Following up on my earlier posts on said document (in "New Vatican Document on Judaism Provokes Controversy," Musings, December 18, 2015; and "A Non-Magisterial Magisterial Statement," Musings, January 3, 2016), I decided to examine the points controverted by John Vennari by putting them to the test in an examination of the original document. Here is a brief summary of my conclusions (headings are adapted from Vennari; excerpts from the Vatican document beneath them include my own as well as those he referenced in footnotes; bracketed numbers refer to numbered paragraphs of the Vatican document; and added emphasis is mine):
- The New Covenant does not supersede the Old Covenant:
 A replacement or supersession theology which sets against one another two separate entities, a Church of the Gentiles and the rejected Synagogue whose place it takes, is deprived of its foundations.
 The Church does not replace the people of God of Israel, since as the community founded on Christ it represents in him the fulfilment of the promises made to Israel. This does not mean that Israel, not having achieved such a fulfilment, can no longer be considered to be the people of God.
- The Catholic Church, in principle, should have no mission to convert Jews:
 The Church is therefore obliged to view evangelisation to Jews, who believe in the one God, in a different manner from that to people of other religions and world views. 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 ...
- The Word of God is regarded as present to modern Jews by means of the Torah in a sense that equates this to the Word of God being present to Christians through Jesus Christ:
 For Jews [the Word of God] can be learned through the Torah and the traditions based on it. The Torah is the instruction for a successful life in right relationship with God. Whoever observes the Torah has life in its fullness (cf. Pirqe Avot II, 7). By observing the Torah the Jew receives a share in communion with God. In this regard, Pope Francis has stated: "The Christian confessions find their unity in Christ; Judaism finds its unity in the Torah. Christians believe that Jesus Christ is the Word of God made flesh in the world; for Jews the Word of God is present above all in the Torah. Both faith traditions find their foundation in the One God, the God of the Covenant, who reveals himself through his Word. In seeking a right attitude towards God, Christians turn to Christ as the fount of new life, and Jews to the teaching of the Torah." (Address to members of the International Council of Christians and Jews, 30 June 2015).
- Modern Jews are treated as being in an acceptable position before God regarding salvation:
 From the Christian confession that there can be only one path to salvation ... it does not in any way follow that the Jews are excluded from God’s salvation because they do not believe in Jesus Christ as the Messiah of Israel and the Son of God. ... That the Jews are participants in God’s salvation is theologically unquestionable, but how that can be possible without confessing Christ explicitly, is and remains an unfathomable divine mystery.
- “The term covenant, therefore, means a relationship with God that takes effect in different ways for Jews and Christians”:
 Judaism and the Christian faith as seen in the New Testament are two ways by which God’s people can make the Sacred Scriptures of Israel their own. The Scriptures which Christians call the Old Testament is open therefore to both ways. A response to God’s word of salvation that accords with one or the other tradition can thus open up access to God, even if it is left up to his counsel of salvation to determine in what way he may intend to save mankind in each instance. That his will for salvation is universally directed is testified by the Scriptures (cf. eg. Gen 12:1-3; Is 2:2-5; 1 Tim 2:4). Therefore 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.
 The covenant that God has offered Israel is irrevocable. "God is not man, that he should lie" (Num 23:19; cf. 2 Tim 2:13). The permanent elective fidelity of God expressed in earlier covenants is never repudiated (cf. Rom 9:4; 11:1–2). The New Covenant does not revoke the earlier covenants, but it brings them to fulfilment. ... The term covenant, therefore, means a relationship with God that takes effect in different ways for Jews and Christians.
- “It does not follow that Jews are excluded from God’s salvation because they do not believe in Jesus Christ as the Messiah and the Son of God”:
 From the Christian confession that there can be only one path to salvation, however, it does not in any way follow that the Jews are excluded from God’s salvation because they do not believe in Jesus Christ as the Messiah of Israel and the Son of God. Such a claim would find no support in the soteriological understanding of Saint Paul, who in the Letter to the Romans not only gives expression to his conviction that there can be no breach in the history of salvation, but that salvation comes from the Jews (cf. also Jn 4:22). ... That the Jews are participants in God’s salvation is theologically unquestionable, but how that can be possible without confessing Christ explicitly, is and remains an unfathomable divine mystery.
