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Pope insists that Bible’s truth is found in its totality

By on Thursday, 5 May 2011

An open Bible is seen inside Holy Cross Cathedral in Boston (CNS photo from Reuters)

An open Bible is seen inside Holy Cross Cathedral in Boston (CNS photo from Reuters)

While Catholics believe the Bible is inspired by the Holy Spirit and that it is true, one cannot take individual biblical quotes or passages and say each one is literally true, Pope Benedict XVI said.

“It is possible to perceive the Sacred Scriptures as the word of God” only by looking at the Bible as a whole, “a totality in which the individual elements enlighten each other and open the way to understanding,” the Pope wrote in a message to the Pontifical Biblical Commission.

“It is not possible to apply the criterion of inspiration or of absolute truth in a mechanical way, extrapolating a single phrase or expression,” the Pope wrote in the message released today at the Vatican.

The commission of biblical scholars, an advisory body to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, met at the Vatican from May 2 to May 6 to continue discussions about “Inspiration and Truth in the Bible”.

In his message, the Pope said clearer explanations about the Catholic position on the divine inspiration and truth of the Bible were important because some people seem to treat the Scriptures simply as literature while others believe that each line was dictated by the Holy Spirit and is literally true. Neither position is Catholic, the Pope said.

“An interpretation of the sacred writings that disregards or forgets their inspiration does not take into account their most important and precious characteristic, that they come from God,” he said.

The Catholic position is that the Holy Spirit inspired the biblical writers so that “human words express the word of God”, he said.

“Through his word God wants to communicate to us the whole truth about himself and his plan of salvation for humanity,” the Pope wrote. “A commitment to discovering ever more the truth of the sacred books, therefore, is a commitment to seeking to better know God and the mystery of his saving will.”

  • Anonymous

    If we accept what Pope Benedict XVI is saying here, how are we to know which verses are to be absolutely believed, and which verses are to be optionally believed? How can one accept the totality whilst having doubts about individual verses? That is a contradiction in terms. Is this an ambiguous statement or is this an ambiguous statement by Pope Benedict XVI à la second Vatican Council?

    “This is my body” must surely be believed.

    But what of any number of other verses? Are we to enter endless debate like the Protestants as to what is to be taken literally and what is to be subject to interpretation? Whose interpretation?

    Or is Pope Benedict XVI just muddying the waters a little, as he did with his remarks about the use of condoms a few months ago?

    Would that God would grant us the patience to await the ending of this period of diabolical disorientation that has beset the Vatican.

  • Ed

    “For all the books which the Church receives as sacred and canonical, are written wholly and entirely, with all their parts, at the dictation of the Holy Ghost; and so far is it from being possible that any error can co-exist with inspiration, that inspiration not only is essentially incompatible with error, but excludes and rejects it as absolutely and necessarily as it is impossible that God Himself, the supreme Truth, can utter that which is not true. This is the ancient and unchanging faith of the Church, solemnly defined in the Councils of Florence and of Trent, and finally confirmed and more expressly formulated by the Council of the Vatican.” – Pope Leo XIII, “Providentissimus Deus”

  • Anonymous

    I more than suspect that we know which verses are to be absolutely believed according as the Church tells us in line with her interpretative tradition. As long as the Church hasn’t passed judgement on a particular issue, we are free to synthesise propositions of divine truth,provided that we do so by way of submission of the proposition and not by way of private judgement.

  • JBrwn

    The first paragraph of this story contains a statement which can be read as heretical. It is implied that Catholics “cannot say” individual passages of the Bible are literally true. This is actually a backdoor assertion that there is error in Scripture, and that an affirmation in the text which is clear can contain error. According to the CDF in 1998, in its commentary on Ad Tuendam Fidem, this is heresy.

  • Vita

    The Bible is 100% true but if you read only separate paragraphs you will find many contradictions, this is why it is very important to read all bible completely. The Bible is like a film you have to watch all film completely not only few parts, the otherwise will be very confusing and very difficult to understand. Read it is the easy part but you need high level of comprehension. In other words you can not take textually word by word this not makes any sense.

  • http://chiasticsarcast.livejournal.com/ Jacob Andrews

    He’d make a very good Anglican! The 39 Articles of the Anglican church teach that “it is not lawful for the Church to ordain any thing that is contrary to God’s Word written, neither may it so expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to another.”

    However, there are many people who distort and exaggerate that idea to make individual verses completely ineffective. Jesus said that every stroke of the pen in Scripture is utterly authoritative- but each letter must be interpreted in light of the ones around it. It’s both-and, not either-or.

