The Post-Dispatch story from yesterday on the St. Cronan’s event contains the following text:
Their church building — big, warm and dry — stood just yards away, but the St. Cronan parishioners had decided that they’d rather be cold and wet than without a woman they called their “friend and sister,” Rabbi Susan Talve of Central Reform Congregation.
Talve has spoken at St. Cronan’s, a parish known for its progressive social activism, during many previous prayer services during the Advent season. But this year, the pastoral leadership received a phone call from St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke, asking them to revoke Talve’s invitation.
I have received a lot of feedback on the St. Cronan’s post– both positive and negative. Some of those defending the non-protest vespers protest on Sunday pointed to the fact that the presence of Rabbi Talve is a tradition at St. Cronan’s. Without addressing the obvious issue of just why would a Catholic parish routinely invite a leader of another faith to lead its advent reflections, there are other factors that make this particular choice inappropriate.
This speech occurred back in March 2006 at Aquinas Institute, itself the subject of a visit by Vatican officials in the wake of the abuse scandal and the resulting investigation of the course content and formation of all seminaries. See this story from NCR for general info, and this report from KSDK for specifics as to Aquinas. In her speech, the Rabbi offers her insights on, among other things, the sin of the Israelites and the golden calf. She gives an interesting spin on it– and I don’t want to be accused of taking these remarks out of context, thus the link to the full speech above.
From an Evening Prayer Reflection by Rabbi Susan Talve on the Occasion of the Aquinas Lecture
March 9, 2006
…The sin of the golden calf is the sin of certainty, believing that we can know what we cannot know, losing all humility, and from this sin, despite Moses’ pleas for forgiveness, many of us die. We learn that the price for the certainty is great.
Like the golden calf, the sin of certainty reduces the complex nature of creation to a single simple response that leaves no room for interpretation. The sin of certainty is what keeps us from tempering passion with compassion. The sin of certainty also has room for only one idea. It is what keeps us from listening to alternative views with open minds to receive new information and ideas that could change our beliefs not for political or self serving reasons but because our hearts have opened to them.
To counter the sin of certainty, we try to produce souls who are not afraid to interpret situations in multiple ways and offer arguments for different positions and points of view with a kind of humility that always remembers that this is the human point of view and not Gods.
The sin of certainty always limits us and keeps us from the wonder and the promise of the possibilities for healing and hope in our mishkan.
The calf tells us that we need to be certain to commit to a relationship or a goal and that questioning and doubt are weakness. With the golden calf we see a frozen reflection of what is and we become attached to it even if it is no longer true or good for us. We are trapped in the certainty that this is the only way; the only solution, the only path and we cling to it even when it isn’t right for us anymore. The mishkan always leaves the space for doubt and allows us to take risks that will grow into greater love, greater opportunity.
I’ll bet Thomas Aquinas never imagined these two Jewish women would be preaching and teaching in his mishkan on his feast day!…
Now, of course, as a Rabbi, Susan Talve should not be expected to hold a Catholic view on any particular matter, or of any point of scriptural exegesis. She has her own religious convictions. That is precisely the point, though. Is it not? The reflections above seem to give comfort to those persons who consider themselves both Catholic and progressive. Those who believe that holding to “certainty” may foreclose them to greater gifts. Those who believe that the truths of Catholicism aren’t something that can be defined by the authority of the Pope but rather are the result of an ongoing dialectic in which dissent of the “faithful” is a force for a slow realization of the truth given by God that the faithful themselves determine. In fact, precisely the kind of thing condemned in the strongest possible terms by Pope St. Pius X in Pascendi.
With regard to the public actions of Rabbi Talve, we have as the foremost problem her congregation’s hosting of the infamous fake ordinations in defiance of the request of the Archbishop. Moreover, she was featured in one of the “stories of hope” on the site of the euphemistically named “Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures”, supporters of Amendment 2, that amended Missouri’s constitution to protect embryonic stem cell research.
Everything that I have covered above may be perfectly in line with the religious traditions of Judaism, of which I am certainly not an expert. I will also assume that she is 100% in good faith as to the motivation for her actions and beliefs. Great. But the point is that these positions and actions make her a person that a Catholic parish true to its name, its faith, and its duty, would never invite to lead a prayer service for its members.