Monday, May 21, 2007

Be Careful Who You Believe

Where I stand on the historical nature of the Bible compared to the stance taken by those I believe are misinterpreters of Vatican II is pretty much covered in an old email I came across in my outbox today.
I wrote the included email in February of 2005 and sent it to a secular Carmelite email group.

----------- Start email ----------------------------------------

_Name_removed_, you really seem to look down on people who have traditional beliefs.

That's one of the characteristics I've observed in many people who have been "educated" with current interpretations of what Vatican II supposedly said. These "educated" people are very proud because they believe they know better than the Church did for thousands of years.

And they are eager to teach traditional believers why they are wrong wrong wrong.

Please read what I wrote below to see why I prefer traditionalists to most of what theologians are teaching today.

Fellow Carmelites:

Be careful where you turn for continuing education. Read the recent Church documents yourselves. Don't rely on others' interpretations. I have seen many examples of priests and theologians misinterpreting the Vatican II documents, essentially ignoring the real wording and intent to get their agendas across.

Included below are a few examples.

Don't rush to judgment against conservatives. Many people who call themselves orthodox are trying to help the Church hold on against modern heresies.

Please don't rely on modern Bible commentaries.

As an example, the New American Bible commentary says that the Magnificat was not prayed by Mary. It was taken from an early Christian hymn, didn't really have much to do with the story at that point, and was inserted by the author, who was almost certainly [according to the commentator] was not Luke.

The reason why we can find such erroneous speculations in an approved version of the Bible is that modern Bible interpreters believe and teach along with many of our priests and bishops that the New Testament was not written by the saints the Church has always said wrote them. According to these theories, the Gospels were so to speak published under the names that would give them credibility. (In other words, they were published as lies under noms de plume.)

Those who hold these theories teach that the people of the Bible times did not expect writings like the Bible writings to be actually true.

I prefer to believe with the Church and the saints that Mary spoke those words. When she spoke about the mighty being put down from their thrones and the lowly being exalted, she reflected many similar canticles from the Old Testament that prophesied the Incarnation of Christ, which was happening at that moment. Mary was a devout Jew who believed the Scriptures that she heard. She, a young powerless girl, was being exalted as God's promise to His people was being fulfilled.

According to the modern deconstructionists of the Bible, the New Testament books were written by "communities" looking back on what they had heard. Many modern "Catholic" scholars follow the lead of many liberal Protestant scholars, and they believe and teach in our colleges and seminaries that the books of the Bible are essentially inspired fictions. According to these theorists, we don't have to believe anything the Bible teaches as fact, we just have to grasp what the Bible authors intended to teach us. We are all supposed to read the Bible like poetry and discover the real meaning beneath the words.

That kind of belief is what led a Franciscan priest at a retreat I attended to first read from the gospel where Jesus said that divorce is not allowed to then to preach in his following homily that Jesus wasn't against divorce. The text was right there in front of this priest and the words of Christ barely out of his mouth, but he felt confident in saying what he did because he didn't believe the text.

I asked him how he could contradict what the Bible said, and he said that a theologian wrote that Jesus wasn't really against divorce. So the speculations of one 20th century theologian had as much weight in that priest's mind as Jesus' own words and the accumulated teachings of the Church throughout the ages.

I came across other examples of that kind of thinking when I was a student for two years at the San Jose CA Institute for Leadership in Ministry. The teachers we had there teach at the local Catholic colleges and seminaries. In their teachings, Church documents are being distorted and used as "proof texts" for untrue teachings such as the ones I mentioned about the historical nature of the Bible.

Our Bishop Patrick McGrath teaches there too. It's his institute. When he taught about the sacraments, he taught us another modern debunked theological speculation as fact: the Eucharist forgives mortal sins.

Last year Bishop McGrath wrote an open letter about The Passion of The Christ saying that Mel Gibson shouldn't have portrayed Christ's passion the way he did because the movie could be used to fan resentment against the Jews. To the objection that Gibson followed the Biblical texts, Bishop McGrath said that the stories in the Bible are "not historical accounts of the historical events that they narrate. They are theological reflections . . ."

See what I mean? Catholics according to the modern theorists don't have to believe the stories really happened the way they were depicted in the Bible because they are supposed to be "theological reflections," no more.

Fr. David Pettingill teaches ILM Scripture classes and he told us that the Vatican II documents support that interpretation, especially a document commonly referred to as Dei Verbum.

In frustration, I brought in the actual words from Dei Verbum to talk with him about how they contradict what he said, but I could not get a satisfactory explanation about how came to believe he could contradict what the words actually say. He said he didn't have time to waste trying to convince me of his points.

Humph! Even though the present American Church is big on dialogue, many individuals I've run into like Fr. Pettingill are not actually interested in dialoging with anyone who disagree with them.

Here is what Dei Verbum actually says:

Holy Mother Church has firmly and with absolute constancy held, and continues to hold,
that the four Gospels just named, whose historical character the Church unhesitatingly
asserts, faithfully hand on what Jesus Christ, while living among men, really did and
taught for their eternal salvation.

So there you have it. Dei Verbum says that the Church asserts the historical character of the Gospels and that the Gospels faithfully hand on what Christ really did and taught. But those who believe otherwise are somehow able to put a different gloss on those words. They don't hesitate to tell students the exact opposite.

