Catholic Family News

Pope Benedict’s Approach to Modern Judaism – Nothing Traditional About It

Pope Benedict XVI, whom some people regard as traditional, is actually a man dedicated to the new orientation of Vatican II. 

This is especially apparent in Pope Benedict’s dealing with modern Judaism, which is based on the Council’s teaching on the Jews found in the document Nostra Aetate. This new orientation has almost nothing in common with the 2000-year Tradition of the Church.

Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, delivered a speech on May 16 at the Angelicum in Rome where he applauded Pope Benedict’s dedication to Nostra Aetate and its subsequent developments. 

Koch praised Cardinal Ratzinger for “groundbreaking articles” in the area of Catholic-Jewish relations, he went on to celebrate Pope Benedict as a man committed to the Second Vatican Council’s new approach, and lauded Benedict for following in the exact footsteps of Pope John Paul II:

“Pope Benedict XVI carries on and progresses the conciliatory work of his predecessor with regard to Jewish-Catholic conversation. He not only addressed the first letter in his pontificate to the Chief Rabbi in Rome but also gave an assurance at his first encounter with a Jewish delegation June 9, 2005 that the Church was moving firmly on the fundamental principles of [Vatican II’s] Nostra Aetate and he intended to continue the dialogue in the footsteps of his [post-Conciliar] predecessors. In reviewing the seven years of his pontificate we find that he has in this short space of time taken all those steps which Pope John Paul took in his 27-year pontificate: Pope Benedict XVI visited the former concentration camp Auschwitz–Birkenau on May 28, 2006; during his visit to Israel in May 2009 he too stood before the Wailing Wall, he met with the Chief Rabbinate of Jerusalem and prayed for the victims of the Shoah in Yad Vashem; and on January 17, 2010 he was warmly received by the Jewish community in Rome in their synagogue. His first visit to a synagogue was of course made already on August 19, 2005 in Cologne on the occasion of World Youth Day, and on April 18. 2008 he visited the Park East Synagogue in New York. So we can claim with gratitude that no other Pope in history has visited as many synagogues as Benedict XVI.”[1]

Likewise, when Pope Benedict visited the synagogue in Rome, Rabbi David Rosen, director of the American Jewish Committee’s Interreligious Affairs was ecstatic, and understood better than many Catholics the true revolutionary nature of such acts.

With the visit to the synagogue Pope Benedict is institutionalizing revolutions,” said Rabbi Rosen. “By visiting the Roman synagogue, Pope Benedict is making it difficult for a subsequent Pope not to pay such a visit. John Paul’s [1986] visit could have been a one-off, but now with Benedict XVI’s visit, there is a sense of continuity.”[2]

Pope John Paul II visited one synagogue during his 26 year reign. In the short span of six years, Pope Benedict has already visited three

In all of Pope Benedict’s actions in this regard, we see the revolutionary Council document Nostra Aetate at work. Our highest churchmen continually acclaim Nostra Aetate not as a reaffirmation of Tradition, but as a brand new direction.

“A Fundamental Re-Orientation”

Cardinal Koch, today’s head of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity – hand-picked by Benedict XVI for that prestigious Vatican post – celebrates Nostra Aetata as the “crucial compass” of all endeavors towards Catholic-Jewish dialogue. In his May 16 speech, Koch refers to it as the “foundation document,” the “Magna Carta” of dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and Judaism. He calls Nostra Aetate a text that effected “a fundamental re-orientation of the Catholic Church” following the Council.[3]

Nostra Aetate was designed to be only the beginning of something much bigger. It is the culmination of more than two decades of work by modernist-leaning theologians who were determined to side-step traditional theology and establish a new basis of relations between Catholics and Jews.[4]

The key text of Nostra Aetate on this point is in the document’s fourth chapter:

“Given this great spiritual heritage common to Christians and Jews, it is the wish of this sacred Council to foster and recommend a mutual knowledge and esteem… the Jews should not be presented as rejected by God or accursed, as though this follows from Scripture … The Church… deplores all hatred, persecution and other manifestations of anti-semitism, whatever the period and whoever was responsible.”

Of course, no Catholic may favor the mistreatment of Jews or of anyone else. This is a given. What’s troubling, however, is the ambiguity contained in the phrase” The Jews should not be presented as rejected by God or accursed, as though this follows from Scripture.”

This phrase lacks necessary distinctions.

