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form criticism

By Diogenes (articles ) | Mar 23, 2007

Fr. Francis Moloney, S.D.B.: This is a very significant question, Michael, because unfortunately the modern reader picks up a Gospel and reads it as if it were a 21st century history book, and this does a grave injustice to the text because never in the mind of the original authors were these supposed to be simple repetitions of something that actually happened in the day-by-day record of Jesus' life. ... they have been assembled by these authors not primarily to communicate something that actually happened (although much of it did) but primarily to communicate what they believed God had done for us in and through the life, teaching, death and resurrection of Jesus.

Exactly the point made by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles in explaining why Cardinal Mahony's Epistle to the Romans said sexual activity occurred in the Caffoe video and his Acts of the Angelenos said it didn't:

The Los Angeles Times' attempt to harmonize two documents with completely different purposes is not only misleading, it is inconsequential to the goal: removing clergy at once who are credibly accused of sexual misconduct involving minors.

That's to say, the accounts submitted to the CDF and to the faithful of the Archdiocese about the same event were never intended to be simple repetitions of something that actually happened in the day-by-day record.

The Los Angeles Times, like the naive modern reader of the Gospels, expects that a bishop's factual account is meant to be taken as, well, factual. Wrong! In reality, the documents have been assembled by their author not primarily to communicate something that actually happened, but to get across what he wants the reader to believe took place.

Different purposes, different facts. Capisce?

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Show 2 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: - Mar. 23, 2007 5:29 PM ET USA

    I think I might pen a form-critically-revised life of Don Bosco and his miracles. Maybe then the penny would drop for Fr Maloney's brother Salesians.

  • Posted by: - Mar. 23, 2007 2:55 PM ET USA

    This also is very relevant: http://tinyurl.com/2d4hkc

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