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March 2002

Debunking the Deconstructors

THE EDITOR

In the 28 June 1998 edition of Kairos, the weekly journal of the Archdiocese of Melbourne, Archbishop George Pell wrote: "The Scriptures are certainly inspired by the Holy Spirit; truly the Word of God. But they are human creations, which also contain historical and scientific errors or misunderstandings." Just two days later, on 30 June 1998, the Vatican press office released the Apostolic Letter Ad Tuendam Fidem, which reaffirmed "the absence of error in the inspired sacred texts" as an article of faith demanding "the full and irrevocable character of assent."

This juxtaposition of contradictory statements is especially powerful because Archbishop Pell, renowned for cleaning up and revitalising Melbourne's formerly dissident and dissolute Corpus Christi seminary, is widely regarded as a "conservative;" a solidly orthodox prelate. He certainly holds the orthodox line forcefully in many areas, especially those pertaining to moral and ethical issues where he provides genuine and desperately needed leadership. On the other hand, in his public and private writings and utterances he is renowned for expressing heterodox or heretical views on such basic doctrines as the physical Resurrection of Christ, the institution of the priesthood on Holy Thursday and the inerrancy/historicity of the Scriptures. Indeed, in 1988, dismissing protests by orthodox members of his flock with typical acerbity, he unreservedly praised - as "brilliant," "stimulating" and containing "useful lessons for the modern Church" - a thoroughly subversive article expounding arch-Modernist Rudolf Bultmann's radically experiential, anti-intellectual approach to Scripture interpretation.(1)

Those familiar with his long history in this regard are in no doubt that, ultimately, despite his undoubted strengths, the Archbishop is very much a product of his time: a cleric who exemplifies the pervasive impact on hearts and minds at every level of the Church of the erroneous presuppositions and philosophies underlying modern (read: Modernist) biblical criticism. This liberal school of exegesis(2) and its allegedly scientific historico-critical method of unearthing the real meaning of the Gospels, which apparently escaped the teaching Church for 2,000 years, has reigned supreme in Catholic seminaries and institutes of higher education for 40 years, even though it is about as 'scientific' as it's symbiotic partner in biblical deconstruction - Evolution [see articles by Peter Wilders, CO passim]. In truth, both are very much touchy-feely disciplines i.e. acts of pure faith on the part of proponents and practitioners, rooted in pride, self-will, personal experience and emotion.

Nonetheless, as Father Harrison's ensuing article explains, this pseudo-science, which perversely claims to have scientifically discredited Catholic teaching on the inerrancy and historicity of the Gospels, has become institutionalised in the halls of Catholic academia. It has caused, as Cardinal William Baum stated at the 1985 Extraordinary Synod in Rome, "a rupture between Bible and Church, Scripture and Tradition," the effects of which now greet us at every turn in the sceptical, equivocal and/or heretical interpretations of Holy Scripture that gush from the mouths of malformed priests, Religious and lay so-called "experts" fresh from their latest course of historico-critical indoctrination. In recent times, in an act of genuine Christian charity, exasperated layman Peter Grace sent an open letter to the clergy of the Diocese of East Anglia, pointing out the baleful impact of liberal biblical criticism as noted in various homilies like these:

Fr. Tom Lloyd: The statement in Exodus 12:7, that 600,000 men with their women and children left Egypt, was just the fantasising of a primitive people. In fact, it was a group of Bedouin nomads that set out; but how can any commentator know exactly what happened 3,200 years ago without contrary historical evidence? Unfortunately, there is an underlying rationale in liberal criticism: to ignore the traditional interpretation based on religious belief. Here the implied supposition is that God could not provide the Israelites with food and drink; it is a denial of the possibility of miracles.

Fr. Dick White: He wanted to spice up the exorcism of the Gadarene demoniac, as recounted in the Synoptic Gospels, by importing a bit of 20th century realism. "Of course, nowadays we understand the outcome of the incident differently. What happened had nothing to do with demons entering a herd of pigs, but was simply a way of saying that the man was epileptic, and Jesus cured him." It gives the scholar a great fillip to his ego to claim such superior knowledge! Notice that the effect of the reconstruction is to eliminate evil spirits.