Firstly, all of us are members of an “accursed race” – the human race. None of us are born Catholic, but enter this world stained with original sin as children of Adam and Eve. We are thus born, as Blessed Abbot Marmion explains, “enemies of God.” [5] The Psalms teach, “Indeed in guilt was I born and in sin my mother conceived me.” (Psalm 5:7) Saint Paul affirms, “For we are by nature children of wrath.” (Eph. 2:3). We are all born as part of the Kingdom of Satan. 

To be freed from this kingdom, we need to be “saved”. The eminent Msgr. Joseph Clifford Fenton explains, the process of salvation requires a transfer from the Kingdom of Satan to the Kingdom of God. This Kingdom of God, according to the age-old doctrine of the Two Kingdoms,[6] is the Catholic Church, the one and only supernatural society established by Christ in which salvation can be found. 

The process of salvation, as Fenton notes, is similar to being saved from a sinking rowboat wherein the individual is sure to perish, and being transferred to a sea-worthy ocean liner. This necessary transfer from the Kingdom of Satan to the Kingdom of God requires Baptism and acceptance of the Jesus Christ and his Divine Revelation. “He who believes and is baptized will be saved. He who does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:6) This teaching applies to all people on earth, whether they be Jewish, Muslim, Hindu or secular humanist.

We are all thus born as part of an “accursed race.” The only way to free ourselves from this curse, the only way out of the Kingdom of Satan, is to leave the devil’s empire and transfer into Christ’s one true Church, and to keep oneself in the state of grace by means of prayer and the sacraments.

“Has Made Obsolete the Former One”

Next, Nostra Aetate fails to make a crucial distinction between Jews as individuals and the Jewish religion. True, Jews are not under a curse that precludes their salvation, since our sacred history is rife with Jewish converts who left the religion of the synagogue and embraced the Catholic Church.

What is today called the Jewish religion, however, is not of God, since it is based on a rejection of the Messiah. Our Lord warned the Jews of His day, “Therefore I say to you, that the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and will be given to a people yielding its fruits.” (Matt: 21: 43). 

Likewise Saint Paul writes that Christ’s New Covenant “has made obsolete the former one.” (Heb. 8:13)

Msgr. Joseph Clifford Fenton, reaffirming the infallible and unchanging doctrine of two millennia, explains that the older social unity – the Jewish religion of the Old Covenant – had been the ecclesia of God, but it “lost its status as the ecclesia or the kingdom of God on earth” because of its formal rejection of the Messiah. Our Lord Jesus Christ superseded the Old Covenant with His New Covenant by His Passion and Death on the Cross and the establishment of His Church. “This new organization as the faithful remnant of Israel,” writes Fenton, “went on to be the cclesia in a much more complete and perfect sense than the other had been.”

“Thus,” Fenton expounds, “the society over which the Roman Pontiff presides is called the Church not simply by reason of the fact that it is a religious community or organization, but actually and ultimately because this society is the kingdom of God on earth, the assembly of the people of the divine covenant, the social unit apart from which there is no salvation.”[7]

These crucial distinctions are not found in Nostra Aetate’s ambiguities. It is yet another example of Vatican II as essentially flawed documents. The deliberate ambiguities[8] and crucial omissions in the text open the door to a new theology unheard of in Church history. This new interpretation has become the “official interpretation” of the Council by the post-Conciliar Vatican.

Nostra Aetate speaks of the “spiritual bonds linking” Jews and Christians and of the “great spiritual patrimony” common to both. This new approach no longer speaks of the infidelity of Israel, but of its fidelity.[9] The Jewish writer Lazare Landau rejoiced that thanks to Vatican II, “the Church’s doctrine has indeed undergone a total change.” [10]

The fact that Nostra Aetate is a revolutionary text out of step with 2000 years of Catholic teaching is celebrated, as already noted, by Cardinal Koch himself. He calls the teaching of Nostra Aetate, the “crucial compass” that effected “a fundamental re-orientation of the Catholic Church” after the Council. 

This new orientation defies the nature of objective truth itself. It also defies the de fide teaching of the First Vatican Council, as well as the Oath Against Modernism, both of which bind Catholics to adhere to sacred doctrine “in the same meaning and in the same explanation” as what the Church always held. The new orientation of Nostra Aetate is a striking instance of Modernism in action.

Koch and “Anti-Semitism”

Within the past three weeks, Cardinal Koch once again reaffirmed the centrally of Nostra Aetate in a speech to members of the Vatican’s Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations with Jews, published in the L’Osservatore Romano, November 7.

The effort to reach an Accord with the SSPX, Koch told the Commission, “absolutely dos not mean” that the Catholic Church will accept or support the anti-Jewish or anti-Semitic positions allegedly espoused by some SSPX members.

