“. . . the interpreter must, as it were, go back wholly in spirit to those remote centuries of the East and with the aid of history, archaeology, ethnology, and other sciences, accurately determine what modes of writing, so to speak, the authors of that ancient period would be likely to use, and in fact did use” (Divino afflante Spiritu 35).
“Let those who cultivate biblical studies turn their attention with all due diligence towards this point and let them neglect none of those discoveries, whether in the domain of archaeology or in ancient history or literature, which serve to make better known the mentality of the ancient writers, as well as their manner and art of reasoning, narrating and writing. In this connection Catholic laymen should consider that they will not only further profane science, but moreover will render a conspicuous service to the Christian cause if they devote themselves with all due diligence and application to the exploration and investigation of the monuments of antiquity and contribute, according to their abilities, to the solution of questions hitherto obscure” (Divino afflante Spiritu 40)
“Thus has it come about that confidence in the authority and historical value of the Bible, somewhat shaken in the case of some by so many attacks, today among Catholics is completely restored; moreover there are not wanting even non-Catholic writers, who by serious and calm inquiry have been led to abandon modern opinion and to return, at least in some points, to the more ancient ideas. This change is due in great part to the untiring labor by which Catholic commentators of the Sacred Letters, in no way deterred by difficulties and obstacles of all kinds, strove with all their strength to make suitable use of what learned men of the present day, by their investigations in the domain of archaeology or history or philology, have made available for the solution of new questions” (Divino afflante Spiritu 43).
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Saturday, September 25, 2010
A couple days ago I blogged about a book purportedly about Catholic moral theology called “The Sexual Person” by two professors associated with Creighton University, and the US Bishops clear rebuke of the arguments presented therein.
Basically the authors deconstruct all Scriptural and magisterial sources of authority for moral reasoning by applying a radical historicism. In other words, “The biblical authors, the church fathers, and the popes just reflected the cultural norms of their day, plus they aren’t as smart as we are now, so we can disregard their views about sexuality.”
For me, reading the arguments from “The Sexual Person” were a blast from the past.
While I was in high school, and an ardent Dutch Calvinist, a report was made to my denomination’s synod from one of our sister denominations, concerning their committee on sexual morality. After years of study, this Calvinist denomination’s committee was unable to affirm almost any of traditional Christian moral teaching. The only principle remaining to guide one to moral sexual relations was “justice love.” Wherever “justice love” was present, sex was moral. They recommend that our denomination accept the same “principles” of “morality”—ones essential re-articulated now in “The Sexual Person.”
Looking over the reasoning our sister denomination was using, I realized their “hermeneutic” could be used to defeat any Scriptural teaching.
That was the beginning of a gradual dawning on me—which would eventually lead to Rome—of the realization that Scripture alone was not sufficient to conserve the deposit of the faith, because various hermeneutics could make Scripture say almost anything one wished.
One needs to be guided by tradition, but even tradition is not enough—there also has to be a living voice of the salvific community.
“When Scripture is disjoined from the living voice of the Church, it fall prey to the disputes of experts,” Benedict XVI says.
The living voice just spoke through the mouths of the US Bishops. I am thankful for them.
Bertrand de Margerie, S.J.
“[T]ruth is the Trinity.”
Matthias Joseph Scheeben“The Blessed Trinity is the mystery of mysteries, before which even the seraphim veil their countenances singing with astonished wonder their thrice-repeated ‘Holy.’”
 Cited in Giles Emery, Trinity in Aquinas (Ypsilanti, Mich.: Sapientia Press, 2003), 1.
 Betrand de Margerie, The Christian Trinity in History (Studies in Historical Theology; trans. E. J. Fortman; Petersham, Mass.: St. Bede’s Publications, 1982), xvii.
 Matthias Scheeben, Mysteries of Christianity (trans. C. Vollert; St. Louis: B. Herder Book, Co., 1946 [1865/1888]), 25.
Thursday, September 23, 2010
Yesterday, the US Bishops committee on doctrine released a censure of a book on moral theology (really, a book of immoral theology) called "The Sexual Person." The document is worth reading in full by clicking the title of this post.
My reactions: First, the Bishops have some pretty decent things to say about interpreting Scripture. They have certainly made my life easier by saying them. I plan to use the document in future teaching, to confirm things I have been saying all along.
Second, the kind of moral theology advocated by the authors of the book in question strikes me as old and silly. Old, because twenty years ago folks like Walther Brueggemann were making these same (im)moral arguments about sexual behavior (not) based on Scripture, and even then the arguments were already dated. I remember, because I did my master's thesis on normativity in Brueggemann's biblical theology. Silly, because the the (im)morality advocated by the authors of The Sexual Person is so obviously vague and malleable that it transparently serves to support whatever self-interested self-gratification anyone may want to engage in. Such a book screams, "Apply a hermeneutic of suspicion to me! What I really am is a propaganda piece to justify the desired behaviors of my authors!" Or is it only to Scripture and the Magisterium that we can apply a hermeneutic of suspicion?
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
I'd definitely agree with Watts. Part of the reason Thomas' work has been neglected is, I think, the perception that somehow Scripture study and Systematic Theology are somehow in opposition or, at least, in competition.
Moreover, theologians--especially those advocating a "narrative" approach--often style themselves as doing worthy work because they are somehow correcting tendencies which have valued philosophical methods over biblical ones.
Indeed, it is true that classical approaches have at times neglected the role of exegesis in Theology. . . In fact, these tendencies are still with us! It is astonishing to me even now that one can get a Ph.D. in Theology and never have to take an upper division course in categories of biblical literature such as "Historical Books of the Old Testament!" Similarly, isn't it stunning that a person can earn a Ph.D. in theology and never have to study Greek or Hebrew!? Given that Vatican II has described the study of the sacred page as the "soul of theology" I think this is especially problematic in Catholic circles. . . but I digress.