Fr. James Caulfield: Even by the standards of liberal biblical criticism, his exegesis of the Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple plumbs depths I had not imagined possible in the context of a Sunday homily. He explained that he had been talking about the incident with a class in the Parish primary school. After giving the matter due consideration, the children "decided" that Jesus had made an error of judgement; and that was the piece of juvenile Biblical scholarship he passed on to the parishioners as a valid interpretation of the text.

As Mr Grace explained to the East Anglian clergy in concluding his above summation: "Once exegesis is limited to the words of the text and to personal experience, excluding traditional interpretations and guidance from the Magisterium, anything can be read into it, however bizarre… and the word of God is blown away by the secular wind."

One could go on forever citing similar workaday encounters with the pernicious influence of liberal exegesis, such as:

  • The London Ursuline nun delivering Catholic Teaching Lectures, who considers the notorious liberal exegete Fr. Raymond Brown, who doubted the Virgin Birth among much else, to be a brilliant theologian who will one day be made a Doctor of the Church.

  • The insistence of Bishop David Konstant of Leeds that the questions: Do you believe in the literal fact of the Virgin Birth? Do you believe in the literal fact of the Resurrection of Christ? Do you believe Adam and Eve literally existed? - are "not capable of a one-word answer" [Daily Telegraph, 23/12/99].

  • The Catholic involvement in a 44-page report, two years in the making and published by the Church of Scotland, which claims that "advances in science have proved the historical impossibility of events described in the Bible [which therefore] should be open to a wide and more imaginative interpretation." Father Brian Riley, Director of Religious Education in Scotland, was quoted as saying that scientific study had made it impossible to argue that "black was white" in the Scriptures, which were "written in a human language in the circumstances of the day" [The Scotsman, 6 May 1998].

  • The contents of RE textbooks which empty the Gospels of the divine and supernatural by relating the findings of faithless biblical "scholars" instead of the teachings of the Church. Thus, the infamous Roman Catholic Christianity (still used in English Catholic schools despite its prohibition by Rome) teaches children that "scholars" looking "deeply into the origins of the story of the feeding of the five-thousand" have discovered that it never happened: "the actual historical event in the life of Jesus ('what really happened') can no longer be recovered. What we know is that those who lived with Jesus represented him as the one without whom they could die of hunger on their journey." Naturally, this horrendous text also robs children of belief in the Resurrection: "Paul speaks of resurrection without mentioning any empty tomb. Was the 'empty tomb' simply the evangelists' (Gospel writers) dramatic way of saying that Jesus is not to be found in a graveyard; he lives on in a mysterious but real way, embodied in his disciples?" To rid young heads of any vestigial notions of physical Resurrection, this question is answered by reassuring the kids that: "The resurrection means new life. Jesus died but lives on in Spirit in the community. He lives on when people behave like him."

Recently promoted to Cardiff, Archbishop Peter Smith was careful to ensure that this relentless project of biblical deconstruction would continue apace in his former diocese. In early 1998 in Rome, then-Bishop Smith was confronted by a furious Cardinal Ratzinger who demanded the removal of his Imprimatur from the heretical Roman Catholic Christianity and its withdrawal from Catholic schools. Smith, however, has had the last laugh. Not only did he continue to laud the disgraced author of the text, Mrs Clare Richards, in puerile defiance of Ratzinger and Rome, he left her free to continue sowing her seeds of unbelief, along the above lines, among the unsuspecting faithful of East Anglia. Thus we read in the 16 December 2001 news-sheet of St Edmund's Parish in Suffolk: "Clare Richards, former head of RE at Notre Dame High School, Norwich, has offered to run a course in our Parish over a two-year period which, if all the requirements are met, will qualify for a Catholic RE Teacher's Certificate, but which can equally be helpful to Catechists, Children's Liturgy leaders and non-teaching members of the Parish as a systematic introduction to Scripture and Theology. A great opportunity."

Indeed, with endless satanic "opportunities" now on offer for unwary Catholic lambs to have their simple, pious faith stripped away by historico-critical wolves like Mrs Richards, one might expect the Shepherds to react. Instead, we find not a flicker of concern about this state of affairs. Acceptance of, acquiescence in or more often just plain indifference towards liberal Scripture 'scholarship' by bishops the world over, even and especially among reputed "conservatives" like Archbishop Pell, who should know better, is the pathetic pattern.

