Catholic Culture Solidarity
Catholic Culture Solidarity

the vanishing bible

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Nov 19, 2004

As noted earlier, Richard Sklba recently expressed concern to his brother bishops that over-exposure to the evangelists can give Catholics an "evangelical" slant. No unseemly evangelism intrudes on Sklba's own book on the early prophets, Words of Warning, Dreams of Hope, wherein, e.g., the dates are tagged B.C.E. ("before the common era") rather than B.C. ("before Christ"). B.C.E dates, you see, are 70% more accurate.

I was reminded in this connection of an excellent article by Prof. James Hitchcock, in which he explains how it happened that the considerable Catholic hunger for Sacred Scripture was exploited so as to undercut the very reasons that gave birth to it. An excerpt:

Well-meaning, not highly educated Catholics who eagerly joined bible-study groups after the Council not uncommonly found their inherited faith shaken, as they were invited -- by group leaders and by written materials -- to scrutinize Catholic teachings and practices sceptically and to measure them against the New Testament in classical Protestant fashion, a scrutiny which usually seemed to work to the Church's disadvantage. Although this was not their original intention, many people became liberal Catholics through the medium of Bible study. (Thus liberal Catholics are quick to ask, for example, "Where does the New Testament condemn homosexuality?" or "Where does it say that women cannot be ordained priests?")

Such attitudes would be defensible if they rested on an unwavering confidence in Scripture as the revealed Word of God. However, Catholic Bible study after the Council also moved towards a liberal Protestant scepticism towards the Scripture itself, so that in a way it became irrelevant what the Bible might or might not say about a particular question, since it is naive and obscurantist to assume that the Scripture in some direct way constitutes the Word of God.

In effect liberals first used the Bible to "deconstruct" the teachings of the Church, then in turn "deconstructed" the Bible itself. The result -- intended by some, stumbled into by others -- was to eliminate all objective source of religious authority, leaving the individual as the ultimate judge of authentic belief.

The entire article -- it's not long -- repays a careful reading. It's an open question whether a new initiative to encourage Bible-reading would ultimately strengthen faith, or would be hijacked by the familiar summer-workshop-apparat and used to advance its own agenda. As Hitchcock points out, the institutional precedents are not reassuring:

In the final and most astonishing irony, modern biblical scholarship is unable to explain why the Bible should be studied at all, except as an important historical document, or why it should be accorded any unusual respect. Only the Church can justify this, but it has been precisely the rule of modern scholarship to exclude the Church from any meaningful capacity to interpret Scripture. Thus, if it continues on its present well-worn path, even moderate biblical scholarship will continue to contribute to the undermining of the Bible’s influence over human hearts and minds, not exactly what was intended when Catholics of thirty years ago were urged to make themselves more biblical

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