Yet--despite Protestant prejudices to pre-Reformation Catholic works as well as straw man arguments and misrepresentations to the contrary--the lack of a Scriptural focus cannot be attributed to Aquinas! I think this is helping to fuel the Thomistic renewal. There is a great thirst for an approach that unites Biblical Studies with Theology. Thomas provides a pathway to this.
Aquinas, as I've previously explained, put incredibly important emphasis on the literal-historical sense of Scripture. Indeed, he wrote numerous commentaries on biblical books in addition to his more systematic theological works. In his commentaries his exegetical caution is remarkable.
Likewise, in his systematic works Scripture is given a normative role. This is evident, for example, in the programmatic first article in the Summa Theologica, where it is clear that for Aquinas sacra doctrina, i.e., theology, is synonymous with the study of the sacred page (sacra pagina).
In light of this, I am especially grateful for Matthew Levering's book, Scripture and Metaphysics: Aquinas and the Renewal of Trinitarian Theology (Blackwell, 2004). Levering brings contemporary scholars like Jon Levenson, N.T. Wright, Richard Bauckham, C. Kavin Rowe, Ben Witherington, Marianne Meye Thompson, and others into conversation with Aquinas.
I highly recommend the book to anyone interested in the relationship of Biblical Studies and Systematic Theology. Levering shows that a careful analysis of Thomas' body of works reveals that his metaphysical analysis of God emerges out of exegetical concerns. Aquinas' philosophical discussions of God thus principally flow from contemplation of the God revealed in Scripture.
Levering in fact goes on to show that the recourse to metaphysical reflection surprisingly better preserves the biblical witness than an approach that refuses to allow for such a perspective. Indeed, he often shows points of contact between Thomas' conclusions and those reached in Jewish sources--including both ancient thinkers, such as Philo and later Jewish commentators. It is really a rather provocative and I think persuasive book that deserves much greater attention.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Monday, September 20, 2010
Saturday, September 18, 2010
Now, watch this. . .
Noted New Testament Scholar, Michael Bird, my Australian friend over at Euangelion, kindly sent an article my way that I have to share here. This is a piece that deserves wide circulation.
Scott Stephens, a writer with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, has written a piece defending the pope against the scurrilous charges that have been made against him and has essentially lowered the boom on those who have recklessly propagated them: his message, "You've Got the Wrong Man!". Check this out . . . I've put certain parts of the story in bold for emphasis.
YOU'VE GOT THE WRONG MAN! IN DEFENCE OF POPE BENEDICT XVI
By Scott Stephens
ABC RELIGION AND ETHICS | 17 SEP 2010
Last night, Pope Benedict XVI flew into the maelstrom. He began his much anticipated - and pre-emptively maligned - apostolic journey to the United Kingdom amid a furore, a media-fuelled form of mass-hysteria over everything from revelations of clerical sexual abuse and concealment to the dubious rank of 'state visit' conferred by the Queen on the pontiff's sojourn.
. . .
Surrounded by ill-wishers within and without, Benedict has nonetheless remained unflappable, even resolute. When asked by journalists aboard the papal plane how the Church could become more attractive to Britons in the face of an especially virulent strain of chic British atheism, the pope said "a Church that seeks to be particularly attractive is already on the wrong path, because the Church does not work for her own ends, she does not work to increase numbers and thus power. The Church is at the service of another ... she serves to make the proclamation of Jesus Christ accessible."
He was also at great pains to point out that, regardless of the Queen's decision to grant his arrival the rank of state visit, this "is substantially and essentially a pastoral visit, a visit in the responsibility of the faith for which the Supreme Pontiff, the Pope, exists."
Benedict's pastoral resolve could not provide a more striking contrast to the hysterical posturing and outright mercenary opportunism displayed by his high-profile detractors - of whom Geoffrey Robertson QC is but the latest example. Recall that in March this year, Richard Dawkins launched a scurrilous broadside against the pope in the Washington Post, describing him as a "leering old villain ... whose first instinct when his priests are caught with their pants down is to cover up the scandal and damn the young victims to silence." This was quickly followed by Dawkins's announcement - accompanied by the full-throated support of Christopher Hitchens and Robertson - of a plan to initiate criminal proceedings against the pope once he set foot on British soil.
Hitchens, for his part, followed up God is not Great and Hitch-22 - both literary triumphs, and marked by a kind of blistering elegance - with a series of grubby, ham-fisted and increasingly bizarre articles attacking the pope on Slate.
Then, two weeks ago, in a shameless attempt to ride the wave of anti-Catholic sentiment, Stephen Hawking provided the Times with an exclusive extract of his new book - only "new" by virtue of its publication date, not because it heralds any new discovery, or makes any advance whatsoever on his 2001 book, The Universe in a Nutshell - in which he claims that the infinite arc of gravity obviates the need for any deity to have triggered the Big Bang.
According to Dawkins, this announcement signalled the coup de grace, the final demise of that cosmological Hoax, who had been banished from our terrestrial orb by Darwin's theory of natural selection, but had sought asylum in the unsounded depths of quantum physics . . . until Hawking pronounced such a deity redundant, that is.
Finally, late last week, ahead of the publication of his The Case of the Pope: Vatican Accountability for Human Rights Abuse, Geoffrey Robertson QC supplied The New Statesman with a titillating precis, urging Britons to look at the pope "through the eyes of the thousands of small boys who have been bewitched, buggered and bewildered by priests protected under canon law."
Robertson's Case is certainly more nuanced than the salacious rants of some of his confreres, but it nonetheless remains a misleading and needlessly sensationalist diatribe.
. . .
Far more perplexing is Robertson's callow charge that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger himself, as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, presided over a period of endemic sexual molestation and concealment between 1981 and 2005. And, moreover, that it was the mysterious directives of Canon Law that enabled this to occur by protecting perpetrators. This accusation is both uninformed and suggests something of the ignorant hypocrisy at the centre of what Hilaire Belloc gorgeously described as "the Modern Mind."
For a start, it was not the Catholic Church's discrete use of Canon Law that provided a safe haven for paedophiles, pederasts and other deviants. It was rather the failure of the Church - and, in particular, the failure of bishops - to enforce Canon Law after the Second Vatican Council that allowed this rot to fester.
