Monday, October 25, 2010

When We Remembered Zion

I try to avoid this topic as much as possible, so that I don't look like some crazy antisemitic trad. But this is just insane. The Melkite bishop said nothing wrong:
The World Jewish Daily referred to comments made by members of the recently completed Vatican meeting of Catholic bishops of the Mideast. The paper, which is widely circulated in the US, referred to "a number of shocking statements that appear to set back Jewish-Catholic relations to pre-Vatican II days, a Vatican synod denied the Jewish connection to the Land of Israel."

“The Holy Scriptures cannot be used to justify the return of Jews to Israel and the displacement of the Palestinians, to justify the occupation by Israel of Palestinian lands,” said Monsignor Cyril Salim Bustros, a Greek Melkite archbishop who resides in Massachusetts, in an October 23 press conference at the conclusion of the synod.

“We Christians cannot speak of the 'promised land' as an exclusive right for a privileged Jewish people. This promise was nullified by Christ. There is no longer a chosen people—all men and women of all countries have become the chosen people. "

Archbishop Bustros also called for the return of Palestinian refugees, while some of his statements were interpreted to call for the nullification of Israel's Jewish character.

Mordechay Lewy, Israel’s ambassador to the Holy See, described Bustros remarks as “returning to successionist theology, contradicting Second Vatican Council teaching and Pope Benedict himself—who has welcomed the return of Jews to their ancient homeland.”

Butros' statements concluded a two-week meeting called by the Pope to address the plight of Christians who are fleeing the Middle East.

Although much of the criticism at the conference focused on Israel, Israel Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor pointed out that Christian flight from the Middle East is actually occurring in countries where there are no Jews.

"Israel is the only country in the Middle East where the number of Christians has increased over the years," he said.

He also remarked that theological disputes over the interpretation of the Holy Scriptures were a phenomenon of the Middle Ages. "It doesn't seem like a wise move to revive them," he said.
This is ridiculous. So now the Jews are saying that the Catholic Church not only has to accept the State of Israel (fine, in itself, I suppose) but must also believe that it is, specifically, justified by the Bible in some theological way? That's absurd. There are plenty of realpolitik reasons to support a State of Israel (though I'm rather ambivalent myself), but now a specific religious justification must be accepted? We now not only need to believe the State of Israel exists (and it does, there's no getting past that) or has a right to exist (I'm just for peace, I guess, whatever that takes) but that its existence is part of some divine mandate?! And not recognizing that, or not recognizing some secular political "chosenness" or exceptionalism for the Jews, is now some big "set back" or sign of antisemitism!?

Somehow, Zionist extremism (which actually kills and displaces people) is mainstream and acceptable, but not the "extremism" of other religions (such as, God forbid, praying for the Jews on Good Friday! Which harms no one...) It really gets me angrier than I should get sometimes.

14 comments:

Andrew said...

I too think this is ridiculous. The State of Israel is a political creation, whatever. It exists, that's fine. However, what the Archbishop said is very much true-the Church is the Chosen People-baptized Jews and Gentiles alike.

Its frustrating to have political zionism and the old canard of antisemitism used as a PC bludgeon.

Stephen said...

If you still want to be infuriated, click here.

ABrooks said...

Fascinating, enlightening, and logical. Spock would like this.

sortacatholic said...

It's fairly clear from this article that the Melkite prelate conflates supersessionism with a pro-Palestinian political position. It's rather unwise to combine the two issues as they are not identical. I am not insensitive to the Melkite/Palestinian Christian plight. Still, supersessionism and the possibility of dual-covenant theology should reside within scripture and the entire sweep of Christian history. What this prelate has said is irresponsible and provocative.

RT: (such as, God forbid, praying for the Jews on Good Friday! Which harms no one...)

Pope Benedict has no one to blame but himself for not harmonizing the Tridentine and Pauline Good Friday services. Nevertheless, this has nothing to do with the conversion of the Israel-Palestine debate into a theological question.

A Sinner said...

