North American Cardinals Urge Strong Statement on Jewish Relations

89th General Congregation
September 28, 1964

Strong support for a clear and positive statement of the Church’s relation with the Jewish people was championed by four North American cardinals as the council opened discussion of the declaration on the Jews at the beginning of the third week of the third session.

Among 14 speakers to take the floor on the declaration were Richard Cardinal Cushing of Boston, Albert Cardinal Meyer of Chicago, Joseph Cardinal Ritter of St. Louis and Paul-Emile Cardinal Leger of Montreal, all of them throwing weight behind a strong statement.

Another member of the American hierarchy to speak at this 89th session was Bishop John J. Wright of Pittsburgh who, speaking in the name of more than 70 bishops, intervened to comment on the already-debated religious liberty declaration. He was joined by Archbishop John C. Heenan of Westminster, who spoke on the same subject in the name of the hierarchy of England and Wales, as well as many bishops of Scotland, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, France and Belgium. Also speaking out on the religious liberty declaration were Archbishop Jean Zoa of Yaounde, Cameroun — in the name of the bishops of Africa — and Bishop Hadrianus Ddungu of Masaka, Uganda.

Included in the day’s business was approval of six amendments to the schema on the nature of the Church. Among these was the general approval of the principle of the re-establishment of the diaconate as a separate order rather than as a steppingstone to the priesthood. No reference in the amendment was made to the question of a married diaconate or to the actual role deacons would have in the ministry.

Cardinal Cushing was the first of the American hierarchy to speak on the declaration on the Jews. The Bostonian said that the declaration of esteem for the Jews should be clearer, stronger and more charitable. He specifically called for a denial by the text of the culpability of the Jews as a people for the death of Jesus.

Rejection of Christ by the Jewish people is a mystery and is to serve to instruct us, not to inflate us, he said. He declared that we cannot judge the ancient judges of the Jews, as that is for God to do. At the same time, he said, Christians must be aware of the universal guilt of all men who by sin crucified and are crucifying Christ.

Chicago’s Cardinal Meyer called for restoration of the original text, which had been introduced during the last council session and which has been redrafted and presented in a different and altered form. The first text, he said, was better and more ecumenical. He stated that it is not enough for the Church to deplore any injustice against the Jewish people. It must also point out the close relationship of the Jews with the Church, he said.

Cardinal Meyer pointed out that St. Thomas Aquinas taught that the Jews were not formally guilty of deicide. He also stated that he felt there were reasons for restricting the declaration to the Jews alone and eliminating references to other non-Christian religions. He suggested these references could be included in schema 13, on the Church in the modern world.

The Chicago cardinal also called for a clear statement on the declaration against discrimination of any kind on the grounds of race, color or creed.

Cardinal Ritter took the floor to declare that the reason for the issuing of such a document is that it answers a need of the present time. Political considerations are not at stake, he declared, but the declaration would repair injustices of past centuries.

He noted that it is often assumed that God abandoned the Jews and the Jews were rightly to be accused of condemnation of Christ. Now, he said, an opportunity has been offered to remedy these errors and to remove these injustices.

The St. Louis cardinal suggested several changes. He suggested the text could make more fully and more explicitly clear how religious bonds join Jews and Christians today, how divine love has been extended to each in a special way and that there is a union in that love.

Cardinal Ritter objected to the phrase referring to a gathering together of the Jews in the Church and said it sounds as if the Church envisions conversion. He pointed out that the text does not speak of the Moslems and pagans in the same respect. Therefore, he suggested a choice of less offensive wording, and held that a paragraph expressing hope of the union of all men, extending to all men, be placed at the end of the document.

Cardinal Ritter also said that he preferred the first text and that the present one is only halfhearted in some of its statements and does not touch the heart of the Jewish question. What is not said is sometimes more important than what is said, he declared.

To Cardinal Leger the declaration was all-important. The Canadian cardinal called it a necessary act of the Church’s renewal. He labeled unfortunate the fact that it is not stated explicitly that the Jewish people were not guilty of deicide.

