Remaking a classic?

In the category Horrid Hollywood Ideas: Robert Zemeckis is going to make a motion-capture version of Yellow Submarine

Talk about pointless. It is a psychedelic wonder with an absurd sort of humour and the appeal of Yellow Submarine is, I think, made complete by its designs and the fact that it involed The Beatles (their likeness and music at least).

Motion capture is plain ugly, and I don’t think it combines well with the look of the original cartoon.

Judge for yourself, the Eleanor Rigby sequence, where the Yellow Submarine from Pepperland arrives in Liverpool to find Ringo is really quite fine as it is:

Erstwhile bishop-elect about falling numbers

Austrian newspaper Oberösterreichischen Nachrichten ran an article last week, in which it reported a marked increase in people leaving the Church in the state of Oberösterreich. The paper speculated that the reason may be found in the Wagner affair (Father Gerhard Wagner was appointed as auxiliary bishop in the diocese of Linz, causing havoc within the heavily polarised Church there. Fr. Wagner asked the pope to rescind his appointment). The SSPX/Bishop Williamson affair would be an important secondary reason, the paper suggests.

All in all, the number of people leaving has increased with 43 percent, and although that is no more than some 1,000 people in total, the relative increase is enormous, and mirrored to a lesser degree in the rest of Austria (and the rest of Europe, I would say).

The newspaper interviewed Fr. Wagner for his opinion about it all. The translation from the original German is my own, although I relied somewhat on Anna Arco’s blog post.

OÖN: Father, what is the reason that the hhighest number of people in decades left the Church in the diocese of Linz last year?

Wagner: It is  tendency that we can see in all of Austria: In the first place the people for whom the connection to the Church is already very thin, leave.

OÖN: But there were multiple affairs in the Catholic Church that angered the faithful…

Wagner: We must see it in a larger context: there was the affair of the Pius X society which some people did not like. But we must also not ignore conflicts within the Church. This divide also became clear with my appointment to the episcopate.

OÖN: In that regard, most of the criticism was about the way you were appointed. Many parishes had the impression that the decision was made without their input. Did the Church make mistakes?

Wagner: No. I don’t know who thinks that the decision was made over people’s heads. Why would the procedure be wrong in my case and right in someone else’s? We must acknowledge that there were people who immediately started to agitate when my appointment was announced. And there were others who did not notice how I was treated. Perhaps people should wonder how everything affected me. But everyone knows I have broad shoulders. This is about power struggles within the Church.

OÖN: Have these power struggles been resolved after your stepping down?

Wagner: What is clear is that, even if everything is quiet in the diocese, the problems are not resolved.

OÖN: Does that mean that the diocese should be ready for another turbulent year?

Wagner: We can count on it.When I say something that the people do not want to hear there is the risk that they will leave the Church. I really regret that development. But is it also not right when we avoid all heavy topics out of fear for the statistics. I don’t want the Church to only communicate silence.

OÖN: Is it also not so that the Church no longer addresses contemporary topics?

Wagner: When I say something that isn’t true anymore tomorrow, it is soon forgotten. The Word of God should serve to urge people on and give them food for thought. That’s why I hope that the bishops will have the courage to speak clearly. Even when they know that this will set things off.

OÖN: What are your wishes for the new auxiliary bishop?

Wagner: I wish him courage and confidence.

Day of Judaism

The Dutch bishops decided in 2008 to have an annual Day of Judaism in January, following the example of the Church in Italy, Poland and Austria. The purpose of that day is to pay attention to what Judaism means for us Christians.

That’s a pretty general statement, of course. It’s very easy to simply acknowledge the role that the Jewish people played in the past and leave it at that.

A step further is to seek out Jewish people and institutions and actively establish a form of contact with them. The pope will be doing that by visiting a synagogue in Rome, and my bishop will do so likewise with a synagogue in Groningen. This is a way to establish contact and acknowledge one another’s existence and value.

