Online Edition – May 2006
Vol. XII, No. 3
News & Views
The so-called “Gospel of Judas”, a restored 4th-century manuscript of a gnostic tale exonerating Judas from the betrayal of Jesus that led to the crucifixion, and presenting him as a faithful collaborator with Jesus, was the topic of several news reports during Holy Week. National Geographic released a book and produced a television special on the manuscript about its restoration and its supposed significance — and this, naturally, prompted more media comment and speculation, intensified by its appearing near Holy Week.
Biblical scholars had long been aware of the manuscript, in storage since 1970, which is a copy of an original version composed by Gnostics that had post-dated the events it claims to describe by several centuries.
Undoubtedly well aware of the media flap, Pope Benedict XVI revisited Judas’s role in his homily at Holy Thursday Mass, April 14. At the Mass, the pope washed the feet of laymen, departing from the practice of Pope John Paul II who for years had washed the feet of priests.
Pope Benedict’s homily at the Mass noted in particular the “dark mystery” of Judas:
“You are clean, but not all of you”, says the Lord (John 13:10). In this phrase the great gift of purification is revealed that He offers us, as He wants to sit at table together with us, to become our food. “But not all”; there is the dark mystery of rejection, which with what happened to Judas is made present and must make us reflect in fact on this Holy Thursday, the day in which Jesus gives Himself to us. The Lord’s love knows no limits, but man can put a limit to it.
“You are clean, but not all of you”. What makes man filthy? The rejection of love, not wanting to be loved, not loving. Arrogance, which believes it has no need of purification, which closes itself to God’s saving goodness.
Arrogance does not want to confess and recognize that we are in need of purification. In Judas, we see the nature of this rejection in an even clearer way. He judges Jesus according to the categories of power and success. For him, only the reality of power and success exist, love does not count at all. And he is avid: Money is more import than communion with Jesus, more important than God and his love. In this way, he becomes also a liar, he plays the game of double jeopardy with truth; he lives in lies and loses the sense of the supreme truth, God. Thus he is hardened, makes himself incapable of conversion, of beginning the confident return of the prodigal son, and throws a destroyed life away.
“You are clean, but not all of you”. The Lord warns us today in the face of that self-sufficiency that puts a limit to His unlimited love. He invites us to imitate His humility, to trust in it, to let ourselves be “infected” by it. He invites us to return home no matter how lost we feel and to let His purifying goodness raise us and makes us enter the communion of the table with Him, with God Himself.
“People who have been disappointed by the religion and religious establishment they believe in … hope against hope that something will come along to widen the boundaries, to create a little more breathing room, to suggest some alternative possibilities”, Sister Sandra Schneiders, IHM, told the National Catholic Reporter in response to queries about the reason for fascination with the Da Vinci Code and the Gospel of Judas.
“People want to believe there is more to the story, that it is more flexible, richer, less closed than they thought”, said Sister Sandra, an Immaculate Heart of Mary nun who teaches scripture at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley.
Her comments would not surprise readers of her book, Beyond Patching, in which she claims that patriarchal religion (i.e., Catholic Church) is “beyond patching” and should be replaced with new cloth.
Here is what Sister Sandra says about the Bible in Beyond Patching:
The text itself is not only androcentric, i.e., a male-centered account of male experience for male purposes with women relegated to the margins of salvation history, but also patriarchal in its assumptions and often in its explicit teaching, and at times deeply sexist, i.e., anti-woman. Its God language and imagery are overwhelmingly male. When the official church invokes scripture to justify its discriminatory treatment of women it does not have to resort to fundamentalist prooftexting or to questionable exegetical methods. In other words the problem is in the text. (p. 38)
The real Bible is “beyond patching”, but the gnostic Judas text “widens the boundaries” and offers “breathing room”? (Dare we hope this is not what she teaches seminarians at Berkeley?)
Australian Jesuit Father Gerald O’Collins, of the Gregorian University in Rome, expressed a different view from Sister Sandra of Berkeley — and we agree with his succinct view of the “Gospel of Judas”, as quoted by Catholic News Service: “It was junk then, and it’s junk now”.
Pope Benedict XVI has confirmed the continuation of full ecclesiastical communion between the Holy See and the Coptic Catholic Patriarch of Alexandria, Antonios Naguib, elected March 30.
The Coptic Catholic Church, with headquarters in Cairo, Egypt, is an Eastern rite Church that has been in communion with Rome since the early 19th century. In 1895, Pope Leo XIII established the Patriarchate of Alexandria.
Under the Code of Canon Law for the Eastern Churches, the resignation of a patriarch can be accepted by the Synod of Bishops for that Church, meeting after consultation with the Holy See. The Synod then elects his successor. After his election by the Coptic Synod the new Patriarch of Alexandria requests full communion with Rome.
In his message, Pope Benedict promised his prayers, saying that he was confident that Patriarch Antonios will “guide the Coptic Catholic Church with wisdom and prudence along with the patriarchal Synod fathers, our brothers in the episocopate”.
Patriarch Antonios succeeds Cardinal Stephanos II Ghattas, who resigned at 86, after leading the Coptic Church for 20 years. Pope Benedict and Patriarch Antonios are expected to share Eucharistic communion with a ceremony in Rome in the future.
Pope Benedict XVI appointed new members of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei on April 8. They are Cardinal William Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard, archbishop of Bordeaux, France; and Cardinal Antonio Canizares Llovera, archbishop of Toledo, Spain.
The Ecclesia Dei commission was established by Pope John Paul II with his apostolic letter Ecclesia Dei adflicta, of July 2, 1988, which responded to the crisis brought about by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre’s unlawful ordination of bishops.
Pope John Paul wrote, “such disobedience — which implies in practice the rejection of the Roman primacy — constitutes a schismatic act”; and he wrote that “It is impossible to remain faithful to Tradition while breaking the ecclesial bond with him to whom, in the person of the Apostle Peter, Christ Himself entrusted the ministry of unity in His Church”.
The commission’s task, the pope wrote, “will be to collaborate with the bishops, with the Departments of the Roman Curia and with the circles concerned, for the purpose of facilitating full ecclesial communion of priests, seminarians, religious communities, or individuals until now linked in various ways to the Fraternity founded by Archbishop Lefebvre, who may wish to remain united to the Successor of Peter in the Catholic Church while preserving their spiritual and liturgical traditions”. The document called for “a wide and generous application of the directives already issued some time ago by the Apostolic See, for the use of the Roman Missal according to the typical edition of 1962”. (Complete text: www.adoremus.org/EcclesiaDei.html)
The commission’s president is Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, and Monsignor Camille Perl is its secretary.
Recently there has been considerable media speculation as to whether and/or when Pope Benedict XVI might grant a “universal indult” to permit any priest who wished to offer the so-called “Tridentine” Mass without requiring a bishop’s permission.
No special permission is needed to celebrate the normative (or “Novus Ordo”) Mass in Latin.