Analysis

The ‘Jewish Covenant with God,’ According to Pope Francis

By Richard Edmondson

The supposed “covenant” establishing the Jews as God’s “chosen people”—and particularly Pope Francis’ recently-articulated position on this—has been the subject of a very lively online discussion over the past week or so.

Francis is quite possibly the most philo-Semitic pope in history, and in November of 2013 he published his Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”) which included a section on the Catholic Church’s “relations with Judaism.”

In it he asserts, “We hold the Jewish people in special regard because their covenant with God has never been revoked…” which is a distinct departure from Church doctrine, a doctrine which for many centuries has held that the covenant between God and the Jews, as outlined in the pages of the Old Testament, was superseded by the new covenant in Christ.

The Evangelii Gaudium is a type of papal document known as an “apostolic exhortation,” and this one is quite lengthy—close to 50,000 words. Moreover, only a small portion of it pertains to Jews. Economic inequalities and the obligation to provide assistance to the poor are among its more dominant themes. For instance, Francis writes: “Each individual Christian and every community is called to be an instrument of God for the liberation and promotion of the poor, and for enabling them to be fully a part of society.”—a noble sentiment to be sure.

Indeed, ever since he was elected pope in March of last year, Francis has been an outspoken advocate for the poor. He has also become the darling of the mainstream media—which is quite curious since the mainstream media have never been known for expressing much sympathy for the poor.

But last March, one week into his papacy, the New York Times trumpeted Francis’ “passionate pledge” on behalf of the poor. An ABC News guest and Wall Street Journal columnist believes he “excites the imagination of the world.” The L.A. Times seems thoroughly enraptured that the pope has “deliberately shunned high-cost, high-falutin’ ways”; CBS calls him “a vigorous, accessible, even affectionate leader”; and of course last month Time Magazine named him its Person of the Year.

So what gives? What exactly is the agenda here? Hard to say for sure, but perhaps the discussion below will shed some light. There does seem to be a certain disconnect, however—even within the pages of the Evangelii Gaudium itself. For instance the document denounces unfettered capitalism as “a new tyranny.” Yet how are we to reconcile this with the view of Jews as enjoying a special covenant with God? How do we do so when Jews, and particularly Jewish media owners, have been among the greatest promoters and purveyors of the “new tyranny” Francis purportedly finds so objectionable? And perhaps most pertinently of all, does the occupation of Palestine figure into all of this in some manner?

A few years ago the per capita income in Gaza was estimated at around $600 a year, which would rank Gazans in with the poorest people in the world. This quite begs the question: in all of his pleading on behalf of the poor, what has Francis had to say about the conflict between Israel and Palestine? Very little actually, although it has been announced that he plans to visit the region in May.

At any rate, Francis’ position on the Jews and its implications for church doctrine—as well as what it possibly forebodes for the occupation of Palestinians and the theft of their lands—has been the subject of a thought-provoking, and at times intense, discussion on the Shamir Readers List. The list is maintained by Israel Shamir, a former Israeli and also a Jewish convert to Christianity. He is the author of a number of books, including The Cabbala of Power, which, if you haven’t read it, I highly recommend. You can also visit his website here.

The full text of Evangelii Gaudium can be accessed here, but excerpted below is the section entitled “Relations with Judaism,” and directly beneath that I have reproduced some of the Shamir Readers comments. Keep in mind, though, that this is an ongoing discussion, and what you see does not include all of the comments that have been posted.

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Relations with Judaism [excerpted from Pope Francis’ Evangelii Gaudium]
247. We hold the Jewish people in special regard because their covenant with God has never been revoked, for “the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable” (Rom 11:29). The Church, which shares with Jews an important part of the sacred Scriptures, looks upon the people of the covenant and their faith as one of the sacred roots of her own Christian identity (cf. Rom 11:16-18). As Christians, we cannot consider Judaism as a foreign religion; nor do we include the Jews among those called to turn from idols and to serve the true God (cf. 1 Thes 1:9). With them, we believe in the one God who acts in history, and with them we accept his revealed word.

248. Dialogue and friendship with the children of Israel are part of the life of Jesus’ disciples. The friendship which has grown between us makes us bitterly and sincerely regret the terrible persecutions which they have endured, and continue to endure, especially those that have involved Christians.

249. God continues to work among the people of the Old Covenant and to bring forth treasures of wisdom which flow from their encounter with his word. For this reason, the Church also is enriched when she receives the values of Judaism. While it is true that certain Christian beliefs are unacceptable to Judaism, and that the Church cannot refrain from proclaiming Jesus as Lord and Messiah, there exists as well a rich complementarity which allows us to read the texts of the Hebrew Scriptures together and to help one another to mine the riches of God’s word. We can also share many ethical convictions and a common concern for justice and the development of peoples.

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Comments Posted By Shamir Readers

From: Ken Freeland:

In his recently published  Apostolic Exhortation, ,EVANGELII GAUDIUM, Francis makes the following assertion:  “We hold the Jewish people in special regard because their covenant with God has never been revoked, for “the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable” (Rom 11:29). “On the surface, this seems as radical a volte face as we might ever expect to find in a papal teaching.  It seems to fly in the face of 2000 years of Christian tradition.  The following questions are meant to provoke and guide (but not limit) discussion:

1) To what extent does an apostolic exhortation carry ex cathedra weight?

