Rorate Caeli

"Whom God first chose to hear His Word . . . ."

It was announced Aug. 5 that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has approved an important change to The U.S. Catholic Catechism for Adults. A seriously ambiguous, misleading and doctrinally deficient statement on the status of the Sinaitic Covenant, that is, the Torah or Law of Moses, will be removed, and --- if the Holy See grants its recognitio --- will be replaced with a statement that quotes St. Paul’s epistle to the Romans.

The sentence to be changed currently reads:

“Thus the covenant that God made with the Jewish people through Moses remains eternally valid for them.”

In its place will 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).”

The current language is objectionable for many reasons, not least because it suggests --- and seems to have been intended to suggest --- that the Law of Moses remains in force and obligatory for the Jewish people, that Jews are ordinarily saved through the observance of Mosaic law and therefore need not confess that Jesus is Lord and Christ. That heretical opinion has been spreading throughout the Church, and was even promoted in “Reflections on Covenant and Mission” (12 Aug. 2002), a document of the USCCB’s Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs. On the contrary, the New Testament, the Church Fathers, and the ordinary and extraordinary Magisterium clearly, consistently, irreformably and infallibly teach that the Sinaitic Covenant was never salvific and has not been binding on anyone ever since it was fulfilled by Christ. As St. Paul teaches, “You are made void of Christ, you who are justified in the law: you are fallen from grace” (Gal. 5:4). To claim that anyone, even just the Jews, can be saved through the Law is to deny the holy Catholic faith.

In a letter informing the U.S. bishops of the outcome of their vote to edit the adult catechism, Msgr. David Malloy, USCCB general secretary, correctly explains:

“Catholics understand that all previous covenants that God made with the Jewish people have been fulfilled in Jesus Christ through the new covenant established through his sacrificial death on the cross. The prior version of the text might be understood to imply that one of the former covenants imparts salvation without the mediation of Christ, whom Christians believe to be the universal savior of all people.”

Of course it is possible to parse the current language of the adult catechism in such a way that it does not contradict, or almost doesn’t contradict, the Catholic faith. Nevertheless a catechism should plainly and clearly and accurately state the faith. The average adult should not have to (nor is he qualified to) squint and strain to understand a statement in the correct way. The predictable effect of the extremely ambiguous current language will be gravely hurtful to souls: pernicious misteaching, a failure to hand on what the Church believes about the Sinaitic Covenant.

The proposed new language is far superior, because it avoids the suggestion that the Law of Moses is salvific for the Jews. It could still be clearer about the status of the Law and of the Jewish people, but it is better to have a divinely-inspired passage from Holy Scripture that can be misinterpreted than to have a misleading statement that can, with effort, be interpreted in a way that doesn’t contradict divine revelation.

Let us continue to pray for those Jews who have not yet received the gift of faith in Christ. May the blood of the Savior now descend upon them a laver of redemption and of life, that they may enjoy the never-revoked promises that God made to Abraham and to his seed. And let us pray for the conversion, or short of that, the silencing, of those who attempt to subvert what the Church believes.