Rorate Caeli

Synod Retrospective: Proposition 12 on Inspiration and truth in the Bible

Looking back to last month's Synod of Bishops on the Word of God in the life and mission of the Church, it was right that alarm and concern was raised by the controversial Proposition 17, that for the first time in the Church's history the ministry of lector be granted to women. But the Synod offered another proposal that is of especial interest:

Proposition 12: Inspiration and truth in the Bible

The synod proposes that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith clarify the concepts of “inspiration” and “truth” in the Bible, along with their reciprocal relationship, in order to better understand the teaching of Dei Verbum 11. In particular, it’s necessary to emphasize the specific character of Catholic Biblical hermeneutics in this area.



Unlike Proposition 17, which is not in any way desirable and nor needed for the life and health of the Church (quite the contrary), Proposition 12 is both desirable and necessary, on account of the confusion and erroneous interpretations of the teaching of Dei Verbum 11 that have become widespread in the Church in the past four decades. This confusion and error can even be found in Section 15(c) of the Synod's working document, which obviously was the occasion for Proposition 12. Section 15(c) had asserted, in apparent conflict with perennial Catholic teaching, that "inerrancy applies only to 'that truth which God wanted to put into sacred writings for the sake of salvation,'" (emphasis added) -- as if there was anything else in the Bible but truth for the sake of our salvation. It is encouraging that the Synod of Bishops has avoided the danger to Catholic doctrine occasioned by Section 15(c), instead calling on the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to clarify the question.

If the Holy Father acts on Proposition 12, it must be hoped that the CDF will renew Leo XIII's and Pius XII's clear and unequivocal rejection of the error of "limited inerrancy" in Providentissimus Deus and Divino afflante Spiritu. As Father Brian Harrison has explained in his study, "The Truth and Salvific Purpose of Sacred Scripture According to Dei Verbum, Article 11," the phrasing of DV11 was the result of attempts of advocates of "limited inerrancy" to eliminate the Catholic doctrine of the total inerrancy Holy Scripture from this dogmatic constitution. Although their attempts were not successful, the resulting text of DV11 is capable of being misinterpreted as support for "limited inerrancy," despite the Theological Commission's clarifying explanation and the footnotes that cite the very passages of PD and DaS that condemn "limited inerrancy." Ignoring the teaching of the Popes and disregarding the ruling interpretive framework of DV11's footnotes, many Catholic exegetes have made a false distinction between "that truth which God wanted to put into sacred writings for the sake of salvation" and other matters in the Bible that, it is alleged, may or may not be erroneous. As a result, disbelief in the divine inspiration and total inerrancy of Holy Scripture is rampant in the Church today, a calamitous situation that the Holy See must address sooner rather than later.

Proposition 12 rightly states that "it’s necessary to emphasize the specific character of Catholic Biblical hermeneutics in this area." Had the specific character of Catholic hermeneutics not been obscured, the papal magisterium of Leo XIII, Benedict XV, and Pius XII regarding biblical interpretaton would not have been distorted or forgotten by so many. God willing we will soon enough receive some very necessary guidance and clarification in this matter.

29 comments:

Jeff Culbreath said...

Judging by the Holy Father's words in other areas, I would surmise that he either believes in "limited inerrancy" or a kind of inerrancy that departs somewhat from the traditional understanding. Silence from Benedict XVI on this point may, in fact, be a blessing.

Jordanes said...

I fear you may be right, Jeff. Still, there is a real need for the Church to recover the teaching of Leo XIII and Pius XII excluding altogether the nonsensical claim that, for example, inerrancy only applies to "salvific truth" in Scripture and not to matters of history.

John McFarland said...

Can anyone think of anything in the teaching of Vatican II that has been subsequently clarified by the Pope, the CDF or any other Vatican authority? I can't, and I doubt that the CDF pronouncement, if and when it appears, won't just more or less repeat the existing ambiguities.

As for the return to the doctrine of Providentissimum Deus: that will come six months to a year after Archbishop Lefebvre's canonization.

Jordanes said...

Can anyone think of anything in the teaching of Vatican II that has been subsequently clarified by the Pope, the CDF or any other Vatican authority?

I can think of two clarifications right off the top of my head: "Dominus Iesus" and "Responses to Some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine of the Church."