This was never more frighteningly apparent than at the aforementioned 1985 Synod, which was convened to discuss the state of the Church 20 years after the Council. As Father Brian Harrison related at a public lecture some years ago, the orthodox bloc of bishops in attendance called for action to redress just about every conceivable problem we face in the present crisis, but only a tiny percentage even mentioned the crucial topic of Scripture in their reports and interventions, and very few of those expressed real dissatisfaction with modern biblical studies. Predictably, the Secretary of the liberal Pontifical Biblical Commission gave a glowing appraisal of the state of Scripture scholarship and effectively endorsed the historico-critical method. More significantly, however, Cardinal Baum, then Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, and thus head of seminary formation and theological education throughout the world, devoted virtually his entire speech, one of the most strongly worded interventions of the Synod, to a message of "alarm" and "grave warning" in respect of modern biblical studies and its undermining of the foundations of the Catholic faith. As Father Harrison commented: "Cardinal Baum zeroed in on a 'very grave' situation in the world of Catholic higher education that no amount of statistics about burgeoning numbers of Scripture courses on offer can hide."

Providentially, echoing Cardinal Baum's sentiments, the Final Report of the Synod offered no praise or support for modern biblical scholarship, giving instead a terse admonition that Scripture must be interpreted in light of Sacred Tradition and the Magisterium. Seventeen years on, however, this synodical request, like so many others, has largely gone unheeded. There is no indication whatsoever that the Shepherds in general have increased their interest or vigilance in this bedrock ecclesiastical discipline - the reform of which is fundamental to healing the broken Body of Christ. Given what's at stake, only that "diabolic disorientation" of modern episcopal minds referred to by Sister Lucia of Fatima can account for such negligence. How else to explain the lethargic non-response of even "conservative" prelates to the deadly impact of liberal exegesis on innocent souls? Take then-Bishop Pell's reply to a mother distressed by his resolute inaction over heresies being taught in her son's school, which included denial of the Divinity, miracles, Resurrection and Ascension of Our Lord. "The real enemy is outside the Church," he insisted. "The greater danger is unbelief rather than details of doctrinal understanding." In the context of our present crisis, this statement is so 'diabolically disoriented' as to be upside-down, back-to-front and inside-out! Furthermore, it flatly contradicts Pope Paul VI's declaration of January 1972 that doctrinal "orthodoxy" is the Church's "main concern," while also undermining the urgency of John Paul II's October 2000 Jubilee appeal to the Shepherds assembled in Rome "to defend and promote the doctrinal unity of their faithful." And they wonder why disbelief in doctrines like the bodily Resurrection of Jesus and His Real Presence in the Blessed Sacrament climbs exponentially with each passing Easter!

The moral of the story is all too familiar - don't cry wolf and expect a postconciliar Shepherd to lift his crook in anger against anyone but the faithful whistle-blower. Resolve, instead, to save the next generation from the Scriptural deconstructors: make use of relevant CO articles to expose the pandemic of liberal biblical quackery.

FOOTNOTES

(1) Athanasius of Alexandria: A Paradigm for the Church of Today by Charles Kannengiesser, S.J., Pacifica - Australian Theological Studies - Vol. 1, No.1, 1988

(2) Exegesis is the branch of theology which investigates and expresses the true sense of Sacred Scripture

* * * * *

APPEAL FOR ORTHODOX ALLIANCE!

I am a second year distance learning student in BA Divinity who finds herself in a sea of critical views about the biblical word of God and the truths contained therein, which are presented as a matter of mere opinion. Books recommended by Catholic colleges embrace Biblical Criticism wholeheartedly. I would therefore like to establish a Scripture contact group - through which theologians and students of theology, who eschew the liberal critical view, can support and assist each other in faithfully adhering to the Magisterium and Tradition. If interested, please contact me:

Kathy Moss, c/- Christian Order, PO Box 14754, London SE19 2ZJ

Email: cpmoss37638@moss26.freeserve.co.uks

 

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