Pope Benedict XVI and the limits of papal infallibility...

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In the meantime, Israel retains its own mission. Israel is in the hands of God, who will save it ‘as a whole’ at the proper time when the number of Gentiles is complete. - Pope-Benedict-XVI-writing-under-the-pen-name-Joseph-Ratzinger in his Jesus of Nazareth, Part Two, page 46.

Under another post, a longtime Roman Catholic correspondent called into question the accuracy of Calvin's frequent use of Bernard of Clairvaux in his Institutes.

To which I respond:

Pope Benedict XVI wrote Jesus of Nazareth, Part Two under his former name, Joseph Ratzinger, so readers would feel free to disagree with him despite the doctrine of papal infallibility. He says his book "is precisely not a book of the Magisterium. It is not a book that I wrote with my authority as Pope...," but that he "very intentionally wanted the book to be, not an act of the Magisterium, but an effort to participate in the scholarly discussion." Thus Joseph Ratzinger tells those reading his book:

everyone is free... to contradict me.

Interesting, that.

It is in this Jesus of Nazareth, Part Two that Pope Benedict quotes Bernard of Clairvaux in support of his own opposition1 to the evangelization of the Jews, today. Here's the text from Bernard that Benedict/Ratzinger claims in support of...

his own position:

Granted, time excuses you from dealing with the Jews: they have their boundary which cannot be passed. The full number of the Gentiles must come in first.

Benedict/Ratzinger then quotes Hildegard Brem's commentary on Bernard’s words in support of his own interpretation that Bernard himself believed Jews should not be evangelized in his own day:

In the light of Romans 11:25, the Church must not concern herself with the conversion of the Jews... (but rather) she must wait for the time fixed for this by God....

Now, of course, if we are to follow Mr. Callaghan's logic, we will dismiss Benedict/Ratzinger's citation of St. Bernard on the grounds that, writing back in the eleventh century, Bernard could never have anticipated how his words would be used by a pope writing in our own twentieth and twenty-first century context in which the Holocaust Industry has created a mortal dread of being accused of anti-Semitism. Such mortal dread is the only possible explanation for Pope Benedict's opposition to fellow Roman Catholics calling the Jews to faith in Jesus Christ.

But back to St. Bernard: was he really saying, as Benedict/Ratzinger claims a little further down the page, that not only St. Bernard, but also the Apostles, were opposed to preaching the Gospel to the Jews?

For myself, when it comes to trusting either Pope-Benedict-XVI-writing-under-the-pen-name-Joseph-Ratzinger or John Calvin in their use of St. Bernard, I'd go with John Calvin, that great doctor of the Church, every last time.

Let it be stated bluntly that Pope Benedict XVI could not evidence a greater anti-Semitism than his opposition to the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Jews, the People of God.

  • 1. Here's a helpful explanation of the larger context of the debate over evangelization of the Jews within the Roman Catholic church.
Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and big lots of grandchildren.

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