"It's fairly clear from this article that the Melkite prelate conflates supersessionism with a pro-Palestinian political position."

Is it? I don't see that. I just see him saying that supersessionism excludes any possibility of a theological justification for the State of Israel ala zionism and evangelical dispensationalism.

There may or may not be practical political reasons to support a State of Israel, either with total control or as part of a two-state solution. But the one thing we CANNOT say is that its existence is part of some divine mandate.

And without that sort of fundamentalist idea to balance massive cognitive dissonance regarding the apartheid...it's pretty hard NOT to be "pro-palestinian" (at least in the form of a two-state solution).

"It's rather unwise to combine the two issues as they are not identical."

No, but they are related. It is pretty hard on purely human grounds to support the current political situation there. The only way people seem able to manage it mentally is to invoke some overriding justifying mythology (of which religious zionism is one form).

"What this prelate has said is irresponsible and provocative."

I don't think so. What he said is incredibly mild, and really just an internal theological question for the Catholic Church (clarifying that we AREN'T dispensationalists or religious zionists).

"Nevertheless, this has nothing to do with the conversion of the Israel-Palestine debate into a theological question."

No, but it shows once again how some Jewish voices are trying to use political correctness to dictate to OTHER religions what their INTERNAL practices should be (another that comes to mind is getting the Mormons to agree that they won't "baptize" dead Jews).

sortacatholic said...

RT: I don't think so. What he said is incredibly mild, and really just an internal theological question for the Catholic Church (clarifying that we AREN'T dispensationalists or religious zionists).

If His Grace wished to discuss the divide/synthesis between ta ethne/hoi ioudaioi in Paul, he should have prefaced his argument by distancing himself from the current Israel/Palestine conflict.

Catholic supersessionism is not the precise doppelganger of evangelical dispensationalism. It's quite possible to have an academic discussion of supersessionism without placing a judgment on modern Jewish occupancy of the state of Israel. That separation is not possible with dispensationalism. Alas, Abp. Bustros has needlessly crossed the Catholic grapple with supersessionism with aspects of the dispensationalist controversy and geopolitical struggles in the Middle East. These muddied waters complicate Jewish-Catholic relations not because Jewish and Catholic scholars misunderstand recent Catholic theological arguments that concern supersessionism. Rather, Catholic fundamentalists could interpret these statements as advocacy for the supersessionist ideology that has fueled anti-semitism.

Abp. Bustros must know that his statements distort and confuse. He is, wittingly or unwittingly, a facilitator of bigotry through ambiguous statements.

A Sinner said...

"If His Grace wished to discuss the divide/synthesis between ta ethne/hoi ioudaioi in Paul, he should have prefaced his argument by distancing himself from the current Israel/Palestine conflict."

But his whole point was to address the current conflict and point out that some "Biblical" notion of a Jewish "promised land" cannot be used as a justification for the current situation.

There may be other practical justifications for the current situation, but certainly nothing so definitive as a divine mandate.

For many Americans, sadly, "God gave the Jews that land in the Bible!" is argument enough for just kicking everyone else out or continuing the apartheid.

I don't think the Archbishop was saying there should be no State of Israel. Just that its existence is on the same plane as that of any other State, constituted naturally, not supernaturally, and therefore is not an absolute principle or value.

"It's quite possible to have an academic discussion of supersessionism without placing a judgment on modern Jewish occupancy of the state of Israel."

All he said is that the Bible cannot be used as a justification for the State of Israel. History may (and in some sense does) justify it, but naturally, not supernaturally.

The State of Israel exists, and has its "right to exist" because they were legally given part of the Mandate of Palestine and now govern the area de facto and are recognized by the international community. All those reasons are valid. Their right to exist does NOT come, however, from any divine promise anymore.

That's all the Archbishop was saying, and it's totally true.

"Alas, Abp. Bustros has needlessly crossed the Catholic grapple with supersessionism with aspects of the dispensationalist controversy and geopolitical struggles in the Middle East."