I can't, and I doubt that the CDF pronouncement, if and when it appears, won't just more or less repeat the existing ambiguities.

Hopefully it will do more than just rehash what DV11 says, but will delve into the Church's intended meaning as found in PD and DaS.

As for the return to the doctrine of Providentissimum Deus: that will come six months to a year after Archbishop Lefebvre's canonization.

The Church has a promise from the Spirit that she will never defect from the faith, but there is no such promise that any particular individual will ever be raised to the altars. Consequently I can confidently expect that sooner or later the doctrine of biblical inerrancy will be freshly treated by the Holy See, whereas one can only speculate upon Msgr. Lefebvre's rehabilitation and eventual canonisation. After all, according to Vatican II the doctrine of Providentissimus Deus is and remains the teaching of the Church: that doctrine only needs to be recalled and renewed with clarity.

Catholic Voice said...

I hope you are not claiming, Jordanes, as Protestant fundamentalists do, that the Bible is a history book, and that everything written there is historical fact, free from "inerrancy".

If this is what you are claiming, then I rejoice that you yourself are not free from inerrancy.

John McFarland said...

Dear Jordanes,

I'd respectfully submit that Dominus Jesus and the Responses pretty much left things where they found them. In particular, it is still not obvious how to square their teaching with the traditional doctrine of the unicity of the Catholic Church, outside of which there is no salvation. (And by the way, why Dominus Jesus leave the filioque out of the Creed?)

As regards the canonization of Archbishop Lefebvre (RIP), I was kidding, Jordanes -- but kidding to make a point. In order for the Church to return to sound doctrine, those with authority in the Church must want to return to sound doctrine. I have no idea whether His Grace will be canonized or not; but I do know that inerrancy to the letter will not be professed in the Vatican until we have a pope who thinks like him -- that is, who measures the years since 1962 by the standards of the years between 33 and 1962.

Jordanes said...

I'd respectfully submit that Dominus Jesus and the Responses pretty much left things where they found them.

Sure. Except for clarifying that those “things” do not and cannot mean what many have been saying they mean.

In particular, it is still not obvious how to square their teaching with the traditional doctrine of the unicity of the Catholic Church, outside of which there is no salvation.

How do you think their teaching conflicts with the traditional doctrine?

(And by the way, why Dominus Jesus leave the filioque out of the Creed?)

Because the Constantinopolitan Fathers left it out of the Creed, since the Filioque had not yet been formulated in those days. Dominus Iesus includes the Creed confessed by all Catholics, rather than the Creed confessed by most Catholics. I can only guess why that choice was made, but given the purpose of DI, I would suppose it was to recall how the faith of the Church being upheld and explicated in DI was firmly established and taught in Council in far ancient times: that the Catholic faith, including the doctrine that Jesus as the sole Savior of the human race, is not a later development, but has been one and the same from the start.

I do know that inerrancy to the letter will not be professed in the Vatican until we have a pope who thinks like him -- that is, who measures the years since 1962 by the standards of the years between 33 and 1962.

I’m not sure it would take a pope who thinks like Msgr. Lefebvre, and anyway “the standards of the years between 33 and 1962” encompasses a pretty wide and variable set.

John L said...

The repeated statements on biblical inerrancy in papal encyclicals (not to mention all of past Catholic tradition) make this view a teaching of the Catholic faith. It would be absurd for the CDF to reiterate this teaching in a way that implies that such reiteration is needed to make the teaching still applicable; what is needed is a reminder of the fact that this is a teaching of the Catholic faith, together with some explanation of what it means to educate people who do not understand it. Richard Swinburne's book Revelation: From Metaphor to Analogy contains a good exposition of the view - Swinburne, although Orthodox, follows the patristic teaching on this question, which is that of the Catholic Church.

'Dominus Iesus includes the Creed confessed by all Catholics, rather than the Creed confessed by most Catholics.' That's nonsense. The creed confessed by most Catholics is the one containing the filioque, since confessing this creed is a condition for being a Catholic. There was an ecumenical council that of Florence, on this subject.

Jordanes said...

That's nonsense.

No, it's just the facts. Most Catholics say the Filioque on Sundays. Eastern Catholics do not and are not required to do so.