2) Is this an accurate English translation of the original Latin?  (the title above is linked to the official Vatican web page, but there are some gross grammatical errors in the English language version I have encountered, so it is quite possible that this particular statement has been improperly rendered).

3) The Jews have been pushing for a long time for an acknowledgment from Rome that their covenant with God is still valid, and they apparently have found their vehicle in Francis. Assuming this be a correct translation, what are the implications for a “New Covenant” if the Old Covenant remains extant? Why did Jesus himself submit to baptism, and require it of all followers, and enjoin his disciples to baptize all believers, if the Old Covenant still remains valid? Did not Jesus himself say that unless ye are born again of the water and the spirit ye cannot enter into the Kingdom of God, or something to that effect?

4) How far can a Christian prelate, even the pope, diverge from the scriptural and traditional understandings of Christianity before his words become heretical?

Well, that should be enough to goad some responses, and I’m sure that there are a number of other kindred questions raised by this theological coup that others will add as we go.

I am looking forward to what others have to say on this score.

Peace, and happy new year to all.

Ken Freeland

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(2) From Michael Robeson

Dear Israel,

Here are a few, brief  comments from a progressive Catholic about his Church that he is often in disagreement with:

The official Church stresses Ecumenical dialogue with all other faiths, but in particular Judaism. Statements about other faiths, especially positive statements, must be understood within the context of the Church’s political effort to stress that dialogue.

Here I will use a daily example to avoid the doctrinal issues you’ve raised: During almost every Mass, there is a reading from the Old Testament prior to the reading from the Gospel. Most Catholics, priests and laity, understand this as an illustration that God has been speaking to his people since before the arrival of Christ and that the Old Testament possesses a value in illuminating the Gospels as fulfilling the promises from God found in the books of the Old Testament. This would be entirely consistent with the Church’s position, which has varied over time but which has been enunciated growingly over the past hundred years – Judaism original covenant with God has not been revoked, but rather has been fulfilled in his New Covenant with humanity through Christ.

But there is another interpretation, of the Old Testament readings during Holy Mass, that is no longer commonly enunciated. It is this: Hearing the two readings side by side, readings that have been selected by Church officials for their properties of illuminating the faithful, evoke in the listeners the idea that the second reading, the Gospel, is a clear improvement over the first reading and a deepening of the message that God intends his people to hear, to understand and to live by. Some of the side by side readings show the Old Testament to be not only more shallow and less divine than the Gospel message, but also show them to be misguided. Of course, only a careful listener would hear this distinction, and Church officials, including priests, do not go out of their way, to encourage it. The politics of Ecumenical dialogue being for more important. But prior to this politicalization of the Church, it was common to hear from priests and from officials a conviction that the Gospel message is so revolutionary in its philosophical depth and its intellectual understanding of the Divine’s interaction with humanity, that the Gospel could only be the sign of a radically new relationship between God and his people (all people!) and that an entirely new way of understanding that relationship must be enunciated. We have a New Covenant with God. Whether it revokes the first or fulfils it is a mystery left to God’s devices and is less important than knowing that Christ’s living presence upon the earth is a divine reality greater than the Old laws.

As one can see, the Pope’s statements can be understood in both contexts. I suspect that the Church, for its political advantages as well as for its public safety, intends it that way.

I could say much more about this, but I hope your other readers will find these remarks useful.

Best Regards,

Michael Robeson

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(3) From Michael Jones, Culture Wars

Dear Shamir,

We dealt with this issue a few years back in Culture Wars when Robert Sungenis challenged the statement in the Catechism of the American Catholic Bishops which claimed that, “the Mosaic covenant is eternally valid.” This statement is false, and the American bishops tacitly admitted the legitimacy of Sungenis’s claim when they dropped the statement from the Catechism a few months after the article appeared in Culture Wars.

The real issue is not the status of Pope Francis’s apostolic exhortation. The real issue revolves around the ambiguous use of the term “covenant.” When Pope John Paul II first made this claim, he was, according to Sungenis, referring to the Abrahamic covenant, which applied to all peoples. The Mosaic covenant specifying animal sacrifice, a Temple, and a priesthood to administer the sacrifice in the Temple was most certainly revoked when Christ died on the cross and the veil in the Temple was rent in two.

I hope this clarifies matters.

All the best,

Mike

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(4) From Robert Sungenis

Israel,

The problem for us is that it is hard to pin Francis to the wall because he never defines what he means by “Old Covenant” or “their covenant.”

Him and his comrades do this deliberately so as to make the issue ambiguous. It results in making it APPEAR as if the Jews still have a special covenant with God when they actually do not.