Canon Law has always deemed the sexual abuse of minors as loathsome crimes and grievous sins, the commission of which would necessitate a priest being permanently removed from the clerical state (in other words, be "defrocked") - this much is clear from Canon 2359 of the 1917 Codex Iuris Canonici, which was reiterated in Canon 1395 of the 1983 Codex Iuris Canonici. The severest penalties also applied to those bishops who failed to deal with priests according to Canon Law.
But it should be remembered that the zeitgeist of the early-1960s condemned the Church's so-called "punitive approach" to cases of clerical sexual deviance as being both mediaeval and altogether ignorant of the restorative possibilities of psychotherapy. Consequently, although the proscription of the 1917 Codex for dealing with clerical sexual abuse had remained unchanged since 1917, in the supposedly open, inclusive climate after Vatican II (1965) - which, in fact, became outright lawlessness in many quarters - far too many bishops resolved to take the supposedly pastoral, therapeutic approach of restoring abusive priests through counselling and relocation.
. . .
But if Robertson misunderstands the actual functions of Canon Law (about which, admittedly, far more could be said than I can here), he equally misrepresents the role that Cardinal Ratzinger played at the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a position he held from 1981 to 2005.
It is simply false that Ratzinger himself presided over all cases of clerical abuse. Prior to 2001, when John Paul II issued the papal directive Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela (at Ratzinger's urging) requiring all incidents of molestation to be reported to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and to the civil authorities, all such cases had been handled by the bishops.
Once confronted by the extent of what he came to describe as the "filth" that had infiltrated the Church in 2001, Ratzinger was swift and unrelenting in his prosecution and punishment of offenders. In over eighty percent of the cases he dealt with, Ratzinger forwent the lengthy canonical trials and simply removed deviants from the priesthood and were referred to the civil authorities.
Ratzinger's determination to deal with the epidemic of sexual abuse that had arisen brought him into direct conflict with the powerful Cardinal Angelo Sodano (Dean of the College of Cardinals) and John Paul II in the final years of his pontificate.
For many years, Marcial Maciel Degollado - the notorious founder of the Legionaries of Christ and a monstrous sexual predator - had enjoyed the patronage and protection of both Cardinal Sodano and John Paul II. As described by an official Vatican report released earlier this year, Maciel was a man "without scruples or authentic religious sentiment," but who proved himself diabolically adept "at creating alibis for himself and winning the trust, confidence and silence of those around him" - including Sodano and the former pontiff - who in turn "created a mechanism of defense around [Maciel] that made him immune to attack for a long time."
But upon becoming pope, Benedict XVI moved swiftly against Maciel, removing him immediately from all priestly duties and banishing him to "a life of prayer and penance."
. . .
At bottom, I share Geoffrey Robertson's utter revulsion for the atrocities and brutality that have taken place within the Catholic Church - but so does Pope Benedict. As he stated to the journalists aboard the papal plane yesterday, "these revelations have been a shock for me, not only a great sadness. It is difficult to understand how this perversion of the priestly ministry was possible. The priest at the time of ordination, after having prepared for this moment for years, says yes to Christ ... How a man who has done this and said this may also fall into this perversion is difficult to understand. It is a great sadness, a sadness that even the authority of the Church has not been sufficiently vigilant and not fast or decided enough in taking the necessary measures. Because of all of this, we are in a time of repentance, humility, and renewed sincerity."
I also share Robertson's disdain for the culture of secrecy, patronage, and an almost incestuous self-regard over which the bishops have presided within the Catholic Church - but, again, so does the pope. Benedict has rejected every attempt on the part of Cardinals and bishops to somehow close ranks, and portray the crisis surrounding the Church as the work of an aggressively anti-Catholic media. As the pope told journalists earlier this year, "attacks against the Pope or the Church do not only come from outside; rather the sufferings of the Church come from within, from the sins that exist in the Church. This too has always been known, but today we see it in a really terrifying way ... the Church therefore has a deep need to re-learn penance, to accept purification, to learn on one hand forgiveness but also the need for justice."
My complaint against Geoffrey Robertson is that he has indicted the wrong man. He seems to have allowed himself to be swept along by the fashionable tide of anti-Catholic jingoism. Had he not, perhaps he would have recognised that, for all of his failings and inadequacies, no one in the Catholic Church has done so much to secure justice and healing for victims of sexual abuse, to punish the guilty and the bishops who were complicit in their crimes, and to lead the Church into sincere penitence and renewal, than has Pope Benedict XVI.
Friday, September 17, 2010
How odd that it should be the Guardian that grasped the magnitude of what happened yesterday. Andrew Brown, religion editor of Comment is Free, and the possessor of an intellect as mighty and muddled as that of Rowan Williams, writes:This was the end of the British Empire. In all the four centuries from Elizabeth I to Elizabeth II, England has been defined as a Protestant nation. The Catholics were the Other; sometimes violent terrorists and rebels, sometimes merely dirty immigrants. The sense that this was a nation specially blessed by God arose from a deeply anti-Catholic reading of the Bible. Yet it was central to English self-understanding when Queen Elizabeth II was crowned in 1952 [sic], and swore to uphold the Protestant religion by law established.For all of those 400 or so years it would have been unthinkable that a pope should stand in Westminster Hall and praise Sir Thomas More, who died to defend the pope’s sovereignty against the king’s. Rebellion against the pope was the foundational act of English power. And now the power is gone, and perhaps the rebellion has gone, too.This was indeed a day of unthinkable events. Many Protestants will have been disturbed to see Pope Benedict XVI in Westminster Hall praising St Thomas More (who incidentally died to defend what he saw as the sovereignty of God). I don’t agree, however, that rebellion against the Pope was the “foundational act of English power”. Brown is a Left-wing agnostic whom one would expect to be suspicious of a national myth; but here we go again – we’re told that England discovered its identity as a result of the Reformation. Actually, English industry and culture flourished under the spiritual patronage of Rome; if the country had remained Catholic, they would have continued to do so. (In Germany, cities that remained Catholic were as prosperous as those that become Protestant.)