“The Holy Father has charged me,” said Koch, “with presenting the question in the correct way. Nostra Aetate is not being questioned in any way by the magisterium of the Church as the pope himself has demonstrated repeatedly in his speeches, his writings and his personal gestures regarding Judaism.”[29]

The pro-abortion Anti-Defamation League was quick to praise Koch’s remarks. “…we applaud and welcome Cardinal Koch’s strong and clear re-affirmation of the significance of Nostra Aetate for the Catholic Church,” said Abraham Foxman, ADL National Director.

The ADL press-release lauded Koch’s reaffirmation of Nostra Aetate as “the crucial compass of all endeavors toward Jewish-Catholic dialogue.”

The same press-release quoted Rabbi Eric J. Greenberg, ADL Interfaith Director, saying that the ADL “respectfully urges that any potential rehabilitation of the SSPX include the requirement that the Society public reject their decades of hatred[sic], and that as an expression of their affirmation of Nostra Aetate, be required to remove all anti-Semitic rhetoric from both their online and their print publications.”[30]

We cannot too quickly wilt before the charge of “anti-semitism” or “anti-Judaism” until we know exactly how these pot-boiler terms are defined. Keep in mind this same ADL, in line with Jewish historian Jules Isaac, consider Saint Thomas Aquinas, Saint John Chrysostom, the Saints, Popes and Fathers of the Church, and the Holy Gospel writers themselves as “anti-Semitic”. [31]

On June 8, 1999, I attended an evening of Jewish-Catholic dialogue at a local Catholic seminary. The two speakers conducting the workshop were Professor James McManus of the United States Bishops Conference and Rabbi Leon Klenicki of the Anti-Defamation League of the B’Nai B’rith.[32]

Rabbi Klenicki claimed that the Churchmen of the early centuries (those whom we revere as Fathers of the Church: Augustine, Ambrose, Cyprian, etc.) were operating with a highly imperfect view of what was going on at the time of Our Lord. He even claimed that Pilate was solely responsible for the death of Christ, and that the Pharisees were actually trying to warn Jesus against Pilate’s treachery. 

In other words, Klenicki propounded the false notion that the Gospel accounts of the events leading up to the Passion and Death of Our Lord are not trustworthy, which can only mean the Gospels are not truly the Word of God.

Traditional Catholic doctrine, Klenicki told us, was poisoned by alleged “triumphalism” and “anti-Judaism” that manifested itself in the so-called “teaching of contempt” of the Catholic Church in the Medieval ages. This so-called “teaching of contempt,” however, was nothing more than the traditional doctrine of the Church, based on Holy Scripture, that Our Lord brought an end to the Old Covenant by His Passion and Death on the Cross, and by establishing the Catholic Church as the New Covenant.

When we fully realize the disdain some of these powerful Jewish groups hold against Christ, His Gospel and His Church, and when we better appreciate the damage to Catholic doctrine done by Nostra Aetate, we can only tremble when we read the Anti-Defamation League’s Abraham Foxman praise of Pope Benedict for “dedicating himself to the full implementation of this document [Nostra Aetate], and his genuine and sincere commitment to Catholic-Jewish relations.”[33]

Treating all men, Catholic or not, with love and respect is required by both natural and Divine Law. It is the natural result of the soul who truly loves Christ and patterns his actions on the Divine Model. 

Likewise, peaceful relations with non-Catholic religions are legitimate. But reorienting our sacred doctrine to please non-Catholic religions, as was effected by Vatican II, is criminal. Working toward this reorientation of doctrine is a sin against Faith itself. For those ordained prior to 1967, the sin is compounded by the breaking of the solemn Oath Against Modernism they swore to God, with one hand on the Bible, on the eve of their ordination.[34]

Catholics are in no way bound to accept these novel teachings even if they come from a Pontiff. We recall the instruction given by Pope Innocent III who taught that if a Pope departs from the universal teaching and customs of the Church, “he need not be followed” in this regard.[35] In fact, as Saint Robert Bellarmine teaches, we have the duty to resist.[36]

The Fatima Message exhorts us to “pray a great deal for the Holy Father.” May Our Lord soon send us a Pope who will once again be faithful to the admonition in Vatican I and in the Oath Against Modernism to teach and preserve the Faith “in the same meaning and in the same explanation” as the Church always taught throughout the centuries.

May we soon be graced with a Pope who no longer “institutionalizes revolutions,” but who fully re-institutionalizes Tradition.

