Following a catechesis by Pope Francis, Rabbi Rasson Arousi, president of the Commission of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel for Dialogue with the Holy See, wrote a letter of complaint to Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, in charge of relations with Judaism.
Cardinal Koch wrote a reply to him on September 3, 2021 to explain the papal words. He notes in particular that “the abiding Christian conviction is that Jesus Christ is the new way of salvation. However, this does not mean that the Torah is diminished or no longer recognized as the ‘way of salvation for the Jews.’”
However, this passage contains a heresy, because it is a dogma of the Catholic faith that the Mosaic Law has been abrogated. This requires a precise explanation.
The Mosaic law, destined to disappear before Christian law, has only been partially abrogated; and this repeal has only been accomplished gradually. So, to what extent has the law of Moses ceased to be in effect? And when did it become unnecessary or even forbidden to observe it?
To what extent has the Mosaic Law been abrogated?
The Law consists of three parts: the civil law of Israel, the liturgical law, and the moral law.
This law established the people chosen to prepare for the coming of the Messiah by guarding the revelation that Jesus Christ would come to complete, and the prophecies which would find their fulfillment in Him.
From that point on, after the coming of Jesus Christ, the people of Israel no longer had a reason to exist: it only remained for them to merge into this new people promised to Abraham, that all the nations were called to form: the Church of Christ, unique pastor of this universal flock.
This Catholic society is no longer made up of the circumcised, but of the baptized, and its law is that of Christ, heir to divine assistance until then reserved only for the people of Israel (Mt. 28:19-20).
Jewish worship included as essential elements: the tribe of Levi; the temple of Jerusalem; the victims offered there; and, finally, the figurative and prophetic significance inherent in these sacrifices as in all the other rites or ceremonies of this cult.
Now, according to Malachi 1:11, the Levitical priesthood was transferred to the Gentiles. And according to Daniel, 9:24-27, the temple in Jerusalem was to be destroyed, and it was. In place of the victims slain in Jerusalem, a pure oblation was to be made to God in all places of the world.
Finally, the figures of the old covenant announced the day when, fulfilled in Jesus Christ and in His Church, they could no longer signify the present realities as future. All this ceremonial legislation therefore necessarily had to give way to the new worship instituted by Jesus Christ.
Under the name of Mosaic moral law we must place all the prescriptions of natural law which are contained therein, and especially the Decalogue, except the precept of observing the Sabbath, which is of positive law - that is, fixed by a special divine will.
The subject matter of this moral law was evidently obligatory before Moses and has not ceased to be so even today, even independently of the new promulgation that Jesus Christ made of it.
Moreover, Jesus Christ not only kept the Decalogue: He confirmed and perfected it either by explaining it, (Mt. 5), or by the evangelical counsels. He added to it the weight of His divine authority as the motives under which He proposes it for our obedience and gives the grace to accomplish it.
When was the Law of Moses abolished?
The new law is the New Testament made by Jesus Christ and intended to replace that of the old law. To abrogate the first law, the New Testament had to be established by the death of Jesus Christ, (Heb. 9:16-17), then promulgated. This promulgation took place on the day of Pentecost: it was only on this date that the old law ended, and lost all binding force.
After Pentecost, for some time, the observance of certain Mosaic rites remained licit, but they could no longer be regarded as necessary for salvation. Thus, St. Peter and St. Paul performed some of those rites on occasion.
But the two apostles agreed that the rites were unnecessary. At the Council of Jerusalem, assembled to deal with this question, St. Peter demonstrated that the Gentiles were saved without the Mosaic law, by the grace of Jesus Christ. (Acts15:7-21). St. Paul, Gal. 2:16, is no more explicit.
St. Augustine explained that this provisional tolerance was a last funerary honor given to the expiring synagogue. However, this tolerance had to have an end: when the spread of the Gospel had completely realized the new order of things predicted and represented by the old law, it could no longer be observed without fault.
It is therefore forbidden: 1. to practice Judaic ceremonies to honor God; except those which are not strictly Judaic such as incense, but the observance of the Sabbath or circumcision is forbidden; 2. to observe the Mosaic precepts of a civil order, attaching to them the special religious significance which they had under the law of Moses.
In either case, keeping the Mosaic law would be tantamount to claiming that Jesus Christ has not yet come. There is a difference between civil and ceremonial precepts. The former were aimed first at the social good of the Hebrews; the figures which were added to it were separable from it; the latter, on the contrary, had no reason for being other than to signify the future coming of the Messiah.
This dogma was soon to emerge with the accession of the Gentiles to the Christian religion. Chapter 15 of the Acts of the Apostles reveals that a heated argument broke out in Antioch about the Gentiles: should they be subject or not to the law of circumcision? Paul and Barnabas thought not and the Council of Jerusalem proved them right.
From the first century the Church cut off from her fellowship the Corinthians and the Ebionites, staunch supporters of the Mosaic law and who maintained that the Gentiles themselves could not be saved without observing this law.
The Judeo-Christians, who observed the ancient law without constraining the Gentiles to it, were tolerated: in the middle of the second century, St. Justin dared not condemn those who lived with other Christians. But others were, as early as the third century, considered heretics. By this time it was accepted that the Jews themselves could no longer lawfully practice the observances of Moses.
In the Summa Theologica St. Thomas Aquinas gave a synthesis of the question: Did the ceremonial law cease to be in force at the Advent of Our Lord? Yes, he replied, for rites are symbols of inner worship, that is, things in which we believe and hope.
Now, in the religion of Jesus Christ, if the heavenly goods are always future, we nevertheless have the means to obtain them, whereas the old religion only promised these means for the future. The abrogation of the ancient rites was therefore to take place: begun with the Advent of Jesus Christ, it was consummated by His passion, according to the words of the dying Christ.
After their abrogation, did these rites become illegal? No, says St. Thomas; they could be observed, it is true, without being considered obligatory, until the Gospel had been sufficiently spread. They then became totally illicit and deadly.
In 1441, the bull Cantate Domino of Pope Eugene IV specifies: “The holy Roman Church firmly believes, confesses, and teaches that the matter pertaining to the law of the Old Testament, of the Mosaic law, which are divided into ceremonies, sacred rites, sacrifices, and sacraments, because they were established to signify something in the future, although they were suited to the divine worship at that time, after Our Lord’s coming had been signified to them, ceased, and the sacraments of the New Testament began.”
“Whoever, even after the Passion, placed hope in these matters of the law and submitted himself to them as necessary for salvation, as if faith in Christ could not save without them, sinned mortally.”
“Yet, [the Church] does not deny that after the Passion of Christ up to the promulgation of the Gospel, they could have been observed until they were believed to be in no way necessary for salvation; but after the promulgation of the Gospel it asserts that they cannot be observed without the loss of eternal salvation.” The Sources of Catholic Dogma, Denzinger, no. 712, Loreto Pub.
Thus, contrary to what Cardinal Koch wrote: “The abiding Christian conviction is that Jesus Christ is the new way of salvation. However, this does not mean that the Torah is diminished or no longer recognized as the ‘way of salvation for the Jews,’” is severely condemned by Sacred Scripture, by theologians, and by the infallible magisterium.