Indeed, if you want evidence of the self-confidence of our Catholic national identity, look no further than Westminster Abbey and Westminster Hall. For at least the first 500 years of its existence – we can’t be sure when it was founded – the Abbey was obedient to Benedict’s predecessors. So for the Pope to enter it today was an affirmation of its own “foundational act”. Not for nothing did he point out in his address that the church was dedicated to St Peter. Even Catholics who would never be so crude as to say “the Abbey belongs to us, not to you” sensed that history was being re-balanced in some way. They realised that the Pope had as much right to sit in that sanctuary as the Archbishop of Canterbury (who, to be fair, showed the Holy Father a degree of respect that implied that he, at least, recognises the spiritual primacy of the See of Peter even if he rejects some of its teachings).
Of course I’m not denying that for centuries anti-Catholicism was central to English self-understanding, even if it took nearly a century of harrassment and persecution to suppress the old religion. And there are still pockets of intense hatred of Rome in English society today. The difference is that the only anti-Catholics with influence are secularists who aren’t interested enough in the papal claims even to find out what they are. (I’m thinking of Peter Tatchell’s amazingly ignorant Channel 4 documentary.) They hate religion and they pick on Catholics because they’re the softest target. Protestant anti-Catholics, in contrast, don’t have mates in the media or useful allies in the Church of England. All they can do is watch in horror as the Pope of Rome processes into the church where Protestant monarchs are crowned, declares unambigously that he is the successor of St Peter with responsibility for the unity of Christendom, and then walks out again – to hearty applause.
To be honest, I’m still not quite sure what to make of it all myself. Benedict XVI’s speeches are worth reading several times; they often turn out to be more radical than they first appear. But one thing is for sure. Despite the unassuming courtesy of the Pope’s manner, he didn’t give an inch.
Obviously I can't settle the debate in one blog, and I am in process of thinking about it myself; but I would like to encourage all of us to start thinking about this.I, of course, recognize Mounce's expertise as a linguist, but I'll tell you what I think: dynamic equivalence typically raises more problems than it solves. Even if perhaps often "wooden", I prefer a translation that is as literal as possible. In fact, "into the ages or ages" is just fine with me. Is it really that difficult to explain such a rendering as an idiom for "forever"?
I think most of our gut reactions would be: "word for word." An accurate translation is one that is as least interpretive as possible, one that reflects the grammar of the Greek and Hebrew. The basis of this claim is structural. We have been trained to think that if we stick as close to the form of the foreign language as possible, then we are being more accurate.
But I have been wondering if accuracy is really a matter of structure. I have long held that accuracy mandates the distinction between dependent and independent constructions, and I still hold to that. But beyond that, I wonder if a "literal" translation that makes no real sense in English can accurately be called "literal," or even a translation that makes a biblical writer sound almost illiterate. We know this is not true in the case of idioms; we rarely translate the idiom "into the ages or ages" word for word. We translate the meaning as "forever." But what about other Greek and Hebrew constructions that when translated make no sense?
I am not talking about natural language, translating into the modern English idiom of our own subculture the way the NLT does. I am simply wondering if a "word of word" translation that makes no real sense can in any way be called "accurate."
I am wondering if "accuracy" is also about accurately conveying the authorial meaning? What do you think?
Give people credit.
. . . The central question at issue, then, is this: where is the ethical foundation for political choices to be found? The Catholic tradition maintains that the objective norms governing right action are accessible to reason, prescinding from the content of revelation. According to this understanding, the role of religion in political debate is not so much to supply these norms, as if they could not be known by non-believers – still less to propose concrete political solutions, which would lie altogether outside the competence of religion – but rather to help purify and shed light upon the application of reason to the discovery of objective moral principles. This "corrective" role of religion vis-à-vis reason is not always welcomed, though, partly because distorted forms of religion, such as sectarianism and fundamentalism, can be seen to create serious social problems themselves. And in their turn, these distortions of religion arise when insufficient attention is given to the purifying and structuring role of reason within religion. It is a two-way process. Without the corrective supplied by religion, though, reason too can fall prey to distortions, as when it is manipulated by ideology, or applied in a partial way that fails to take full account of the dignity of the human person. Such misuse of reason, after all, was what gave rise to the slave trade in the first place and to many other social evils, not least the totalitarian ideologies of the twentieth century. This is why I would suggest that the world of reason and the world of faith – the world of secular rationality and the world of religious belief – need one another and should not be afraid to enter into a profound and ongoing dialogue, for the good of our civilization.Read the entire speech here.
Religion, in other words, is not a problem for legislators to solve, but a vital contributor to the national conversation. In this light, I cannot but voice my concern at the increasing marginalization of religion, particularly of Christianity, that is taking place in some quarters, even in nations which place a great emphasis on tolerance. There are those who would advocate that the voice of religion be silenced, or at least relegated to the purely private sphere. There are those who argue that the public celebration of festivals such as Christmas should be discouraged, in the questionable belief that it might somehow offend those of other religions or none. And there are those who argue – paradoxically with the intention of eliminating discrimination – that Christians in public roles should be required at times to act against their conscience. These are worrying signs of a failure to appreciate not only the rights of believers to freedom of conscience and freedom of religion, but also the legitimate role of religion in the public square. I would invite all of you, therefore, within your respective spheres of influence, to seek ways of promoting and encouraging dialogue between faith and reason at every level of national life.
Your readiness to do so is already implied in the unprecedented invitation extended to me today. . .
FIVE men were arrested today by police investigating a suspected plot to harm the Pope.
Scotland Yard officers swooped on several people after information emerged that Pope Benedict XVI could be in danger.
The men were working as street cleaners, Westminster City Council revealed. They were arrested by officers from the Met's Counter Terrorism Command shortly before 6am.
The five men were working for Veolia Environmental Services, a contractor which employs 650 on-street staff to keep Westminster's streets clean and free from rubbish.
