We were affronted by the Vatican’s unintelligible dismissal of criticism from some prominent Israeli rabbis of Pope Francis’s recent disparaging comments on the validity of Jewish law.
As reported by the Times of Israel, several weeks ago the Pope caused consternation when he told an audience that the law of the Jewish Torah “does not give life, it does not offer the fulfillment of the promise because it is not capable of being able to fulfill it. The Law is a journey, a journey that leads towards an encounter…. Those who seek life need to look to the promise and to its fulfillment in Christ.”
Rabbi Ratzon Arusi, the chairman of the Israeli Chief Rabbinate’s Commission for Dialogue with the Holy See, sent a letter on behalf of his office and several rabbis to the Vatican critical of the apparent slight:
In his homily, the Pope presents the Christian faith as not just superseding the Torah, but asserts that the latter no longer gives life, implying that Jewish religious practice in the present era is rendered obsolete. This is in effect part and parcel of the ‘teaching of contempt’ towards Jews and Judaism that we had thought had been repudiated by the Church.
As reported by Reuters, the Vatican has now rejected the criticism, saying the Pope’s critics got his remarks all wrong and was merely homily on the writings of Saint Paul’s writings and should not be extrapolated from their context of ancient times and that they do not apply to present-day Jews.
Here is how Cardinal Kurt Koch, the head of the Vatican department responsible for religious relations with Jews put it in a letter to Rabbi Arusi: “The enduring Christian conviction is that Jesus Christ is the new way of salvation. However, this does not mean that the Torah is diminished or is no longer recognized as the ‘way of salvation’ for Jews. In his catechesis, the Holy Father makes no mention of modern Judaism; the discourse is a reflection on the theology [of Saint Paul] within the historical context of a given era.”
How this blather explains away the comments of the Pope, which were of the flat out variety, escapes us. And at a time of spiking anti-Semitism and the Vatican’s historical use of this sort of thing to justify unspeakable attacks on our people, one could have certainly expected something that was more forthcoming. But in the spirit of ecumenism, we nonetheless thank them for clearing things up.