The creed confessed by most Catholics is the one containing the filioque

Yes, that's what I said.

since confessing this creed is a condition for being a Catholic.

No, it's not. Believing in the Filioque is, but confessing it every Sunday is not.

John McFarland said...

Dear Catholic Voice,

Catholic doctrine is that everything that scripture says is true. Everything. Now that's just the start of the discussion; but you should understand that what those awful fundamentalists believe is not far off from what Catholics are supposed to believe. In particular, what "modern science" maintains does not trump what the scriptures say.

John McFarland said...

Dear Jordanes,

I don't think there's any denying that Dominus Jesus' efforts to argue for some sort of bond between the Church and what were traditionally called the false religions (including the religion of heretics and schismatics) is at odds with the pre-1962 doctrine of the Church. Or you saying that that just can't be? But it is. Are you really saying (with the Pope) that that was then, and this is now?

The filioque was the chief theological pretext for the schism of the Orthodox Churches. They consider it heretical. So what conclusion are the Orthodox likely to draw from its absence from Dominus Jesus? Are they not going to be confirmed in their heresy? And isn't this a weightier matter than your notion that this is a gesture of solidarity with eastern rite Catholics? Isn't the proper gesture as regards them to build in (or rather, leave in) the filioque, since it's what Latin and eastern rite Catholics all believe?

But this is really shadow-boxing. Everyone but you knows that the filioque was left out precisely as a gesture to the Orthodox.

RomanTheScribe said...

I seriously doubt any unorthodoxy of the Holy Father's beliefs in this regard.

You'll find in a 1998 document entitled, "Doctrinal Commentary on the Concluding Formula of the Professio Fidei", among the catalog of doctrines Catholics must believe in is listed, "the absence of error in the inspired sacred texts."

If a clarification were to ever come out, I think we have good reason to hope for a reiteration of the traditional teaching. Only, it will most likely heavily emphasize the idea that scripture contains non-literal expressions.

Jordanes said...

Catholic Voice said: I hope you are not claiming, Jordanes, as Protestant fundamentalists do, that the Bible is a history book, and that everything written there is historical fact, free from "inerrancy".

There is no reason to believe that in upholding what the Church teaches about the inerrancy of Holy Scripture, I am claiming that everything written in the Bible is historical fact.

Nor do I claim that everything written in the Bible is free from inerrancy. On the contrary, the Bible is free from error, which means the Bible is inerrant, not free from inerrancy.

If this is what you are claiming, then I rejoice that you yourself are not free from inerrancy.

From your comment, I'm not at all sure you know what the Church's doctrine of biblical inerrancy is. Have you read Providentissimus Deus, Spiritus Paraclitus, Divino afflante Spiritu, Humani Generis, and Dei Verbum?

Jordanes said...

Mr. McFarland said: I don't think there's any denying that Dominus Jesus' efforts to argue for some sort of bond between the Church and what were traditionally called the false religions (including the religion of heretics and schismatics) is at odds with the pre-1962 doctrine of the Church.

I disagree. Even before 1962 the Church recognised that there was some kind of connection between the Church and members of false religions, and it was Leo XIII who first called Protestants "separated brethren," and the possibility of the salvation of righteous pagans is also an idea that was known to the pre-1962 Church.

The filioque was the chief theological pretext for the schism of the Orthodox Churches. They consider it heretical. So what conclusion are the Orthodox likely to draw from its absence from Dominus Jesus?

We can't be sure. Most of them probably don't care, others might take it as pandering or an attempt to trick them, others might see it as (what they would see as) a hopeful sign that we are going to give up the doctrine of the Filioque.

Are they not going to be confirmed in their heresy?

Not necessarily. Are Eastern Catholics confirmed in heresy when they confess the Creed minus the Filioque every Sunday?

And isn't this a weightier matter than your notion that this is a gesture of solidarity with eastern rite Catholics?

I didn't know I had such a notion. I certain didn't say anything even remotely like that.

Everyone but you knows that the filioque was left out precisely as a gesture to the Orthodox.

I'm amazed you can tell what everybody but me knows.

John McFarland said...

Dear Jordanes and Catholic Voice,

Inerrancy means freedom from error. Hence the phrase "freedom from inerrancy" makes no sense, unless it is a very odd way of saying "being in error." I'd suggest that you take your discussion again from the top.