There are four possibilities to the “Old Covenant”:

1) the physical Abrahamic covenant
2) the spiritual Abrahamic covenant
3) the Mosaic covenant
4) the Davidic covenant

Of the four, the only 2 and 4 continue, since they refer exclusively to Christ, and thus they transition into the New Covenant. (cf. Hebrews 11:8-19; Rom 4:1-22)

1 and 3 were fulfilled in the Old Testament and have no continuation into the New Covenant. In other words, they are “revoked.” (cf. Neh 9:7-8; Josh 21:43-45; 1 Kings 8:56 cf. Hebrews 7:18; 8:1-13; 10:9; 2Cor 3:6-14; Col 2:14-15)

But the liberals, like Francis, don’t define their terms. They have been playing this word game for many years. The object is to confuse and make it appear as if there is actually some Scriptural or Ecclesiastical basis to maintaining a covenant with the Jews.

If you remember, John Paul II was the first to make use of “Old Covenant” in his 1981 Mainz speech. He stated: “the Old Covenant, never revoked by God.”.

The 1988 paper on the liturgy by the USCCB got a little bolder and mentioned the “Sinai covenant” as still being valid, and this was the first time that there was a shift from “Old Covenant” to “Sinai” or “Mosaic covenant.”

After that, of those who were promoting that the Jews still had the “Old Covenant,” no one used either “Sinai” or “Mosaic” covenant.

Except in 2006, the USCCB Adult catechism resurrected the word “Mosaic” covenant on page 131. It stated: “Thus the covenant that God made with the Jewish people through Moses remains eternally valid for them.”

Seeing this, I wrote a lengthy letter to the CDF and the USCCB in 2007, and then wrote a major article for Culture Wars in Jan. 2008, stating that this was a heresy and needed to be removed.

That year, the US bishops had their executive meeting, and in August 2008 voted 231 to 14 to take out the offending sentence. The next year, 2009, the Vatican issued a “recognitio” approving of the USCCB’s decision. This was a major victory for us.

Interestingly enough, the USCCB is going to replace the heretical sentence with a quote from Romans 9:4-5 which, depending on the translation from the Greek, could imply that the Jews still have a covenant with God.

To be sure, the Greek doesn’t allow a present covenant, but some English translations do, since they slip in some words that aren’t in the Greek, such as the Protestant Revised Standard Version (1946), and that is the very translation that the USCCB is using in its revised Adult catechism when it is published. How clever. They won’t use the New American Bible (which is a Catholic Bible) because the NAB doesn’t add the needed English words to make it appear as if the Jews have a covenant with God!!

Needless to say, these people are experts at word games, and few people have the acumen or knowledge to smoke them out.

(If you want to know more about this issue of replacing page 131 with Romans 9:4-5, I’ve attached a paper I wrote on it that was published in CW).

Bottom line: until if and when we can pin Francis and his cohorts down to be specific concerning what covenant they have in view, we won’t get very far. They learned their lesson in the 2006 US Adult catechism incident.

Case in point: I was in a protracted discussion with Dr. Eugene Fisher, former director of the USCCB, in about 2007, about the “Old Covenant.” Fisher was touting that the Old Covenant was still the Jews’ covenant. At the end, I asked him what Old Covenant he was referring to, since there were several old covenants. That is when he terminated the conversation, and I haven’t heard from him since.

So you see, this is a word game. As long as they can use ambiguous and undefined terms, they perpetuate their agenda. It’s a brilliant strategy, devilish as it is.

Robert Sungenis

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(5) From Paul Bennett

On this issue, Pope Francis is simply echoing Benedict XVI: the Jews have a “Special Relationship” with God. If we are willing to accept the Bible in any form, then surely we must realize this. Most heresies have begun with an attempt to separate Christ from His Jewish roots. This is quite apart from anything having to do with the state of Israel, which is a purely Masonic invention.

Shamir and Kreeft have also explored this issue. They show us that without the Jews the Christian truth could not have been kept Holy and apart. It is so natural for Men to swap Gods that it requires a special group – an especially reviled and hated group – that is willing to forego the benefits of exchanging Gods and watering down doctrines with their neighbors. They remain an indigestible “iron ball” in the stomach of the world. Now we Catholics are that iron ball.

And yet the creators of the Old Testament have not been left abandoned by God in this New Testament world . After all, it was He who changed the rules of the game, not they, It’s not their fault they are so unchangeable; they were molded so by God Himself. To my knowledge it has not been revealed to us the nature of this “Special Relationship” and we have not yet puzzled it out, but it must be obvious that God, being all things Good, would not abandon an old friend.

So that’s where it stands today. The souls of the Jews are in the Hands of God. The best thing we can do for them is to resist and disapprove of the Atheist “Jews” (as we must resist and disapprove of Atheist “Christians”) who have served the NWO with such diligence and skill. I would seek out those who are farthest from God first: the lost sheep. Godly folk of every stripe should be left in peace. They will be curious, so we must catechize ourselves properly. We must live as lights to the world, or else they will not seek us out, nor should they if we do not.

The atheists and New Agers and Satanists and Masons who have strayed from God’s path must be instructed in basic logic before they can be approached with anything more advanced. The Protestant denominations and Fundamentalist cults will find themselves driven back to the Church as they chase down every modern fad and subdivide themselves into oblivion.

