Saturday, December 8, 2012

Rethinking God IX

Pope Benedict XVI visits the
Synagogue of Rome
I saw an article in the Catholic New York recently that said that Cardinal Koch, the key Vatican official responsible for Jewish-Christian relations, said that any Vatican rapprochement with the Society of St. Pius X, the “Traditionalist” movement founded by the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, would not include an implied endorsement of the anti-Semitism espoused by several leading members of that movement.  
We often think that the major bone of contention with the Society of St. Pius X is the Novus Ordo—the liturgical changes introduced by Pope Paul VI in the 1970 Reform of the Roman Missal but in fact the even deeper issue is the stance of the Second Vatican Council towards non-Christian religions articulated in the conciliar Decree Nostra Aetate and in particular the revision of Catholic attitudes towards Judaism.  In fact, a consistent element of Catholic neo-Traditionalism, both in its more extreme forms of the Society of Pius X and (its even more extreme) various Sede-Vacantist factions, and in such voices who claim submission (on their own terms) to the Holy See such as Michael Voris and his many admirers among such carpers as Mary Ann Krietzer of “Les Femmes” and "Restore D.C. Catholicism" is a steady anti-Semitic bias. 
“Traditional” Catholicism and anti-Semitism share a common history long pre-dating the Second Vatican Council and its changed directions.  Lefebvre himself came from a French Royalist family with roots in the Action Française movement of the late nineteenth century which was notorious for its anti-Semitic rants.  The clarification at Vatican II that not only are the Jewish people not responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus but that the Covenant which God made with the People of Israel is still a valid covenant by which they can be saved outraged Lefebvre and won to his rebellion tens of thousands of other Catholics for whom their biased hatred of the Jewish People trumped the magisterium. 
Of course this issue of the status of the Jewish People and their Covenant with God is yet another area where we Catholics have been “rethinking God.”  It would have been considered heresy five centuries ago—and not only by Catholics but by Christians of the newly formed (or the Re-formed) Churches of Protestantism that God still had anything to do with the Jewish People.  Luther was as full of anti-Semitic rants as any contemporary religious demagogue today.  But we have changed—Catholics and most Protestants—and have come to realize that God does not fit into our narrow boxes and that we must not distort his Word in scripture to make God seem to say things as repugnant as some would have it.
But how will the Society of Saint Pius X be reconciled to the Church unless it repudiates not only its rejection of the Council but explicitly its tendencies towards bigotry?  And what about other forms of bigotry endorsed by factions in the Church? If we can’t hide behind our straw man of a deity any longer to justify our hatred of Jews will be still be able to hid behind him to justify our hatred of LGBT people.  (Just in case you are confused LGBT stands for Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transvestite.)   This is the danger of Rethinking God—once we stop using God to project our prejudices, all of a sudden anybody can come along and make a claim on his love.   The next thing you know, we will start thinking of God as a cosmic Someone who loves everybody and desires their salvation.  But don’t worry—we are probably five centuries away from such dangerous doctrines.  

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