It's not needless though. Some Catholic American neocons clearly do buy into a dispensationalist narrative whereby the Jews still deserve the Holy Land because of some divine promise in the Bible. And he's merely saying, "No, you can't bring God's word into it like that."

"Rather, Catholic fundamentalists could interpret these statements as advocacy for the supersessionist ideology that has fueled anti-semitism."

'Could interpret'?? And they could interpret the Pope's comments at Regensburg to be anti-Muslim, or Catholic morality to be homophobic, or teachings on female ordination to be misogynistic. We need to stop worrying so much about what the Jews think of us and our "relations" with them. There are a billion Chinese and a billion Indians and a billion Muslims. Let's worry about them first.

"Abp. Bustros must know that his statements distort and confuse. He is, wittingly or unwittingly, a facilitator of bigotry through ambiguous statements."

I'm sorry, but I think this is absurd. His statement wasn't ambiguous at all. All he said was that there is no more "chosen people" who have right to any geographical "promised land"...rather, all mankind (through the Church) is God's chosen people, and our promised land is heaven.

Catholics absolutely CANNOT view the modern State of Israel in any way as being of supernatural institution.

That's all the archbishop said. I fail to see the problem.

sortacatholic said...

me: Catholics absolutely CANNOT view the modern State of Israel in any way as being of supernatural institution.

RT: That's all the archbishop said. I fail to see the problem.

I now agree that I've overlooked the prelate's motivations. I'm decidedly agnostic over the question of supernatural justification for the modern state of Israel. I have much deeper theological questions at the moment, such as whether I can be a Catholic and profess Jansenism at the same time :-0

I do maintain that Abp. Bustros could have been more prudent. Nevertheless prudence is quite a subjective metric. Your arguments are much more persuasive than mine. Hats off, great argument.

A Sinner said...

"I'm decidedly agnostic over the question of supernatural justification for the modern state of Israel."

Really? You really think it's even potentially theologically supportable that the modern State of Israel is in essence a continuation or manifestation or incarnation of Biblical Israel of the Old Testament in the supernaturally-constituted sense??

If it WERE true, it would have a huge impact on how we view the situation and what we'd politically support. Thankfully, such an idea is very far from both Catholic and true secular thought.

It is an idea supportable only by religious zionism or evangelical dispensationalism, and for them, it DOES have a huge impact on how they view the situation, for the worse (when it comes to treating the Other humanely)

FrGregACCA said...

Somebody said recently that Holocaust survivors were entitled to "irrational feelings". True enough.

As the good Archbishop sees what is happening to the Palestinians, many of whom include members of his own flock, he is entitled to be less than prudent.

A Sinner said...

Hear, hear! Enough double-standards and Jewish exceptionalism.

And it shouldn't be considered crazy right (or left) wing to say that. It's about justice and equality for crying out loud. Saying the Jews shouldn't get special treatment, that they should be treated like everyone else...is not bad.

Obviously, saying they should be treated especially WORSE than other people is terrible. But it really gets to me sometimes when it seems like, nowadays, merely not admitting them preferential treatment or exceptional status...is considered antisemitism. That's absurd.

Who Am I said...

I found the time to make my post here, so I guess now is as good a time as any to write it out.

What I believe sortacatholic is getting at is the fact that we will NEVER know if in the grand scheme of it all, if GOD will use the secular state of Israel as His vehicle for the conversion of The Jews. I mean centuries ago the very idea of a Jewish state existing would have been laughable and look at Israel now. I'm not saying this in a Christian Zionist sense, but rather I'm just saying it is a POSSIBILITY. I mean think about how Catholics have reimagined The Encounter Era. Evangelization was not the only thing that came along on those voyages, however as a result of those voyages, The Natives of The Americas received The Faith. Good being reaped from a bad situation. I mean if we're really going to get down to it, wouldn't all the broken treaties The US has with The Natives of the land likewise mean that every person of non Native descent would likewise have to leave the land ? The treaties are documented in court cases as having been broken, so we might as well compare a similar if not exact situation.