The only remaining group is the faithful, Torah-reading Jews who will never willingly turn away from their understanding of Jehovah. Should we treat this long-favored tribe as lost sheep simply because they did not change their spots quickly enough for us? Let’s bring our own lost sheep back to the fold before we begin to target groups who have never been our responsibility.

Pope Francis is trying to make us laity less legalistic, less ideological. He would like us laity to reach out to the lost sheep closest to us – not condemn tribes half a world away (in time if not in space). Instead, the Western clergy have decided to interpret the pope’s statements as permission to become more modernist, more like the world, and less Holy, less set apart, less like an indigestible “iron ball” in the stomach of the world.

Regards, Paul Bennett

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(6) From Ken Freeland

Thanks for this highly informed response.

I, too, had considered the question of alternative interpretations of “covenant,”  though not with your precise breakdown.  But I sensed a major problem in trying to interpret it as possibly referring to either the “spiritual Abrahamic” or “Davidic” covenants, since grammatically it really makes no sense to speak of a FULFILLED covenant as one which God “has never revoked.”  In fact, if we think about this for a moment, we realize that not only do these two covenants not provide common ground between Christians and Jews, but that their opposed beliefs as to whether these covenants were fulfilled in Christ is precisely a defining difference between Christianity and Judaism.  It would thus be contradictory to confirm this covenant as some kind of ongoingly valid covenant for Jews…with as much reason (and no less risk of heresy) the Pope could argue that Christians and Jews are the same thing. Either those covenants with Abraham and David were fulfilled in the coming of Christ or they were not, and if they were, it cannot follow that the pope or anyone else can speak of them, in a Christian context, as having continuing validity for another religion (which explicitly understands them as “not yet fulfilled.”) This , then, leaves only the Mosaic and the (“physical”) Abrahamic covenants. Of course, it is within these, if I’m not mistaken, that the Jews find their expansive hisotrical claims to the “holy land.”  So there is a great moral danger in affirming, even by implication, such covenants…though it would seem that this pope is far less concerned about the future of the Palestinians than he is about the future of the Vatican’s relations with Jews.

Peace,

Ken Freeland

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Pope Francis and the Jews—Part II

Dear friends,

Here is a continuation (second instalment) of ongoing discussion among our (chiefly Catholic) friends. This was initiated by Ken Freeland who proposed to discuss a very dubious proposition of Pope Francis re Jews and Covenant. I cc-ed this letter to ten persons in hope to get a brief discussion and form an opinion. We received some responses, possibly will get more.

Happy New Year and Merry Christmas!

Israel Adam Shamir

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From Jeffrey Langtan, Rome

Dear Israel,

I see that I am a late-comer to this discussion. But, here are my responses to the initial questions:

1)  It carries no ex cathedra weight. This apostolic exhortation is theological speculation by the Pope in which he wants us all to consider, in the case, how to better attract others to the faith. He is simply repeating in this document specualtive statements by John Paul II and Benedict. Letters like this one are exercises of the ordinary magisterium of the Church, but they carry less weight than an Encyclical. I suppose the idea is that the faithful are asked to consider with respect what the Pope says (in forums like this one, not by writing editorials in the National Review the day the document comes out), to test whether these kinds of speculations are in fact connected to the faith, or what value, if any they have. As many of the responses have shown, there are problems with the statement.

The Pope does admit in the same paragraph that there are irreconcilable differences, like the “Church cannot refrain from proclaiming Jesus as Lord and Messiah.” This is clearly stated. Something that was not always clearly stated when others in authority speak about the Jews.

2) The official latin translation is not yet available. The Pope tends to write things in Spanish first.

3 & 4) Bob Sungenis seems to be the expert on this one. I see from many of the comments, that there might be a lot of reasons why the Popes are doing what they are doing. At the same time, it is clear in this document that he is searching for ways for Catholics to deal with the Jews and this is a restatement of what has come before.

I suppose Popes feel a certain liberty to engage in theological speculation according to their understanding of where we are in history and how to approach historical problems. Francis spent time in Germany in the 1950s, and I think the fear of many is that he might be one of the last Popes with whom they can use the Holocaust as an image of control.

This is clearly an area where they are not infallible. That is, this is all part of an effort to create a language for dealing with the Jews that will avoid any charges of anti-semitism. Of course, this is an impossible task, as others have pointed out, and leads to other incredibly difficult problems.

I would say that from his actions with respect to Syria and his repeated calls for peace in Syria he is not simply in the pocket of the Israelis when it comes to Syria and the Palestinians. But, playing loose language with the language of the covenant shows the dilemma that has been set up since at least the 1960s. On the one hand, in most public pronouncements when Church leaders meet with Jews they speak about the covenant and how much we abhor anti-Semitism. Then, the same Jewish leaders turn around and promote all sorts of behavior that undermines faith and morals, using the “dialogue language” to accuse anyone of anti-semitism who opposes their efforts. For example, a few years back the US Bishops praised Rabbi Saperstein and 30 Catholic Universities invited to their campuses so they could honor him for his commitment to Catholic-Jewish dialogue. At the same time, he was, according to his own account of events, “single-handedly” bringing about changes in the laws that would recognize same sex marriage in the US.