Dear Jordanes,

"Separated brethren" is diplomacy, not dogma. It was never a good idea, precisely because it gave the wrong idea.

The fate of those who are not in the visible Church, and knowledge of that fate, are God's affair. But that is hardly a basis for talking as if being a member of a false religion gets you part of the way to being a Catholic, which is what conciliar doctrine at the very least can readily be read to imply.

As regards the filoque, you're mostly taking evasive action. Eastern Catholics say the Creed without the filioque because they have always done so; and since they accept the filioque, there is no issue. The heretics say the Creed without the filioque because they have always done so, and because they deem the filioque a heretical abomination. It follows that for them, its absence from Dominus Deus is very much an issue; it is the withdrawal by Rome of a heretical formula. The grimly amusing thing is that the Orthodox think that it is a Roman trick, while for the Vatican it is a deliberate symbolic capitulation.

Here's the situation as regards the Orthodx. The notion of Vatican solicitude for eastern rite Catholics is the exact opposite of the truth. The Vatican has no solicitude at all for those in communion with Rome; its solicitude is for the heretics. From its ecumenical perspective, the Greek Catholic Church of the Ukraine, a church soaked in the blood of martyrs, is an embarrassment. This is a terrible thing to have to say; but it is true. The Vatican's end game is to get the Orthodox to sign some sort of vague and equivocal formula suggesting something that can be spun as Roman primacy, as it did with the Lutherans, and declare us all somehow united.

To be sure, this will never happen: the heretics consider the whole exercise beneath contempt, and the Greek Catholics will never spit on the graves of those whom the Orthodox and the Communists martyred; but that won't stop the conciliar Vatican from trying.

Think about Pope John Paul the Great's constant characterization of the Roman and Eastern churches as "two wings." What does that mean, if not that they are more of less equal? What does that mean regarding Eastern rite Catholics, if not that they are a kind of ecclesiastical mule that should be reunited with their proper wing? And if the Pope didn't mean this, why did he pick a methaphor -- the two wings -- that at the very least implies all of this?

What will it take for you to recognize that either the concilar popes were and are naive idiots that don't understand the significance of the words they use, or that they're up to something different from what the pre-1958 popes were about?

Jordanes said...

Inerrancy means freedom from error.

Yep.

Hence the phrase "freedom from inerrancy" makes no sense, unless it is a very odd way of saying "being in error."

Yes, that's what I said, in so many words.

I'd suggest that you take your discussion again from the top.

Yes, that's pretty much what I told Catholic Voice. Thanks.

"Separated brethren" is diplomacy, not dogma. It was never a good idea, precisely because it gave the wrong idea.

Good idea or not, it acknowledges that they are affiliated with the Church in some way if they are validly baptised, and it acknowledges that they still confess the central truths of the faith despite their loss and rejection of the rest of the faith. And that was all pre-1962 too.

The fate of those who are not in the visible Church, and knowledge of that fate, are God's affair. But that is hardly a basis for talking as if being a member of a false religion gets you part of the way to being a Catholic, which is what conciliar doctrine at the very least can readily be read to imply.

But the truths found in false religions, though mixed with much error, still can serve as a preparation for the Gospel, so it is true that belonging to a false religion can get you part of the way to being a Catholic. No guarantee that it will, of course.

Eastern Catholics say the Creed without the filioque because they have always done so; and since they accept the filioque, there is no issue. The heretics say the Creed without the filioque because they have always done so, and because they deem the filioque a heretical abomination.

True. But it doesn't follow that Dominus Iesus quoting the Oecumenical Council of Constantinople's confession of faith necessary would confirm the Orthodox in heresy. It could confirm many of them, though.

It follows that for them, its absence from Dominus Deus is very much an issue; it is the withdrawal by Rome of a heretical formula.

Nonsense. Only if, God forbid, the Latin Church were to remove the Filioque from the Creed would they see it as the withdrawal by Rome of a heretical formula. Why would they pay any more notice to DI's lack of the Filioque than they do to the Eastern Churches' lack of the Filioque?

The grimly amusing thing is that the Orthodox think that it is a Roman trick, while for the Vatican it is a deliberate symbolic capitulation.

Have you got any evidence to support that interpretation?