The strongest voice against the declaration in the day’s session came from Ignace Cardinal Tappouni, Syrian Rite Patriarch of Antioch. Speaking in the name of several Eastern rite prelates, he repeated their objections of the second session to any statement on the Jews whatsoever and called for its complete omission from the acts of the council.

The 89th session of the council opened with Mass celebrated by Bishop Frantisek Tomasek, a titular bishop from Czechoslovakia. Bishop Emilio Gaona Sosa, S.D.B., retired bishop of Concepcion, Paraguay, enthroned the Gospel book. It was his 80th birthday.

Archbishop Pericle Felici, council general secretary, announced that when the third chapter of the schema on the Church came to be voted on as a whole, it would be divided into two parts. Division had been requested by the council’s doctrinal commission because it said that if this were not done, so many bishops would vote with reservations that an immense amount of work would be created for the commission.

(Commenting on this division of the vote on the third chapter, Father John King, O.M.I., pointed out at the American bishops’ press panel session that the first part deals with the collegiality of the apostles and of the bishops as their successors. The second part would deal with the function of the bishops in ruling, teaching and sanctifying the Church, he said. He said the first would include the first 21 amendments, and the second would include amendments 22 through 39.)

Then Archbishop Heenan took the floor to outline the religious history of the Church in the British Isles and said that it is clear to both Protestants and Catholics in England that liberty and equality of treatment for all is the only way of promoting peaceful relations among citizens. He said this is why the declaration deserves praise and approval without reservation.

Archbishop Heenan rejected the proposal that only the principle of religious liberty be enunciated in the declaration. He said the reasons behind such principles must be spelled out, and asked the council to declare to the whole world once and for all the heartfelt belief of Catholics in the full liberty of all the sons of God.

Bishop Wright said he feared that discussion of the declaration had been too pragmatic. The text is too cautious, he said, because it does not point out sufficiently the link of religious liberty with the inseparable concept of the common good.

Bishop Wright declared that elimination of religious freedom does more harm than the preaching of error can do to the common good. The common good should not be confused with a sort of passive and forced conformity which is found in police states, nor is it just a grab bag of functions and services of the state such as social security, pension programs and police protection.

Therefore, he stated that a pragmatic approach is not worthy of the dignity and seriousness of the subject. Citing the philosopher Jacques Maritain, Bishop Wright said common good is founded not on force but on justice.

Finally, he urged the council to work for religious liberty of all men. We need religious liberty now more than ever before, he declared.

Bishop Ddungu of Masaka, speaking for 70 African bishops, said the declaration is satisfactory and is especially needed in Africa with its many new nations. Such a declaration would have a great effect on African countries, he said. Moreover, since most of Africa is not Christian, he said, an example of restriction of this freedom by Christians could lead African leaders to apply the same restrictions to Christians themselves.

Archbishop Zoa also expressed fear that the reasons advanced for defense of religious liberty were too pragmatic and called for pastoral and doctrinal reasons as well. The document should be concerned with man as such and not with man in any particular country or circumstance.

Debate on the Jewish declaration began with Achille Cardinal Lienart of Lille, France, taking the floor. He expressed his satisfaction with the document’s treatment of the common heritage shared by the Jews and Christians, but wanted more pastoral notes to be incorporated into the text.

Cardinal Tappouni spoke in the name of Coptic Rite Patriarch Stephanos I Sidarouss of Alexandria, Melkite Rite Patriarch Maximos IV Saigh of Antioch, Chaldean Rite Patriarch Paul II Cheikho of Babylon, and Armenian Rite Patriarch Ignace Pierre XVI Batanian of Cilicia.

He repeated solemnly the grave objections which the Eastern patriarchs had made at the council last fall. He warned that the Church would find itself in serious difficulties if anything concerning the Jews were passed and said the declaration is most inopportune. He asked that it be omitted completely.

Cardinal Tappouni held that if the declaration were passed it would cause trouble for the Catholics of the Near East because of the hostility of the Arab world to such a statement. His own opposition and that of others was not based on any opposition to Judaism as a religion or to the Jews as people, he said, but rather on the grounds that the council would be promoting political ends if it were to approve such a declaration.

