Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
Nathan O'Halloran, SJ
Nathan O'Halloran, SJ
If non-Trinitarian monotheists called Muslims don't worship God, then neither do non-Trinitarians called Jews. If we try to claim that we should never allow Muslims to pray on Church property because they are not Christian, then Pope Pius XII should never have allowed Jews to celebrate their rites when he was hiding them in the Vatican and in other church properties. No hijab for Muslim kids, but strict adherence to Catholic dress codes? Very well then, no yarmulkes for Jewish kids at Catholic schools. No five minutes set aside for Muslims to say their prayers? Great! Then no time off allowed for High Holy Days for Jewish kids.
But for close to 2,000 years, Jews were largely regarded by the ordinary Catholic as the sinister internal enemies of Christian civilization -- just like Muslims are now seen. Instead of automatically linking all Muslims to the crime of Mumbai, the medieval Catholic mind tended to link all Jews to the crime of the Crucifixion and to numerous episodes of persecution of Christians. And so, Christians periodically forbade their rites as subversive of the Christian civil order, or decided that if they did not convert, it could only be because they basically agreed with the murderers of Jesus that He got what He deserved.
Remember: for most of the Church's history, though Muslims were seen as heretics, Jews were seen as even greater heretics. They were regarded as the first and most impenitent rebels against the revelation of Christ, who were far more gravely guilty of their rebellion than any Muslim could ever be. After all, said the medieval Christian, Christ came to them, they rejected him, and they have gone on rejecting him down to this very day. Indeed, (the logic continues) they aren't our elder brothers all (something Vatican II-resistant Catholics continue to maintain). No, said medievals, they are the original heretics. They are "those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan" (Rev 2:9). The Church is the real "Israel of God," as St. Paul calls it. So the Fathers considered the Church, grafted onto Old Testament Israel, as the main trunk of revelation and the real continuation of the revelation.
We rightly recoil in horror from this. But for long centuries, Christians took this picture of our relationship with Jews as axiomatic. In comparison, they regarded the poor benighted Mohammedan as a second-class heretic: Since he began as a pagan Arab who had never had the advantages of the Jew, his fall was not seen as anything like so terrible as theirs.
And even in the Middle Ages, Jews were not all quietly suffering degradation without protest. Many made their contempt for Christians and their faith quite clear to their Christian neighbors. And their Christian neighbors responded in exactly the way that many Christians respond today. Only instead of saying, "If you've seen one Mohammedan you seen 'em all," medievals tended to say "If you've seen one Christ-killer, you've seen 'em all."
I recognize no commonality of spirit between the hysteria and frequent contempt for Nostra Aetate, Vatican II, Muslims and Jews that I'm seeing in a lot of the combox commentariat and the generous, thoughtful, and fruitful work being done by Pope Benedict XVI in his dialogue with Muslim leaders. It would well behoove Catholics who are serious about the Church's engagement with Muslims of good will to imitate him, rather than to simply issue sweeping denials that there is any such thing as a Muslim of good will or to heap scorn on Nostra Aetate. The pope is there to teach us. Let's learn from him.
This warning should in no way be interpreted as a disavowal of all those who want to respond generously and with an authentic evangelical spirit to the "preferential option for the poor." It should not at all serve as an excuse for those who maintain the attitude of neutrality and indifference in the face of the tragic and pressing problems of human misery and injustice. It is, on the contrary, dictated by the certitude that the serious ideological deviations which it points out tends inevitably to betray the cause of the poor. More than ever, it is important that numerous Christians, whose faith is clear and who are committed to live the Christian life in its fullness, become involved in the struggle for justice, freedom, and human dignity because of their love for their disinherited, oppressed, and persecuted brothers and sisters. More than ever, the Church intends to condemn abuses, injustices, and attacks against freedom, wherever they occur and whoever commits them. She intends to struggle, by her own means, for the defense and advancement of the rights of mankind, especially of the poor.
The different theologies of liberation are situated between the preferential option for the poor, forcefully reaffirmed without ambiguity after Medellin at the Conference of Puebla on the one hand, and the temptation to reduce the Gospel to an earthly gospel on the other.We noted above that an authentic theology of liberation will be one which is rooted in the Word of God, correctly interpreted.But from a descriptive standpoint, it helps to speak of theologies of liberation, since the expression embraces a number of theological positions, or even sometimes ideological ones, which are not simply different but more often incompatible with one another.