Here is another example that gets me. One of the current theories about Deuteronomy that you'll also find written in the study guide to the New American Bible says that even though the Jews and Christians have always believed that Deuteronomy was written by Moses, modern theorists state Deuteronomy was written many years later when the Jews needed to be reminded of what God had done for them. These theorists believe they know better than Jesus Christ Himself, who stated that Deuteronomy was written by Moses.

My answer is that if my Lord and my God believed that Deuteronomy was written by Moses, that's all I need. I certainly trust Jesus a lot more than I would trust a theologian who is trying to build his reputation by putting a new twist on the old stories.

You know, I don't understand how anyone with any sense of how committees work could imagine that the Bible books could have been all written by committees. Nobody ever suspected the authorship by committee had occurred until theologians of the past two hundred years came up with that theory.

I have read many of the writings of theologians and I can say that they build one speculation on top of another. Just for laughs I remember one article in a respected journal theorizing that St. Paul was a Roman spy.

They don't come anywhere near the standards of scientific proof. But later writers build on top of the speculations of earlier ones to create huge edifices of speculation that don't have anywhere near the substance of the "deposit of the faith" that they often contradict.

For these and many other reasons, I would plead that we would be better off remaining ultra conservatives than try to build our faith upon a bunch of inspired fictions. I would rather trust St. Augustine and the early Church fathers and what the Church has taught for 2000 years before the Bible debunkers took over.


On Feb 5, 2005, at 9:37 AM _name_deleted_ wrote:

> This is a plea for Continuing Education in concert with our Carmelite vocation.
> For a Catholic to live in the world and experience our human condition
> it becomes immediately obvious that we are in a diverse and
> pluralistic society. The Catholic Church is within that context as
> well. One part of the definition of the Catholic Church is that we,
> the people, are the Church. As the Church we too are diverse and
> pluralistic. As Catholics we, in joy, believe the dogmas as stated to
> us and to be in good standing in the Church are required to believe.
> these dogmas are also doctrines of the Church. However, not all
> doctrines are dogma. The Dogmas as doctrine do not change, but
> doctrines that are not dogmas can change. An example of a dogma is,
> "The Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Jesus". It cannot and will not
> change. An example of a doctrine that is not a dogma is the fasting
> laws. They can change and, in fact, they have changed over the years.
> Quickly, an example of three more dogmas that have been defined are
> The Assumption! on of Mary into Heaven, The Immaculate Conception, and
> The Infallibility of the Pope. These beliefs cannot and will not
> change. Quickly, examples of three doctrines that are not dogma and
> therefore can change are, the celibacy of the priests in the
> western church, the Pope elected for life instead of having a
> retirement age, and the format of liturgical laws including the Mass.
> The reason I have written this is to make a plea for updated
> continuing education in the Catholic Faith and in particular the
> basics of our adult continuing education in every aspect. The
> motivation that has prompted me to suggest this is the recent
> discussions of Centering Prayer and the Sabbatine Privilege which I
> really don't think needed 1/10th of the ink they got.
> Certainly not from me. Some of the wording in some statements and
> resources from out of date documents surprised me in those
> discussions, e.g. "new theologies", a 1908 Catholic Encyclopedia
> resource of a particular outdated document, and several others. I
> stated that there are, "ultra conservatives" in the Church and some in this group. I was
> told that was uncharitable and I accept that
> admonition and I apologize. I was being overzealous in my statements
> because I am so adamant concerning continuing adult education and I
> saw a lack of that. However, that is not an excuse for my being
> overzealous nor uncharitable and I am sorry to all and especially to
> those that were offended.
> Again, I make a strong suggestion for us all to keep up to date with
> what the Church is teaching and things the Church taught in the past
> and is no longer teaching (Limbo, changes in the annulment process,
> the way in which Scripture is taught, etc., including our Carmelite
> Order Discalced Constitutions and our Secular Constitutions. In the
> sixteenth century the Council of Trent changed the way many things
> were done---------Well, in the Twentieth Century Vatican ll also
> changed the way many things are done but did not disturb much of what
> went before it. Those of you that went to Mass in the 1950's heard
> Mass celebrated in Latin and fasted from midnight before receiving
> Communion. Those that go to Mass now hear Mass in the language of
> their country and fast only one hour before Communion although Mass in
> Latin can and is still said at some place in most Dioceses. At this
> point I want to remind you that the reason for this e-mail is to
> suggest and strongly plea for continuing education and not think we
> have a new theology when a change takes place in doctrine that is not
> dogma. Nor to use documents that have been replaced by newer
> documents. Continuing education, to which we are called as secular
> members of the Carmelite Order Discalced, can help us tremendously in
> knowing what the current teaching of the Church and our Order
> contains. I ask you, when is the last time you have read and studied a
> History of The Church ? I ask you, when is the last time you
> researched a Biblical passage from a current Commentary? The study of
> the teachings of the Church is included in the study of our
> Carmelite History and Spirituality.
> I can write much more on this subject but I leave you with this. To
> those of you that read this-------I thank you. To those that I have
> offended, I apologize. May the Grace of the Holy Spirit descend upon
> you all and fill you with the Love Of Christ.
> _name_deleted_
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