Likewise, there are ways to inform the Catholic faithful about the beliefs and values of the Jewish people. Parish meetings, discussion groups and what have you. I don’t know if this is also done in reverse, that rabbis visit churches or Jewish groups learn about the Christian faith, but this is primarily an initiative from the Dutch Church province.

Why a specific Day of Judaism, though? The Second Vatican Council devoted a declaration to the relations of the Church with other faiths. About Judaism, it says:

[T]he Church of Christ acknowledges that, according to God’s saving design, the beginnings of her faith and her election are found already among the Patriarchs, Moses and the prophets. She professes that all who believe in Christ – Abraham’s sons according to faith – are included in the same Patriarch’s call, and likewise that the salvation of the Church is mysteriously foreshadowed by the chosen people’s exodus from the land of bondage. The Church, therefore, cannot forget that she 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. Indeed, the Church believes that by His cross Christ, Our Peace, reconciled Jews and Gentiles, making both one in Himself. (Nostra Aetate 4)

The Jewish people are the olive tree upon which the wild shoots have been grafted. The wild shoots, the gentiles who were not Jewish but became followers of Christ through baptism, are dependent on the tree. Without it they will die.

In the Old Testament we may find the details of the development of the Convenant that God made with the people of Israel. Last night, I attended a faith evening in my parish, where this topic was further discussed. Mark Borst, who made the introductory remarks, explained the line of covenants and oaths that God made with the people of Israel throughout the Old Testament. He took this from Scott Hahn’s book A Father Who Keeps His Promises. It started with Adam and the covenant affected a couple: him and Eve. A second covenant was made with Noah, who was a father, and so the covenant affected a family. Then came Abraham, the leader of multiple families. Moses is next, who leads a complet people, or at least a group of tribes, out of Egypt. David is next, and he is king of the people of Israel, as well as a number of other peoples in the territories he conquered. The last covenant is the one made by Jesus, and that covers all the peoples: a covenant that only God Himself could keep.

We see development in covenants that includes and affects an ever larger group of people. Until the fifth step, the Jewish people are at the core of the covenants with God (which all remain in effect, by the way – they are fulfilled and reinforced in each other and ultimately in Christ), and step six, the covenant that Jesus forged on the cross, comes forth out of them.

With this logic it is clear that there is a very old and strong connection between the Church and the Jewish people. Pope John Paul II rightly called them ‘our older brother’, who taught us about who God is and what He does.

However, there are differences, as should be clear. Not being on expert in Judaic theology, I’ll limit myself to the one difference that is most divisive: the Messiah. In essence, Judaism still awaits the coming of the Messiah, while Christianity maintains He already has come in Jesus Christ. This difference has led to much animosity and misunderstanding over the centuries and indeed it took a while for both parties to achieve a level of mutual understanding.

The Church acknowledges the differences and prays for the recognition of Christ as the Messiah by all people, but no longer accuses the Jews of having murdered Christ and being a forsaken people.

True, the Jewish authorities and those who followed their lead pressed for the death of Christ; still, what happened in His passion cannot be charged against all the Jews, without distinction, then alive, nor against the Jews of today. Although the Church is the new people of God, the Jews should not be presented as rejected or accursed by God, as if this followed from the Holy Scriptures. All should see to it, then, that in catechetical work or in the preaching of the word of God they do not teach anything that does not conform to the truth of the Gospel and the spirit of Christ. (Nostra Aetate 4)

This Day of Judaism has the potential to bridge the gap that still exists between Christians and Jews. But it does require work. A bishop’s visit to a synagogue is good for local contacts and should be encouraged as such. But when I see only about a dozen people faithfully attending a faith evening about the the covenant of Moses, I can’t help but think that the information will reach only a few people.

Respectful positive dialogue with the Jewish people, coming from both sides, is the way to go, acknowledging the things we share (and we share a lot) and the things that divide us. That is fair to us, to them, and to God.