Yours,

Jeff

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From Leo Schmit:

Thanks Ken and Israel for triggering this discussion. To me the whole affair would have passed by unnoticed even though I downloaded Francis’ text planning to read it later.

Judging from some of the reactions, like the one here below from Edgar, it seems to me that the ‘traditional’ Roman Catholics are not going to agree to the delivery of their Church to jewry, just like that.  Must we fear for a schism on this essential point? Another question that comes to my mind is how the Christian Zionists are going to take this, losing their Chozen Ones to an ecumenical coup in the Vatican.

Edgar and others point to the Council of Florence. A clear statement now overruled by Francis. Ken raises a good question concerning the notion of parallel covenants for both Jews and Catholics. Has all this ‘baptism’ been in vain for the last 2000 years? Because the old covenant is declared still valid? How much closer can one get to heresy?

I checked my old ‘Katholieke Encyclopedie’ of 1936/38 , N.V. Uitgeverij Joost v.d. Vondel, Amsterdam (ed. Titus Brandsma who succumbed to Nazi terror in 1943).

The KE quotes Rom. 25 whereas Francis quotes Rom.28: The KE (Bind 14) says: ‘The Catholic opinion about the continued existence of the Jews (LS: the Jewish faith) is founded on the historically nurtured psyche of the Jews and God’s providence (Rom.25), waiting for their eventual conversion by the end of times’.

Concerning the old covenant, the KE discusses the matter in God’s revelations to Abraham. First the KE makes the claim that monotheistic notions were already existing before Abraham. Then the KE continues: ‘However, Abraham’s call had a deeper significance than just taking up an old tradition. Indeed, God forges a personal bond with Abraham (‘innig verbond’)’, with circumcision as the worldly token, and He not only promises Abraham that he will inherit a strong people, but He makes also the more universalistic promise that through Abraham all generations on earth shall be blessed (Gen. 12.3; 18.18; 22.18)’.

It could well be that Francis bases his coup on the last notion, thus effectively restoring Judaism as the one and only founding religion and discarding Catholicism as its ‘modern’ off-spring.

Now back to 2014. What we see here is a push for this ‘judeo-christian’ ideology, which constitutes a great threat to world peace. As if it is not yet sufficiently threatened.

Regards,

Leo

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From Come Carpentier

I think that is the problem with Christianity, at least in its contemporary version. it still proclaims the special place of certain people in the world, as if there were a natural hierarchy of races and nations. As long as we won’t do away with that idea of the uniqueness of a certain people like the Jews, those who believe in it will keep going, pendulum-like from submission to persecution. They will either put Jews on a pedestal or try to suppress and/or eradicate them.

God has no chosen people or preferred nations. That is that.

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From Mark Glenn

For what it is worth, from this father who just had his 10th child baptized in the Catholic faith using the old Latin rite–

Bergoglio is a mere continuation of the Judaic-friendly popes beginning with Roncalli (John XXIII) who proceeded him. Given the haste with which his predecessor Benedict ‘retired’, coupled with Bergoglio’s origins (Argentina/Latin America, the next major political hemisphere slated to go through the tumult of CIA/Mossad inspired/guided ‘color revolutions’ that will UNDOUBTEDLY be referred to as the ‘Latin American Spring’) my personal feeling is that Bergoglio’s role is to continue on with the program of suppressing the Catholic world’s immune system with regards to the Judaic virus and then at some propitious moment, will lend his credibility behind the various uprisings that will take place in countries such as Argentina, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuado and others who are firmly in the pro-Iran/anti-Israel/anti-JWO camp.

Those with the patience and the stomach can read what I had to say on the matter last year at Bergoglio’s ‘ascension’–

just me 2 lire worth

mg

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From Edgar Suter

What could be more clear than the infallible, perennial, and unchangeable dogmatic statement from the Council of Florence?

Edgar

“§ 712 It [the Holy Catholic Church] firmly believes, professes, and teaches that the matter pertaining to the law of the Old Testament, of the Mosaic law, which are divided into ceremonies, sacred rites, sacrifices, and sacraments, because they were established to signify something in the future, although they were suited to Divine worship at that time, after our Lord’s coming had been signified by them, ceased, and the Sacraments of the New Testament began; and that whoever, even after the passion, placed hope in these matters of law and submitted himself to them as necessary for salvation, as if faith in Christ could not save without them, sinned mortally. Yet it does not deny that after the passion of Christ up to the promulgation of the Gospel they could have been observed until they were believed to be in no way necessary for salvation; but after the promulgation of the Gospel it asserts they cannot be observed without the loss of eternal salvation. All, therefore, who after that time observe circumcision and the Sabbath and the other requirements of the law, it declares alien to the Christian faith and not in the least fit to participate in eternal salvation, unless someday they recover from these errors….