I'm not a fan of the government of Israel nor am I a supporter of the government of Palestine. However, I am an ARDENT supporter of the people who are being used as PAWNS for the sake of BOTH governments in question. Which is likewise the same reason that most Native groups on reservations haven't pushed for non-Natives to vacate The US. They understand that many generations of people have built their lives here, however they're only asking for a little RESPECT.

Colonization was a BLEEP* everywhere it touched (Palestine included) and yet we still haven't learned to get out of that business. Most colonial powers freely gave up their territories not because of revolutions, but because they were investing more in the colonies than they were gaining from them. After they exhausted the resources and the people living there of any profit to be made, they merely left. The aftermath being EXTREMELY poor nations left in the wake who aren't capable of functioning outside of the bureaucratic and corrupted political systems that were left in their wake. So what happens, you continuously have that cycle repeating itself over and over again. Is anyone to blame, yes and no (I'm not pointing fingers either, ;)). The problem is not so much playing the blame game, it's about coming up with a solution. No one wants to come up with SOLUTIONS. It's easy to speak out of a set world view and expect everyone else to conform. That isn't how problems are solved.

Likewise, sortacatholic's statement about the statements being used towards pro Palestinian movement and an anti Semitic/Judaic movement are sadly true. I mean you've been on Trad forums, you know how that works out. People aren't concerned with the individuals involved, it's just easier to make sweeping statements, take action and THEN ask questions later. Do you really need sources to prove just how true that is ? I often wonder how concerned most Catholics etc. are with the situation in The Middle East. Is it because they really care about the plight of either side, or is it merely a way to mask their own agendas/persuasions (The Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem comes to mind, along with oil, etc.). Think about it.

Politics in The Middle East related to religion take on a TOTALLY different form than they do in The US. This isn't just a matter of being pro Life or pro Choice, these are matters that tear families apart in ways that would boggle most Western minds.

It's a difficult situation to say the least, but I hold to the hope that GOD's providence will shine through.

A Sinner said...

All very good points, and a better statement of my own beliefs than I could muster myself, Who Am I.

But, saying the secular State of Israel may be part of God's Providence is different than dogmatically holding that the Jews should have that land because God said so. Catholics simply don't believe that.

Who Am I said...

I understand what you're saying. However,you as well as I know that a HOST of people will use this as a vehicle for their own Anti-Semitic desires. They will ultimately use this as a justification for anything they might say and do.

The issue is complicated as it is (given the fact that any SANE individual is able to empathize with THE PEOPLE who are being hurt on either side), but that won't deter people from being bigoted. That counts for people on BOTH sides of the issue. People are prone to extremes (as your post on politics demonstrates quite well). People are so used to the yes OR no (and it is valid in some circumstances), that they can't get their minds around the concept of yes AND no (Talmudic reasoning FTW ! Christ uses the same logic regarding the issue of paying tribute to Caesar (Render to GOD what is of GOD and to Caesar what is of Caesar.)).

You very well know how some people will interpret this as; "Let's restart The Inquisition !" "No more infidel Jews !" etc. . I'm still in awe at how coercive conversions were at one time encouraged. You don't get legitimate conversions that way and in the case of sacraments, you're REALLY playing with a person's salvation there. But you still will find people championing those causes.

There are VARIOUS forms of Zionism and some might even interpret my statements as Zionistic (and in some extremes Anti-Semitic). I'm all for BALANCE and PEACE, not extremes (on either side). The problem is, how do you communicate those very sentiments I expressed in a way that makes everybody happy. The truth is, you can't. Being persecuted (on either side) makes for hardened hearts that WON'T listen to the plight of their neighbor. I empathize with both The Palestinian and The Israeli, not their governments. Both sides have more in common than they care to admit. St.Sarah and Hagar's legacy lives on. What burns my gears however is when OUTSIDE pawn both sides in a vicious cycle of "you do my dirty work for me".