Cardinal Kasper, the President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity published an article at the end of March in Germany that has now been translated into English. This article follows all the hubbub that followed the change in the prayer for the Jews.
The gist of the article, while composed in very diplomatic language, seems rather clear. Dual covenant theology, I don’t think so!
While he makes clear that Catholics must be sensitive to the Jews and that Catholics have no ‘targeted or institutionalized mission to the Jews’, we still need to pray for them and witness to them.
The exclusion of a targeted and institutionalised mission to the Jews does not mean that Christians should sit around and do nothing. One must distinguish between a targeted and organised mission on the one hand, and Christian witness on the other. Of course Christians have to give witness to their ‘elder brothers and sisters in the faith of Abraham’ (John Paul II) at the point where such witness is called for; they have to give witness of their faith and of the riches and beauty of their belief in Jesus Christ. That is what even Paul did. On his missionary journeys he went each time into the synagogue first, and only when he met with unbelief there did he go to the Gentiles.
Such a witness is demanded also of us today. It must certainly be given with tact and with respect; but it would be dishonest if in meeting with their Jewish friends Christians remained silent about their own faith or even denied it. We expect the same in relation to us from believing Jews. This behaviour is entirely normal in the dialogues with which I am familiar. For an honest dialogue between Jews and Christians is only possible, on the one hand, on the basis of a shared belief in the one God, the creator of heaven and earth, and in the promises given to Abraham and the Patriarchs; and on the other hand, in awareness of and with respect for the basic point of difference, which consists in the belief that Jesus is the Christ and the Redeemer of all people.
Dr. Thomas Pink, writing at Against the Grain, says there is even more meaning behind Cardinal Kaspers writing.
If there is an internal theological target being aimed at by Kasper, it is very clearly dual covenant theology. This is the view, increasingly widespread in certain US and German theological circles involved in Jewish dialogue, that the Jews have their own saving covenant distinct from and independent of that offered by Christ to the Gentiles, and that therefore there is no ground for Jews to convert to Christianity and enter the Church. Jewish conversion is not something for which the Church should call, pray, or strive. The dual covenant camp, theologians such as Pawlikowski et al, try and base all discussion on Nostra Aetate, and interpret this actually very short and vague declaration in isolation from preceding documents of the Council. They treat Nostra Aetate as a whole New Pentecost on its own, from which among Church documents all future Judaeo-Christian dialogue is supposed uniquely to develop, and on which whatever speculative theological structure they fancy can then be erected as new ‘Church teaching’. Kasper will not have this, and reinforces the standing of Nostra Aetate by relating it to the rest of the Council, and in particular to the greater authority of Lumen Gentium. But the content of Lumen Gentium is flatly opposed to dual covenant theology, as we can see from Lumen Gentium paragraph 9, a passage that very clearly states Catholic teaching on the relation of the Jewish people to the Church and the New Covenant:
“[God] therefore chose the race of Israel as a people unto Himself. With it He set up a covenant. Step by step He taught and prepared this people, making known in its history both Himself and the decree of His will and making it holy unto Himself. All these things, however, were done by way of preparation and as a figure of that new and perfect covenant, which was to be ratified in Christ, and of that fuller revelation which was to be given through the Word of God Himself made flesh. “Behold the days shall come saith the Lord, and I will make a new covenant with the House of Israel, and with the house of Judah . . . I will give my law in their bowels, and I will write it in their heart, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people . . . For all of them shall know Me, from the least of them even to the greatest, saith the Lord.” (Jeremiah 31) Christ instituted this new covenant, the new testament, that is to say, in His Blood, calling together a people made up of Jew and gentile, making them one, not according to the flesh but in the Spirit. This was to be the new People of God.”
Dual covenant theology, it seems to me, cannot survive this passage.
I have to go now. I have to call up all my Jewish friends and tell them that their free ride is over. We need to talk.