Think about Pope John Paul the Great's constant characterization of the Roman and Eastern churches as "two wings."

Two lungs, you mean.

What will it take for you to recognize that either the concilar popes were and are naive idiots that don't understand the significance of the words they use, or that they're up to something different from what the pre-1958 popes were about?

"Naive idiots" is a bit too harsh a characterisation of the Vatican II and post-Vatican II popes, though they probably have been naive about a lot of things -- so too have quite a lot of the pre-Vatican II popes. Also, it is not disputed that "they're up to something different from what the pre-1958 popes were about," but difference of itself does not necessarily mean contradiction or error. We need more than to observe that the modern popes say and do different things than earlier popes.

As for the rest of your remarks, it takes the discussion too far afield, and we're already several thousand miles from the ostensible topic of this post, so I'll just stop here. I should probably do the dishes anyway . . . .

John McFarland said...

Dear Jordanes,

As long as you want to believe that the Pope is On Our Side, and don't really have a very clear idea of what the integral Catholic faith is and demands (an idea that the conciliar Church does its best to keep unclear), you're pretty much impervious.

But I can't let it go without noting two things.

One is that on traditional Catholic doctrine, a schismatic or heretical faith cannot save. The similarities between Catholic and eastern schismatic belief avail the schismatics nothing. They could indeed provide the beginning of one's becoming a Catholic; but the whole point of being an eastern schismatic is to deny union with the Catholic Church notwithstanding those similarities. By contrast, the whole point of conciliar doctrine is to imply that the similarities have some sort of salvific effect, without quite saying so.

Then think about the two lungs metaphor. If it means anything, it implies a single organism that is something greater than either the Catholic Church or the Orthodox Church. Furthermore, it implies that the Catholic Church has only one lung, which is hardly a thought consistent with the doctrine that the one true Church established by Christ is the Catholic Church, and that schismatics and heretics are just that.

Then consider the infamous Balamand/Balamond Statement, which confirms the Vatican's rejection of "uniatism" -- that is, unity by the schismatic churches' accepting the authority of Rome but keeping their liturgical and other traditions, like the Ukrainian Greek Catholics and the many much smaller groups that have rejoined the Church over the centuries. What can this mean, but that the "union" we are seeking with the eastern schismatics must be something different from acceptance of papal primacy?

If none of this sets off any alarm bells, you'd better stick to washing dishes, and I'd better stick to just praying for you and the others who are determined not to see the elephant in the room.

Anonymous said...

Jordanes,

I notice you're all for strict Catholic beliefs until it comes to our "separated brethren." Then you're all warm and fuzzy and ecumenical. Seems like you're a relativist, too.

Benedictus qui venit

Jordanes said...

I notice you're all for strict Catholic beliefs until it comes to our "separated brethren." Then you're all warm and fuzzy and ecumenical.

You've noticed no such thing.

Seems like you're a relativist, too.

Sure I am, if "relativist" means "not a relativist."

Jordanes said...

As long as you want to believe that the Pope is On Our Side,

I couldn't care less about "Our Side," whatever "Our Side" might be. I want to believe and I hope that the Pope is on God's side.

and don't really have a very clear idea of what the integral Catholic faith is and demands

I think I've got a pretty clear idea.

you're pretty much impervious.

Well, I would observe that just because you haven't offered any arguments and evidence that I find compelling or convincing doesn't mean there aren't any.

One is that on traditional Catholic doctrine, a schismatic or heretical faith cannot save.

Yes, and that is what the Church upholds even today.

The similarities between Catholic and eastern schismatic belief avail the schismatics nothing.

Not of themselves, no.

They could indeed provide the beginning of one's becoming a Catholic; but the whole point of being an eastern schismatic is to deny union with the Catholic Church notwithstanding those similarities.

No, that's not "the whole point."

By contrast, the whole point of conciliar doctrine is to imply that the similarities have some sort of salvific effect, without quite saying so.

I disagree that's the whole point of the Church's doctrine, though it is the point of many post-Vatican II Catholics.

Then think about the two lungs metaphor. If it means anything, it implies a single organism that is something greater than either the Catholic Church or the Orthodox Church.

No, the "two lungs" metaphor refers to Western and Eastern, "Latin" and "Greek," not Catholic and Orthodox.