My problem is not that the document does not say the right things in certain places, but that it counters these statements with very ambiguous and misleading (and even apparently contradictory) statements in others. [One of my former professors taught us] that the advancement of doctrine can only take place through progressive clarification and refinement of propositions already received within a doctrinal tradition. I can't bring myself to see in the waffling ambiguities of this document, however, anything approaching a 'clarification' or 'refinement' of Catholic doctrine. The most that can be said, it seems to me, is that Catholics are now discussing some important issues that they have perhaps neglected in modern times; but WHAT they are saying about them seems appallingly unclear, at least to me.The following is what my colleague wrote back to me in response to my statements about the document. I quote them by permission and would be interested in how any of you who may be interested interpret the matter [Note: my colleague has updated his remarks in following]:
We know that there are many Jews who will not be satisfied with Catholic-Jewish dialogue until Catholics entirely abandon the necessity of Christ [for] salvation. I heard a Jewish talk show host last fall denounce an evangelical woman who "still believed, in all charity, that Jews ought to convert to Christianity."
What a Jew 'hears' when he reads a document like this will [differ] from what a theologically-literate Catholic 'hears'. The fact is that a contemporary Jew will most likely be utterly indifferent to whether or not a Catholic sees pre-Christian Judaism as finding its fulfillment in Christianity [unless he is offended], since his understanding of the Old Testament in light of post-Temple synagogue Judaism differs significantly from the Christian (or even the Apostolic) understanding of it.
The other concern I have is that documents such as this are effectively taken as post-facto justifications for the failure of Catholics to evangelize Jews, or, for that matter, anyone. While the distinction between "institutional" and "personal" evangelism [in the Vatican document] makes a kind of sense as a "tactical" measure, if one squints hard enough, it really strikes me as an appalling disingenuity amidst the massive implosion of Catholic missions since Vatican II.
In many respects it is a good document. Some of the tensions that you point to can be resolved, and I try that below. Some are not easily resolved, and they take on the appearance of contradictions. But I think the document deserves a charitable reading. What does it mean to be charitable hermeneutically? I express here what is known as the principle of charity especially highlighted by American philosopher Donald Davidson as governing the interpretation of others. “In various versions it constrains the interpreter to maximize the truth or rationality in the subject’s saying” (Simon Blackburn, The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy [New York: Oxford University Press, 1996], p. 62). St. Ignatius of Loyola made this point more fully about a "charitable reading" at the start of his Spiritual Exercises: "Let it be presupposed that every good Christian is to be more ready to save his neighbor’s proposition than to condemn it. If he cannot save it, let him inquire how he means it; and if he means it badly, let him correct him with charity. If that is not enough, let him seek all the suitable means to bring him to mean it well, and save himself."Clearly, my colleague offers the more charitable view.
Significantly, thus work is not an official magisterial document of the Church, but a document of the Commission for Religious Relations with Jews, which is a division of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and hence a consultative body not an official teaching organ of the Catholic Church. Of course that doesn't mean that this Commission doesn't purport to lay out a teaching. And of course as far as the content of the text is concerned it does contain teaching that is infallible (first and second level teaching that is definitive and irreversible)--e.g., about the person and work of Christ, about the Old and New Testaments being the Word of God, about Christ being the fulfillment of OT promises, the Messiah of Israel, the full and sufficient causes of our salvation, and so forth. It probably has third level teaching, which is teaching taught authoritatively but not definitively. But I venture to suggest tentatively that regarding the more specific claims made in this document regarding, e.g., the claim that the "gifts and calling of God are irrevocable," these and others belong to the fourth level of teaching: "Sententia ad fidem pertinens, or theologice certa: theological conclusions logically deduced from a proposition of faith and taught by the magisterium which have a high degree of certainty"; also, consider the claim regarding the salvation of the Jews; this claim and other related ones belong to the fifth level: "Sententia probabilis: denotes probable opinion, although in theological discussion there are many other levels operating: well founded, pious, and tolerated opinions (with the least authority)." See Ludwig Ott for these and others level of teaching, section 8, Theological Grades of Certainty.
The document distinguishes between an institutional mission of the Church to evangelize Jews from the personal witness of individuals evangelizing Jews. "It is easy to understand that the so-called ‘mission to the Jews’ is a very delicate and sensitive matter for Jews because, in their eyes, it involves the very existence of the Jewish people. This question [of an institutional mission of evangelization to the Jews] also proves to be awkward for Christians, because for them the universal salvific significance of Jesus Christ and consequently the universal mission of the Church are of fundamental importance. The Church is therefore 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. 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 think the document should have made a clearer distinction here between, on the one hand, the sort of "missionary efforts to convert Jews," efforts built on and presupposing the error of supersessionism (which the document rejects), that is, the view that the gifts and calling of the Jewish people have been revoked and superseded/replaced by the Church, and on the other hand, the appropriate and authentic sort of missionary efforts to evangelize Jews. These efforts rightly follow from the truth (and the document affirms all the following statements in quotes) that "[t]here cannot be two ways of salvation," "two parallel ways to salvation," that "there can be only one path to salvation," that "Christ is also the Redeemer of the Jews in addition to the Gentiles," that the Church must "'witness to Christ as the Redeemer for all',''and that the divine gifts and graces of the New Covenant are for the Jews as well." Indeed, "From the perspective of the Christian faith, he [Jesus] fulfills the mission and expectation of Israel in a perfect way,"Clearly, the document is not saying, in rejecting supersessionism, that the Jews qua Jews are saved by living in conformity with the Old Covenant. It seems to me that given everything the document says quoted here above about Christ, the question may be raised whether the document is theologically forced to speak of a qualified supersessionism. Why? Because Christ is the full and sufficient cause of man's salvation, including the Jews. Be that as it may, a clarification of this sort alluded to above would resolve the appearance of an inconsistency between, on the one hand, the appropriateness of the claim that "the Catholic Church neither conducts nor supports any specific institutional mission work directed towards Jews," if it's based on a supersessionist theology, and on the other hand, the truth that the Catholic Church has a continuing "mandate to evangelize in relation to Judaism" and that Christians are "called to bear witness to their faith in Jesus Christ also to Jews."
