I’m following up on this comment, and Joseph’s response to it.
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Hi Joseph – no, I didn’t read your entire post – I’m very busy these days, preparing to do some business travel, and I have to skim more than read carefully. I saw that my name was mentioned and I wanted to respond to your first point.
As a relatively new convert to Roman Catholicism, you really do seem to have your own impressions of what Rome is and what it says and what it does – impressions that are quite distinct from what it actually says on its own. You do miss a great deal by not having grown up in Roman Catholicism. For example, you say:
How can “only Rome’s interpretation [be] truly valid” when the Magisterium of the Church has only spoken authoritatively on bits and pieces of it? Are the Catholic faithful then “helpless” to hear from God? No, in fact, it’s because they are not helpless that the Magisterium hasn’t spoken on more of Scripture.
The fact that it has only “spoken authoritatively on bits and pieces” means simply that it has only “ruled authoritatively” upon a limited number of Scripture verses. However, that does not preclude that it has established the whole “ecosystem”, if you will, the whole doctrinal structure within which you may and may not accept what a particular passage is saying.
As a Roman Catholic, you are required to “receive with docility” “the teachings and directives that their pastors give them in different forms”. Now, if you think that is very vague, it is, and it is intentionally so, so as to leave room for “interpretation”. It didn’t used to be like that.
Prior to Vatican II, this doctrinal structure existed in very explicit terms. Since Vatican II, the effort has been to “distinguish between the inheritance of faith itself, or the truths which are contained in our holy doctrine, and the way in which these truths are formulated, of course with the same sense and significance”. That is from the speech of Pope John XXIII at the opening of Vatican II.
I don’t have it handy, but this notion directly contradicts the Trent-thru-Vatican-I era assessments of “the inheritance of the faith”, “the way the truths contained” are formulated, and they are very explicit that “these truths” must be expressed in the very words that were used, in Latin. If you are familiar at all with the way that translation works, you understand that words not only have ranges of meanings, and if you change the words, if you change the way that “truths are formulated”, then you necessarily change the “range of meaning” as well.
That’s precisely what happened, and I have elaborated on this phenomenon elsewhere. David Wells describes the Vatican II method of writing documents in ways “which would be ambiguous enough to accommodate both schools of thought”, and Ratzinger explicitly talks about embracing two schools of thought – in this case specifically regarding the issue of “primacy” vs “collegiality”, but it validates the method that Wells outlined, such that: “for every statement advanced in one direction the text offers one supporting the other side, and this restores the balance, leaving interpretations open in both directions.”
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In any event, this “ecosystem”, as double-minded as it is, still does rule what you might and might not believe about a particular Scripture passage. (And by “a particular Scripture passage”, I don’t mean “a particular verse taken out of context”. I mean, “what the writer was saying specifically to the audience to whom he was writing”.)
So you are constrained, for example, when you see Ephesians 2, for example, you are not able to really believe what the passage is saying:
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Earlier context here stresses that Christians are “chosen before the creation of the world”, “holy and blameless in his sight”, “predestined for adoption to sonship” and “predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will”, “marked with a seal … a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance” … noting that we Christians ourselves are “the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people”. We ourselves are “his inheritance”, “guaranteed” with his own Holy Spirit.
However, you are required to believe that all of this could be lost with a mortal sin, and re-gained again at the word of a priest in a confessional.
Going from this wondrously guaranteed life, to death, to life, to death again.
Truly, the Roman doctrine of the sacrament of penance and absolution is completely out of line, when you consider this seminal passage about what “being a Christian” is all about, and how it is accomplished. This is just one example. Consider that all of this is written by the same Paul who wrote Romans 8, and what we call the “golden chain of salvation”, found in Romans 8: “Those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified”. This is all completed and accomplished “before the creation of the world”, and yet Roman dogma holds that this act of God is undone, and then re-done, by the word of the Roman priest.
There we have a solid Biblical picture, which is completely dismantled by a Roman dogma.
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JB: It’s pretty horrifying stuff to me – the God of the Universe, who created things by speaking them into being, can’t, in his “Word”, effectively communicate anything without the aid of the almighty Roman Magisterium.
Joseph: This is not what Dei Verbum, or Hahn, or Ratzinger, or anybody, even said, and your very reading is contradicted by the reality of Scripture in the life of the Church. God communicates, through His Word, every single day, to hundreds of millions of people, while the Magisterium only gets together to talk about it every fifty to five-hundred years or so.
Rome pays lip service to the Scriptures, and I’ve shown above how they completely dash the intention of the Scripture writer (in this case the Apostle Paul) and subordinate it to their own understanding, in their own “ecosystem” of dogmas.
And by the way, I cited Hahn citing Ratzinger at length, and it is horrifying that these men, so influential, calling the Scriptures (“without reference to the meaning these texts possess in the Church’s life and liturgy”), “a kind of dead letter, an artifact from a long-extinct exotic culture.” Apart from “the Church’s life and liturgy” – what the Roman Magisterium says it is – “Biblical exegesis becomes an exercise in ‘antiquarianism’ or ‘archaeology’ or perhaps ‘necrophilia’.” … “Without the Church we have only a jumble of unconnected texts …”
He is talking about this in the context of historical criticism, but he fails to take into account that these Scriptures are God’s word, “alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword” … penetrating “even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight”. God’s word itself does this, without the aid of any human being – much less a “Church” which attempts, through its dogmas and “liturgy” to rob it of its meaning (as I’ve demonstrated in the first part of this comment).
God speaks, and in doing so, his very word creates.
As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
Rome pays lip service to the Scriptures, and by its very dogmas, takes away the meaning of the Scriptures.