Furthermore, it implies that the Catholic Church has only one lung, which is hardly a thought consistent with the doctrine that the one true Church established by Christ is the Catholic Church, and that schismatics and heretics are just that.

No, you've entirely misread the metaphor.

Then consider the infamous Balamand/Balamond Statement, which confirms the Vatican's rejection of "uniatism" -- that is, unity by the schismatic churches' accepting the authority of Rome but keeping their liturgical and other traditions, like the Ukrainian Greek Catholics and the many much smaller groups that have rejoined the Church over the centuries. What can this mean, but that the "union" we are seeking with the eastern schismatics must be something different from acceptance of papal primacy?

What it means -- the only thing it can mean in light of the reality of who and what the Church is, Kasperian ecumenists' opinions and whims notwithstanding -- is that the Church seeks to reunite the Eastern schismatics to the Church en masse, corporately, rather than in smaller groups as she has before. It's wishful thinking at best to aim for a reunion of the Orthodox Churches that sacrifices the primacy, universal jurisdiction, and infallibility of the Petrine office.

Anyway, while this whole subject of the Church's ecumenical efforts towards the Orthodox is important, it's a tangent of a tangent of the topic of the Synod of Bishops' Proposition 12, and I want to retrace our steps to get us back to the topic at hand. You'd rhetorically asked why Dominus Iesus didn't include the Filioque, and although I don't know the answer I offered what I think is a reasonable speculation. Your speculation is reasonable too, even if we haven't sufficient evidence to resolve the question -- a question that arose in your opining that the post-Vatican II Church has apparently never clarified any of Vatican II's ambiguities, and therefore we shouldn't expect the Catholic Church to clarify Dei Verbum 11 any time soon. While I disagree with you that the Church hasn't clarified any of VII's ambiguities, you could well be correct that clarification of DV11 won't be forthcoming for quite some time. We agree, I gather, that clarification of DV11 and reaffirmation of what Leo XIII, Benedict XV, and Pius XII taught about biblical inspiration and inerrancy is very needful. I would say urgent. So I hope and pray that it will be sooner rather than later.

John McFarland said...

Dear Jordanes,

You're of course within your rights to note your original point, and that we've wandered far away from it.

It's also a relatively defensible point, because there hasn't been much in the way of official pronouncements on the issue of inerrancy since Dei Verbum.

On the other hand, all the ecclesiastical attacks on "fundamentalism," including by the Pope, make it a little difficult to see the hierarchy as supporting the inerrancy of scripture to the letter. You slapped down Catholic Voice, but I respectfully submit that his view of things is much closer than yours to what the Pope and the other ecclesiastics have been saying on the issue.

For example, that notable conservative Cardinal Pell has said that there are errors in scripture.

In 1990 or 1991, in a visit to the U.S., Cardinal Ratzinger embraced Father Raymond Brown (RIP), who no more believed in the inerrancy of scripture than I believe in the Tooth Fairy, and praised him effusively as one of the great lights of biblical scholarship.

You're quite right that the doctrine of the Church won't change notwithstanding the weird things that the likes of Cardinal Kasper say. But you still can't bring yourself to take the final step and hold that the doctrine of the Church won't change notwithstanding the weird things that Cardinal Kasper's boss says.

But we're making progress. For years the conservatives (I among them) thought that the problem stopped at the Vatican City limits. You and others more or less believe that it stops at the door of the papal apartments. So now the job is to get you to recognize that the problem entered the papal apartments fifty years ago, and has not yet left.

The indefectibility of the Church is the work of Christ and the Holy Ghost. Men only cooperate in the process, to the extent that they cooperate. Except when he is teaching infallibly, the Pope, like other men, can do a very bad job indeed, as we've seen for these forty years. But God is still with us, whether or not the Pope or anyone else is pulling his weight. When he's not teaching infallibly, the Pope is no more immune from error, even grave error, than Alexander VI was immune from sins of the flesh.

Jordanes said...

there hasn't been much in the way of official pronouncements on the issue of inerrancy since Dei Verbum.

All the more reason why we need one.

On the other hand, all the ecclesiastical attacks on "fundamentalism," including by the Pope, make it a little difficult to see the hierarchy as supporting the inerrancy of scripture to the letter.