Joseph Cardinal Frings of Cologne, Germany, expressed special pleasure with the document’s wording concerning the Moslems. But he asked that the original text be restored because of its wording concerning the Jews. Christ’s death cannot be attributed to a whole people, he said. He also asked that the declaration include reference to St. Paul’s treatment of the relationship between the people of the Old and the New Testaments, as found in the second chapter of his letter to the Ephesians.

Ernesto Cardinal Ruffini of Palermo, Sicily, told the council he is in favor of the good things said about the Jews in the text but asked that the declaration also exhort the Jews to love Christians. He held that Jews have traditionally followed Talmudic teachings, which hold Christians in contempt and despise them as animals.

In the course of his talk Cardinal Ruffini charged that Jewish people have supported Freemasonry, which the Church has condemned. Finally, he asked why there is no mention in the text of the redemption of the Jews.

(At the American bishops’ press panel session following the day’s council meeting, it was brought out that the Talmud — the compilation of the oral teaching of the Jews, which dates from the early centuries of the Christian era — uses words for Christians which are subject to various interpretations.

(Msgr. John M. Oesterreicher, head of the Institute of Judaeo-Christian Studies at Seton Hall University, South Orange, N.J., said that Talmudic references which appear to slur Christians may refer only to Jews who become Christians. He said it is difficult to quote the Talmud because it is like a newspaper recording of all types of conflicting opinions, and almost anything can be proved from it. Thus one rabbi can be quoted against another.

(Concerning Cardinal Ruffini’s plea that Jews take a better view of Christians, Msgr. Oesterreicher said, “I hope and believe that Jews in general take a favorable view of Christians.”

(Msgr. Mark Hurley, chancellor of the diocese of Stockton, Calif., spoke at the briefing session on Cardinal Ruffini’s reference to “pernicious” Freemasonry. The American priest said that a radical distinction must be made between the European Masonry of the Grand Orient Lodge variety and American and British Masonry. The Grand Orient is atheistic, he said, but it should also be kept in mind that a great part of Masonry bars Jews from membership.)

Giacomo Cardinal Lercaro of Bologna addressed the council after Cardinal Ruffini. He sought to answer the question as to why the Church is only now coming to the point of making a declaration concerning the Jews. The basic reason cannot be found in the Nazi war of genocide against the Jews, nor in what he called political reasons, he said. Instead, he insisted, it arises from the Church’s developing a deeper knowledge of herself and of her essential mystery.

The declaration grows out of the Constitution on the Liturgy and from the nature of the Church, Cardinal Lercaro said, and should be further amended to suggest Biblical discussion with the Jews. He said the Jewish people should not be regarded as having value only in the past. But the heritage of Israel, the institution of the Eucharist within the Jewish paschal cycle, the relationship between the Passover meal and the Mass, the common fatherhood of Abraham — all these should be emphasized in the text, he said, in order to give witness in a Biblical and pastoral way and to foster piety.

He said that the Jews of today should not be called an accursed or a deicide people, but rather that we should recognize that all of us “have strayed like sheep.”

Cardinals Leger and Cushing spoke after Cardinal Lercaro. In addition to his other points, Cardinal Cushing stressed that Christians should reject and repudiate persecution and hatred. In this solemn moment, he said, there is no Christian reason for hatred or persecution against our brothers, the Jews. He added that the New World has great hopes that the council will approve a good statement on Christian-Jewish relations.

Cardinal Cushing also said that Christians should confess humbly that they have not been truly Christian in their treatment of the Jews. Christians should acknowledge how many Jews have suffered and died because of indifference and silence on the part of Christians. If not very many Christian voices cried out in the past, he said, let our voices cry out humbly now.

Franziskus Cardinal Koenig of Vienna said he was pleased with the specific mention of the Moslems in the text because of their belief in the One Merciful God. Concerning the declaration’s references to the Jews, he raised the question as to why the revised text, in condemning persecution of the Jews, omits the words “formerly or in our own times.” He also made several other detailed suggestions which he said would improve the text.