  • Alexander

    You are all misunderstanding what the Pope said, and it is sad that you don’t.
    The Bible as a whole is inspired. But inspiration and truth are separate matters. All words contained in the Bible are from God, but truth can be derived only from the full text, from Genesis to the Apocalypse. Each single line doesn’t say anything without the rest of the Bible. This is how Protestants began to use the Bible: each line taken as fully isolated. Take as an example the matter of justification: if we should take the words of Paul on justification by faith, the Protestants would be alright on “sola fide”; but we have the Epistle of James to complete the information from Paul and show us a better understanding that faith without works is dead. So, each line by itself is insufficient, though inspired. Similarly, you would stone adulterers and homosexuals for the very fact that Moses orders it, or you would welcome them if you would limit your reading to the “God is love” affirmation of John… fortunately the Bible completes the information on the matter, by listing adultery and homosexuality as sins which lead to hell and showing that excommunication is the punishment for those sins in the New Testament law. This is what Pope Benedict XVI is merely saying: literal reading of single lines is the source of heresy, while putting each line into the single inspired message of the Bible as a whole leads to orthodoxy. The Pope can’t teach heresy and we must show assent with him, especially when he’s just repeating the clear words of his predecessors: are you even saying that the Catholic Church doesn’t exist anymore? Don’t you know that’s also a form of heresy itself?

  • Peterford

    Cindy,
    I appreciate your enthusiasm about the Pope, but what you’ve written here doesn’t make sense. You say the Pope is saying x, and then the quotes you give from his actual text say y. E.g. you say he’s saying that “passages” in the Scriptures aren’t literally true; he says individual “phrases” cannot be taken out of context. I hate to say it in a public forum like this, but you don’t sound like you have the theological qualifications or even the reading comprehension to be attempting to summarize what the Pope has said. I think that in order to be responsible and avoid causing scandal, you should forego trying to deal with theoretical theological discussions like these. As it is you are causing confusion by your lack of competence. If it were not an issue of scandal on the internet, I would not be pointing it out to you in public, but since you have publically caused confusion, I have to call you on it.

  • JBrwn

    Alexander,
    First, I was referencing the story itself, written by the reporter, which contains a statement suceptible of heresy. It is very clear that the byline of this story can be easily read in a way which contradicts the infallible doctrine of the Church on infallibility and inerrancy. The Pope does not actually say what the story claims he does.

    However, the idea that “truth can only be derived from the full text” has no basis in Scripture or Tradition. The actual doctrine of the Church is that Scripture was be read according to the “analogy of Faith” which requires reading with both Scripture AND Tradition. So, according to your logic, no single passage of the Bible can be said to be true in and of itself without first reading the entirety of the Bible and also Tradition in its completeness. Of course, you fail to explain that large parts of Scripture were composed (and therefore inspired) long before the New Testament and the coming of Christ and long before Tradition even became a reality. Are we to then conclude that the Old Testament was not true before the New Testament? That would be quite a novel theory. In fact, it contradicts Vatican II, which said that everything which the human author asserted must be understood as asserted by the Holy Spirit AT THE TIME of its composition, not 3000 years later. Inspiration only happens when the text is composed, not when additional ‘add ons’ are composed.

    Finally, yes the Pope can actually teach heresy privately (see John XXII’s errors on the immediate judgment of the soul), though of course no one here has accused the Pope of doing any such thing. What he seems to have done is make a statement which is being once again twisted by the press to imply a contradiction with his predecessors and prior ecumenical Councils, along with the Fathers and Doctors of the Church. The Pope is NOT an oracle whose every word is inspired and infallible. Furthermore, this speech has virtually no Magisterial authority of itself. The mass media present the Pope in this way, though of course most Catholics give very little heed to the Pope unless it seems he is making a ‘liberal’ statement.

  • AJ

    Leprechaun said: “How can one accept the totality whilst having doubts about individual verses? That is a contradiction in terms. Is this an ambiguous statement or is this an ambiguous statement by Pope Benedict XVI à la second Vatican Council?”

    What Pope Benedict seem to drive at is to approach and take the totality of the whole Bible and not individual passages to derived at a christian doctrine that most protestants do when they selectively choose a passage to stand up alone and thus taking it out of the context from the whole Bible. This is a fundamental insight that resulted in heretics even appeal to Scripture and thus , All appeals to Scripture are appeals to one’s interpretations of Scripture.

    Leprechaun said: “This is my body” must surely be believed”.