The violence in Juárez continued to rage with at least 10 homicides occurring Friday.
Among the slayings were a triple homicide in the morning, a man gunned down outside a pool hall in the afternoon and a killing at a funeral home in the evening. Shortly before 6 a.m., two unidentified women and a man were shot to death in a PT Cruiser on Rusia street, Chihuahua state police said. At 2:30 p.m., Rodolfo Humberto Martha Jimenez, 27, was shot 13 times in the parking lot of the Pocket's billiards on Avenida de las Torres, police said. There have been more than 1,300 homicides in the Juárez area so far this year, including nearly 30 since Monday.
“Yet honesty compels me to admit that this decision against human life is in historical continuity with the pragmatism on the part of the Fathers of the 1787 Constitutional Convention for the recognition of Black slavery and, following the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, in continuity with the same meanness toward Native Americans on the part of the politicians, entrepreneurs and settlers. The 1803 event was a meanness enshrined shortly in the doctrine of Manifest Destiny.”
“Techne can only cooperate with phusis, can more or less expedite the cure; but as techne it can never replace phusis and itself become the arche of health itself. This could happen only if life as such were to become a ‘’technically’ producible artifact. However, at that very moment there would also no longer be such a thing as health, any more than there would be birth and death. Sometimes it seems as if modern humanity is rushing headlong toward this goal of producing itself technologically. If humanity achieves this, it will have exploded itself, i.e., its essence qua subjectivity, into thin air, into a region where the absolutely meaningless is valued as the one and only ‘meaning’ and where preserving this value appears as the human ‘domination’ of the globe. ‘Subjectivity’ is not overcome in this way but merely ‘tranquilized’ in the ‘eternal progress’ of a Chinese-life ‘constancy.’ This is the most extreme nonessence in relation to phusis-ousia.”
President-elect Barack Obama,
As American Catholics, we, the undersigned, would like to reiterate the congratulations given to you by Pope Benedict XVI. We will be praying for you as you undertake the office of President of the United States.
Wishing you much good will, we hope we will be able to work with you, your administration, and our fellow citizens to move beyond the gridlock which has often harmed our great nation in recent years. Too often, partisan politics has hampered our response to disaster and misfortune. As a result of this, many Americans have become resentful, blaming others for what happens instead of realizing our own responsibilities. We face serious problems as a people, and if we hope to overcome the crises we face in today’s world, we should make a serious effort to set aside the bitterness in our hearts, to listen to one another, and to work with one another
One of the praiseworthy elements of your campaign has been the call to end such partisanship. You have stated a desire to engage others in dialogue. With you, we believe that real achievement comes not through the defamation of one’s opponents, nor by amassing power and using it merely as a tool for one’s own individual will. We also believe dialogue is essential. We too wish to appeal to the better nature of the nation. We want to encourage people to work together for the common good. Such action can and will engender trust. It may change the hearts of many, and it might alter the path of our nation, shifting to a road leading to a better America. We hope this theme of your campaign is realized in the years ahead.
One of the critical issues which currently divides our nation is abortion. As you have said, no one is for abortion, and you would agree to limit late-term abortions as long as any bill which comes your way allows for exceptions to those limits, such as when the health of the mother is in jeopardy. You have also said you would like to work on those social issues which cause women to feel as if they have a need for an abortion, so as to reduce the actual number of abortions being performed in the United States.
Indeed, you said in your third presidential debate, “But there surely is some common ground when both those who believe in choice and those who are opposed to abortion can come together and say, ‘We should try to prevent unintended pregnancies by providing appropriate education to our youth, communicating that sexuality is sacred and that they should not be engaged in cavalier activity, and providing options for adoption, and helping single mothers if they want to choose to keep the baby.’”
As men and women who oppose abortion and embrace a pro-life ethic, we want to commend your willingness to engage us in dialogue, and we ask that you live up to your promise, and engage us on this issue.
There is much we can do together. There is much that we can do to help women who find themselves in difficult situations so they will not see abortion as their only option. There is much which we can do to help eliminate those unwanted pregnancies which lead to abortion.
One of your campaign promises is of grave concern to many pro-life citizens. On January 22, 2008, the 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, when speaking of the current right of women in America to have abortions, you said, “And I will continue to defend this right by passing the Freedom of Choice Act as president.”
The Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) might well undermine your engagement of pro-life Americans on the question of abortion. It might hamper any effort on your part to work with us to limit late-term abortions. We believe FOCA does more than allow for choice. It may force the choice of a woman upon others, and make them morally complicit in such choice. One concern is that it would force doctors and hospitals which would otherwise choose not to perform abortions to do so, even if it went against their sacred beliefs. Such a law would undermine choice, and might begin the process by which abortion is enforced as a preferred option, instead of being one possible choice for a doctor to practice.
It is because of such concern we write. We urge you to engage us, and to dialogue with us, and to do so before you consider signing this legislation. Let us reason together and search out the implications of FOCA. Let us carefully review it and search for contradictions of those positions which we hold in common.
If FOCA can be postponed for the present, and serious dialogue begun with us, as well as with those who disagree with us, you will demonstrate that your administration will indeed be one that rises above partisanship, and will be one of change. This might well be the first step toward resolving an issue which tears at the fabric of our churches, our political process, our families, our very society, and that causes so much hardship and heartache in pregnant women.
Likewise, you have also recently stated you might over-ride some of President G.W. Bush’s executive orders. This is also a concern to us. We believe doing so without having a dialogue with the American people would undermine the political environment you would like to establish. Among those issues which concern us are those which would use taxpayer money to support actions we find to be morally questionable, such as embryonic stem cell research, or to fund international organizations that would counsel women to have an abortion (this would make abortion to be more than a mere choice, but an encouraged activity).
Consider, sir, your general promise to the American people and set aside particular promises to a part of your constituency. This would indicate that you plan to reject politics as usual. This would indeed be a change we need.
Nathan O'Halloran, SJToday the Church celebrates all of her saints. It is a great feast—in heaven and on earth. Heaven inclines towards us: is it made up of the stuff that the saints have brought to heaven with them from earth. The rose-petals that St Thérèse of Lisieux promises to rain from heaven after her death are the ones that she brought up to heaven with her from the simple little life that she lived. We have all of eternity before us, but we are given only one life that can be brought with us into that eternity. This should make us especially aware—as Ignatius was—of the importance of the life that we have been given. Everything that we do in time has an effect on eternity.On the flipside, from eternity the saints reach out to us today by means of their earthly lives—the way Thérèse does with her rose-petals—and our lives are changed by theirs. Especially here at the mass, we should be particularly conscient of this. Along with the Lord, the saints are here, not only in spirit, but also in this room, right now. As Christians, we are called to live in heaven on the earth. But today we are tempted to separate heaven and earth in a way that is alien both to our scriptures and to our Catholic tradition. Heaven comes to us nowhere else but in the concrete realities of the earth and yet—irony of ironies—we often cannot see heaven because we can see nothing more than the earth in what we are given. We have lost a good part of our sense of Providence. And we are blind to a good part of our Church if our Church is made up of only of those whom we can see. Alongside us in the Church are the saints—in fact, they are the Church par excellence. To understand what Church is, we must also look to them, and realize that even—perhaps especially—in the concrete circumstances of our lives, they are there. Like the Lord, they too can be tough on us. We should not be surprised if Ignatius is no less tough on us now than he was to his companions in life. But he wants to show us that we ought not take the first place: that place belongs to the Lord. If the Society were ever to tire of Ignatius and just toss him aside, it would cease to be the Society of Jesus. Just so, our understanding of the Church is incomplete if it does not recognise that we walk together with all the saints, even today.What the saints want us to see is how the Lord shines through them. The saints never draw attention to themselves, except insofar as doing so would draw our eyes to our Lord. In the same way, their thoughts do not revolve around their own person, but around the Lord. They love him. What kind of spouse spends all of his time being worried about whether he is a good spouse without hardly giving a second thought to the one he loves? A very self-centred one. We want to do well and serve the Lord and so on, but we end up focusing on ourselves and not the Lord. If being a saint means being perfect the way Michaelangelo's David is perfect, then the Lord does not want us to be saints! But that is not what it is to be a saint.What is it, then, to be a saint? It is to stop being the centre of your own attention so that the Lord can take the place in your heart that can never belong to the Beloved if it is already taken up by oneself. It is to stop shedding tears because you are not perfect and to