Dialogika

A new chapter in the Society of St. Pius X saga

From The Vatican Insider

Archbishop Di Noia entrusted with role in forging path to reconciliation with Lefebvrians and warding off Catholic-Jewish misunderstandings

ROME
“One of the things Benedict XVIth said about me when he was still Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and I Undersecretary of the Congregation (1993 – 2001) was that I am a ‘nice person.’ Perhaps this is one of the reasons the Holy Father has confided to me one of the things, I am told, he sees as defining his Pontificate. Following in the footsteps of John Paul II, he wants reconciliation with the Lefebvrian traditionalists for the sake of Church Unity. I know the Pope respects my clarity of reasoning, but he also appreciates the ‘human touch’ in my relations with people, which might facilitate these difficult negotiations.”
 
Archbishop Joseph Augustine Di Noia, is a respected mainstream theologian with four degrees in Theology and a marked propensity and talent for dialogue. For 7 years he served as Executive Director of the U.S.Catholic Bishops Conference’s  Secretariat for Doctrine and Pastoral Practices, and wrote his doctoral dissertation at Yale University on “Catholic Theology of Religions and Inter Religious Dialogue.” He was a Founding Director of “The Intercultural Forum” of the John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington D.C. and in 1994 signed the historic ecumenical document, “Evangelicals and Catholics Together”.  This most unusual combination of theological rigor and openness to a multifaceted world is reflected in two books he authored: “The Diversity of Religions:  A Christian Perspective” (1992) and “The Love that Never Ends:  A Key to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1996).
 
The Archbishop is visibly pleased at the prospect of moving back to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith as Vice Director of the Ecclesiae Dei Commission that handles relations Catholic traditionalist groups, including the controversial Fraternity of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX). “I am happy to have been shown this level of trust by the Holy Father and to have this opportunity to offer some help in solving these concerns” he says.
 
“My job will be a challenge. I am moved by the flurry of encouraging messages I have received from Vatican, Catholic, and Jewish circles internationally” he says.
 
 
What do you see as the major hurdle to overcome in the Church’s dialogue with the SSPX?
 
“Our difficulty with the SSPX is that they isolate passages of Vatican II documents from the context and main message of the Council.  In Jewish terms, the error is similar to trying to interpret a Biblical passage without referring to the centuries of oral and written rabbinical commentaries on its meaning.  The message becomes distorted and problematic.”
 
The SSPX doesn’t spare criticism of the Ecumenical Council.
 
“One cannot state, as they do, that the Ecumenical Council was ‘full of errors’  because this means denying that the Holy Spirit preserves the Church from errors.  They must realize that the full communion they are striving for means accepting the truth that the Church cannot be led into error. Through the Holy Father, we hear the voice of Peter, and we know that Peter has spoken to unite the Church. They believe the Council watered down the Church’s mission to non-Catholics. But this is not true. Vatican II documents do not deny the necessity for evangelization.”  
 
The SSPX is reported to have accused Jews of “deicide” and used anti-Semitic stereotypes such as the infamous canard of an international “Jewish conspiracy” on its multilingual sites and in statements by its leaders.  Such concepts are contrary to “Nostra Aetate” and all post-Vatican II Papal positions. The Holocaust-denying Bishop, Richard Williamson, may be the most flagrant example, but apparently he is not alone in espousing retrograde theology and ideology….How will you handle this?
 
“Regarding Williamson, Pope Benedicts XVIth took decisive actions against him because of his refusal to retract.  He was also disciplined by Bishop Fellay (leader of the SSPX), who dismissed him as Director of their Argentinian Seminary.
“Anti-Judaism or anti-Semitism form no part of the official position of the SSPX. Clearly, if they manifest themselves in any Catholic Church, anywhere, this must be addressed. They were wrong a  thousand years ago and they are still wrong today.  If I discover such manifestations in the SSPX I will address them as being incompatible with Catholicism. After 3 years of dialogue we still need to understand what the SSPX position is on the Jewish Community and Judaism.
“The Church’s deep commitment to reconciliation with the Jewish People is personified today by Benedict XVI. The Ecumenical Council wrought a fundamental change. Then John Paul II, above all others, brought home Paul’s message that Judaism and Jews have a unique place in salvation history. Nobody can deny that Karol Wojtyla’s Pontificate marked a major shift in the theological understanding of Judaism within the Catholic Church. Vatican II repudiated anti-Semitism and presented a positive picture of Judaism. John Paul II took us further in recognizing the significance of the Jewish People for Christianity itself. This is a new concept which we know the Traditionalists will not be able to accept immediately. Convincing them will take time, and in this respect we will have to be patient."
 
Your Excellence, The last sentence in the Note issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith announcing your appointment as Vice President of the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei” states, “…the broad respect that Archbishop Di Noia enjoys in the Jewish community will help in addressing some issues that have arisen in the area of Catholic-Jewish relations as the journey towards the reconciliation of traditionalist communities has progressed.” I believe this denotes both Benedict XVIth’s sensitivity to the importance to both religions of our brotherly dialogue as well as his high consideration for your commitment to this area.  Can you tell us more about your background?
 
“Well, you know, I was brought up in the Bronx, in a neighborhood with many Jewish people. My older sister Rachel (note the Biblical name!) was actually the person who first inspired me to become familiar with Jewish religious customs, culture,  – and food!  I attended a private Catholic school whereas she went to a public high school and had many Jewish friends to whom she introduced me."
 
I am sure they appreciate the significance of your nomination….
 
"I believe so.”