    ME: Quoting Pope Benedict said, “In his message, the Pope said clearer explanations about the Catholic position on the divine inspiration and truth of the Bible were important because some people seem to treat the Scriptures simply as literature while others believe that each line was dictated by the Holy Spirit and is literally true. Neither position is Catholic, the Pope said.”

    Let’s see the example of Mr. Leprechaun gave above, “This is my Body”, while this was already a done deal which Benedict for sure already knew about the Doctrine of the Real Presence so no need to contest however, this is not what he’s after, what he’s after are some passages like the Creation and the first Fall in the Book of Genesis, do we christians have to believe that it took literally seven (7) days for God to create the heavens and earth and what about the “apple”, is it literally an apple fruit?
    Leprechaun said : “Are we to enter endless debate like the Protestants as to what is to be taken literally and what is to be subject to interpretation? Whose interpretation?”

    ME: You are right in that, “Whose interpretation?” Don’t worry we will not fall in same hole as the protestants wherein since anybody’s interpretation is no higher than anybody’s interpretation and thus fall in a relativist situation.

    The danger of this practice is to become each person is deciding for himself what is the correct interpretation of Scripture and each individual’s own reason and judgment becomes, as it were, the highest authority, supplanting in effect Scripture’s unique and rightful place which is what Benedict said, “human words express the word of God”. This is the dilemma without the Apostolic Succession of the Seat of Peter founded by Christ.

    Be a warning though as we have seen the in the ultra traditionalist group of Sedevacantists where they fall trap in the same hole as the protestants. SSPX has also some characteristics of these when they think of themselves as having an interpretive Authority of Sacred Tradition and Scripture that they got it right and the Magisterium of the Catholic Church is wrong (Pope and Bishops in communion with him) eg. Vatican2.

    Leprechaun said: ” Or is Pope Benedict XVI just muddying the waters a little, as he did with his remarks about the use of condoms a few months ago?”

    ME: This was just another hype of a complaint from a disgruntled traditionalist group taken from liberal media’s twisted interpretation on Pope Benedict’s statement about Condom. However the truth is, “The Church teaches that prostitution is immoral and should be shunned. However, those involved in prostitution who are HIV positive and who seek to diminish the risk of contagion by the use of a condom to another person may be taking the first step in respecting the life of another – even if the evil of prostitution remains in all its gravity.”

    Read the facts before you put your false assertion :
    http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/vatican-spokesmans-remarks-on-condoms-only-add-to-confusion-top-us-theologian-says/
    http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/253679/deflating-nyt-condom-scoop-george-weigel

    Leprechaun said: “Would that God would grant us the patience to await the ending of this period of DIABOLICAL disorientation that has “beset the Vatican.”

    ME: You claimed you are gentle and humble of heart when confronting other catholics who don’t agree with your position and SSPX. So my hunch is true then. You had chastised me in another thread for just actually barrowing from some RadTrad comments of the words “diabolical”, “demonic”, smoke of satan” to describe the present state of the Catholic Church since Vatican2.

    Now it came from your own mouth. By the way when I debated protestants they always say the same things, like the Catholic Church is diabolical, seat of satan, impeccability of the pope, the pope can’t err, demonic church. I just wonder why the adherents of SSPX and Sedevacantists say the same things, probably due to the principle of “same birds flock together”.

    Anyways, WHO is the Final Authority to pass a judgment and settle a dispute between 2 abiding catholics?

    Jesus Christ, God Himself pointed to ONE:

    1. Me/SSPX/Sedevacantist/other RadTrad
    2. Protestant churches
    3. Magisterium of the Catholic Church (Apostolic Succession and the See of Peter)

    Just choose ONE, there are a lot of confusion already since the great schism 500 years ago.

  • parasum

    It would help an awful lot, if, in his capacity as teacher of all the faithful, he would provide something along the lines of “Providentissimus Deus”, but spelling out precisely what is meant by saying that Scripture is free from all error.

    There are a lot of “problem passages”.

    It sounds as though he is saying that the truth of the Bible is not in the texts, so much as in the texts taken all together to provide the body of meanings we call the Bible. Is the meaning free of error – or is the text free of error ? Or are both free of error ? Where is the inerrancy “located” ?

