My Revision to the Controversy section of a Wikipedia article on Bishop Patrick Joseph McGrath:
Controversy [Edited]On February 19, 2004, Bishop McGrath published an opinion piece in the San Jose Mercury News prior to the opening of the movie The Passion of the Christ, which was produced and directed by Mel Gibson. The article was titled, "It's a Movie, not History," with a subtitle that read, "Whatever the 'Passion Message,' the Church Renounces Anti-Semitism."
Bishop McGrath may have been reacting to the fact that Jewish groups and others objected to the movie because it portrayed the Jewish leaders as arranging to have Jesus killed, and some feared that the portrayal would lead to increased anti-Jewish sentiments. The response of those responsible for the movie to the general outcry was that the movie was simply based on the Gospel accounts of the events leading up to Christ's death.
Bishop McGrath received a great deal of criticism for this paragraph in the Mercury News opinion piece:
- While the primary source material of the film is attributed to the four Gospels, these sacred books are not historical accounts of the historical events that they narrate. They are theological reflections upon the events that form the core of Christian faith and belief.
What Bishop McGrath wrote does in fact contradict several definitive statements about the historical character of the gospels that are found both in Dei Verbum, and in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC). Nowhere in either of these documents is it written that the Gospels are theological reflections and that they are not historical.
Dei Verbum states the following .....
- 19. 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 until the day He was taken up into heaven (see Acts 1:1).
- "The Church holds firmly that the four Gospels, whose historicity she unhesitatingly affirms, faithfully hand on what Jesus, the Son of God, while he lived among men, really did and taught for their eternal salvation, until the day when he was taken up."
- "For, after the ascension of the Lord, the apostles handed on to their hearers what he had said and done, but with that fuller understanding which they, instructed by the glorious events of Christ and enlightened by the Spirit of truth, now enjoyed."
- "The sacred authors, in writing the four Gospels, selected certain of the many elements which had been handed on, either orally or already in written form; others they synthesized or explained with an eye to the situation of the churches, while sustaining the form of preaching, but always in such a fashion that they have told us the honest truth about Jesus."
- "The Catholic Church has always, clearly and infallibly, taught that the Holy Scriptures are historical accounts and has condemned the proposition that they are mere theological reflections."
- For example, 'Lamentabili Sane' states: 'T]he following propositions ... are condemned and proscribed. ... 16. The narrations of John are not properly history, but a mystical contemplation of the Gospel. The discourses contained in his Gospel are theological meditations, lacking historical truth concerning the mystery of salvation.'"
Bishop McGrath has repeatedly ignored requests to discuss the apparent contradiction of his statement with Church documents. The President of the St. Joseph Men's Society, Anthony Gonzales, made multiple phone calls and wrote multiple letters attempting to make an appointment with the Bishop to discuss this and other issues, with no response from the bishop.
For about two years after the article was published, the St. Joseph Men's Society and other Catholics staged monthly protests outside the bishop's residence, asking him to retract his comments, also with no reply from the bishop.
Not just traditional Catholics, but also Evangelical Protestants argue against the ideas expressed by Bishop McGrath. For example Wayne Jackson, Evangelical Protestant commentator at Christian Courier, noted in The Controversy Rages: Mel Gibson’s “The Passion”, that a secular author named Jon Meacham in a Newsweek article “Who Killed Jesus?” (Newsweek, 2/16/04, pp. 45ff) expressed these ideas (that are quite similar to Bishop McGrath's):
- “Scripture is not always a faithful record of historical events; the Bible is the product of human authors who were writing in particular times and places with particular points to make and visions to advance."
Controversy [Before My Edits]
On February 19, 2004, McGrath published an opinion piece in the San Jose Mercury News prior to the opening of The Passion of the Christ, stressing that the Catholic Church does not support anti-Semitism in any form. McGrath received criticism from Traditionalist Catholics for one paragraph in the editorial:
While the primary source material of the film is attributed to the four Gospels, these sacred books are not historical accounts of the historical events that they narrate. They are theological reflections upon the events that form the core of Christian faith and belief.
Traditional Catholics take this statement as being contrary to documents from the First Vatican Council. Despite such opposition, Bishop McGrath's statements are fully in union with the Magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church as evidenced by "Dei Verbum", a document of the Second Vatican Council.
Despite such teaching an opposition group stages monthly protests outside the bishop's residence, asking him to retract his comments.