The Old Testament is the Word of God, and so in that sense "By observing the Torah the Jew receives a share in communion with God." Catholics are not Marcions. Then comes the quote from Pope Francis, which I think is meant to support the teaching that the OT is the Word of God opening up access to God, but then it says correctly that "there are not two paths to salvation according to the expression "Jews hold to the Torah, Christians hold to Christ." The document adds: "Christian faith proclaims that Christ's work of salvation is universal and involves all mankind." Indeed, Christ can be considered "the living Torah of God." There is perfect fulfillment here in Christ. "The NT does not revoke the earlier covenants, but it brings them to fulfillment. Through the Christ event Christians have understood that all that had gone before was to be interpreted anew. . . . For Christians, the New Covenant in Christ is the culminating point of the promises of salvation of the Old Covenant, and is to extend never independent of it." "The New Covenant for Christians is therefore neither the annulment nor the replacement, but the fulfillment of the promises of the Old Covenant."
"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. . . . The Christian faith confesses that God wants to lead all people to salvation, that Jesus Christ is the universal mediator of salvation, and that there is no 'other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved' (Acts 4:12)."
Now, it then goes on to consider the question of the salvation of the Jews in light of everything the document clearly says about the ontological necessity of Christ's saving work for salvation. Can we be saved apart from the finished salvific work of Christ, his life, passion, death, resurrection, and ascension? No! But the document distinguishes ontological necessity from confessing Christ explicitly, meaning thereby that he is not epistemically necessary for salvation. Christ's saving work is ontologically necessary for my salvation, but it does not follow from this that I have to know that it is efficacious for me. That is what the document says. I find this distinction troublesome unless it is interpreted in the light of another notion, namely, the invincibly ignorant, those who through no fault of their own have failed to respond to the gospel. In fact, that is the context of LG 16. Be that as it may, the document says: "That the Jews are participants in God's salvation is theologically unquestionable, but how that can be possible without confessing Christ explicitly, is and remains an unfathomable mystery." In other words, Christ saves the Jews--his saving work is ontologically necessary, and hence there are not two ways of salvation, but only one--but they can be saved without explicitly responding to the Gospel. If so, then knowing Christ is not epistemically necessary for salvation. That's what I understand the document to be saying.
Not that it has solved the theological question of salvation for the Jews by distinguishing between ontologically necessary and epistemically necessary.
It says, "Another focus for Catholics must continue to be the highly complex theological question of how Christian belief in the universal salvific significance of Jesus Christ can be combined in a coherent way with the equally clear statement of faith in the never-revoked covenant of God with Israel." Again, it reiterates: "It is the belief of the Church that Christ is the Savior for all. There cannot be two ways of salvation, therefore, since Christ is also the Redeemer of the Jews in addition to the Gentiles."
In addition, as Bryan Cross of Called to Communion put it: "the document would be improved by including a clarification distinguishing between the sense in which Christians 'do not themselves have to implement the salvation of man', because this salvation is ultimately a divine work, and the sense in which, by our divine call to bring the Gospel to the whole world [including the Jews] that we as the Church do have to implement for man's salvation. This clarification would resolve the unintended implication of an ad hoc exception to our obligation to bring Christ's salvation to man, namely, to bring this salvation to all people except to the Jewish people, in whose case God uniquely intends to evangelize entirely apart from human messengers and witnesses. To be fair, that latter claim is not what the document says. But there is an unfortunate though undoubtedly unintended equivocation here between the truth of God's role as [primary] cause in bringing the Gospel to the Jews according to His divine plan, and the truth of our necessary role as [secondary/instrumental] causes, according to the divine plan, in bringing the Gospel to the world, including to Jews."