Rorate Caeli

Pontifical Biblical Commission to take up Synod Proposition 12

Of special notice is this announcement today from Vatican Information Service:

The Pontifical Biblical Commission is due to celebrate its annual plenary meeting at the Vatican's "Domus Sanctae Marthae" from 20 to 24 April, under the presidency of Cardinal William Joseph Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Fr. Klemens Stock S.J., pro-secretary general of the commission, will oversee and direct the work of the assembly.

This will be the first gathering of the Pontifical Biblical Commission since the partial renewal of its membership, in accordance with current norms. During the meeting attention will be given to a new study entitled "Inspiration and Truth of the Bible", the draft version of which has already been examined by the commission members.

As previously reported here, at the Synod of Bishops in Rome last October, the synod asked for clarification of the concepts of biblical inspiration and truth:

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.

In light of widespread confusion engendered by Catholic exegetes who depart from the teaching found in papal encylicals such as Providentissimus Deus and Divino afflante Spiritu, the need for clarification is urgent, so this month’s PBC discussions and proceedings will bear close attention and ought to be the subject of much intercessory prayer. Of course anything the non-magisterial PBC decides would have to be vetted and approved by the Pope and the CDF first. Unless the PBC’s findings are issued by the CDF and approved by the Pope, they would remain an interesting and hopefully useful but non-binding meditation on the subject.


  1. So, the work of the Pontifical Biblical Commission takes priority over doctrinal discussions with the SSPX or so it seems. Or, could it also be that the doctrinal discussions with the SSPX are considered private whereas PBC meetings are simply classified as routine? Oh well, I guess we'll find out in due course.

  2. Anonymous7:37 PM

    I offered today's Holy Mass for Pope Benedict XVI, as well as on last Thursday. The Moscow patriarch well noted that Pp Benedict disragards pol. corr. language. But what follows afterwartds are examples of retiring from clarity and firmness, and then the end result is that no one is served, neither faithful, nor adversary.

    About today's posting:

    Hermeneutics is the discipline that deciphers the meaning of things.
    In Our times there is the temptation to accomodate meanings to suit one's prejudgements of what truth means.

    Grave danger.
    It reminds one of St. Paul's warnings:
    "They will abandon truth and sound doctrine, and will replace them with fables to suit their itching ears."
    Obama re-shapes the Constitution to usurp power, to create his own world; for fourty plus years theologians created new doctrines to suit a more comfortable life-style.
    St Paul saw the danger and said:
    "I will preach nothing but Christ crucified!"
    In his self-portrait: "Salt of the Earth," younger Ratzinger confessed that back home that shaped his mind: "our teachers preferred not to follow the word from Rome."
    One wonders if older Ratzinger understands his need for total turning to Christ in the light of what Our Lord told Peter:
    "Once you have TURNED, you shall confirm the brethren."

    Fr. Stephen, o.f.m.

  3. With all due respect to Mr. Haley, this question trumps any discussions with the SSPX, since this question represents one of two areas (the dual covenant heresy being the other) where national bishops conferences have recently issued catechisms which openly proclaim heresy.

    Obviously, that the infallible truth, established from the beginning of the Church and even before then, that the Sacred Scriptures have God as their Author and are, THEREFORE, entirely free from error of any kind whatsoever, has come under attack in these last years represents extreme peril.

    May God reconcile the SSPX, and may God mercilessly crush the heretics who have despised His Scriptures, and attempted to poison the Faith of the little ones.

  4. Anonymous9:49 PM

    Fr. Stephen, o.f.m. said,"Once you have TURNED, you shall confirm the brethren."

    Father, excellent points. What can we know of you? Do you have a website? what parish do you belong to?

    It is good to see Franciscans sticking to the truth.

    Jerry, SFO

  5. Anonymous11:46 PM

    The national bishops conferences have recently issued catechisms which openly proclaim heresy.Eh?


  6. AM:

    1. The UK catechism explicitly teaches that Scripture can contain errors in matters "not dealing with salvation", whatever that is supposed to mean (whatever you need it to mean, I suppose). In any case, it is an explicit heresy, since we know God is the Author of Scripture in all its parts, and therefore Scripture can no more contain error than God can teach it.

    2. The most recent US Catechism explicitly taught, until such time as a large majority of the bishops voted to remove the heretical sentence, that "the covenant God made with the Jews through Moses remains eternally valid for them". Needless to say, if such a thing were true, someone might have informed Jesus of the fact and saved Him a lot of trouble.

    Anyway, as I said, there are two specific examples of national bishops conferences openly proclaiming heresy in two official catechisms within the last several years.

    Rather important to get these things squared away, eh?


  7. Anonymous2:36 AM

    I don't see what will possibly be accomplished by having the non-Magisterial PBC provide its own two cents regarding this matter.

    At best, it would provide non-binding advice in a document that -- by way of some moral miracle -- happens to be orthodox.

    At worst, the PBC will come out with the sort of document that the post-Vatican II PBC is wont to come out with (you know, like the way ducks can be expected to "quack") and then the impression will surely be created that the Church has changed her teaching.