[1] “Building on Nostra Aetate – 50 Years of Christian-Jewish Dialogue,” Cardinal Kurt Koch, Lecture at the Pontifical University of St Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum), John Paul II Center, Rome, May 16, 2012. Published by the Council of Centers of Jewish-Catholic Relations (emphasis added).
[2] From “Pope to Make Symbolic Visit to Rome Synagogue this Sunday,” Catholic Herald, January 15, 2010 (emphasis added).
[3] Koch: “Building on Nostra Aetate.
[4] See From Enemy to Brother: The Revolution in Catholic Teaching on the Jews, 1933-1965 by Professor John Connelly. (Harvard University Press, 2012). The book’s author is clearly in sympathy with the progressivists, but this does not detract from the value of the documentation. This newly published book documents the work of progressivist pre-Vatican II theologians to construct a new theology to accommodate modern Jewish-Catholic relations. It is the work of these theologians, primarily that of Karl Theime, who laid the groundwork for Nostra Aetate’s new approach. We hope to detail more of this material in a future issue of CFN.
[5] Christ the Life of the Soul, Abbot Columba Marmion, [St. Louis: Herder, 1925], p. 33.
[6] “The race of man after its miserable fall from God, the Creator and the Giver of Heavenly gifts, ‘through the envy of the devil,’ separated into two diverse parts, of which the one steadfastly contends for truth and virtue, the other for those things which are contrary to virtue and to truth. The one is the Kingdom of God on earth, the true Church of Jesus Christ; and those who desire from their heart to be united with it so as to gain salvation must of necessity serve God and His only-begotten Son with their whole mind and with an entire will. The other is the kingdom of Satan, in whose possession and control are all whosoever follow the fatal example of their leader and of our first parents, those who refuse to obey the divine and eternal law, and who have many aims of their own in contempt of God, and many aims also against God. This twofold kingdom St. Augustine keenly discerned and described after the manner of two cities, contrary in their laws because striving for contrary objects; and with subtle brevity he expressed the efficient cause of each in these words: ‘Two loves formed two cities: the love of self, reaching even to contempt of God, an earthly city; and the love of God, reaching even to contempt of self, a Heavenly one.’ At every period of time each has been in conflict with the other …” Emphasis added. Quotation taken from Msgr. Fenton The Catholic Church and Salvation, p. 135. Yet as Michael Davies explains in Pope John’s Council, Vatican II, especially the Council document Gaudium et spes, effectively abandoned the doctrine of the Two Kingdoms. Davies writes, “Gaudium et spes is pervaded by the notion that all men are basically men of good will, seeking the truth and anxious to do good. Far from the notion of conflict between the City of God and the City of Man [as set forth, as we have just seen, in the writings of Saint Augustine and Pope Leo XIII – Humanum Genus], the Council Document Gaudium et spesenvisages a future where the two cities work together for the common good of mankind.” Pope John’s Council, pp. 184-85.
[7] See “The Meaning of the Word ‘Church’,” Msgr. Joseph Clifford Fenton, American Ecclesiastical Review, October, 1954.
[8] Father Ralph Wiltgen reveals that in the Council documents, the progressivists would use ambiguous terms in order to exploit them afterwards. He quotes a progressivist Council peritus who said, “We are stating this in a diplomatic manner, but after the Council we shall draw the conclusions implicit in it.” The Rhine Flows into the Tiber, Father Ralph Wiltgen, S.V.D., Originally published in 1966 by Hawthorne Books. Reprinted by Tan Books in 1985., p. 242. Michael Davies devoted an entire chapter to these deliberate “Time Bombs” in his book Pope John’s Council.
[9] Quoted form “Rome’s Secret Accord with Jewish Leaders”, Jean Madiran, Originally published in the Autumn 1990 issue of Madiran’s French journal Itineraires, published in English by Anthony Fraser’s Apropos, Supplement to Apropos No. 9 (not dated), pp. 4-6. Emphasis added. See “Common Mission and Significant Silence,” (CFN, April 2011) for a summary of the Madiran report
[10] Ibid.
[26] “Papal Address at Synagogue in Rome: ‘May These Wounds Be Healed Forever’”, Pope Benedict XVI, Zenit, Jan. 17, 2010.
[27] Koch: “Building on Nostra Aetate”.
[28] See “The Components of Liberal Catholicism,” Msgr. Joseph Clifford Fenton, American Ecclesiastical Review, July, 1958. For a lecture that explains these components as the root of Vatican II’s new orientation, consult the Audio CD lecture “Catholic Identity Theft; The Components of Liberal Catholicism” by John Vennari (from Oltyn Library Services, 2316 Delaware Ave, PMB 325, Buffalo NY 14216).
