “we believe” in the Creed;
  • the removal of Piero Marini as master of ceremonies at the Vatican and the abolition of his ludicrous and appalling “papal liturgies;”
  • the repeal of John Paul II’s liberalization of the rules for the papal conclave, returning to the traditional requirement of a 2/3 vote;
  • the coming issuance of new and stricter rules for beatification and canonization, accompanied by the near shut-down of the “saint-making factory” that operated during the prior pontificate (a stupefying 483 saints in 27 years, as compared with 14 canonizations overseen by Benedict since his election nearly three years ago);
  • the Pope’s express recognition of the Institute of the Good Shepherd's right—the right of all Catholics—to engage in “constructive criticism” of Vatican II, thereby implicitly confirming that the Council documents have deficiencies warranting criticism (deficiencies the Pope himself critiqued as Cardinal and Father Ratzinger);
  • the papal admonition to the new head of the Jesuits that “total adhesion to Catholic doctrine” is expected of the order;
  • the Pope’s wearing of the miter of Blessed Pius IX and his return to the usage of a papal throne, instead of the upholstered chair favored by his predecessor;
  • the Pope’s celebration of Mass versus Deum in the Sistine Chapel;
  • the consistent references to Benedict as “Supreme Pontiff;”
  • the Pope’s abstention from the “ecumenical liturgies” and other ecumenical and interreligious spectacles of which the last Pope was so fond;
  • the absence of any “cult” of Benedict, who shuns the limelight, yet is attracting more Catholics to his audiences than John Paul II did;
  • the dramatic reduction in papal travel to mass events of dubious accomplishments;
  • the abandonment of all references to Vatican II as a “renewal,” “springtime,” “New Pentecost” and so forth;
  • the urgent petition of Anglican clergy representing 400,000 Anglicans for a return to communion with Rome, submitted directly to Benedict rather than the worse-than-useless Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, because the Anglicans know that Benedict is favorable to the reunion and hope to avoid a roadblock by thce Vatican bureaucracy;
  • a major thaw in relations with the Orthodox that is clearly the result of the Motu Proprio;
  • the Vatican’s call for an international revival of Eucharistic adoration to combat the now-admitted crisis in the priesthood, with the project, launched December 8, to highlight the Virgin Mary’s special role as the mother of every priest.
"And, almost as important as the Motu Proprio, an entire encyclical on the supernatural virtue of hope, Spe et Salvi, that . . . calls for nothing less than “a self-critique of modernity” and “a self-critique of modern Christianity,” which has lost sight of the true “substance” of hope . . . [and] also calls for the reunification of Christian faith and reason, the severance of which was the basic Enlightenment project."

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