With or without attacks on fundamentalism, there can hardly be any doubt that quite a lot of God's bishops do not believe, or understand (or both), the Church's doctrine of biblical inerrancy. Considering the Holy Father's past statements indicating his belief in JEPD Documentary Hypothesis rubbish, it may well be that his own understanding of biblical inerrancy is faulty. We have a moral obligation to hope and pray that is not the case, and to absolve him of any such error if at all possible.

You slapped down Catholic Voice, but I respectfully submit that his view of things is much closer than yours to what the Pope and the other ecclesiastics have been saying on the issue.

I have no idea what Catholic Voice's view of things is. He hasn't told us. I only know that he doesn't know what my view of things is, and I suspect from his comment that he doesn't know what the Church's view is either.

In 1990 or 1991, in a visit to the U.S., Cardinal Ratzinger embraced Father Raymond Brown (RIP), who no more believed in the inerrancy of scripture than I believe in the Tooth Fairy, and praised him effusively as one of the great lights of biblical scholarship.

Father Brown was indeed an extremely gifted exegete, despite his erroneous views on biblical inerrancy.

But you still can't bring yourself to take the final step and hold that the doctrine of the Church won't change notwithstanding the weird things that Cardinal Kasper's boss says.

Or rather, might say. And that's something I've said more times than I can count. . . .

But then it actually doesn't matter whether or not I say something that goes without saying . . . And of course you're still not any good at guessing what I can and can't bring myself to do.

But we're making progress. For years the conservatives (I among them) thought that the problem stopped at the Vatican City limits. You and others more or less believe that it stops at the door of the papal apartments. So now the job is to get you to recognize that the problem entered the papal apartments fifty years ago, and has not yet left.

I've reminded you before that you need to ask me what I believe, not tell me what I believe. You've never been any good at guessing what I believe, so please stop trying, Mr. McFarland.

As for your final paragraph, I subscribed to the doctrine you describe when I converted to Catholicism. If I hadn't come to believe in the Church's indefectibility despite the fallibility, peccability, and dereliction of St. Peter's successors, there is no way I would have been able to accept the Faith.

JM said...

If you think, for even a nanosecond, that the Pope is sympathetic with inerrancy, you simply are refusing to read the clear meaning of his words in countless places. As for Brown being a fine exegete, such a comment proves that you've drunken the Kool-Aid.

Jordanes said...

If you think, for even a nanosecond, that the Pope is sympathetic with inerrancy, you simply are refusing to read the clear meaning of his words in countless places.

He may perhaps have a different, faulty understanding of inerrancy.

As for Brown being a fine exegete, such a comment proves that you've drunken the Kool-Aid.

Nonsense. There's no dispute the man was gifted and knew his stuff, even if "his stuff" was riddled with gobbledygook, as it certainly was. Like Solomon said of the beautiful woman without discretion being like a golden ring in a pig's snout: the pig is vile and stinking, but that doesn't mean the ring in his nose isn't made out of gold.

John McFarland said...

Dear Jordanes,

It would seem appropriate for you to spit out just what it is that you DO think.

In the back and forth, you seem to accept a fairly "hard" traditionalist view -- more or less the SSPX's view, to be undiplomatic about it. So it's hard to see how your wish for clarification is anything but an exercise in hoping against hope.

And while we're at it, don't you see that the whole of Dei Verbum is a standard conciliar exercise in ambiguity and equivocation, not to mention its appeal to form criticism, Sitz im Leben, living tradition and all the other liberal fast shuffles?

Your defense of Raymond Brown continues to amaze. Do you think you can trust the guy who gave us that infamous account of the Gospel of John? What's the "stuff" he knew, other than the work of the other enemies of sound doctrine? Why do you suppose he taught twenty-odd years at Union Theological in New York, the most liberal Protestant "seminary" on this side of the galaxy?

Jordanes said...

In the back and forth, you seem to accept a fairly "hard" traditionalist view -- more or less the SSPX's view, to be undiplomatic about it.

My views do coincide with those of the SSPX on many points, though I'm of the opinion that Msgr. Lefebvre's consecrations were wrong, and I have objections to other things pertaining to the SSPX that I'd rather not go into now -- too much of a tangent again. I'm pretty sure what I think about biblical inerrancy is far closer to what an SSPX priest might think than what your average priest in good standing with the Church would likely think (assuming they think anything at all about it).

