Covenants, New and Old…
Avant le deluge–that is, the imminent announcement of Obama’s VP pick and the 24/7 run-up to the Dems’ Convention–I was hoping to revisit a theme of Catholic-Jewish relations that has been in the news of late. Mollie Wilson O’Reilly posted earlier about the Vatican reiteration against using “Yahweh” in liturgical songs, as it does not reflect Jewish or early Christian usage, which was in keeping with Jewish tradition against pronouncing the Tetragrammaton, the ancient Hebrew name for God. I was fine with that, as using Yahweh in Christian music strikes me as a somewhat affected appropriation of Jewishness for Christian use. Perhaps it was good to remind us of our Jewish roots. But it seems out of place now.
Of greater interest to me was another bit of news, also listed in CNS’ news briefs, that the bishops were voting “to revise U.S. catechism on Jewish covenant with God.” That’s big stuff. Here’s the CNS report:
WASHINGTON (CNS) — The U.S. bishops have voted to ask the Vatican to approve a small change in the U.S. Catholic Catechism for Adults to clarify church teaching on God’s covenant with the Jewish people. The proposed change — which would replace one sentence in the catechism — was discussed by the bishops in executive session at their June meeting in Orlando, Fla., but did not receive the needed two-thirds majority of all members of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops at that time. After mail balloting, the final vote of 231-14, with one abstention, was announced Aug. 5 in a letter to bishops from Msgr. David Malloy, USCCB general secretary. The change, which must be confirmed by the Vatican Congregation for Clergy, would remove from the catechism a sentence that reads: “Thus the covenant that God made with the Jewish people through Moses remains eternally valid for them.” Replacing it would be this sentence: “To the Jewish people, whom God first chose to hear his word, ‘belong the sonship, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ’” (Rom 9:4-5; cf. CCC, No. 839).
Interesting. But my main question is: Why do this? What does this mean? It seems that unpacking such sensitive material is inviting trouble, but if it’s an improvement, it’s worth it. What will neophytes (or others) studying the catechism take from this? I’m not sure what I take from this. I liked the “eternally valid” line of the previous version, though the addition of “for them” raises an interesting point of discussion. It sounds like this subsequent language has expanded on that concept in even more interesting ways. But it also seems less clear. Then again, this is a layman’s reaction. Enlightenment welcomed.