The suspects, aged 26, 27, 36, 40 and 50, were held under the Terrorism Act 2000 at business premises in central London.
They were taken to a central London police station, where they will be interviewed by detectives.
It was later reported that the men were of Algerian origin.
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Fr. Tim Finigan, a priest in Blackfen (South East London), is doing a great job covering the papal visit on his blog, The Hermeneutic of Continuity. He writes:
At the end of a long day, it is a great pleasure to look back over the glorious success of the first stage of the visit of the Holy Father to Britain. I was premature in thinking that the negative coverage would cease last night. It continued well on into the morning but the tide has now turned. 125,000 Scots turned out to cheer and wave flags as the Holy Father drove along Princes Street in Edinburgh. (In the interests of balance, I should note that there were about 60 protesters.) There were another 70,000 at the Mass at Bellahouston Park, near Glasgow. They had to get there early so must be counted in addition to those lining the streets of Edinburgh.Tomorrow will be jam-packed. In the morning he will meet with those working in Catholic education. He will give a speech on that occassion--and all of us involved with Catholic educational institutions will be listening carefully. He will then meet with religious leaders. Again, he will give a speech--a speech which is sure to make headlines.
After spending the morning at home covering the meeting of the Holy Father and Her Majesty the Queen, and the afternoon at the QEII media centre at Westminster covering the Bellahouston Mass, I returned to the parish to call into the Social Club. It was most reassuring to hear some down to earth South Londoners taking the mickey out of this morning's coverage on breakfast TV with its absurd focus on the "empty seats." SKY carries EWTN, so I claimed a special concession to replace the sport with the highlights of the papal visit. There were hoots of laughter at the panoramic pictures of the vast crowd and mocking references to the TV host's assertion "Lots of empty seats, John."
In the afternoon he will then meet with Dr. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury. He will give a speech on that occassion. Following that he will go to Westminster Hall. the site of the trial of St. Thomas Moore. He will also give a speech there. According to reports, papal aids are saying that this will go down as one of Benedict's "most important speeches ever". Apparently the Holy Father will speak about faith and reason, freedom of conscience and the contribution faith makes to society. From there he will go to Westminster Abbey--and once again, he will give a speech.
That makes five papal addresses in one day. Not too shabby for an 83 year old pope!
Stay tuned. . .
As the pope has taken the center stage in England, people are once again leveling outrageous claims against him personally, namely, that he covered up abuse.
These accusations are not only reprehensible, they are based in either ignorance or duplicity.
Let's talk about what's going on here.
To Be Clear. . .
Before that though, I have to make some remarks upfront. . .
First, I want to be very clear about the fact that I am in no way trying to excuse or mitigate the evil of child rape--indeed, that's what we're talking about here. "Child abuse" is just too much of a nice euphemism. Let's never let the shock and horror of this story be downgraded.
Indeed, I have written on this before so I will not rehash all that I have previously said. Suffice it to say, priests guilty of such crimes are wretched, depraved individuals. They should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, receive the harshest penalties allowable. I am a father of two young children myself. I can't even begin to fathom the incredible pain caused by such a betrayal of trust. To be clear then, in no way am I downplaying the horrendous evil that has been perpetuated.
Second, let's just be on record about one other item: most priests are good and holy men who have devoted their life to serving God's people. Indeed, as I've been highlighting here, even the secular press is now beginning to talk about the way priests have been unfairly targeted for abuse allegations. In many ways, such priests are victims in a secondary sense; a shadow of suspicion is allowed to hang over their heads simply by virtue of their state in life. Every accusation is now taken as evidence of misconduct. This is terribly unfair.
Third, although I want to underscore that priests have been wrongfully targeted, it is also true that many bishops horribly mishandled such cases and are guilty of criminal actions. This should not be simply swept under the rug. Those members of the hierarchy who simply looked the other way when abuse took place are also guilty. They too should be dealt and punished depending on their offense.
The question here is whether Pope Benedict--then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger--was involved in a cover-up.
The Case of Father Murphy
In March of this year, The New York Times published a piece, "Vatican Declined to Defrock U.S. Priest Who Abused Boys," written by Laurie Goodstein. Goodstein basically indicted the future pope for attempting to protect a priest guilty of abuse. The priest in question was the now infamous Fr. Lawrence C. Murphy, who passed away in 1998. The article explained that Murphy "molested as many as 200 deaf boys".
No one in fact disputes that such crimes took place while Murphy was at St. John's School for the Deaf in Wisconsin. He was there between 1950 and 1974. At the time, charges of misconduct leveled against Murphy were not taken seriously by either the school, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee (where he was a priest), or even by law enforcement officials.
In 1974, Archbishop William Cousins put Murphy on a "temporary sick leave" from the school. He returned home and lived with his mother. From that time until the time of his death he was never given another priestly assignment. No allegations of abuse ever emerged from 1974 to the time of his death in 1998.
Ratzinger's Role in the Murphy Case
What Goodstein goes on to do however is simply mutilate the facts of the case. Other people have already covered this more extensively, meticulously sorting out the details. Some of the most helpful pieces include, Fr. Raymond J. de Souza, "A Response to The New York Times"; Phil Lawler, "The Pope and the Murphy Case: What the New Times Didn't Tell You"; and Michael Sean Winters, "Shame on the The New York Times".
In 1996, Archbishop Weakland, who had been made bishop in 1977, and who had taken no further action against Murphy, wrote to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), the curial office Ratzinger was the head of at that time. By this time, all statutes of limitations on sexual abuse--civil as well as canonical (i.e., Church law)--had run out. However, in his letter, Weakland explained that it had become known to him that Murphy had abused his role as a confessor in the sacrament of reconciliation. Because there was no statute of limitations on such abuses, Weakland wrote to the CDF asking for a canonical trial. The CDF, of course, was the body that dealt with abuses against the sacraments. Since Ratzinger was the head of the department, the matter fell under his jurisdiction.
