Supersessionism and the Good Friday prayer

Fr. John Hunwicke has been keeping up a steady series of posts regarding not only the Vatican’s recent theological meditation regarding the Church’s mission to the Jews but also other issues relating to the Church’s relationship with the Jewish faith. One point he has come back to repeatedly is the attempt by the English episcopate (and the German episcopate before them) to get Rome to reconsider Pope Benedict’s Good Friday prayer for the conversion of the Jews. In the 1962 books as issued in 1962, the prayer was different and some folks objected to it, so Benedict sat down and wrote a new prayer for the Forma Extraordinaria. This, too, has drawn criticism.

Today, Fr. Hunwicke points out that there are readings in the Liturgia Horarum that might be considered of a piece with the objectionable prayers in the EF Good Friday liturgy, and he wonders aloud whether the English or German bishops have complained about those, too. (For our part, we wonder if certain passages in the Roman Breviary in 1960 have come in for as much criticism as one prayer in the Good Friday liturgy. We doubt it.) One other perhaps more interesting thing that Fr. Hunwicke has done is to actually listen to Jewish thinkers as they talk about some of these issues. Obviously, the Church can come—and has come, fairly consistently from Pentecost to the present day, in fact—to her own conclusions on the question. However, interfaith dialogue presumes, well, dialogue.

One almost wishes for a return to the good old days (the good old bad old days?) when the disputants would get together and hash these questions out in front of an audience. That’s dialogue. Not ponderous statements or joint declarations written by committees for other committees to read and respond to. And conferences, seminars, workshops, and roundtables to dissect endlessly. (Until it’s time for a new round.) It would be very interesting to hear all sides of this question have a vigorous discussion. With representatives of the major schools of Jewish thought present to offer context and reaction. Rabbi Berger, according to Fr. Hunwicke, raises some interesting parallels that, we suppose, many Catholics simply will not be familiar with. The laity might actually learn something from a vigorous, viva voce debate, too.