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Revisiting the Vatican Document
on the Jewish People

by Christopher A. Ferrara
January 27, 2016

Pope Francis visited the Synagogue of Rome two weeks ago, thus continuing the unprecedented novelty introduced by John Paul II. In his speech on that occasion he made favorable reference to the document “The Gifts and Calling of God are irrevocable,” issued in December by the Vatican’s Commission for Religious Relations with Jews.  Yet, as I noted in a prior article on this document, the very preface of that document states: “The text is not a magisterial document or doctrinal teaching of the Catholic Church…” 

That Pope Francis cited this utterly non-binding document during the synagogue visit is yet another example of what I call The Great Façade of novelty in the post-Vatican II Church: the false appearance of a change in Church teaching which becomes in practice the “new” doctrine.  The synagogue visit prompts me to revisit the document in order to examine a passage I did not previously discuss, which may be its most devious assertion:

On the part of many of the Church Fathers the so-called replacement theory or supersessionism steadily gained favour until in the Middle Ages it represented the standard theological foundation of the relationship with Judaism: the promises and commitments of God would no longer apply to Israel because it had not recognised Jesus as the Messiah and the Son of God, but had been transferred to the Church of Jesus Christ which was now the true ‘new Israel’, the new chosen people of God….

With its Declaration “Nostra aetate” (No. 4) the Church unequivocally professes, within a new theological framework, the Jewish roots of Christianity. While affirming salvation through an explicit or even implicit faith in Christ, the Church does not question the continued love of God for the chosen people of Israel. A replacement or supersession theology which sets against one another two separate entities, a Church of the Gentiles and the rejected Synagogue whose place it takes, is deprived of its foundations….

Notice how the Church’s constant teaching that the New Covenant supersedes the Old is downplayed as a something that “many Church fathers believed” and which “steadily gained favor” until the Middle Ages. And what about the period between the “Middle Ages” and Vatican II?  The teaching was the same.  Thus, the document attempts to obscure the fact that from the time of the Church Fathers until 1962­­ — that is, throughout the Church’s history — the Catholic teaching was precisely that “the promises and commitments of God would no longer apply to Israel because it had not recognized Jesus as the Messiah and the Son of God, but had been transferred to the Church of Jesus Christ which was now the true ‘new Israel’, the new chosen people of God…”

Yet, continuing its fraudulent misrepresentation, the document contends that, with the promulgation of Nostra Aetate, the traditional teaching “is deprived of its foundations…” That is a flat out lie.  Here is what Nostra Aetate actually states:

Although the Church is the new people of God, the Jews should not be presented as rejected or accursed by God, as if this followed from the Holy Scriptures. All should see to it, then, that in catechetical work or in the preaching of the word of God they do not teach anything that does not conform to the truth of the Gospel and the spirit of Christ.

The Council thus affirms exactly what the Pontifical Commission now fraudulently denies: that “the Church of Jesus Christ… was now the true ‘new Israel’, the new chosen people of God…” That the Council also observes that the Jewish people should not be presented as rejected or accursed by God does not mean they are under no obligation to recognize Christ as Messiah and enter His Church.  On the contrary, for nearly 2,000 years the Church has prayed that the “veil” Saint Paul remarked in 2 Corinthians be lifted from Jewish hearts so that they might convert to Christ and join “the new people of God”:  “But even until this day, when Moses is read, the veil is upon their heart. But when they shall be converted to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away  (2 Cor. 15-17).”

Indeed, the Pontifical Commission admits that the claim “that the covenant that God made with his people Israel perdures and is never invalidated… cannot be explicitly read into Nostra Aetate….” As I noted in the previous article, the Commission bases its claim on a remark by John Paul II, speaking to a small group of Jewish representatives in Mainz, Germany in 1980.  But on that occasion John Paul said merely that the Old Covenant was not revoked, not that the Old Covenant “perdures,” which is to imply that the Old Covenant still operates alongside the New Covenant as a separate path of salvation for Jews only, which is simply heresy. 

Like post-Vatican II churchmen in general, the commission is playing games with the words “revoked” and “invalidated”. It is true that God did not simply destroy the Old Covenant — revoke it and leave nothing in its place. God did not send Our Lord Jesus Christ to be a destroyer who would simply abolish or revoke, i.e. nullify the Old Law, and leave nothing in its place; but to fulfill it (Mt. 5:17), and therefore, in fulfilling the Law which prophetically prefigured Him, He brought the Old Covenant to its end when all was fulfilled: “For amen I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot, or one tittle shall not pass of the law, till all be fulfilled.” (Mt. 5:18)

Thus, Christ​ perfected and completed the Old Covenant in the New Covenant, so that the Old lapsed in favor of the New. It was “made void,” as Saint Paul puts it, not because it was “invalid” but rather because it had been fulfilled and superseded by the new and everlasting covenant in Christ. (Cf. 2 Cor. 3:14).

Thus the Jews, no less than any other race of men, are called to join what even Nostra Aetate called “the new people of God.” To suggest otherwise, as the Commission does, and as Francis has just done at the Synagogue of Rome, is to say that the Jews have no need of Christ for salvation or — which is utterly nonsensical — that Christ saves the Jews whether or not they believe in Him. But as Our Lord Himself declared: “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved; he who believes not shall be condemned.” He did not add: “except for the Jews.” 

How much longer will the Church be afflicted by this Great Façade of theological fakery masquerading as Catholic doctrine? Only God knows. But surely we too would know had we been provided with the entirety of the Third Secret of Fatima.