Cardinal to Jews: Nix ancient texts calling Jesus 'bastard'
Says Catholics could revise prayer calling for conversion to Christianity
October 13, 2007
An influential cardinal of the Catholic Church in America has suggested Catholics would be willing to adjust a traditional Catholic prayer that calls for Jews to be converted if Jews review Talmudic references to Jesus as a "bastard."
The comments come from Cardinal Francis George of the Archdiocese of Chicago, and referenced a particular prayer used by some parishes and priests during Good Friday mass.
It was reported by John L. Allen Jr. in the National Catholic Reporter.
The issue involves an Old Missal used during Good Friday liturgy that calls for the conversion of the Jews to Christianity.
He said the reference "can" be changed, and "I suspect it probably will be, because the intention is to be sure that our prayers are not offensive to the Jewish people who are our ancestors in the faith."
He continued, "We can't possibly insult them in our liturgy … Not that any group has a veto on anybody's prayers, because you can go through Jewish texts and find material that is offensive to us.
"But if we're interested in keeping the dialogue strong, and we have to be, we should be very cautious about any prayer that they find insulting," he said.
"'They,' however, is a big tent. What my Jewish rabbi friend down the block finds insulting is different from what Abraham Foxman (national director of the Anti-Defamation League] finds insulting," he said.
"Also, it does work both ways. Maybe this is an opening to say, 'Would you care to look at some of the Talmudic literature's description of Jesus as a bastard, and so on, and maybe make a few changes in some of that?'" he said.
There was less than full agreement among those participating in a forum on the issue at the London Telegraph.
"For two reasons I agree with the Cardinal: Firstly, the Talmud contains willfully insulting comments about Jesus. Secondly, why should the Catholic Church ALWAYS be expected to apologise, and yet nobody apologises to us for insults or injuries to the church?" wrote "Psalm23."
Mathew Alexander added: "I think genuine interreligious dialogue would benefit from more clarity and less well-intentioned but misplaced sensitivity. … Christians and Jews should refrain from dictating prayers and texts to the other and instead discuss how they can, despite their real differences, co-operate for the good of souls."
George told the National Catholic Reporter the question has been submitted to the Holy See for clarification.
On other issues, George said bishops aren't in agreement on the question of refusing communion to pro-abortion Catholic politicians, and he has a great reluctance to "manipulate" worship by publicly denying communion to someone.
"The question is, do you use a sacramental moment to address that, and risk politicizing the sacrament? That's my biggest concern. The very sacrament that speaks about our unity becomes the occasion for this kind of fracas and disunity. I think we should think long and hard before we allow the Eucharist to become that," he said.
"Worship should never be manipulated by anybody. Worship is worship, even for a good cause. I feel strongly about that," he said.
WND also recently reported that Pope Benedict XVI had ignited controversy across the world by approving a document saying non-Catholic Christian communities are either defective or not true churches, and the Roman Catholic Church provides the only true path to salvation.
"Christ 'established here on earth' only one church," said the document, reasserting the primacy of Catholicism.
It said other Christian communities such as Protestants "cannot be called 'churches' in the proper sense" since they don't have what's known as apostolic succession – that is, the ability to trace their bishops back to the original 12 apostles of Jesus.
"It makes us question whether we are indeed praying together for Christian unity," said the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, a group of 75 million Protestants in more than 100 countries. "It makes us question the seriousness with which the Roman Catholic Church takes its dialogues with the reformed family and other families of the church."