Friday, January 27, 2012

Concerning the "Harrisburg Affair" (Part One)

During a homily at Holy Mass in 2003, where I was assisting with my two (then quite young) sons, our visiting priest informed us that the Church no longer believed that it was necessary for the Jews to convert in order to receive salvation.

Since I had spent most of my sons' lives carefully instructing them in the true teaching of the Church concerning Jesus Christ, the Messiah of Israel, and the Saviour of the whole human race, I was so aghast as the priest poured forth this heretical nonsense that it was all I could do to keep myself from taking my sons by the hand and leading them out and away from such poison.

After Mass, I told the pastor of that parish that from that day forward I would resist to their face anyone- whether priest, or pastor, or bishop- who dared to pervert our Holy Faith in the sight and hearing of my sons with such utterly deadly heresy again.

I have kept that promise to this day, thanks be to God Who has granted me to keep it.
Like most parents I had my hands full enough trying to keep my sons properly formed and oriented toward the Faith in a modern world which seemed more and more to reject it, and so the matter receded for a time.
But alas, it would re-emerge a few years later, in an even more shocking and dangerous form.
By 2006, this "dual covenant" heresy, which had been developing in certain Catholic theological circles for decades, achieved an unprecedented expression in authoritative form.
The 2006 United States Catholic Catechism for Adults included, on page 131, a shocking sentence, advancing a teaching not only never known to Scripture, to apostolic Tradition, to the Fathers, to the Doctors, to the Popes, or to the Councils of the Catholic Church, but in direct contradiction to the combined and unanimous witness of all of them:
"Therefore, the covenant God made with the Jews through Moses remains eternally valid for them."
This utterly astounding sentence did not appear "out of thin air".
The ground had to have been carefully prepared, in order for such a shocking assertion to somehow pass muster and receive ecclesiastical approval despite the presumably extensive review and vetting process one hopes official teaching documents of a national bishop's conference would receive as a matter of basic practice.
Even long before 2006, a growing sense of alarm in the face of the spread of this "dual covenant" heresy could be discerned, including, notably, in the writings of Catholic apologist and author Dr. Robert A. Sungenis.
The occasion for the visiting priest's heretical homily was a 2003,  non magisterial document, "Reflections on Covenant and Mission" published by representatives of the National Council of Synagogues, and the Bishops' Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs. 
"Reflections on Covenant and Mission" referenced favorably a notorious statement from an even earlier, 2001 address by Cardinal Walter Kasper, then-President of the Pontifical Commission for the Religious Relations with the Jews:
“God’s grace, which is the grace of Jesus Christ according to our faith, is available to all. Therefore, the Church believes that Judaism, i.e. the faithful response of the Jewish people to God’s irrevocable covenant, is salvific for them, because God is faithful to his promises.”

It is here that the "timeline" of the "Harrisburg Affair" really begins.
Three years later, the key heresy advanced in the "Reflections on Covenant and Mission" document did gain approval, at the level of a national bishops' catechism, in the form of that horrific sentence:
"Therefore, the covenant God made with the Jews through Moses remains eternally valid for them."
Dr. Sungenis took a stand against this rapidly-spreading heresy, which would require of every informed Catholic- at least it certainly required of me!- a decision in conscience to either stand for the Faith, or to equivocate for an heresy.
My present, close friendship with Bob (full disclosure- I sit on the board of Bob's apostolate the "Bellarmine Theological Forum") really dates from the promulgation of this "eternally valid for them" disaster in the USCCB Adult Catechism (USCCA).
I was teaching RCIA at my local parish when I first learned of this Catechism in 2007, and I felt it incumbent upon me to inform my bishop that not only did I reject the teaching contained in the USCCA (since it was, obviously, in direct and fatal contradiction to our Holy Faith as proclaimed in Scripture, unanimously attested by the Fathers, and authoritatively proclaimed in official magisterial teachings of Popes and Councils), but that I would be required in conscience to resist anyone who attempted to teach it in my hearing.
I sent my bishop a letter to that effect, and received in return a most kind and generous offer to arrange a  meeting with the Cardinal's personal theologian.
In the process of preparing for that meeting, I relied upon Dr. Sungenis' extraordinary theological investigation into the Church's ancient teaching concerning covenants both Old and New, concerning the covenant through Abraham and the covenant through Moses, and the fulfillment of both in the New and Eternal covenant of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
These investigations were published, in developed form, by Dr. Sungenis in his famous essay appearing in the January 2008 issue of "Culture Wars" magazine.
It is an amazing essay, and its impact was immediate and profound.
If you haven't read it, you should.

It is here that the key issues underlying the entire "Harrisburg Affair" are set forth in a form that both sparked a remarkable reversal on the part of the USCCB concerning that awful sentence, and set loose a wolf pack that has been trying to destroy Robert Sungenis ever since.

1 comment:

  1. The one sense in which the covenant is eternally valid is that we eat as bread the flesh and drink as wine the blood of God having become the perfect observant Jew, while there was a temple.

    Year 70 should give anyone reason to think twice before saying the covenant with Moses is valid in any other sense.