begin to shed them because Love is not loved. It is to stand in awe before the Lord and praise him for his greatness. Where temptation is too great for us and we do fall, it is not to hide from God as Adam does in the garden, but to run to him in tears and tell him that we are sorry, and then, to go on with our lives, trusting that if we make an effort to do the right thing, then Jesus will help us to be like him in the way that he wishes, in his own time—but that we are not there yet. We have not arrived. None of the saints have ever arrived. A struggle yet awaits us, and if we are following the Lord, then we are already in the midst of it. It is the struggle to do that which is simple, but not necessarily easy. Nothing could be simpler than the Beatitudes. And yet living that beatitude is nothing short of a miracle.After having seen the great multitude of those who had been sealed in the name of the Lamb, John is told by one of the elders: “These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”The Christian life is an ordeal: Christ himself promises no less, and we do no one any favours by trying to run away from that fact. The savage murder of our brothers in Moscow offers us a brutal reminder of this. How do we react to the death of our confrères? We are saddened naturally, and perhaps a bit angry. Perhaps we look for someone to blame, or perhaps we indict the world of the great evils of intolerance and injustice. In all this, our reaction is no different from that of those who do not know Christ. And yet, when the early Jesuits ran the English college in Rome in the 16th century, did they not gather all of the seminarians together in the chapel to thank God and praise his name by singing a Te Deum whenever one of their own was martyred? We are called to see martyrdom as a great gift: not in the way that suicide bombers see it —as a ticket to heaven—but as something far more profound.We are to work for a more just society without letting a merely human view of justice that might keep us from love. It is only through the spilling of our own blood that true justice can come about. I am a Christian, because some Christian, in a time and place long forgotten, let himself be stuck-down by one of my ancestors. This is true, not only for my Vietnamese forebears, but also for my Frankish ones. It was a grace to have been the one who struck down that Christian, because, for having struck him down, that person tasted—and was converted—to the Love that let itself be struck down. Even in my own life there are those who turned the other cheek when I struck them down, and through their suffering I discovered love. This is an aspect of the redemption that Georges Rouault depicts in plate forty-seven of his Miserere collection: the inscription is, “The just, like sandalwood, perfumes the axe that strikes it.”The blood that is spilled ultimately is not our own: it is Christ's blood spilled out for us. Though we do indeed crucify the Lord, he does not hold this against us, but rather, he loves us all the more for having suffered for us. So let not our blood be held against those who spill it, but may it rather be our gift of love to them. For they do not take our lives from us, we give it to them in the grace of the one who gave us life through his own blood.To live in this way calls for profound liberty and humility. It calls for the recognition that, in a sense, the mission to which we are called—which is absolutely essential—is also unimportant. For when all is said and done and we have bathed our robes with the blood of the lamb that pours forth from our own slain bodies, then our reward will be precisely that of not being in the centre. It will be to be part of the great multitude in which each one surrenders the palm and the crown that he has been given in order to glorify the lamb that was slain. Each one in that crowd will have fought and conquered—with God's help and grace—that spirit within himself that would have placed himself instead of the Lord at the centre of his own heart If this is not what we want, then we should at least ask ourselves whether our hearts are truly free to desire it. If we discover that they are not, then let us ask the Lord for the freedom to desire nothing less. In doing so we are never alone, for the Lord is with us—and with him, we walk in the midst of a great multitude. May we come to know and love the saints among whom we walk, and may we be borne by their prayers. Amen.
A number of Catholics have been asking their bishops to endorse candidates. In the past two weeks, I have received letters from well-meaning people telling me for whom I should vote and how I should inform parishioners regarding the candidates for whom they should or should not cast their ballot. However well-intended the writers are, it is not my duty nor is it my role to tell the members of the community of faith in the Diocese of Memphis how to vote.
My ministry is to proclaim the truth of Jesus Christ as announced in Scripture and articulated by the Church so that our people can make good and wise decisions in their lives. My ministry is to make certain that all Catholics in the Diocese of Memphis cast their vote using a well-informed conscience as a guide....
I am in agreement with this statement which was issued last November. Pope Benedict XVI, in his first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, said, "The Church cannot and must not take upon herself the political battle to bring about the most just society possible. She cannot and must not replace the State. Yet at the same time she cannot and must nor remain on the sidelines in the fight for justice."