    And how does inerrancy apply to:

    verses that represent a damaged text – such as 1 Samuel 13.1 ?
    verses that include words that can be taken to mean A, or B, or even C ?
    passages that may belong in in the text or may not: in 1 Samuel 14, is the Septuagint version of the taking of lots to be followed – or the Hebrew ?
    interpretation – such as whether the Patriarchs before the Flood were real individuals who real if very great ages ? A Bible which is read as meaning that Methuselah with his 969 years is a mythical, though important, being, is saying something different from a Bible that is read as meaning Methuselah was a real human being who died just 31 years short of his thousandth birthday. The identical text can mean very different things to readers one of whom reads Genesis 5 as the family tree of the ancient & very long-lived Patriarchs before the Flood from Adam to Shem, Ham, and Japheth, the other of whom reads the same chapter as sacred, & inspired, & canonical, & true – but not as the family tree of historically real people:IOW, as an inspired, & highly significant, myth.

    Meaning is the result of interpretation – and this leads to many problems, such as these. To have a dogma of Biblical inerrancy in all things, as the Church does, is very perplexing, because it is not at at all clear how the inerrancy applies. Which is why it would be such a good thing if the Popoe could see his way to clearing the matter up; to do so, seems be just the kind of thing that would be within his competence as Pope.

  • parasum

    “Through his word God wants to communicate to us the whole truth about himself and his plan of salvation for humanity,” the Pope wrote. “A commitment to discovering ever more the truth of the sacred books, therefore, is a commitment to seeking to better know God and the mystery of his saving will.””

    ## That looks just a bit, well, Protestant. Calvinists believe “the whole counsel of God” is contained in the Bible – & the Pope’s words certainly *seem* to be saying the same thing. It would be very helpful to know where the difference is. Maybe such close agreement is a good sign…

  • Csjoycejd

    obviously some of the individual statements in the Bible are literally true. Some of the assertions or isolated words are true but need the rest of the Bible to see the truth in relation to the other truths.

  • Paul

    Nowhere in the Bible is ‘homosexuality’ as a condition listed as a sin which leads to hell. To quote the Catechism homosexuals “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives …” (2358). Remember that St Paul lists “sexual perverts” (RSV) along with thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, adulterers and robbers as people who will not inherit eternal life (1 Cor 6:9-10). The fact that various editions of the Bible translate one Greek word (arsenokoites – literally ‘male beds’ or ‘man bedders’) as ‘perverts’, ‘sodomites’, ‘homosexuals’, ‘defilers with mankind’, and ‘male prostitutes’ should caution us about putting modern interpretations on isolated texts, the very thing you are arguing against.

  • Alexander

    By homosexuality I don’t mean the condition (the fact of being attracted to a person of the same sex) but to the homosexual activity (which is mortal sin, in case you don’t know). The quote in 1 Corinthians indeed proves what I am claiming: all sex outside of marriage leads to hell as mortal sin, including homosexual behaviour. That doesn’t change anything in the final result. Also, that doesn’t add anything to the current topic on Biblical inerrancy and inspiration, as far as I can see.

  • Paul

    Yes, Alexander, I am fully aware of what constitutes a ‘mortal sin’. “It is directed against life or God with full knowledge and full consent” (YouCat, 316, (2011), CTS). But you’re quite right, this adds nothing to the current topic, but as you challenged me I thought it appropriate to answer.

  • Anonymous

    Having contradictions MEANS it cannot all be 100% true :). You mean that taken on balance, 100% of the truth is there to be found.

  • Weary Convert

    One must feel sorry for an intelligent man like Pope Benedict as he twists and turns to make sense of the totality of the Bible, especially the ghastly stories of Israel from the Old Testament. Taking an obvious example, how can one view the Hebrew slaughter of the Amalakites – specifically including women and children – under the orders of God-inspired Moses and find some place for it in the totality of a Bible where God is love? Of course the Bible needs to be interpreted by the Church but in turn, the Church needs to have the honesty to break away totally from the substantial areas of the Old Testament that are crude and vile but found favour in previous ages of superstition and ignorance. Only then can the Church have the courage to say, “this is a story of an ancient and primitive tribe that nevertheless was the source of much inspiration. In the past such tales had somehow to be viewed itself as ‘inspired.’ But in reality this one is an argument for genocide and utterly unacceptable to the Church.” To do so requires the Church to put honesty in place of the “authority” that has been so misused. I fear that generations will pass before the Church becomes brave enough to do this but one day it will have to do so..

  • Vita

    The Bible is 100% true. The bible is not base in robot programming language that every thing is yes = 1 (true)
    & not = 0 (false)
    Yes the Bible has many contradictions but all contradictions could be explained.
    Examples:

    Wisdom a source of enjoyment [Prov 3:13,17]
    Wisdom a source of vexation, grief and sorrow [Eccl 1:17,18]

    My understanding of these apparent opposites is that both are true, and indeed, they can be. Wisdom brings the benefits of deeper understanding but the burden of such an understanding can be terrible at times too.