So it's hard to see how your wish for clarification is anything but an exercise in hoping against hope.

I believe in One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, and I believe the gates of hell cannot prevail against the Rock of Peter. So I am confident that, sooner or later, this matter will be resolved and the Church will reaffirm with clarity the perennial doctrine that was taught by Leo XIII and his successor, and that has never been formally contradicted or reversed by any Pope or Council.

And while we're at it, don't you see that the whole of Dei Verbum is a standard conciliar exercise in ambiguity and equivocation, not to mention its appeal to form criticism, Sitz im Leben, living tradition and all the other liberal fast shuffles?

Sure, the way that document was written, like pretty much all the other ones, yielded an often ambiguous result. There's nothing objectionable in themselves about things such as form criticism, Sitz im Leben, etc., so long as they are brought under the yoke of the Catholic faith and not used to undermine inerrancy and the unanimous consent of the Fathers (which, sadly, is the rule for how they've been used).

Your defense of Raymond Brown continues to amaze. Do you think you can trust the guy who gave us that infamous account of the Gospel of John?

No, I don't think Father Brown can be trusted at all. Whether he realised it or not, whether it was intentional or not, the fact is that most of his scholarly output corroded the scriptural, historical, and intellectual underpinnings of the faith.

What's the "stuff" he knew, other than the work of the other enemies of sound doctrine?

He knew the languages, he knew the manuscript history, and he knew the patristic tradition (but I don't think he had a proper appreciation for that tradition). So his talent and skill are unquestioned. Sadly, he put them to unprofitable uses. It would seem that he wanted to "baptise" the faulty liberal Protestant ways of reading and destroying Holy Scripture, putting those methods to work for the Church, but my impression is that all he ended up with was a kind of fideism: continuing to insist on his belief in the teachings of the Church while systematically knocking out the scriptural, historical, and grammatical foundations for those teachings. I rather think the Holy Father is too sympathetic to a "Brownian" sort of approach to Scripture, but I can't tell how much of that is agreement and how much is his characteristic gentleness and irenicism (odd traits in a prefect of the CDF, though not in a post-Vatican II CDF prefect).

An interesting thing about Father Brown is that in his latter years he seems to have grown more "conservative" (for want of a better term), and when he died he had not yet finished his revision of his commentary on St. John's Gospel. If I recall correctly from a review I'd read a few years back, those parts of the revision that were finished are far less objectionable than his earlier works.

John McFarland said...

Dear Jordanes,

Thank you for your additional comments.

Back when I was a conservative, I never had the slightest doubt that Brown was a (formal) heretic and a hypocrite.

But of course I have pretty much the same evidence as regards the Pope, and I am prepared to believe of him that he is sincere, in his (Kantian-Hegelian) fashion. In this connection, you should take a look at the interview in the December Angelus with Father du Chalard, the SSPX's man at the Curia (so to speak).

I hope you'll forgive my polite skepticism regarding the "tools" of critical biblical scholarship. As regards Sitz im Leben, I don't understand how a contemporary scholar can put himself in the sandals of someone who lived two or three or four thousand years ago. What can it be but the sheerest conjecture? As regards form criticism, it's fairly obvious that Genesis, Psalms, Isaiah and Esther are rather different one from the other; but after you've said that, what then?

John McFarland said...

Dear Jordanes,

As regards your confidence that things will eventually be set right:

My problem is that since the gates of Hell have not prevailed, I see no particular reason to think that the current mess might not continue for a long time -- centuries, even. Since for the Lord our God, a thousand years is as a day, and vice versa, prognostication of his will is pretty dicey; and as long as the Church's earthly authority is largely in the wrong hands (see Father du Chalard on this as well), I think there is more danger in excessive optimism than in the opposite extreme. At a minimum, in my view, we need to see a few more swallows before we start looking for summer.

Joe said...

I found this older post on your blog by googling “catholic inerrancy” as I am interested in the topic. If anyone is interested in this topic I am discussing the possibility of inerrancy in light of the passage “rabbits do indeed chew the cud” taken from Leviticus. I think this shows the Second Vatican qualification is necessary and appropriate.

http://forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=304295

I don’t want to post all that was said there here but I am interested in comments from anyone interested in the topic.