Catholic Culture Overview
Catholic Culture Overview

for your protection

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Jun 13, 2008

It remains open to the judgment of the authorities in the church in order to offer assurance that a translation remains truly faithful to the original inspired text of the Bible.

What ultramontanist made that claim? Why, Milwaukee auxiliary Bishop Richard Sklba, that's who. And why does Sklba invoke "authorities in the church" (he means Church) to safeguard the scriptures? Because there are too many non-union exegetes out there:

There are times when I receive local announcements of forthcoming conferences in the archdiocese, each listing the speakers invited to expound various biblical themes associated with the topic and directed to the targeted audience of that gathering. The names of the presenters are completely new and unknown to me, even though I can claim familiarity with most of the Catholic biblical scholars and teachers of the country. I wonder what background the speakers might have, and how competent they might be to speak out of the Catholic tradition.

A closer look at the bios reveals that the speakers may indeed be converts from some other Christian tradition. Subsequent reports after the conference suggest that the presenters haven't always fully absorbed the Catholic approach to the Scriptures at all. I even hear tell of speakers who exhort their (male) audience to reclaim headship of the house over their wives, and I am troubled by such messages because those interpretations often arise out of a literalistic approach to the New Testament and its teachings.

Literalistic how? Do these fundamentalists attempt to attach their decapitated wives' cervical vertebrae and carotid arteries to their own because St. Paul said (Ephesians 5:23) the husband is the head of the wife?

Whatever the merits of the case for reclaiming male headship, it's hard to see what further light biblical studies could shed on the subject. The dispute concerns not the biblical witness but the pastoral theology that applies it to contemporary circumstances. Yet the puzzling aspect is Sklba's appeal to ecclesial authority. Flash back to the bishops' meeting twelve years ago, when he was campaigning for an inclusive language lectionary and whistling a different tune:

Sklba said the Vatican's intervention to override lectionary translations developed by U.S. Catholic scripture scholars and adopted by U.S. bishops in 1991 represented "a serious affront to our Catholic scholarly community" and "a human relations problem ... of major proportions. Criteria were approved by this body, and suddenly the rules changed," he said.

What -- no deference to the " authorities in the church"? No ecclesial assurance that our translations be "truly faithful to the original inspired text"? A less trusting soul than Uncle Di would underscore the coincidence in Sklba's championing the fashion of the hour against tradition, both when invoking authority and when opposing it. But what's important to keep in mind is the chief message of his "Herald of Hope" column, which is the motto of his guild: YOU can't understand the Bible.

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