    Laughter commended [Eccl 3:1,4 / Eccl 8:15]
    Laughter condemned [Luke 6:25 / Eccl 7:3,4]
    Luke 6 is answered in 126. As for the rest, Eccl 3:4 resolves the whole thing – “there is….a time to weep and a time to laugh.” Laughing at one’s suffering is not a time to laugh, thus would be condemned. Laughing during a time of celebration would obviously not be condemned.

    The making of images forbidden [Ex 20:4] The making of images commanded [Ex 25:18,20] Ex 20:4 states than one should not make idols and bow down and worship them. The cherubims in Ex 25 are not idols, nor were they worshipped.A popular mistake is to take things out of context. It is easy to “create contradictions” when there are none by violating the context of the passage(s) in question.

  • Anonymous

    Your comment on the conflict between Mosaic law and
    John’s vision of a loving God perfectly illustrates how problematic the Bible
    is when considered as a moral guide to life. If one person, or one God, were
    trying to write such a guide, he, she or He would never deliberately make it so
    inconsistent, for moral inconsistency, as parents learn, is not conducive to
    respect, but the Bible is a compilation of numerous human authors who lived
    chronologically far apart, and it shows. The great lesson to be learnt by
    seeing the Bible in its totality is that it has little unity of moral vision.
    Any unified moral vision you attribute to the whole book is an illusion which
    depends on ignoring or downgrading the injunctions you do not choose to follow.
    Thus you confidently assure your readers that homosexuality is a hell-deserving
    sin because you’ve read it in the Bible, but do you concur with all the moral
    advice the Bible has to offer? If you do not agree that people should be stoned
    to death for disobeying their parents, or that it is acceptable to bore holes
    in the ears of your slaves, why do you respect a pronouncement on homosexuality
    simply because it’s in the Bible. When you write that “fortunately the
    Bible completes the information on the matter “(of homosexuality) by
    listing it as a sin, you choose that particular passage as being somehow more
    ultimately authoritative than either Moses or John. Why? That passage was likewise
    penned by a human individual, and if you elevate it into some last word on the
    matter, that is your selective preference. The Pope who denounces homosexual
    activities as sinful, basing this view on the Bible, does not himself follow all
    the Bible’s laws, so he is asking not that others follow the Bible but that
    that they follow his own selective idea of what is important in it. Why should
    we?The Pope’s “holistic” view of the Bible is yet
    another attempt to sweep its more embarrassing passages under the carpet, and
    one that, for me, fails totally. Verses which advocate stoning disobedient
    children to death or boring holes in slaves’ ears cannot be separated from
    their literal and historical meanings, nor can they be made more palatable by
    considering them within the context of the compendium of books in which they
    appear, especially when those books are not the product of a single viewpoint. When
    you compare such verses to the wise and compassionate injunctions attributed to
    Christ, they can only appear even more barbaric, yet the Pope would have us
    believe that such barbaric verses also “come from God” and can help
    “to communicate to us the whole truth about himself and his plan of
    salvation for humanity “. How can such verses be what he claims and do
    what he claims? If they are there to throw Christ’s compassion into relief – to
    make him look even more benign by contrast – it is worth remembering that Christ,
    unlike Mosaic law, is never represented in the Bible as disapproving of
    homosexual love. If you wish to follow Christ on matters homosexual, say nothing about it.

  • CatholicBlogger

    This is the actual story.

    VATICAN CITY, 5 MAY 2011 (VIS) – A message from the Pope to Cardinal William J. Levada, president of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, and the members of that commission was made public today. The message was issued on the occasion of the commission’s annual plenary assembly, which focused on the theme of “Inspiration and Truth of the Bible”.

    The Pope emphasized that “this theme is one of the main points of the post-synodal apostolic exhortation Verbum Domini, which discusses it in the first section”.

    “An interpretation of Sacred Scripture that ignores or forgets its inspiration”, the Holy Father writes, “does not take into account its most important and valuable characteristic: its provenance from God”.

    Benedict XVI recalled that in that same apostolic exhortation, “‘the Synod Fathers stressed the link between the theme of inspiration and that of the truth of the Scriptures. A deeper study of the process of inspiration will doubtless lead to a greater understanding of the truth contained in the sacred books’”.