According to our Holy Father, we disciples of Jesus cannot remain on the sidelines in the fight for justice; this means that we must be part of the game. However, politics is not just a game; it is instead a part of the commonwealth of our lives. Just as we cannot avoid drinking water in order to live, so also, as faithful Christians we cannot avoid being involved in the political process and remain good Christians. But if we are to be involved in the political process by voting, then we must have formed our consciences well....
As we form our conscience, we must be aware of the need for prudence. Prudence is not easy to define, but according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, prudence helps us to "discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it."
So, when we are presented with candidates whose views do not reflect the full teachings of the Church, what are we to do? The spiritual writer, Father Ronald Rolheiser, OMI, has written in his book Secularity and the Gospel: "In an age of increasing violence, fundamentalism, and the myth that God wishes to cleanse the planet of its sin and immorality by force, perhaps the first witness we must give to our world is a witness to God's non-violence, a witness to the God revealed by Jesus Christ who opposes violence of all kinds, from war, to revenge, to capital punishment, to abortion, to euthanasia, to the attempt to use force to bring about justice and God's will in any way."
One way of solving it came out of the Second Vatican Council. It wasn’t Cardinal Bea’s way of solving it, but that of some commentators. [Note: Cardinal Augustin Bea was a German Biblical scholar and influential figure at Vatican II. Bea, who died in 1968, also headed the Vatican’s office for Christian unity.] It holds that what God intended for our salvation is what’s inerrant. It didn’t say that the rest wasn’t inspired, but nonetheless scripture’s inerrancy is more or less limited to what God intended to teach for our salvation. The other school is a little bit broader, and I think it’s more where we’re at now. It says no, inerrancy applies also to what the human author intended to teach, under God’s inspiration. However, what the human author did not intend to teach, but rather brought in to his writings because it was part of the zeitgeist, the understanding of the world at the time, is not necessarily factually inerrant. So there are all kinds of places where you can split it, but you’ve got to determine what those places are and how you should go at it. In that sense, a document might be helpful.
But the temptation of nationalism isn’t just fueled by European nostalgia for the ancien regime, a sentiment that’s now largely passé, is it? Isn’t there a streak of nationalism in American Catholicism too, which has to do partly with geography, a congregationalist ethos, and a strong sense of American patriotism?You also find it in Latin America, in Asia … you have the same temptation to nationalism around the world. They haven’t conceived of the church nationally the same way they did in some European nations, but it’s always there. Whom do you adore, the people or God? What’s more important, the nation or the church?In reality, it’s more ‘sectarian’ to be American or French than it is to be Catholic …Of course that’s true, but …Don’t say ‘of course.’ A lot of people don’t think that’s true at all, including in our own country. Take a look at the way they use the word ‘sectarian.’Who’s ‘they’?In the public conversation in the United States. If you say something’s ‘sectarian,’ people automatically think you mean it’s religious. They never assume that it means ‘nationalist.’I wonder if there’s something uniquely insular, to use that word, about the United States, and therefore about Catholicism in the United States, that cuts a bit deeper than some other places. After all, we’re the world’s exporter of culture. We produce the books and movies and TV shows and music that everyone else consumes, but it doesn’t come as naturally to us to import culture.What you’re saying is that the insularity of the United States affects Catholics in the United States, who become insular because they’re Americans.Do you think that’s true?Sure.What do we do about it?(Laughs). That’s a very good question, and I wish I knew the answer. I don’t believe that I do. The answer to that question would be how we should shape our ministry.
A great principle, but difficult. This does not mean interpreting Scripture according to my "sectarian" nationalistic Catholicism, but with the whole Church. Truly a challenge.
Nathan O'Halloran, SJ
Archbishop Charles Chaput says Catholic legal scholar Douglas Kmiec "couldn't be more mistaken" in comparing his own moral reasoning regarding the 2008 presidential election to that of the archbishop.Archbishop Chaput said this tonight at a dinner sponsored by ENDOW (Educating on the Nature and Dignity of Women). The talk, which he said reflects his own opinion as a private citizen, is titled "Little Murders."The prelate spoke at length of Douglas Kmiec’s book "Can a Catholic Support Him? Asking the Big Question about Barack Obama," in which the Pepperdine law professor argues why Catholics should cast their vote in November's presidential election for Senator Barack Obama.Kmiec publicly endorsed the Democratic candidate earlier this year, stating in an article for Slate that Obama is a "natural" for Catholic voters.Archbishop Chaput noted that his own book, "Render Unto Caesar," was heavily cited by Kmiec in his defense of Obama: "In fact, he suggests that his reasoning and mine are 'not far distant on the moral inquiry necessary in the election of 2008.'""Unfortunately, he either misunderstands or misuses my words, and he couldn’t be more mistaken," said the archbishop.