    Indeed, due to another of those wonderful Vatican II loopholes, precisely B/C said document would be something entirely NON-Magisterial, the Holy Spirit might even be MORE likely to ALLOW said error to be expressed, as it would not even be Magisterial at the NON-definitive level (viz., that "third category" discussed by the CDF in the Commentary appended to Ad Tuendam Fidem as being non-infallible _in se_). By contrast, if what came out were AT LEAST pertaining to said "third category", the Holy Spirit might be more inclined to take pity on us, even without this being promised, strictly speaking.

    Instead, in the latter scenario envisioned regarding the PBC (the "bad" scenario) we will have yet another spectre of what will SEEM like new teaching but which, in fact, is no teaching at all. Under this circumstance, the limited inerrancy theorists will inevitably TREAT the document as if it held some Magisterial authority.

    What is more, under the latter "bad" scenario, the gobbly-gook thus spewing from the PBC would further establish a non-binding (but *seemingly* binding) precedent that would badly hamstring some real Magisterial authority (like the CDF) from saying as clearly as possible what it NEEDS to say, so as to FINALLY and FULLY reiterate traditional dogma on inerrancy.

    Given the almost certain lack of promise this holds, I DON'T see how any supposed "positive potential" warrants the danger of unnecessarily dragging out the process of regularization for the SSPX. Whatever the latter's faults (and there are many), they are certainly the LESSER of the two SETS of faults to be considered within the present, unprecedented crisis of faith, of morals and of ecclesiastical obedience.

  8. Those are all good points, Anonymous. It is encouraging to see the PBC take up this question, but it must be kept in mind that it's only what is issued by the CDF with the Pope's signature or approval that counts. The bishops did not request another non-binding PBC study: they asked the CDF, not the PBC, to take up the question and provide clarification. At this stage we're in the study phase: the PBC is gathering facts and opinions and observations for the CDF's consideration. Hopefully this means the CDF will actually issue something of assistance, because anything non-authorative will probably make matters worse as you say.

  9. Adeodatus6:17 AM

    I hope someone in authority actually reads the notes in the NAB ("New Atheist Bible"). Yikes.

  10. Anonymous8:33 AM

    It is unconvincing to claim that a library of ancient books contains no errors of any kind. The Church authorities have been aware of the problem for a long time; at Vatican II they let sleeping dogs lie, but with the rise of a murderous biblical fundamentalism the issue has become more acute.

  11. Anonymous12:56 PM

    Let's raise a toast to Dei Verbum, that giant step backward in the understanding of Doctrine.

  12. Rick,

    The work of the PBC must go forward and I agree that it is important but as has been pointed out, it is not magisterial until and unless it receives the Pope's approval and signature. The matter of the SSPX, however, and its canonical status or faculties, is directly related to the salvation of souls, the supreme law of the church and IMHO nothing is more important than that.

    To leave a Society of 4 bishops and nearly 500 priests, numerous sisters and brothers, and the faithful attached to them in "canonical limbo" is unacceptable to me. At the same time it allows for the festering of conflicting views within the Society itself, Fr. Meramo's situation being a case in point but not the only example by any means. But, I'm only expressing my opinion on the subject for what it's worth.

  13. Someone said: It is unconvincing to claim that a library of ancient books contains no errors of any kind.*** Do you deny that God, the Author of Truth, inspired the Holy Scriptures? It is not the faith of the Church that the Scriptures contain no errors “of any kind,” but that the Scriptures do not teach or assert anything that is erroneous. Thus, the Scriptures can quote someone in an account of ancient events telling a lie or expressing an erroneous opinion – that is not a Scriptural error, because that person really told that lie or expressed that mistaken opinion. But it is the faith of the Church that the Scriptures, having God as their Author, do not teach or assert anything that is contrary to truth. Thus, when an inspired author makes a doctrinal or moral or historical assertion, we can have confidence that it is true, because God cannot lie or make mistakes.

    The Church authorities have been aware of the problem for a long time; at Vatican II they let sleeping dogs lie, but with the rise of a murderous biblical fundamentalism the issue has become more acute.*** Who are these “murderous biblical fundamentalists” you have in mind? Where are they active and who have they been killing? And why should the Church deny her faith just because some fanatics hold to beliefs that are identical or somewhat similar to what the Church teaches?

    Someone else said: Let's raise a toast to Dei Verbum, that giant step backward in the understanding of Doctrine.*** I can’t share that opinion, because despite occasional ambiguity (which we know to have been intentional) it is still a decent précis and encapsulation of the Church’s beliefs regarding the Word of God in Scripture and Tradition. To properly interpret it and understand it, one must consult the sources references in DV’s footnotes, something that many modern exegetes would prefer we not do, because then they can more readily advance their notion that DV has changed what the Church has always believed and taught about the divine inspiration and inerrancy of the Holy Scriptures. It’s well past time for the Church to do something about wayward ‘Catholic’ exegesis the way she began to do something in the 1980s about wayward catechesis, even yanking imprimaturs from catechetical texts that should never have gotten them in the first place. There are quite a lot of imprimaturs in the field of Catholic biblical exegesis that are in dire need of being rescinded.


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