The Catholic Hermeneutic

I think that more needs to be made about the shift in Catholic treatment of the Bible. The earlier treatment is found in Pius XII and Humani Generis:

“theologians must always return to the sources of divine revelation: for it belongs to them to point out how the doctrine of the living Teaching Authority is to be found either explicitly or implicitly in the Scriptures and in Tradition.”

That is, it’s not there to do exegesis on it. The Catholic method of old was NOT to let the Bible tell its own story, by focusing only on what it said. It is to be used as one giant source of proof-texts, so that theologians can “point out how Catholic doctrines are found there.”

That’s how a verse like Genesis 3:14-15, introducing the “Protoevangelion,” can be used in support of such a doctrine as the “Immaculate Conception” of Mary:

The LORD God said to the serpent,
“Because you have done this,
cursed are you above all livestock
and above all beasts of the field;
on your belly you shall go,
and dust you shall eat
all the days of your life.
I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”

This is from Ineffabilis Deus, the document which infallibly defines “the Immaculate Conception” of Mary:

Hence, just as Christ, the Mediator between God and man, assumed human nature, blotted the handwriting of the decree that stood against us, and fastened it triumphantly to the cross, so the most holy Virgin, united with him by a most intimate and indissoluble bond, was, with him and through him, eternally at enmity with the evil serpent, and most completely triumphed over him, and thus crushed his head with her immaculate foot.

Now, that’s not a Scripture that supports the “Immaculate Conception of Mary”. But, there’s a woman there, and there’s a foot. And so, in the thinking of this pope, therefore, the “Immaculate Conception” is found implicitly in Scripture.

(Never mind that in the very next verse Gen 3:16, God says to the woman, “Your desire shall be for[f] your husband, and he shall rule over you.” That can’t refer to Mary.)

So when you see such things as “Biblical” and “Catholicism” in the same phrase, understand that the Catholic does not intend to do real exegesis — it’s not a matter of letting the text speak in context. That’s how Protestants arrive at their doctrines. But rather, the Catholic feels free to apply any verse that they can pluck out of context, whether or not there’s any relevance.

More recently, we’ve seen the Pontifical Biblical Commission, Raymond Brown, the historical-critical method, and the absolute break in “interpretations”. This is how Rome can do absolute flip-flops on such dogmas as “no salvation outside of the church”. The methodology for doing that may be found in a citation of Raymond Brown that was provided by Robert Strimple in the “Roman Catholicism” volume published by John Armstrong in 1994:

“Brown suggests that it is essential to a proper reading of official documents of the Roman Catholic Church to realize ‘that the Roman Catholic church does not change her official stance in a blunt way. Past statements are not rejected but are requoted with praise then reinterpreted at the same time.‘”

(This citation is from Brown’s “The Critical Meaning of the Bible.”)

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