The Vatican Council
To the Editor:
I read with great interest, and not a little disbelief in some parts, the article by “F. E. Cartus,” “Vatican II and the Jews” [January]. The article makes assertions about the Vatican and the Vatican Council that by their nature cannot be known except on the unlikely hypothesis that in every case the author had secret access to confidential information that was denied to everybody else.
To mention just one case in point: the author writes that “on October 12, Paul received President Sukarno of Indonesia who had unpleasant news for the Pope. If the document on the Jews was passed, all Vatican diplomatic missions in the Arab countries might be closed.”
If Sukarno made any such representations to the Pope, it was naturally a secret communication. How could F. E. Cartas have got it? Are functionaries in the Vatican State Department any more disloyal than those in our own State Department, who usually guard diplomatic secrets quite effectively?
The burden of F. E. Cartus's whole article is that “conservative” forces in the Vatican Council were at least as obstructive of voting on the Draft on the Jews as were out-side forces, namely the Arab powers. Monsignor Mark Hurley Chancellor of the Diocese of Stockton, California, who was actually a member of the committee on non-Christian religions, tells quite a different story. In a paper read at a Catholic-Jewish Conference held at Regis on January 13 of this year, Monsignor Hurley told the entire story of the Draft on the Jews, which he called “The Odyssey of a Document.”
Here he said: “No other proposal, so far, has met with less opposition within the aula of St. Peter's and yet none has provoked so much or nearly so much ‘outside’ pressure. At least five governments, presumably Arab, have protested the declaration on the grounds that it will have political repercussions in the Near East. . . . Worried by this furor, Jewish leaders from the U.S. and from Europe urgently advised their colleagues to call off the pressures and to trust the Conciliar Fathers to act conscientiously and reasonably.”
The debate, however, went on as though all these measures and counter-measures never existed. Of thirty-five who spoke on the declaration only three could have been described as even mildly against it, and these were against it only because of the fear of retaliation on the Christians living in the Near East by the Arab governments in that area.
When the vote was taken on the new declaration on the Jews last November, 95 per cent of the Fathers voted approval. Session IV will see the final vote, but the omens are favorable. As Monsignor Hurley said, the deciding factor in this voting will be religion alone, the necessity to uphold Christian doctrine and Christian charity, which demand that nothing in that doctrine be abused to the prejudice of any people, especially the Jews, with whose history the Catholic Church is so intimately intertwined. The “official attitude” of the Catholic Church toward the Jews, of which Cartus speaks, needs revision in the light of such facts as were brought out by Monsignor Hurley.
Cartus mentions further a prayer composed by John three months before his death in June 1963, and which he originally intended to have read aloud in all Catholic churches of the world on a fixed date.
This prayer is not in the style of John XXIII, nor is it in the style of official prayers imposed on the whole Church. Particularly suspect to me are the words: “Forgive us for the curse we falsely attached to their name as Jews.” Since the Catholic Church has never attached any curse to the Jews, how could it ask forgiveness? Individual Catholics may have done so, but in that case the Pope would have said “many” or “some” instead of “we.”
Most suspect of all, this alleged prayer was not released through the Catholic press. If John XXIII actually composed it, the Vatican must have published it. If the Vatican did not publish it, then how does Cartus know its wording?
Paul H. Hallett
To the Editor:
. . . You are to be congratulated on the timeliness of the article. Few popular magazines—religious or secular—if any at all, have taken the trouble to analyze the thorny complexities involved in any public policy of the Vatican toward the Jewish people. Enemies of the Jewish people will see any policy as an endorsement of Zionism or the State of Israel or as a stab against the Arabs, etc. Enemies of the Vatican view its procrastination as but another proof of moral cowardice, race prejudice, or New Testament anti-Semitism. That COMMENTARY chose to expose the whole problem with such lucid objectivity is another tribute to its excellence of taste, its well-balanced goals, and its sense of fair play.
(Fr.) Berard Guinnessey, S.A.
Franciscan Friars of the Atonement
To the Editor:
We are all indebted to F. E. Cartus for his article. In the light of his revelation of the effect of political pressures on the behavior of popes and cardinals it should be perfectly plain to those dignitaries of the Church why the High Priest Caiaphas behaved as he did under pressure from Rome, which then had soldiers stationed in Jerusalem whereas there are now no foreign soldiers in the Vatican. . . .