"I think that people who claim that the abortion struggle is 'lost' as a matter of law, or that supporting an outspoken defender of legal abortion is somehow 'pro-life,' are not just wrong; they’re betraying the witness of every person who continues the work of defending the unborn child."And I hope they know how to explain that, because someday they’ll be required to."
Any thoughts?Schieffer: All right. Let's stop there and go to another question. And this one goes to Sen. McCain. Sen. McCain, you believe Roe v. Wade should be overturned. Sen. Obama, you believe it shouldn't.Could either of you ever nominate someone to the Supreme Court who disagrees with you on this issue? Sen. McCain?McCain: I would never and have never in all the years I've been there imposed a litmus test on any nominee to the court. That's not appropriate to do.Schieffer: But you don't want Roe V. Wade to be overturned?McCain: I thought it was a bad decision. I think there were a lot of decisions that were bad. I think that decisions should rest in the hands of the states. I'm a federalist. And I believe strongly that we should have nominees to the United States Supreme Court based on their qualifications rather than any litmus test.Now, let me say that there was a time a few years ago when the United States Senate was about to blow up. Republicans wanted to have just a majority vote to confirm a judge and the Democrats were blocking in an unprecedented fashion.We got together seven Republicans, seven Democrats. You were offered a chance to join. You chose not to because you were afraid of the appointment of, quote, "conservative judges."I voted for Justice Breyer and Justice Ginsburg. Not because I agreed with their ideology, but because I thought they were qualified and that elections have consequences when presidents are nominated. This is a very important issue we're talking about.Sen. Obama voted against Justice Alito and Justice Roberts on the grounds that they didn't meet his ideological standards. That's not the way we should judge these nominees. Elections have consequences. They should be judged on their qualifications. And so that's what I will do.I will find the best people in the world -- in the United States of America who have a history of strict adherence to the Constitution. And not legislating from the bench.Schieffer: But even if it was someone -- even someone who had a history of being for abortion rights, you would consider them?McCain: I would consider anyone in their qualifications. I do not believe that someone who has supported Roe v. Wade that would be part of those qualifications. But I certainly would not impose any litmus test.
Nathan O'Halloran, SJGlobalization has its positive aspects, especially when talking about information. We are informed of what is happening in the public lives of our countries, often with scandals of every sort. However, we deplore the fact that many protagonists of this social and political scenario have passed through our centers of formation (catechesis, youth groups, schools and universities). We should ask ourselves: what was the role of teaching the Word of God in them? Did we help them encounter the God of the Word? Why, when inserted in public life, whichever scenario they are involved in, are the Gospel values not the orientation of their lives?In a strong Christian formation, the encounter with the God of the Word is necessary, which changes, modifies the behavior to the point of transforming them into Christian behavior. Therefore it is necessary to re-elaborate the way in which we teach Biblical faith for the life of Christians. A life that must be manifested in all its aspects, and that must embrace the totality of actions, and not only their life within our temples.