“§714 The Most Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes and preaches that none of those existing outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews, and heretics, and schismatics, can ever be partakers of eternal life, but that they are to go into the eternal fire ‘which was prepared for the devil, and his angels,’ (Matthew 25:41) unless before death they are joined with Her; and that so important is the unity of this Ecclesiastical Body, that only those remaining within this unity can profit from the sacraments of the Church unto salvation, and that they alone can receive an eternal recompense for their fasts, alms deeds, and other works of Christian piety and duties of a Christian soldier. No one, let his almsgiving be as great as it may, no one, even if he pour out his blood for the Name of Christ, can be saved unless they abide within the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church.”

—Cantate Domino, from the infallible ecumenical Council of Florence under His Holiness Pope Eugene IV defining the Solemn Doctrine: Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus, promulgated by papal bull, February 4, 1444 [Florentine calendar] in Denziger Enchiridion Symbolorum, The Sources of Catholic Dogma, § 712-714

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From Ed Durst

Blessed John Henry Newman on “The Principle of Continuity between the Jewish and Christian Churches”

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From Yousef Salem

Interestingly, the three main religions have a unique characteristic in that Jews own upward (themselves) and deny downward (Christians and Muslims, while Christians own upward (Jews) and deny downward (Muslims), but Muslims own upward (both Christians and Muslims) since the Quran states that if a Muslim denies that God revealed divine revelatons to Christians and Jews then that person is not a Muslim.

Too, the term “Judeo-Christian tradition” is questionable if one reads those many parts of the Talmud that preach and teach extreme hatred against non-Jews, and they are far too many to quote here. One of many sources is http://www.rense.com/general79/talmud.htm  Scroll down to the sentence just above “Some teachings of the Jewish Talmud”.  There are far closer similarities between Christians and Muslims.

However, those Jews who adhere to the hatred taught in the Talmud are generally fundamentalist orthodox Jews and zionist Jews in general, whereas most Reform and Conservative Jews reject those teachings and many of them are very passionate devotees of Palestinan rights who emphatically denounce zionism and its adherents/practioners and well as their Christian supporters.

I am Yousef Salem in the United States of israel… until we take it back!

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From Oscar Porath

Fratres,

I come to think of John Vennaris clearminded and recent article which I want to share with you:

Pope Francis and the Old Covenant

All the best,

Oscar Porath

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From Tom Mysiewicz

I guess I missed something over the last few thousand years.  Why do Christians talk about a “New Covenant” and a “New Testament”?  I guess when G-d said He “divorced Israel”—as it clearly states in the Old Testament–He was really still married to her?  And, certainly, he could remarry her when convenient?  (Despite Hollywood practice, divorcees can not remarry under the Torah.)  One point of Jesus’ death, if you accept Christian epistemology, was so there could be a “Marriage Supper” of the Lamb, a new covenant, a new heaven and earth, etc.  If the “old husband” had died, the new Israel—including all the “lost sheep of the House of Israel” Jesus said he was sent to find–could remarry G-d.

I hope this pope’s conversion was orthodox!

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From Eric Walberg

JPII was the one who first argued ‘their covenant with God has never been revoked’ or is that part of Vatican II?

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From Sandhya Jain

I am no expert on anything, but I think that John Paul II did the Jews first stuff, Benedict continued it, I can find the references and send them later

Sandhya

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From Maria Poumier

Very interesting discussion about pope Francis. Let us remember there are a lot of tricks in translation, and people who publish about the pope are generally NOT Catholics, so they enjoy misleading us, suggesting what THEY want the Pope to say.

But I am afraid the shamirreaders contributors I have been reading about pope Francis are missing the point, because most of them are quite anti-Jewish, since the beginning, fond of tradition, and admirers of bishop Williamson, the kind of people who consider the church is quite heretical since pope John XXIII. So, in a very lazy attitude, they seem to expect  just a confirmation  that Francis is a kind of crypto Jew, or the new puppet manipulated by Jews, and it would make them happy to shout: “I predicted that since the beginning!”

Though I am also an admirer of Williamson’s  anti-Jewish attitude, I think we should not forget the reality of the political responsibility of the Vatican. On one hand, the pope has to represent the plain people of the whole world, and their demands of exemplarity, visible holiness, open minded modernity. And, on the other hand, he cannot attack easily the Jewish powers (Shamir’s work about the translations of the Bible should remind us how difficult it has been during 2000 years for the Fathers to escape from the imposition of the Jewish rhetoric. In the Christmas gospel, we are still obliged to mention Jesus as “King of the Jews”, which makes no sense at all nowadays, but remains since the old times, when St Paul didn’t succeed to make Christianity become a universal Jewish-free thing.) So getting rid of the subliminal Jewish propaganda is still … something to be, and if no previous European pope could do it, it is probably even more difficult for a pope who is supposed to represent the non European Catholics, the “inferior races” in the ancient colonial mentality, still very strong in many traditionalist Catholics.

As Shamir pointed it, pope Francis’s call for peace in Syria, giving a hand to president Putin, and creating unity of action with the Orthodox patriarchs, was a real victory of spirit and Christianity. He will be able to do more only if he has a mass worldly support. He believes in the natural religious spirit, good faith and good willingness of all the nations. Historically, no one can discuss that Christ was born in the Jewish world, and that we have no answer to the mystery of the steadiness of Jewishness, after 2000 years. In these days, we discover that Whahabbism is a heresy in Islam very similar to Zionism in Judaism, and connected with the same worst tendencies since the XIXth century. So contemporary official Judaism is not the only enemy of manhood, and certainly plain people from Jewish grand-parents are absolutely not our enemies!  The Pope cannot afford to hurt them namely, out of context, falling in the Zionist trap of “antisemitism”.