Now, it should be known that the CDF is an extremely busy office. It is a key Vatican curial body. It is ridiculous to imagine that Ratzinger read and saw every letter that came in--and, in fact, there is no evidence that he ever personally reviewed the case. However, Ratzinger's right-hand man, Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, who at that time was the Secretary of the CDF, took up the case. He responded to Weakland's letter, agreeing that a canonical trial was in order.
The trial took took place and lasted about a year and a half. Part of the reason the trial took so long was Fr. Murphy's poor health. Recall that Weakland wrote his first letter in 1996 and that Murphy died in 1998. As time went on it became apparent that Murphy's time was running out, at which point Bertone suggested ways of expediting the process of laicizing the priest, i.e., "defrocking" him.
Nowhere is there any evidence that Ratzinger tried to cover-up the case! In fact, if anything, the real outrage should be directed at Archbishop Weakland. Lawler puts it well:
"The correspondence makes it clear that Archbishop Weakland took action not because he wanted to protect the public from an abusive priest, but because he wanted to avoid the huge public outcry that he predicted would emerge if Murphy was not disciplined. In 1996, when the archbishop made that prediction, the public outcry would--and should--have been focused on the Milwaukee archdiocese, if it had materialized. Now, 14 years later, a much more intense public outcry is focused on the Vatican. The anger is justifiable, but it is misdirected."In sum, the New York Times article--which conveniently came out during Holy Week--is just shoddy-reporting; a hit piece on the pope, which is trying to implicate him in the child abuse scandal.
This was hardly a case of fair and "objective" reporting--something which becomes immediately evident when one reads Fr. Raymond de Souza's article. He notes a number of "irregularities" that suggest the piece was part of a coordinated campaign to bring down Pope Benedict by parties seeking to serve their own purposes. He asks readers to consider the following:
• The New York Times story had two sources. First, lawyers who currently have a civil suit pending against the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. One of the lawyers, Jeffrey Anderson, also has cases in the United States Supreme Court pending against the Holy See. He has a direct financial interest in the matter being reported.A Secret Vatican Letter Written By Ratzinger?
• The second source was Archbishop Rembert Weakland, retired archbishop of Milwaukee. He is the most discredited and disgraced bishop in the United States, widely known for mishandling sexual-abuse cases during his tenure, and guilty of using $450,000 of archdiocesan funds to pay hush money to a former homosexual lover who was blackmailing him. Archbishop Weakland had responsibility for the Father Murphy case between 1977 and 1998, when Father Murphy died. He is known to have been embittered that his poor administration of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee earned him the disfavor of Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, long before it was revealed that he had used parishioners’ money to pay off his clandestine lover. He is prima facie not a reliable source.
• Laurie Goodstein, the author of the New York Times story, has a recent history with Archbishop Weakland. Last year, upon the release of the disgraced archbishop’s autobiography, she wrote an unusually sympathetic story that buried all the most serious allegations against him (New York Times, May 14, 2009).
• A demonstration took place in Rome on Friday, coinciding with the publication of the New York Times story. One might ask how American activists would happen to be in Rome distributing the very documents referred to that day in the New York Times. The appearance here is one of a coordinated campaign, rather than disinterested reporting.
Then there is the outrageous claim often circulated on the web that Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger wrote a secret letter to bishops, which explicitly demanded that that all sexual abuse cases be covered-up. Here's how The Guardian's Tanya Gold put it:
“In May 2001 [the then Cardinal Ratzinger] wrote a confidential letter to Catholic bishops, ordering them not to notify the police – or anyone else – about the allegations, on pain of excommunication.”Really . . . now come on, people! Get real. Get the facts.
Yes, the future pope did release a document--which was publicly released!--dealing with, among other things, penalties involving sexual abuse of minors. But--and this is important--it in no way ordered bishops to harbor criminals, cover up behavior, or in any resist civil authorities. In fact, far from being soft on such cases, Ratzinger moved for stricter enforcement, for example, extending the statute of limitations on such cases!
Damien Thompson rebutted the charges shorty after Gold's article appeared.
Did the Pope do what Gold charged?
No, he didn’t.
As Archbishop Vincent Nichols pointed out in 2006, when a BBC Panorama documentary made this allegation, the 2001 letter to bishops “clarified the law of the Church, ensuring that the Vatican is informed of every case of child abuse and that each case is dealt with properly.Easier To Tear Down Than Build Up
“This document does not hinder the investigation by civil authorities of allegations of child abuse, nor is it a method of cover-up, as the [BBC] programme persistently claims. In fact it is a measure of the seriousness with which the Vatican views these offences.
“Since 2001, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, then head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, took many steps to apply the law of the Church to allegations and offences of child abuse with absolute thoroughness and scruple.”
Gold’s article is also highly selective, not to say misleading, in its presentation of the facts relating to the Church investigation into the scandal surrounding Fr Marcial Maciel, the founder of the Legionaries of Christ. Maciel was a favourite of Pope John Paul II, on whose instructions Cardinal Ratzinger closed down an investigation into various allegations. Perhaps he should have refused to obey the Pope – but what Gold fails to mention is that the moment Ratzinger was free to reopen the case (ie, when JPII became mortally ill) he did so, and as Pope sent the dying octagenarian priest into exile while a proper investigation into this massively complicated case began.
It’s nowhere near finished, but Pope Benedict is determined that the truth comes out, even at the price of dismantling the entire order. Quite right: Maciel was a vile piece of work, a seducer of young men and the father of several illegitimate childrn – but even if you think Cardinal Ratzinger colluded in his protection, the awkward fact remains that the Mexican was not, so far as we know, a paedophile [i.e., because his victims were not children but young adults]. A nice distinction? Not in a court of law, which is where The Guardian would end up if it had made these claims about an ordinary individual.
Gold’s attack on Pope Benedict doesn’t read like the work of someone very familiar with the detail of the paedophile scandals. I’d like to know how much research actually went into it. The sad fact is that the upper ranks of the clergy are stuffed with prelates who were complicit in the protection of paedophiles – but the former Cardinal Ratzinger, whose Congregation assumed responsibility for investigating the scandals only at the end of JPII’s pontificate, is not one of them.
