Rabbi David Rosen’s Speech at Munich interfaith meeting

David Rosen, former Grand Rabbi of Ireland, was a member of the Permanent Bilateral Commission of the State of Israel and the Holy See that negotiated the establishment of full diplomatic normalization of relations between the two states. Now he is Director of the Department for Interreligious Affairs at American Jewish Association. He has participated to the International Prayer for Peace organized by the Sant’ Egidio community in Munich (September 11th-13th). Below the text of his intervention given on September 12th, 2011 in the framework of a discussion about “Jews and Christians, from Dialogue to Friendship”.

Rosen notes that the recent decades witnessed a Transformation in the Catholic-Jewish relationship : “nothing comparable in human history.” I turn your attention to the paragraph in bold where he seeks to create a theology of partnership between Christians and Jews in which the two faiths are joined and complementarity. He offers four possibilities: (1) A model of two covenants- Jewish communal and Christian individual; (2) A Jewish Kingdom of Heaven has not yet fully arrived, and a Christian view that the Kingdom is already rooted in the here and now; (3) Judaism as a constant admonition to Christianity regarding the dangers of triumphalism, while Christianity’s universalism serves as a warning against Jewish insular isolationism; (4)A Jewish reminder of difference against the Christian vision of universals. The sources for the complimentary nature of the two faiths is Philip Cunnnigham, A Story of Shalom, p. 59, where the positions are labeled as (1) Michael McGarry; (2) Paul van Buren; (3) Irving Greenberg.
Rabbi Rosen many times serves as speech writer or speech adviser for Israeli Chief Rabbis.So, be prepared for a chief rabbi to discuss the complementarity of Judaism and Christianity.

Transformation in the Catholic-Jewish relationship : “nothing comparable in human history.”

The transformation in the Catholic-Jewish relationship since the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council has been dramatic. Arguably there is nothing comparable in human history. A community that was once seen as condemned and rejected by God; guilty of deicide: enemies of God and in league with the Devil; is now seen by the Church , in the words of Blessed Pope John Paul II as “the dearly beloved elder brother of the Church, the people of the original Covenant never broken and never to be broken”.

Both Blessed John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have reiterated that the Church has a relationship with Judaism that is unique and incomparable to Christianity’s relationship with any other religion, because it embodies the Church’s very roots.

In addition to deepening this process, we face two great tasks. The more laborious but perhaps most essential one is to translate this transformation more extensively into the pews and grass roots; and even to some of the shepherds and hierarchy who sometimes still think and even teach and preach under the impact of the old “teaching of contempt”, or at least in its shadow. Indeed in terms of our history, this transformation is very new and we have almost two millennia of negative indoctrination to overcome. Aside from simple ignorance, replacement theology is still quite prevalent and often other extraneous factors such as the conflict in the Middle East are utilized to avoid or prevent effective integration of the new theological understanding into the minds and hearts of faithful Christians throughout the world. Moreover as Pope Benedict XVI and other prominent prelates and theologians have noted, the full theological implications of Nostra Aetate, have not yet been fully plumbed.

This leads me to the second challenge, which is to develop a serious theology of partnership between Christians and Jews and an understanding of the other’s complementarity. Efforts at doing so have already begun. These have included seeing Judaism and Christianity in a mutually complementary role in which the Jewish focus on the communal covenant with God and the Christian focus on the individual relationship with God, may serve humanity in parallel as well as balance one another. Others have seen the complementary relationship in that we both need to be reminded that the Kingdom of Heaven has not yet fully arrived, and yet at the same time to appreciate that that Kingdom is already rooted in the here and now. Another view of the mutual complementarity, portrays Judaism as a constant admonition to Christianity regarding the dangers of triumphalism, while Christianity’s universalistic character may serve an essential role for Judaism in warning against degeneration into insular isolationism.

As opposed to the underlying assumptions of the latter, there is a contention that it is actually Christianity’s universalism that is challenged by the modern culturally pluralistic reality. The communal autonomy that Judaism affirms, it is suggested, may serve more appropriately as a model for a multicultural society, while Christianity may provide a better response for individual alienation in the modern world. Read the full speech here.

7 responses to “Rabbi David Rosen’s Speech at Munich interfaith meeting

  1. I’ve been following this topic pretty closely, and I can’t understand what Rabbi Rosen sees that I don’t.

    First: As I understand it, the Catholic Church firmly rejects any hint of a dual covenant theory. So Jews are not saved and have no possibility of being saved (read that as: are damned) unless they either accept Jesus, or – and admittedly this is a big improvement – God (which for them means Jesus) intervenes with an act of Grace.

    Second: When Rabbi Rosen uses the words “replacement theology”, doesn’t he understand that the Catholic Church clearly asserts that the Church is “Israel”? As I understand their stance, they don’t need to assert that the Church replaced the Jews as “Israel” (per the simple definition of “replacement theology”) because they believe that the identity of “Israel” pre-dates the Jews, and that the Jews simply ceased being “Israel” when they no longer met the criteria for “Israel”. Whoever meets the criteria (i.e., the Church) is “Israel”. No post-Jesus replacement is necessary.

    I’d appreciate correction if I have this wrong.

    If I’m correct, I don’t understand what a “theology of partnership” could be based on. Isn’t Rabbi Rosen reading far more into the Church’s position than really exists?

