March 16, 2009

Schismatic Bishops, Holocaust Denial and Christian-Jewish Relations

Fr John McDade SJ, Principal of Heythrop College, University of London, on schismatic bishops, holocaust denial and the Church’s understanding of Christian-Jewish relations (thanks: Anna Arco). Here is how he concludes:

Modern Christians have inherited a version of Christianity in which there has been a negative relationship to Judaism […]. A considerably darker legacy is the hate-filled rhetoric bequeathed to us by John Chrysostom in 4thCentury Antioch, Martin Luther in 16th Century Germany and the countless preachers who stirred up the anti-Jewish feelings that flowed murderously into 20th Century European history. The task is now a simple one: to develop an account of Christian identity in which there is a positive relationship to the Jewish people. And with this project, we are setting ourselves the task of recovering the insight available in the earliest Christian decades that there is a living tie between what God does in Israel and what God does through Christ. This can only be an enrichment of the core Christian identity and mission, and it is this enrichment which is threatened by those who, for ideological reasons, try to drive a wedge between Christians and Jews. We should not tolerate them.

If Richard Williamson is accepted back into communion with the Catholic Church, there should be no question of his exercising either an episcopal or a priestly role in the Church. This would be completely inappropriate and unwelcome: no one needs ministry from a person who holds views which are inimical to the Church’s positive relation to the Jewish people. When Pope Benedict was simply Joseph Ratzinger, he wrote that ‘the highest vocation that we can have is simply to be a Christian’. This ought to govern the advice that is given now to Williamson: live as a Catholic layman and do your best to reach heaven through the grace you received at Baptism, but do not expect to act in the name of Christ in either a priestly or episcopal capacity. This matter is too important for the Church to act otherwise and Williamson is too marginal and offensive to genuine Catholicism to be given a ministry to speak in the name of the Church.