On the contrary: Benedict XVI is currently engaged in “purifying” (his word) the Church of the “filth” (his word again) of priestly sex abusers. It’s one of his priorities as Pope. It wasn’t one of John Paul II’s priorities, though it should have been. But he is dead, so Gold goes after his successor, intending to trash his reputation but actually doing serious damage to that of The Guardian.
The problem nowadays is that any allegation of clergy sexual abuse is taken as evidence of clergy misconduct. Of course, given the fact that bishops like Weakland did little to nothing to stop abusers and in fact did look the other way, it's easy to understand why people would be suspicious of members of the Catholic hierarchy. Nonetheless, that doesn't excuse half-baked allegations. Clearly there are agendas at work in the attempt to indict Pope Benedict in the scandal. Such charges are not based on evidence.
So the next time you hear such scurrilous charges, don't fall for them. This pope really is a good man.
In his remarks to Queen Elisabeth II this morning at Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh, Scotland, the pope warned against “aggressive forms of secularism” which no longer value, or even tolerate, religious voices in public life.
In effect, Benedict’s strategy appears to be to turn the secular dogma of tolerance against secular culture, arguing that religious believers too deserve a place at the table.
The pope urged the U.K. not to forget “the Christian foundation” of its culture, which he said “underpins its freedoms.” The pope implied that clarity about foundations is especially important as the U.K. becomes an ever more “modern and multicultural society.”
During an open-air Mass this afternoon in Glasgow, Scotland, Benedict became even more explicit.
“The evangelization of culture is all the more important in our times, when a a ‘dictatorship of relativism’ threatens to obscure the unchanging truth about man’s nature, his destiny and his ultimate good,” the pope said, reviving arguably the most famous sound-bite expressing the pope’s critical view of post-modern secular culture.
Benedict XVI first coined the expression “dictatorship of relativism” just before the conclave in April 2005 that elected him to the papacy, in a homily for the Mass Pro Eligendo Romano Pontifice, meaning “for the election of the Roman Pontiff.” That homily was widely seen as a manifesto by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger outlining what he saw as the central challenge facing the faith.
Though he may not have consciously intended it this way, it was also seen as a preview of the kind of pope Ratzinger would be.
“How many winds of doctrine have we known in recent decades, how many ideological currents, how many ways of thinking,” Ratzinger said on that occasion.[source]
“The small boat of the thought of many Christians has often been tossed about by these waves - flung from one extreme to another: from Marxism to liberalism, even to libertinism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to a vague religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism and so forth,” he said. “Every day new sects spring up, and what St Paul says about human deception and the trickery that strives to entice people into error comes true.”
“We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one's own ego and desires,” Ratzinger warned.
Now as pope, Benedict returned to the theme today in his homily at Bellahouston Park.
“There are some who now seek to exclude religious belief from public discourse, to privatize it or even to paint it as a threat to equality and liberty,” the pope said. “Yet religion is in fact a guarantee of authentic liberty and respect, leading us to look upon every person as a brother or sister.”
Here's just a little guide to give you some inside baseball. But first a clip of his arrival. . .
1. Popes Have Seldom Visited England
The only visit to England by a modern-day Pope was made by John Paul II in 1982. Yet even that was not billed as an "official" visit, as Britain's Prime Minister made clear in this very cordial video welcoming the Holy Father:
This might be surprising to some: why so few papal visits to England?
2. England's Tradition of Anti-Catholicism
The header above explains why few popes have taken a trip to England. Indeed, in the wake of the English Reformation many terrible crimes were committed against Catholics. These were documented by Eamon Duffy in his now famous scholarly treatment, The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England, 1400-1580 (1992), published by Yale University Press.
For obvious political reasons, as Duffy shows, from the very beginning of Henry's "reformation" the Catholic Church was n misrepresented and reviled. Historical revisionism concerning the pre-Reformation England Catholic Church continues even to this day--though Duffy's work did much to offer a more sensible analysis. To this day those deep-seated anti-Catholic prejudices have become part and parcel of English popular culture, as, for example, this recent anti-Catholic ad, demonstrates. Thankfully, it was pulled. However, make no mistake about it, the fact this ad was released just before the highly publicized papal visit is no coincidence.
Seriously: if you were pope, would you want to enter into this scene?
Well, I guess you would if you were Pope Benedict. In this morning's press conference, the Pope explained: "Where there is anti-Catholicism I will go forward with great courage and joy." [source].
3. Anglican and Catholic Relations Today
One notable sign of the advances made in the ecumenical movement was the recent appointment of Catholic theologian Aidan Nichols to the position of lecturer at Oxford University. His appointment marked a historic moment: as I explained at the time, it was the first time since the Reformation that a Catholic was given such a position at the famed institution.
Yet, make no mistake, the papal visit comes amidst controversy. As anyone following the news is aware of, there is tremendous debate within the Anglican Church right now. Controversies about the ordination of homosexual clergy and bishops has reached a fever pitch within Anglicanism, threatening to tear it apart. Indeed, frustrated with recent developments, a number of Anglicans have decided to re-examine the historical and biblical basis for the Anglican Church governance. This decision has in fact led a growing number of Anglican faithful to leave the Church of England and "swim the Tiber", i.e., become Catholic.
One of the difficulties Anglicans have had though in coming into the Catholic Church is that they are naturally attached to the particular Anglican liturgical traditions which have developed over time in England since the Reformation. Given their central place in prayer and worship, these are difficult to abandon.
And so in November of 2009 Pope Benedict made the extraordinary move of issuing a letter allowing Anglicans to essentially retain many of their distinctive traditions while coming into communion with Rome. The result: mass conversions to the Catholic Church.