Archbishop Lorenz Jaeger of Paderborn, Germany, said that the council statement should be titled a “Declaration on the Jews and Other Non-Christians,” inasmuch as the Jews are also non-Christians. He asked for inclusion in the declaration of some other Scriptural references which he said would improve the text, as well as requesting the elimination of some references which he said are not to the point.

Coadjutor Archbishop Philip F. Pocock of Toronto said that the Church must acquit the Jewish people of all false accusations made in the past through the abuse of truth and charity. The harsh words used by Christ, by St. Stephen and by St. Paul, who were all Jews, he noted, were used as exhortations to conversion. They cannot be taken as objective descriptions of a whole people, he said. He noted that St. John does not refer to the Jews often, but rather to the enemies of Christ, and this applies only to a few.

Bishop Pieter Nierman of Groningen, speaking in the name of the bishops of the Netherlands, said the declaration is most acceptable. He gave as his reason the fact that it shows on the part of the Church an increasingly clear perception of the religious values of the Jewish people and of other religions, in all of which there are some elements of truth coming from the Father of Light. He also suggested some changes for the sake of harmony and strength.

The last speaker of the day was Bishop Jules Daem of Antwerp, Belgium. He called the text acceptable, but said that it could be made to reflect more perfectly the conditions of the Church’s present-day dialogue with Judaism. He said that today’s dialogue with the Jews is based on an antinomy — the opposition of one law to another law — found in Scripture.

On the one hand, he said, there is a condemnation of the Jews, while on the other, God’s will to save all men. Thus our dialogue today is taking place according to the plan of God, he said.

Following this discussion, the council Fathers turned again to the voting on amendments to the schema on the nature of the Church. Six were voted on in all:

Amendment 31 — dealing with the bishops’ power to govern. The vote was 2,088 “yes” and 86 “no.”

Amendment 32 — citing the obligation of bishops to imitate the Good Shepherd. The vote was 2,145 “yes” and 14 “no.”

Amendment 33 — dealing with priests and their relationship to Christ, to the bishops, and to the Christian people. The vote was 2,125 “yes” and 38 “no.”

Amendment 34 — on the brotherly union among priests. The vote was 2,157 “yes” and 11 “no.”

Amendment 35 — discussing the place of deacons in the Church. The vote was 2,055 “yes” and 94 “no.”

Amendment 36 — providing for the restoration of the diaconate as a permanent order. The vote was 1,903 “yes” and 242 “no.”

Three more amendments remained to be voted on for completion of the voting on the amendments on the document on the nature of the Church.

James C. O’Neill
NCWC News Rome correspondent

* * * *

Archbishop Pericle Felici, general secretary of the ecumenical council, called a halt to a movement among council Fathers to cut down the number of “yes-but” votes on documents under debate.

Such votes are known technically as placet juxta modum. This means the document is acceptable but with certain changes, which the voter submits along with his vote.

Father Yves Congar, O.P., a French theologian, has suggested to many council Fathers that like-thinking groups of them meet outside the council hall to decide on a single change for a document. This change would be submitted by one council Father only in the vote, the rest voting simply placet, which is an unqualified affirmative.

Archbishop Felici told the council Fathers (Sept. 28) this arrangement was against the council’s regulations. Father John King, O.M.I., of the U.S. bishops’ press panel, said Father Congar had been suggesting the modification as a means of ensuring broad majorities of affirmative votes in the council.

Father Frederick R. McManus, professor of canon law at the Catholic University of America, said some bishops had espoused this idea to avoid the appearance of disunity in the council. But he said this line of thought was based on a misunderstanding of the principle of the juxta modum vote, which is not a part of normal parliamentary or congressional procedure.

He said part of the very purpose of the juxta modum vote is to help ensure unanimity in the final vote, in which no juxta modum votes are permitted. Juxta modum votes are needed in the preliminary voting, he said, precisely because the council is not a simple parliament, but a body that gives witness to the unity of Christian truth.

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