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Evidently, members of the Society of St. Pius X really do think they are more Catholic than the Pope—-more Catholic than Pope Francis, more Catholic than Pope Benedict XVI, more Catholic than Pope John Paul the Great. Although I understand the efforts of the Vatican to reason with these people in the hope of persuading them to accept the teachings of the Second Vatican Council from which they vehemently dissent, these efforts were, in my opinion, doomed from the start by the sheer intransigence and fanaticism of the SSPX.

I do not question the importance of avoiding schisms whenever possible, but the SSPX simply does not believe what the Church solemnly teaches in certain key areas. In particular, the SSPX rejects the teachings of “Dignitatis Humanae” (on religious liberty) and “Nostra Aetate” (on the Jewish people and non-Christian religions). The refusal of ultraconservatives to accept these teachings while insisting that they are loyal and faithful Catholics reminds me for all the world of those ultraliberal Catholics who similarly insist that they are loyal and faithful while rejecting and seeking at every turn to undermine the Church’s teachings on the sanctity of human life and the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife. Neither side would like the comparison, but there it is.

Recently, some members of the SSPX in Argentina truly sank themselves in shame. They disrupted an annual interfaith service in the Buenos Aires Catholic cathedral commemorating the horrible night of violence against the Jews of Germany known as Kristallnacht. This was an unspeakable outrage and scandal. The people responsible should be banned from the cathedral and other Catholic churches (I would say the same for those who disrupt religious services for liberal causes, by the way) and, if they are canonically still in communion with the Catholic Church, serious consideration should be given to formal excommunication—-not so much for disrupting the service, shameful as that was, but for publicly defying the Church’s teachings on Jews and Judaism and, apparently in the case of some of those responsible, for the grave and scandalous sin of anti-Semitism.

Let us be mindful that the Jews are the chosen people of God. They are, as John Paul taught, our “elder brothers in faith” (or, as Pope Francis says, ” our big brothers ”). They are, in the words of the Venerable Fulton J. Sheen, “blood brothers of Christ.” They stand in an unbroken and unbreakable covenant with the divine Creator and Ruler of all that is. Of them scripture says, “I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

Let us therefore reject, as the Church herself long ago firmly rejected, the heresy of Marcion that would abandon the Hebrew revelation and cut Christianity off from its roots. Those of us who are followers of Jesus, whom we believe is the messiah long promised to Israel and the Redeemer given to all mankind, must never forget that the Christian church “received the revelation of the Old Testament through the people with whom God in His inexpressible mercy concluded the Ancient Covenant. Nor can she forget that she draws sustenance from the root of that well-cultivated olive tree onto which have been grafted the wild shoots, the Gentiles” (Nostra Aetate 4).

Of course, Christians hold and proclaim what the majority of Jews (though there are, of course, Jewish Christians, and the earliest Christians were all Jews) do not hold, namely, that Jesus is indeed the long promised Messiah—and the very son of God. Obviously, this is a most profound theological difference. And yet, the Church teaches us that God continues to work in and through the Jewish witness of faith in him—what Fr. Richard John Neuhaus of blessed memory described as the profound and wonderful mystery of living Judaism. And so in the great service of Good Friday the Church in our time prays “for the Jewish people, the first to hear the word of God, that they may continue to grow in the love of his name and in faithfulness to his covenant.” And the Church calls on all of her sons and daughters to embrace our elder brothers and sisters in a spirit of love and cooperation that we who strive to be devout and faithful Christians may unite with devout and faithful Jews to bear witness together to the goodness, faithfulness, and “inexpressible mercy” of Almighty God.

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