For plain Catholics all over the world, the important step is to feel accepted in the church, even if divorced, homosexual and a lot of old and new sins. And the Pope’s aura is all embracing: non Catholics too need to feel they are not rejected by him and by Jesus. I am sure plain Jews too… even if they deny it.

The same plain believers are the ones who fill churches with ex-votos, meaning they know we are not almighty, nor the Chosen ones. This is the radically Christian attitude, different from the typical intellectual, pharisaic style attitude.

In my opinion, traditionalist Catholics should avoid feeling themselves as the Chosen ones, because they know a lot about the old and modern Jewish tricks.  It is more important to feel as poor as St Francis, close to the dying drown boat people in Lampedusa and in so many places. The antizionist  Neturei Karta and a lot of nice Jews  have a real sense of compassion, why should we reject or deny that? It is mental health to start with compassion, in order to go further in spiritual elevation.

Our Zionist enemies will feel very happy if there is a schism between the Catholics. They know they are spiritually weak and cannot attack frontally the spiritual health that people are expecting from the Pope.  Don’t give them such a wonderful gift! Let us make all our churches stronger, and people will not fall in the Judaic moral traps, they will resist as a natural reflex of spirit (with God’s help, inch Allah).

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From Mike Robeson

Dear Mr Carpenter,

Are you and I the only ones in this group that perceive an over-identification with a “Covenant” as thinking like Jews when Christ is asking us to go beyond that?

The other writers, and learned were their remarks about the Covenant and knowing were their telling of its history in the Vatican, sounded much to me like school boys in a school yard fighting over candy.

“The Covenant is mine!” “No, it’s mine and you can’t have it anymore.” “I’ve had it from the beginning and so I still have it!” “Well God gave it to me, now, and that’s final!”

If we would like to offer the new Pope advice on more effectively and honestly spreading the Gospel, wouldn’t we do better to suggest he and his cardinals visit people who are being militarily and economically oppressed by the Judeo-Christian West and maybe even living among them and sharing their misery? Wouldn’t their faces on the Evening News in Gaza make a better example for how we Christians can fight against the forces that use our tax money to oppress our brothers in Christ’s suffering?

Mr. Suter may be correct in suggesting that Christianity, at least when practised according to the Sermon on the Mount, cannot become, as was its predecessor, a Master Race creed. But let’s be honest. History is replete with examples of nominal Christians slaughtering unbelievers in the name of Christianizing their race, and of slaughtering Christians in the name of purifying God’s holy name. Cromwell, anyone? British Christianity, up until the 20th century was no less exceptionalist and thought of itself as no less a light unto the world than Judeo-Christian America and Zionist Israel do today. The Brits may not have been Catholic, but didn’t the Spanish and the Portuguese seek Vatican approval for their depravities in the New World and their efforts at Empire building?

The entire human race, not just those who know of Christ’s name, was given his divine gift. And as you clearly stated, there can no longer be a “Chosen people” not after Christ chose to come among us to save each of us from choosing to remain what we were and to become what he is guiding us to be – Brothers in his Brotherhood.

Michael Robeson

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From Edgar Suter

Nonsense, Come. Christianity is not some Master Race creed like Pharisaism/Judaism/Naziism that postulates a racial back door to Heaven and World Domination and a racial chute to Hell.

Instead of DNA or accident of birth, in Christianity one’s “chosen” status depends upon matters of free will—baptism, belief, and behavior according to God’s Law. That is that.

Alas, I am not one of the “chosen” who can post to the group. 

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From Ken Freeland

SUMMA THEOLOGICA

A week or so ago, I read, for the first time, Pope Francis I’s recently published apostolic declaration EVANGELII GAUDIUM.  I was shocked to encounter the assertion that “We hold the Jewish people in special regard because their covenant with God has never been revoked, for “the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable” (Rom 11:29). ”  I shared my discomfiture with Israel Shamir (who felt similarly on reading this statement by Francis), and he challenged me to register my concerns in summary form, which he would then disseminate to a group of Catholic-oriented colleagues, whose responses he later posted the Shamireaders listserve, which in turn provoked further responses.  I would like to summarize here some of what I’ve learned in this exchange, and make a few concluding remarks.

Many respondents were quick to point out that Francis I is not the first pope to make this stunning assertion.  That “honor”goes to John Paul II, who reinforced this position when challenged by doubtful critics.

Robert Sungenis elaborated the ambiguity of this papal pronouncement: it all depends on which covenant, or which interpretation of the term “covenant,” the pope has in mind, he observed, and tellingly, Francis does not specify.  True, this leaves the pope a lot of wiggle room (or wriggle room, if you prefer).  But the fact remains that by any interpretation it seems to fly in the face of traditional Catholic (and mainline Christian) theology.