[29] “Cardinal: Vatican-SSPX talks do not signal toleration of anti-Judaism,” Catholic News Service, Nov. 8, 2012.
[30] “ADL Praise Cardinal Koch’s Reaffirmation of Positive Relations Between Catholics and Jews,” Anti-Defamation Press Release, November 12, 2012.
[31] The term “teaching of contempt” was actually coined by Professor Jules Isaac (1877-1963) the “French-Jewish historian” revered by Jews the world over. In his many writings, Isaac waged war against the Holy Gospels as the “true source” of anti- Semitism. According to Isaac: “the permanent and latent source of anti-Semitism is none other than Christian religious teaching of every description and the traditional tendentious interpretations of Scripture.” Since Jules Isaac rejected Jesus Christ as Messiah, he necessarily rejected the New Testament as the inspired, infallible Word of God. To him, the Gospels are fallible human writings that can be critiqued, corrected, or condemned. He is particularly virulent against the Gospel of Matthew: “It is a veritable competition as to who can make the Jews appear most hateful. Richly chequered and pathetic as is the narrator of the fourth Gospel (St. John), the palm goes to Matthew; his unerring hand unleashed the poisoned arrow that can never be withdrawn.” Jules Isaac: Jesus et Israel, p, 571. Quoted in Judaism and the Vatican, Vicomte Leon de Poncis, (first printed 1967, reprinted by Christian Book Club of American, Palmdale, CA, 1999), p. 4
[32] Details of this evening of Jewish-Catholic dialogue are published “The Gospel According to Non-Beleivers, Part I”, J. Vennari, Catholic Family News, May, 2000.
[33] ADL Press release, Nov. 12, 2012.
[34] Msgr. Joseph Clifford Fenton taught that a man who has sworn the Oath Against Modernism, and then advances Modernism himself, or allows Modernism to be advanced “would mark himself not only as a sinner against the Catholic Faith but also as a common perjurer. “Sacrorum Antistitum and the Background of the Oath Against Modernism,” Msgr. Joseph Clifford Fenton, The American Ecclesiastical Review, October, 1960, pp. 259-260.
[35] Juan Cardinal de Torquemada (1388-1468) was a revered medieval theologian responsible for the formulation of the doctrines that were defined at the Council of Florence. Cardinal Torquemada teaches: “Were the Pope to command anything against Holy Scriptures, or the articles of faith, or the truth of the sacraments, or the commands of the natural or divine law, he ought not to be obeyed, but in such commands he is to be disregarded. Citing the doctrine of Pope Innocent III, Cardinal Torquemada further teaches: “Thus it is that Pope Innocent III states (De Consuetudine) that it is necessary to obey the Pope in all things as long as he, himself, does not go against the universal customs of the Church, but should he go against the universal customs of the Church, “he need not be followed …” Sources: Summa de ecclesia (Venice: M. Tranmezium, 1561). Lib. II, c. 49, p. 163B. The English translation of this statement of Juan de Torquemada is found in Patrick Granfield, The Papacy in Transition (New York: Doubleday, 1980), p. 171. And in Father Paul Kramer, A Theological Vindication of Roman Catholic Traditionalism, 2nd ed. (Kerala, India), p. 29.
[36] Saint Robert Bellarmine, Doctor of the Church, taught “Just as it is licit to resist the Pontiff that aggresses the body, it is also licit to resist the one who aggresses the soul or who disturbs civil order, or, above all, who attempts to destroy the Church. I say that it is licit to resist him by not doing what he orders and preventing his will from being executed; it is not licit, however, to judge, punish or depose him, since these are acts proper to a superior.” De Romano Pontifice, lib. II, chap. 29, inOpera omnia, Neapoli/ Panormi/Paris: Pedone Lauriel, 1871, vol. I, p. 418. For more, see “Resisting Wayward Prelates, According to the Saints,” J. Vennari, Catholic Family News, January 1998. (Reprint #259 available from CFN for $2.00US postpaid.) 

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John Vennari

John Vennari was the editor of Catholic Family News from 1994 until his death by cancer on April 4, 2017. His single mission was to teach people how to recognize and resist the pernicious errors of Modernism, especially since Vatican II. In connection with this mission, he was a zealous apostle of Our Lady of Fatima, collaborating closely with Fr. Nicholas Gruner (1942-2015).

John Vennari

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John Vennari was the editor of Catholic Family News from 1994 until his death by cancer on April 4, 2017. His single mission was to teach people how to recognize and resist the pernicious errors of Modernism, especially since Vatican II. In connection with this mission, he was a zealous apostle of Our Lady of Fatima, collaborating closely with Fr. Nicholas Gruner (1942-2015).