F. E. Cartus ends his revelation with the statement that “. . . the Roman Catholic Church has unequivocally issued a statement that will be of immense value in uprooting anti-Semitism. . . .” But anti-Semitism is a paranoid affliction which discharges self-guilt in charging its victim with guilt; and it can only be uprooted if, along with the recognition of the innocence of its victim, it declares its own guilt and penitence. This was done by Pope John in 1963 in his statement quoted by the author. The reluctance of the Vatican to endorse and disseminate such a statement as a doctrine for all Christians makes the conclusion of the article seem more wishful than prophetic. Nevertheless we owe him a vote of thanks.
Mr. Cartus writes:
There are a number of inaccuracies and inappropriate remarks in Mr. Hallett's letter; only some can be mentioned here.
- President Sukarno's visit to Paul VI, and the President's mission to represent to His Holiness the views of the Arab powers, was a matter of public knowledge and was spoken of in various European and Middle Eastern newspapers.
- True, “no proposal so far has met with less opposition within the aula of St. Peter's”—from the majority, that is to say, of the Council who belong to the liberal movement in the Church. But it is also true that the conservative forces in the Vatican Council and in the Vatican administration did and are doing all they can to obstruct the document.
- There were 34 speakers (not 35) who spoke on the document during the general discussion, 14 on September 28, and 20 on September 29. “Only three could have been described as mildly against it,” says Mr. Hallett blithely. For the record, the following spoke directly against the document: Cardinals Tappouni, Ruffini, Bueno y Monreal, Archbishops Sfair and Descuffi, Bishops Podesta and Tawil. In addition Cardinal Tappouni was authorized, and stated explicitly that he undertook, to speak in the names of the four leaders of the Eastern Uniat Churches: Stephanous I Sidarouss (Alexandria), Maximos IV Saigh (Antioch), Paul II Cheikho (Babylon), Ignatius Peter XVI Batanian (Cilicia). Expressing grave doubts and reservations as to the very essence of the document were: Bishops Daem, Lamont, Nierman, Nowicki, Stein.
- Mr. Hallett proceeds: “when the vote was taken, 95 per cent of the Fathers voted for approval.” What vote, Mr. Hallett, and approval of what? The good Fathers exercised three votes on the document concerned. One was taken on the Jewish section of the document, and the voting ran as follows: yeas—1770; nays—185; null—14. This is an approval of 89.84 per cent. The other vote on the entire document concerning Islam, Judaism, and non-Christian religions in general went as follows: yeas—1651; nays—99; null—4; votes of modified approval—242. This give us an approval of 82.63 per cent of the entire document. Mr. Hallett's 95 per cent is rather generous.
I frankly don't understand Mr. Hallett's remark: “Session IV will see the final vote, but the omens are favorable.” As the writer of the article in question, I am supposed to have drawn on secret and confidential knowledge, but Mr. Hallett indulges in prophecy (“Session IV will see the final vote”) and a touch of the astrologer (“the omens are favorable”). Even the Pope does not know at present if there will be a final vote until the meeting of the Central Coordinating Committee in the late spring of this year. And why are the omens favorable? On April 4 of this year in Rome, His Holiness said that the Jews “not only did not recognize Him, but fought Him, slandered and injured Him, and, in the end, killed Him.” This sentiment contradicts one essential statement of the Council declaration on the Jews.
I would like Mr. Hallett to tell us the characteristics of Pope John XXIII's style and to substantiate his statements—but please, not based on an English translation of the Pope's writings. Pope John never asserted, and the words of the prayer quoted in my article do not express, the idea that “The Church attached a curse to their [the Jews'] name”—officially, that is to say. There are Papal documents of the medieval period in which the term “maledicti” (cf. Denzinger's Enchiridion) is applied to Jews. Anti-Semitic Churchmen, of course, such as John Chrysostom, explicitly affixed the term “cursed” to the name Jew. And while Archbishop of Milan, the present Holy Father endorsed an anti-Semitic publication (with an approving preface) in which the Jews were described as “cursed.” Yes, we have as Cadiolics and Christians described and considered the Jews as cursed, for over fifteen hundred years.
I happen to know the wording of the prayer because I read the prayer. At the present moment it lies in the Vatican in a folder with its own filing number. Of course, I am not going to communicate the filing number: Mr. Hallett is not authorized to penetrate the Vatican archives and secret papers.