Indeed, many examples of this are adduced in the spot-on piece on this very question by John Vennaris, cited by Oscar Porath.  The author can only assure us that papal pronouncements that diverge too widely from settled Catholic theology are to be disregarded, and that this church position trumps all others.

That’s  a kind of worst-case scenario, but not one that we can dismiss under the circumstances. A more sanguine approach was offered by Ed Durst, in linking to a sermon by John Cardinal Newman about the continuity between the Jewish and Christian traditions.  In this edifying piece, Newman argues that the Christian church simply perfects the Judaic understandings, in much the same way, he argues, as the Jewish did the pagan.  One could then argue, according to this interpretation, that God never “revoked” the Jewish covenant, he merely perfected it via Christianity. The problem remains, though, that Newman would not disagree that the Jewish tropes were obsolete, and this is exactly what Pope Francis seems to be implying is NOT the case!

Perhaps the most alarming note in this discussion was sounded by Mark Glenn, who refers us back to his prophetic claxon call written in the immediate aftermath of  Bergoglio’s assumption of the papal office.  He had foretold a pope who would do the Lobby’s bidding as payoff for their promotion of his candidacy by the Lobby.

On that score, however spiritually the Pope may have intended this exhortation, how do we expect Zionist-Jewish readers to interpret his remark?  Clearly, that he is reinforcing their claim to an eternal, divine right to the “holy land,” with all that this means for the oppression of its native inhabitants.  Doesn’t the pope need to be circumspect in his choice of words, and consider their potential political impact on the Jewish State’s long-suffering victims?

The choice of the term “revoke” seems to be particularly dangerous, as it implies that this covenant is irrevocable.  For “irrelevant” read: unconditional.  Today’s Jewish leadership will only too happily agree that their ethnic “chosenness” is forever, and not something for which they need to do anything in particular.  It is a privilege, an entitlement.  As is the moral impunity which appears to be inseparable from it.  How do the Pope’s words not fuel this hubris?

Indeed, it seems that the real issue bubbling below the surface is precisely this question of the conditionality vs. unconditionality of the Jewish covenant with God.  Throughout the Old Testament, there seem to be two opposite threads which develop in tandem, but pull in opposite directions, and this question of conditionality is what divides them.  Those who developed the so-called “oral traditions” that provided a gloss to the Torah (and which were eventually enshrined in the Talmud), tended towards the belief in unconditionality:  Jewishness is a birthright dispensation from universal moral law.  Those who understood it as conditional formed the prophetic line of Judaism (fail to uphold the moral law, and there will be natural consequences). Jesus openly aligned himself with the latter, as he openly repudiated the former.  He clearly warned its adherents that the vineyard could be taken away from them and given to others who WOULD bear fruit, and that their freedom and salvation was in no way grounded in being children of Abraham (i.e., heirs of his covenant).  As the John the Baptist had earlier quipped: “God can make children of Abraham from these stones!”  Jesus represented the culminated of the (persecuted) prophets:  either put up (repent and accept the Kingdom of God in your midst) or shut up (get out of the way and let those who are willing to bear fruit do so, whatever their ethnicity).  For a pope to suggest otherwise, that this covenant was not abrogated due to the unwillingness of the Jews to uphold its responsibilities, seems to blithely ignore this gospel account.

Peace,

Ken

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From Israel Shamir

Not being a Catholic, I was not keen on expressing an opinion, but now, when people spoke, probably I can add. There is another debate, among my Orthodox Christian readers, whether the Catholics are saved; and we know that the Florentine document quoted in a previous installment claimed that the Orthodox Christians (“Schismatics”) are not saved, as well as Jews.

For present-day mentality, it is very difficult to accept that one has to choose which of the Patriarchs, that of Rome or that of Moscow and Jerusalem, is blessed or damned. We feel that both are blessed and blessing. And if you agree that these two branches of  Christendom are both saving, then you are under pressure to accept Muslims and Jews in the Divine plans.

There were no recent pronouncements by the Orthodox divines on the subject, but the Patriarch of Moscow said something quite similar years ago, when he was just a bishop on a visit in the US. Apparently there is a political expediency of such a sort. Perhaps one can view it as a form of politeness with little substance behind. The Russian church is not Judeophilic, but certainly not antisemitic in a racial sense.

The question of converting Jews is not the most important nowadays in the West, while in Russia the conversion of Jews has become a mass phenomenon – without a special effort of the church. As many Russians go to church of Sundays, Jews who live among them also join them and eventually baptise. The Russian Church avoids dialogue with Jews, and this is probably wise.

The problems can’t be localised to Jews: in France, the enforcement of gay marriages and elimination of gender identity are supported by some Jews, but mainly by people in power, who are of Christian parentage. Anyway it is good that we discussed this topic; the Church will learn of it and thus our views will be delivered to the Vatican as a sort of talk-back.

As for my view, God’s mercy and grace are great and He can save anybody of whatever church and faith if he wills so, even a Muslim or a Jew. This is good thing to remember today, on Christmas Eve, by the calendar of Jerusalem where I am now.

My blessings and best wishes to you all from Christ Nativity Church in Bethlehem!

Israel Adam Shamir