    • Len,

      To deal with your first comment. The hierarchy rejects a dual covenant because accept a single covenant through Abraham. Jews are now treated as Protestants. Your discussion of dammed and saved is quite confused. They can say that Jews were God’s first chosen and through Abraham we share grace, revelation, and covenant but not a complete belief. Your intervention discussion is Evangelical language. For the accepted hierarchy position- chew on the words of Cardinal Kasper:

      Cardinal Kasper: “it is not necessary to become a Catholic in order to be saved by God”, and assures them that “Judaism, i.e. the faithful response of the Jewish people to God’s irrevocable covenant, is salvific for them, because God is faithful to his promises” — without providing any degree of theological clarification of these points, he assists in fostering an attitude of ambivalence towards the necessity of Jesus Christ and his Church for salvation.

      Two years later, Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Commission for Relations With the Jews, told a U.S. conference that Christians cannot ignore their core belief in the universality of salvation in Christ. However, he said, “this does not mean that Jews, in order to be saved, have to become Christians; if they follow their own conscience and believe in God’s promises as they understand them in their religious tradition, they are in line with God’s plan, which for us comes to historical completion in Jesus Christ.”

      The main difference between the two faiths — the salvific role of Jesus Christ — must also be acknowledged, he said. “The universality of Christ’s redemption for Jews and gentiles is so fundamental throughout the entire New Testament … that it cannot be ignored or passed over in silence,” Cardinal Kasper said.

      “This does not mean that Jews in order to be saved have to become Christians; if they follow their own conscience and believe in God’s promises as they understand them in their religious tradition, they are in line with God’s plan, which for us comes to historical completion in Jesus Christ,” he said.

      Cardinal Kasper pointed out that Christians and Jews share the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament; the common figures of Abraham, Moses, patriarchs and prophets; the covenant and promises of a unique God; and a messianic hope.
      Cardinal Kasper said the question of mission will ultimately be resolved in the context of a Christian theology of Judaism. The church is only at the beginning of this process, which began with the Second Vatican Council, he said.
      “The long period of anti-Judaistic theology cannot be overcome in only 40 years,” he said.

      On the second point- replacement theology meant that Jews are no longer the chosen people. Now, Cardinal Koch, who is Kasper’s replacement has even said that “Jews are still he chosen people.” What that means we will see.

  2. “For the accepted hierachy position- chew on the words of Cardinal Kasper: …”

    Thanks for your clarification.

    When this sort of declaration makes it into the Catechism I’ll be glad to chew on it.

    • Len-
      What are you talking about? I wish you would look up the sources.
      Here is the current USCCB teaching version for Adults 2009- “To the Jewish people, whom God first chose to hear his word, ‘belong the sonship, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ'” (Rom 9: 4-5; cf. CCC, No. 839).
      Here is the 2008 version that is still used in some locations and other documents. The original sentence read: “Thus the covenant that God made with the Jewish people through Moses remains eternally valid for them.”
      If you have a different catechism or one from the 1950’s then dont use it. Try and quote specific texts and specific interpreters.

  3. Here is the full quote and link.
    839 “Those who have not yet received the Gospel are related to the People of God in various ways.”325

    The relationship of the Church with the Jewish People. When she delves into her own mystery, the Church, the People of God in the New Covenant, discovers her link with the Jewish People,326 “the first to hear the Word of God.”327 The Jewish faith, unlike other non-Christian religions, is already a response to God’s revelation in the Old Covenant. To the Jews “belong the sonship, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ”,328 “for the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.”329

    840 And when one considers the future, God’s People of the Old Covenant and the new People of God tend towards similar goals: expectation of the coming (or the return) of the Messiah. But one awaits the return of the Messiah who died and rose from the dead and is recognized as Lord and Son of God; the other awaits the coming of a Messiah, whose features remain hidden till the end of time; and the latter waiting is accompanied by the drama of not knowing or of misunderstanding Christ Jesus.

    Here is a summary of what it means from NCR. Anything beyond this in interpretation is just bloggers.

  4. Back in 2009 they reversed the original wording of their 2002 document “Covenant and Mission” (http://old.usccb.org/doctrine/covenant09.pdf, excerpted here: http://www.angelqueen.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=26520&sid=807d171e48cf894d92486a4e4fce9d82), which provoked a heated response from Jewish leaders (http://www.adl.org/Interfaith/usccb_letter.asp). The original document approached dual covenant theory a bit too closely for the Church’s comfort, watered down the need to evangelize and witness the Gospel to Jews, and wasn’t clear about how the Church definitely welcomes those Jews who are moved to seek conversion.

    The USCCB web page on the Catechism (http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/what-we-believe/catechism/catechism-of-the-catholic-church/frequently-asked-questions-about-the-catechism-of-the-catholic-church.cfm – see #18 and 19) is clear that the results of the Second Vatican Council have not been fully integrated into the Catechism.

    Regarding whether God’s covenants with the Jews achieve salvation for them, CCC 846 still says:

    846 “”Outside the Church there is no salvation” – How are we to understand this affirmation, often repeated by the Church Fathers? Re-formulated positively, it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body:

    Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through Baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it.

    The last line of CCC 846 is pretty clear: if you refuse to enter or remain in the Church, you can not be saved.

    So if the Church believes that the Jewish covenants are effective for Jews (perhaps by including Jews within the Church), its own Catechism doesn’t yet reflect that belief. Hopefully, they will take steps to change it.

  5. There also seems to be an unstated perspective that the Catholic Church is Christianity.

    Has Rabbi Rosen been doing similar work with mainline Protestant and Evangelical organizations, and perhaps with the Orthodox churches too?

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