    “Through His Word, God seeks to communicate to us the entire truth about Himself and His plan of salvation for Humanity. The commitment to discovering more and more the truth of the sacred texts thus means seeking to know God and the mystery of His salvific will ever better”.

    The Pope continued to call attention to the fact that “it is essential and vital for the life and the mission of the Church that the sacred texts are interpreted according to their nature: Inspiration and Truth are the constitutive aspects of this nature”. In this context he assured the members of the commission that their efforts in this area “will have true usefulness for the Church’s life and mission”.

    “A good hermeneutic”, the message concludes, “cannot mechanically apply the criteria of inspiration, or absolute truth, in the extrapolation of a sentence or expression. The level on which it is possible to perceive Sacred Scriptures as the Word of God is that of the unity of God’s history, a totality in which single elements are reciprocally illuminated and open themselves to understanding”.

  • Anonymous

    Your comment on
    the conflict between Mosaic law and John’s vision of a loving God perfectly
    illustrates how problematic the Bible is when considered as a moral guide to
    life. If one person, or one God, were trying to write such a guide, he, she or
    He would never deliberately make it so inconsistent, for moral inconsistency,
    as parents learn, is not conducive to respect, but the Bible is a compilation
    of numerous human authors who lived chronologically far apart, and it shows.
    The great lesson to be learnt by seeing the Bible in its totality is that it
    has little unity of moral vision. Any unified moral vision which you attribute to the
    Bible is an illusion which depends on ignoring or downgrading the
    injunctions you do not choose to follow. Thus you confidently assure your
    readers that homosexuality is a hell-deserving sin because you’ve read it in
    the Bible, but do you concur with all the moral advice the Bible has to offer?
    If you do not agree that people should be stoned to death for disobeying their
    parents, or that it is acceptable to bore holes in the ears of your slaves, why
    do you respect a pronouncement on homosexuality simply because it’s in the
    Bible? When you write that “fortunately the Bible completes the
    information on the matter “(of homosexuality) by listing it as a sin, you
    choose that particular passage as being somehow more ultimately authoritative
    than either Moses or John. Why? That passage was likewise penned by a human
    individual, and if you elevate it into some last word on the matter, that is
    your selective preference. The Pope who denounces homosexual activities as
    sinful, basing this view on the Bible, does not himself follow all the Bible’s
    laws, so he is asking not that others follow the Bible but that that they
    follow his own selective idea of what is important in it. Why should we?

    The Pope’s
    “holistic” view of the Bible is yet another attempt to sweep its more
    embarrassing passages under the carpet, and one that, for me, fails totally.
    Verses which advocate stoning disobedient children to death or boring holes in
    slaves’ ears cannot be separated from their literal and historical meanings,
    nor can they be made more palatable by considering them within the context of
    the compendium of books in which they appear, especially when those books are
    not the product of a single viewpoint. When you compare such verses to the wise
    and compassionate injunctions attributed to Christ, they can only appear even
    more barbaric, yet the Pope would have us believe that such barbaric verses
    also “come from God” and can help “to communicate to us the
    whole truth about himself and his plan of salvation for humanity “. How
    can such verses be what he claims and do what he claims? If they are there to
    throw Christ’s compassion into relief – to make him look even more benign by
    contrast – it is worth remembering that Christ, unlike Mosaic law, is never
    represented in the Bible as disapproving of homosexual love. If you wish to
    follow Christ on matters homosexual, say nothing about it.

  • Anonymous

    The above is a duplication of my reply to Alexander’s comment below. I do not know why it is separately appearing as though it were a direct reply to the article.

  • Dcruz

    Perhaps the Pope should have a dig at Zakir Naik on Peace T. V .Bombay India who says the the bible is not the word of God, it has been changed and corrupted. He also goes to say that Jesus Christ never claimed divinity and is not God or the son of God.Naik is a muslim extremist and someone should challange him and put him in place.In fact he gets a big aplause from crowds when he has a go at the christian faith.

  • AgingPapist

    If the pope really believes what he says, he would have more scripture in every liturgy by having additional lessons added to the Mass rite, or permitted more scripture in the Novus Ordo Matins, Lauds, and Vespers.