So far, the Synod of Bishops on the Bible has not featured particularly intense doctrinal debate. Most of the leading themes appear basically pastoral in nature – how to foster better preaching, for example, or more widespread prayer with scripture, especially the use of Lectio Divina.Around the edges, however, one doctrinal can of worms has been at least partially pried open, focusing on the extent to which the Bible is “inerrant,” meaning free from error.During a Vatican briefing this morning, reporters were told that some speakers had raised the issue of inerrancy during the last hour of yesterday’s session, as part of the time set aside for free discussion. A cardinal taking part in the synod confirmed to NCR this afternoon that there had been “some grumbling, especially from the more traditional Bible scholars” about the treatment of inerrancy in the Instrumentum Laboris, or working paper, for the synod.By way of background, the inerrancy of scripture was a bone of contention during and after debates at the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) over the document Dei Verbum, which dealt with divine revelation. In summary, there are two schools of thought: “restricted inerrancy,” which holds that only a limited range of statements in the Bible are free from error (usually those concerned with salvation), and “unrestricted inerrancy,” which asserts that all of scripture is inspired and therefore true (although in the sense of truth which the Bible itself intends.)The dangers in extreme forms of both positions are reasonably obvious. If one concedes that only some parts of the Bible are inspired, then the door seems open to bowdlerization (a temptation both ancient and new, as examples ranging from Marcion’s edited gospel to Thomas Jefferson’s miracle-free New Testament amply illustrate). Claiming that the whole Bible is free from error, on the other hand, seems to end in fundamentalism – insisting that the world really was created in six days, or glossing over obvious problems in geography and dating. (The Gospel of Mark, for example, has Jesus taking a highly improbable route from Jericho to Jerusalem; one synod member today joked that it’s as if someone were said to have gone from Louisville to Nashville by way of Seattle.)As is often the case with documents crafted by committee, the final formula in Dei Verbum did not directly settle this dispute. The crucial passage, in paragraph 11, reads: “…we must acknowledge that the books of Scripture, firmly, faithfully and without error, teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the sacred Scriptures.”Ever since, debate has swirled over what exactly that means. Some exegetes saw in the phrase “for the sake of our salvation” a warrant for restricted inerrancy, though that interpretation was rejected by German Cardinal Augustin Bea, who was involved in the drafting of Dei Verbum. In his 1967 book The Word of God and Mankind, Bea wrote that the language of Dei Verbum “explains God’s purpose in causing the scriptures to be written, and not the nature of the truth enshrined therein.”All of which brings us back to the Instrumentum Laboris, which, in paragraph 15(c) of its English translation, sums up paragraph 11 of Dei Verbum as follows: “With regards to what might be inspired in the many parts of Sacred Scripture, inerrancy applies only to ‘that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings for the sake of salvation.’”That’s a slightly different twist than appears in the Latin version, which is regarded as definitive. It reads: Quamvis omnes Sacrae Scripturae partes divinitus inspiratae sint, tamen eius inerrantia pertinet tantummodo ad “veritatem, quam Deus nostrae salutis causa Litteris Sacris consignari voluit". In English, that’s roughly: “Although all parts of Sacred Scripture are divinely inspired, nevertheless its inerrancy pertains just to ‘that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see consigned to the sacred writings.’”In other words, there’s no “might” in the Latin about whether all of scripture is inspired.That point is maintained in the other languages. In Italian, for example, point 15(c) of the Instrumentum Laboris reads: Quantunque la Sacra Scrittura sia ispirata in tutte le sue parti la sua inerranza si riferisce solo … In English, that works out to: “Although Sacred Scripture is inspired in all its parts, its inerrancy refers only to …”The nuance in the English translation brought protest prior to the synod among some Bible experts and in the conservative Catholic blogosphere, with critics charging that the Instrumentum Laboris, or at least its English version, was endorsing restricted inerrancy by linguistic sleight of hand – in effect, altering the meaning of Dei Verbum on the fly.To put the point a bit whimsically, the critics have charged that the English translation of the language on inerrancy is, well, rather errant. Yesterday’s discussion indicates that this debate has made its way to the synod floor.For the record, it should be noted that advocates of “unrestricted inerrancy” are usually prepared to concede that at times, some Bible passages cannot be said to be “free from error” in the literal, face-value sense. Often, they’ll invoke an example from contemporary speech such as, “It’s hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk.” There’s a sense in which that may be perfectly true, even if attempts to actually cook eggs on sidewalks would be futile. By extension, they would argue, one should approach scripture with the assumption that every passage is true, even if one has to consider what kind of truth is involved in any given case.In terms of where things go from here, it does not seem likely that anyone will insist upon revisiting the Instrumentum Laboris itself. It’s intended as a guide for discussion, and by the time the synod is over it will have become more or less a dead letter. In itself, it does not express authoritative teaching, still less its English translation.On the other hand, the discussion over inerrancy suggests that careful treatment of that topic is likely in the synod’s final documents, whether in the propositions the bishops will submit to the pope, or in the apostolic constitution that Benedict XVI is eventually expected to issue.If nothing else, there will likely be keen attention to how any language on inerrancy is phrased and translated, so that potentially consequential shifts in meaning aren’t slipped in through a back door.