As one might expect, the pope's move was not well-received in some Anglican circles. Anglican officials had hoped that the faithful would simply come to accept in time the more progressive developments in their church. Yet the pope's move has, in a sense, called the "bluff" of Anglican leaders who were insisting, "If you don't like these developments, you can leave." Of course, the problem for liberal Anglican leaders is basically this: more traditionally-minded members of their flock are precisely the ones most likely to attend regular services. Thus, the ordination of homosexual clergy, while perhaps likely to win applause from those who do not typically go to church, is in fact driving away the people who make the community possible.
On top of all this we might also mention the high profile conversion of Tony Blair, the former Prime Minister, to Catholicism. Blair, of course, is no social conservative, maintaining his pro-abortion stance even after crossing the denominational aisle. This is of course is hard to explain. One wonders how exactly he could make a profession of Catholic faith while holding to such a position. Nonetheless, by identifying himself as a Catholic Blair has in fact done something rather shocking and has caused a number of people to once again re-examine the Catholic Church.
In sum, the pope comes at a unique time in Catholic-Anglican relations.
4. John Henry Newman
Typically the pope does not travel to the home-country of a newly minted "blessed" to celebrate canonization. Suffice it to say, this is an extraordinary papal gesture.
Naturally, this raises the question: Who was John Henry Newman? What makes his beatification so important?
5. "A Courageous Visit"
Theologian Pablo Blanco of the University of Navarre in Spain commented this week that Pope Benedict XVI’s trip to the United Kingdom is a “courageous visit” in which the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman “could be a sign of unity between Anglicans and Catholics.”
Blanco noted that as a German, the Pope is “visiting a country that has fought two wars against Germany in the 20th century In addition, ambiguity about the papacy is part of the genetic makeup of this nation.”
“Neither can we forget the scandal of pedophile priests or the discomfort caused by some Anglicans who have voiced their desire to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church. All of these factors make this a courageous visit,” he said.
Blanco recalled that the main purpose of the apostolic journey is the beatification of Cardinal Newman, an Anglican intellectual who converted to Catholicism. This event could be “a sign of unity between Anglicans and Catholics, as Newman is a giant for both churches,” he stated.
Benedict XVI has underscored “the great contribution of Cardinal Newman: the primacy he gives to conscience. For him, there was no contradiction between obedience to doctrine and following one’s conscience. Perhaps that is why he was so controversial in his time,” Blanco explained.
Regarding Christianity in the life of the United Kingdom, the Spanish theologian said a recent poll shows that “67 percent of adults think British society should preserve its Christian culture, and only eight percent oppose this idea. This means that both Anglicans and Catholics intensely desire that England, Scotland and Wales maintain the Christian identity they have always had.”
Blanco, who will soon publish a new book titled, “Benedict XVI, The German Pope,” added, “The prestige of Catholics has grown in recent times in the United Kingdom, and the visit could strengthen the stability,” as well as the “open and cooperative image that Catholics today present.”
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
"The primary emphasis in New Testament eschatology is on the significance of the appearance of the Eschaton in Christ which shapes our understanding of the present and the future. Over the centuries, however, the emphasis has fallen on a treatment of the individual eschata to the neglect of the Eschaton in Christ. Somediing of a separation has taken place between our understanding of the Eschaton in Christ and its relationship to the individual eschata."
--Dermot Lane, Keeping Hope Alive: Stirrings in Christian Theology (New York: Paulist, 1996), 2.
Here's the parish website.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Chicago, IL (PRWEB) September 13, 2010
In a bold move to reach Catholics and those searching for Christ in their lives, Father Robert Barron begins broadcasting a weekly national television program on October 3rd. “Word on Fire with Father Barron” will appear on WGN America Sundays at 8:30 am Central.
“Now is the time to reach out to Catholics and others who are searching for meaning in their lives or who have left the Church because they are disillusioned,” says Father Barron, a prominent theologian, author, and Archdiocesan priest of Chicago since 1986. “In each episode, our mission will be to encourage believers and bring the transformative power of the Gospel to the culture.”
This is a groundbreaking broadcast. Fr. Barron will become the first priest since Archbishop Fulton Sheen in the 1950s to have a regular, national program on a commercial television network. Barron is a professor at University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary and is one of the world's most innovative teachers of Catholicism. His global media ministry called "Word on Fire" has a simple but revolutionary mission - to educate and engage the culture.
For the past two years, Barron has been producing a ten-part documentary series called “Catholicism”, journeying to 16 countries to tell the story of the Church. The release is set for next year, but Father Barron will preview some highlights of the series in his weekly broadcasts.
“The faith of the Church is our strength,” says Barron. “Our program will strive to show viewers the richness of the Catholic faith and how it is a treasure to be shared now and with future generations. The faith imbues our life with meaning and imparts to all a renewed sense of purpose.”
Father Robert Barron is a sought-after speaker on the spiritual life. He has published numerous books, essays and DVDs. Word on Fire, a non-profit organization, has attracted millions of viewers and listeners to its web site www.WordOnFire.org and its programs on other media outlets.
Please tune in to WGN America nationally on Sunday, October 3 at 8:30 am for “Word on Fire with Father Robert Barron“(the WGN Chicago broadcast airs at 9:30 am central). Funds for the program have been raised through private donations.
For more information, go to www.wordonfire.org. Media inquiries, contact Nanette Noffsinger at nanetten(at)aol(dot)com or 615-776-4230.
Monday, September 13, 2010
Were 10,000 children in America and thousands more in Ireland really raped by Catholic priests? In a word, no. Instead, what has happened is that in the increasingly caliginous, almost Inquisitorial mindset of sections of the New Atheist anti-pope lobby, every allegation of abuse against a Catholic priest … has been lumped together under the heading of ‘rape’, and every allegation has been described as an actual proven ‘rape’ regardless of whether it resulted in a legal trial, never mind a conviction.
The term ‘paedophile priest’ has become such a part of everyday cultural lingo that most people, when they read in last week’s relatively respectable UK Independent that ‘over 10,000 children have come forward to say they were raped [by Catholic priests]’, would probably think, ‘Yeah, that’s possible’. But it isn’t true.