  • DBMcGinnity

    Scripture is Not NeededThere is no further need for scripture, other than Jesus was crucified, He died and rose from the dead and ascended into heaven. He overcame death therefore, He is alive and well. According to the dogma of The Assumption by Pius XII, Mary ascended into heaven body and soul, then she is alive and well. Therefore according to Catholic Church dogma, Jesus and Mary are literally available to intervene in the worlds problems.There is nothing to prevent Jesus from descending to earth and leading all the people of the world to become an Roman Catholics under His rule as Christ the King? Jesus could be the permanent Pope, because he would never die. Jesus could fly to all places without a plane and he could travel on water without a ship, and he could visit all countries. Because he is God, according to Constantine, therefore he could stop all war and all worldly suffering, immediately. Mary could appear to people as she did at Lourdes and Fatima and instruct them to become Traditional Catholics immediately. The logical question is: if they are not on earth, then they must be somewhere else, doing something else? Where are they and what else are they doing?

  • In Our Times

    A very sensible comment. But what if it doesn’t? Those in power have already reiterated they don’t ‘have’ to do anything different at all. Candidly admitting to one’s personal & collective limitations is never easy though & this appears to be a particularly pertinent issue amongst patriarchies it has to be said.

    Surely, in some ways the odd member of the magesterium may be ‘enlightened’ within their own epoch; but in other ways they are equally & unutterably stuck & dangerously so at times. (I prefer to avoid hyperbole but it’s a truth). So it seems to me more important than ever to approach faith rationally. At this time, the hierarchy appears blinded by its self-imposed identity as universal rather than parochial & ever obsessed with evangelizing its own view of the “truth of the gospel” as “defenders of the faith” at almost any cost. How does the world know that this church WILL learn the lessons it needs to learn? The message is somewhat Imperialistic at present & merely smacks of wishing to OWN world peace. And why on Earth wouldn’t they “pray together at Assisi”? Do grow up children.

    As ‘Aging Papist’ put it on here, they may not see a need to change whilst the money is still coming in. (The God vs Mammon debate factors-in here. It’s an oldie, but goodie.) Only then may they decide it is (obliquely) Gods Will to change approach somewhat. The “Ruritanian nonsense” as you so aptly put it, can be particularly seductive, & manages to pander to all manner of prejudice, snobbery & personal aspiration. (From the ‘darkness of service to the light of recognition’ re Newman etc… An egoic motive it appears).

    And the resistance of all manner of other snobbery we can see in supposed non-partisan (partisan) publications like First Things. Amazing how people can ‘sell’ themselves…

  • Michel Roi

    Well said! We actually have more freedom to interpret passages and apply them to our individual lives than do Protestants who are so often stuck on the narrow understanding dictated by their particular tradition.

  • Michel Roi

    AJ, I get what you are saying, but remember, the pope’s infallibility is limited. Outside of the ex cathedra exercise of his teaching ministry, errors have been taught. Pope Nicholas I (#?) mistakenly taught that it was sufficient to baptize in the name of Jesus alone, yet the Church teaches it must be done in the name of the Holy Trinity (this example is St. Robert Bellarmine’s). The reigning pope at the time of the Council of Florence gave the seal of approval to its teaching that the “instruments” of priesthood had to be offered to the one being ordained for the validity of priestly orders. That teaching was recinded by Pope Pius XII in the 1950′s. And the classic case is that of the medieval pope who denied that the souls of the just have the beatific vision. People protested all over Europe and he withdrew the teaching on his deathbed. The old theological rule of thumb was that with respect to non-infallible but authoritative teaching, we rule out the probability but not the possibility of error. To withhold assent from such teaching one needs an objectively grave reason (apparent contradiction of earlier authoritative teaching, etc.). I seem to recall that both St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Robert Bellarmine allowed for resistance in these cases and in this have never been condemned by the Church.

    Many people struggle with how teachings on, for example, religious freedom, promulgated since the Council can be reconciled with what the Church taught before. When he was Cardinal Prefect of the CDF, the present Holy Father said those who were struggling with this question had a right to ask and to have this clarified. Such questions are also raised about ecumenism.

    I attend a Novus Ordo parish and am happy with it. So I’m not a “radtrad”. But I do have advanced training in theology and struggle with reconciling the “before and after” of these teachings. Both religious freedom and ecumenism represent big shifts in outlook and practice. I give the benefit of the doubt to the Church but I hope to have it made clear to me how the apparent “presto-changeo” can be justified by a logically consistent theology (which Catholicism has traditionally valued). Thinking and asking, within the parameters allowed for by great doctors of the Church, on matters that seem contradicory or unclear, need not be seen as “private judgement”.

