Menu JTA Search

Rabbi Soloveitchik Issues Statement on Vatican Draft on Jews

The Rabbinical Council of America, an Orthodox group, today made public a statement by Dr. Joseph B. Soloveitchik, outstanding American Orthodox rabbi, commenting on the revised draft of the declaration on Jews by the Catholic Church presented to the third session of the Ecumenical Council which opened its deliberation today at Vatican City. Dr. Soloveitchik’s statement, disseminated among the several hundred rabbis affiliated with the Rabbinical Council, reads:

“I fail to understand the surprise and dismay with which prominent Jewish leaders who actively participated in the theological “Dialogue” with the Catholic Church have greeted the latest draft of the Schema. The first draft of the Schema, in my opinion, was as evangelical as this one. The only difference between the two schemas is the explicitness and clarity with which the evangelical theme has been formulated now. While the first Schema contained only an oblique and indirect appeal to the Jewish community to embrace Christianity, this one addresses itself to us directly.

“Both Schemas present the typical Christological view that the historical mission of the Jews exhausted itself in, the so-called, Praeparatio Evangelica, in paving the way for Christianity and that the Jew, after the Biblical drama was consummated in the rise of the Church, forfeited his covenantal status and his very relationship to the Biblical past because he rejected Christ. Since the Jewish leaders did not object to this premise contained in the first Schema, they should not be surprised now that the Church, in which Jewish history supposedly culminated, expects the Jew to reactivate his role as a historic being, emerge from historic anonymity, and realize his destiny by ceasing to exist within the framework of a separate community.

“Those who are perturbed now should have realized before that the theological “Dialogue” was bound to become a theological monologue on the part of the Church which is not ready to depart from her basic interpretation of Jewish history. Instead of complaining bitterly against the Church, they should say “Nostra Maxima Culpa”–in plain Hebrew, Hotonu–for rushing in where angels fear to tread. The Church is within her rights to interpret our history in her own theological–dogmatic terms. We are the ones who have transcended the bounds of historical responsibility and decency by asking for a theological document on the Jews as “brethren” in faith instead of urging the Church to issue a strong declaration in sociological–human terms affirming the inalienable rights of the Jew as a human being.

“I am very little concerned over the response of the Jewish community to the evangelical appeal contained in the new draft. The Jew, tenacious and totally committed to his past, with faith in his glorious eschatology, will reject this appeal with dignity. Such approaches by the Church have been made many times in our history and the powerful Church has always failed to sway the Jew from his eternal course. What hurts me is that for the first time in our history the Church was, because of naive and equivocal statements, led to believe that in the interests of good will we are ready for some revision of our historical attitudes and commitments. The situation does not call for hysteria and readiness to incur martyrdom. All it requires is common sense, responsibility, dignity and particularly a moratorium on theological “Dialogue” and pilgrimages to Rome.”

NEXT STORY