Even more, the Word of God is the foundation of everything, it is the true reality. And to be realistic, we must rely upon this reality. We must change our notion that matter, solid things, things we can touch, is the most solid, the most certain reality. At the end of the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord speaks to us about the two possible foundations for building the house of one’s life: sand and rock. He who builds on sand only builds on visible and tangible things, on success, on career, on money. Apparently these are the true realities. But all this one day will vanish. We can see this now with the fall of two large banks: this money disappears, it is nothing. And thus all things, which seem to be the true realities we can count on, are only realities of a secondary order. Who builds his life on these realities, on matter, on success, on appearances, builds upon sand. Only the Word of God is the foundation of all reality, it is as stable as the heavens and more than the heavens, it is reality. Therefore, we must change our concept of realism. The realist is he who recognizes the Word of God, in this apparently weak reality, as the foundation of all things. Realist is he who builds his life on this foundation, which is permanent. Thus the first verses of the Psalm invite us to discover what reality is and how to find the foundation of our life, how to build life.
Therefore, exegesis, the true reading of the Holy Scripture, is not only a literary phenomenon, not only reading a text. It is the movement of my existence. It is moving towards the Word of God in the human words. Only by conforming to the Mystery of God, to the Lord who is the Word, can we enter within the Word, can we truly find the Word of God in human words. Let us pray to the Lord that He may help us to look for the word, not only with our intellect but also with our entire existence.
"Earn a living by the sweat of your own brow, not someone else's. Choose a work that can be considered honorable, and can be classed under the heading of a Work of Mercy, serving your brothers, not exploiting them. Mans work is as important to him as bread, and by it he gains his bread. And by it he gains too, because he serves his brother."Maurin, as also Dorothy Day, was an avid reader of Chesterton, who wrote concerning usury and investments in stocks:
"As modern investments are made, almost anybody may have his money in some sense in an armament firm, or a business financing and assassination firm, for all the individual investor knows about it. Now this sort of anonymity and anarchy...is obviously nothing more than one vast dishonourable muddle."What a great description for what we find ourselves in now.
Thoughtful Catholic voters will thus want both to pose serious questions to both the principal presidential candidates.
QUESTIONS FOR SENATOR BARACK OBAMA:1. Do you regret your vote against a partial-birth abortion ban when you were an Illinois state senator?2. During your service in Springfield, you opposed a bill that would give legal protection to infants who survive an abortion. Was that a choice you would like to revisit? If so, why? If not, why not?3. What precisely did you mean when you said you wouldn’t want one of your daughters “punished with a baby,” should they find themselves in the dilemma of unwanted pregnancy?4. You have a 100 percent rating from NARAL Pro-Choice America. Is there any matter of public policy on which you and NARAL differ?5. Would support for Roe v. Wade be a litmus test for candidates you would nominate to the Supreme Court?
"What Senator Obama said and what he believes is clear -- children are "miracles," but we have a problem when so many children are having children. As Senator Obama said on Saturday -- and on many other occasions -- parents have a responsibility to teach their children about values and morals to help make sure they are not treating sex casually. And while he understands the passions on both sides of this difficult issue, Senator Obama believes we can all agree that we should be taking steps to reduce the number of teen pregnancies and abortions in this country."
QUESTIONS FOR SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN:1. You have a strong pro-life voting record during your congressional service, yet some pro-lifers are nervous about you. Why? Where do the life issues rank in your list of priorities for America’s future?2. You and Mrs. McCain adopted an infant at the request of Mother Teresa; has that experience shaped your views on the life issues?3. Would you favor Supreme Court nominees who believe that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided?4. As you know, many pro-life groups opposed the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law, arguing that it unduly burdened issue advocacy organizations. Have you re-thought your approach to campaign finance reform in light of those criticisms?
When asked whether recent advances in nonembryonic stem cell research would change his stance, McCain replied, "I have not changed my position yet."
But certainly in the short term, or even the long term, I would not support repeal of Roe v. Wade, which would then force X number of women in America to [undergo] illegal and dangerous operations.An August 25, 1999, Chronicle article noted that on August 23, "McCain's campaign released a clarification: 'I have always believed in the importance of the repeal of Roe vs. Wade, and as president, I would work toward its repeal.' " McCain's comments, according to the article, drew criticism from Republicans, who claimed McCain "appeared to be trying to please both sides on an issue that has been at the top of the political radar in California in recent elections."On the June 19, 2005, broadcast of NBC's Meet the Press, McCain took yet another position, claiming that he agreed "to some degree" that Roe v. Wade should be overturned: