Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Nostra Aetate

Krum as a bagel
Gil, DovBear and Cross-Currents have all noted the 40th anniversary of Nostra Aetate, the Vatican II document regarding the church's attitude towards the Jews. Whenever I think of the Nostra Aetate, it reminds of the sort of embarassing feeling I get when I receive a gift that I know I cannot possibly respond to in kind. Putting aside questions of the Vatican's intent, the reality it took a step that we as Orthodox cannot possibly take: they, by proclamation, changed a fundamental aspect of church doctrine. As RYBS noted, we cannot have rightly asked for this "gift" nor can we be expected to oblige the church in return:

[W]e members of the community of the few should always act with tact and understanding and refrain from suggesting to the community of the many, which is both proud and prudent, changes in ritual or emendations of its texts. If the genuinely liberal dignitaries of the faith community of the many deem some changes advisable, they will act in accordance with their convictions without any prompting on our part. It is not within our purview to advise or solicit. For it would be both impertinent and unwise for an outsider to intrude upon the most private sector of the human existential experience, namely, the way in which a faith community expresses its relationship to God....

[W]e certainly have not been authorized by our history, sanctified by the martyrdom of millions, to even hint to another faith community that we are mentally ready to revise historical attitudes, to trade favors pertaining to fundamental matters of faith, and to reconcile "some" differences. Such a suggestion would be nothing but a betrayal of our great tradition and heritage and would, furthermore, produce no practical benefits. Let us not forget that the community of the many will not be satisfied with half measures and compromises which are only indicative of a feeling of insecurity and inner emptiness. We cannot command the respect of our confronters by displaying a servile attitude. Only a candid, frank and unequivocal policy reflecting unconditional commitment to our God, a sense of dignity, pride and inner joy in being what we are, believing with great passion in the ultimate truthfulness of our views, praying fervently for and expecting confidently the fulfillment of our eschatological vision when our faith will rise from particularity to universality, will impress the peers of the other faith community among whom we have both adversaries and friends....

I also found R' Alderstein discussion rather ironic. In applauding the Nostra Aetate, he describes, with apparent approval, the church's flexible attitude towards doctrine:

They do not understand that the Church does not see change as impossible. The Catholic Church overflows with tradition; it allows only for very slow change. But it does allow for it. Later generations can and do rethink old issues as society develops.

R' Adlerstein almost makes this approach sound like a good thing. But, of course, his own tradition (and mine as well) rejects such an approach, and considers its proponents among his co-religionists to be outside the pale. The fact that this irony goes completely unnoted by R' Adlerstein is mind-boggling.

Update: See S.'s take here.

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