  • Caisake

    We as Catholic followers should count us lucky from others as we believe in his word and his sacred body. His Word to nourished us and His Body and Blood to enlight us and remind us for his love for us man. The commandment has clearly stated what is to be done and what is not and a FULL STOP & UNDERLINE NO COMMAS OR QUESTION MARKS

  • AJ

    What i’m trying to say is:

    Huns Kung asserted: “argues that resistance to church doctrines that are “obviously against the Gospels” is a duty.”

    SSPX, Sede asserted: “the catholic laity has a duty to resist popes and councils if they are against Tradition and Gospels and our primary duty is to defend the Faith.”

    I wonder whose version of gospel and traditions these people are refering to? The version of “we-got-it-right-the-Councils-got-it-wrong” version?

    What does it stop a man from saying I got it right from all others?

  • AJ

    Hey, Michael I totally agree with you on all the points you mentioned however the point I’m driving at is the priciple of:

    “Vatican II was an Ecumenical Council properly convoked by the reigning Pontiff according to the accepted norms”

    An Ecumenical Council such as VatII was the highest form of Magisterial Authority of the Catholic Church (pope and Bishops with him) which every abiding catholic layman must submit and assent his religious will to this Authority. This is same Authority that ratified the the very first Council of Jerusalem (in Acts) to Council of Nicea, to Chalcedon to Trent and to the present Council of Vatican II.

    EITHER YOU ACCEPT ALL THE ECUMENICAL COUNCILS FROM THE VERY FIRST ONE- COUNCILS OF JERUSALEM , TO NICEA, CONSTANTINOPLE, CHALCEDON, TO THE PRESENT VATICAN II THAT’S GUARANTEED FREE FROM ERROR BY THE SAME HOLY SPIRIT or NONE AT ALL!… there is no room to pick the council of your choice as being Orthodox and True, either you trust the Great Promise of Jesus to His Church in ALL TRUTH OR NOT, very simple.

  • AJ

    I forgot to mention of the fact that SSPX, Sede and other RadTrads continue to attack and undermine VaticanII thus the very Authority of the Church.

    They failed miserably to distinguished between the personal sins of men (abuse of liturgy etc) from the ratified Teaching of Vat2 as true and still True regardless of the corruption of men which also doesn’t make it (Vat2) inferior, null and void.

  • Michel Roi

    Bonjour AJ! I agree with you that The Vatican II Council was a true Ecumenical Council of the Church, after all, it was presided over by two popes and attended by the world’s bishops. I think that the council used some very beautiful language that echoed the style of the ancient fathers of the Church. Pope John said that he didn’t want this council to define any doctrine but to present the doctrine already defined in a fresh, new way, that would be more easily understood by contemporary people. Unfortunately some things were phrased in such a way that they were left open to misinterpretation by those with “modernist” or “liberal” agendas. The advantage of the scholastic style of language used at many earlier councils is that it is very precise and does not easily lend itself to such misinterpretation. Nonetheless, both John XXIII and Paul VI indicated that Vatican II was to be interpreted in the light of all that had already been said and taught by the Church. When that is done, I believe that its “Catholicity” is clearly visible. I do still struggle (which is not the same as to reject) with the “how” of the development of teaching on religious freedom and ecumenism, but am hopeful Pope Benedict, who as a Cardinal was sympathetic to those struggling to understand, will have this clarified.

  • Five0iron0frenzy

    Yes you do need to take passages from their context, also the Holy Spirit will guide people into truth and a good understanding of the bible to know what it says, but certain passages that say things like “Christ died for our sins” is pretty straight forward.  You can also take passages such as Paul’s on Justification by faith alone as straight forward.  James agrees with Paul, the two would contradict if you believe that you have to work for salvation.  There are very clear passages in Romans, and especially in Romans 11:6, “And if by grace, then [is it] no more of works: otherwise grace is no
    more grace. But if [it be] of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise
    work is no more work.” and numerous others on Justification by faith and only by faith.  That passage is quite clear and looks at it from different angles.

    And badjumbly, about Christ and his view on homosexuality, when He talks about marriage, I’m pretty sure He only talks about a male and female.  He expects that marriage is between a female and male.  Like in Matthew 5:27-32, part of the Beatitudes, look at the use of His pronouns.  You can’t say “oh they can interchange,” well they can’t, if He wanted it to be more open He would have used that language but instead He knows what is right and used the proper, right pronouns. 

  • Woodrow Holbrook

    Dear badjumbly, Catholics look to the Church for our guidance. The Church produced the Bible, and, as the Bible’s “author”, the Church tells us how to understand the Bible. Also, you are committing a logical fallacy with the statement “If you wish to follow Christ on matters homosexual, say nothing about it.” as is evinced by the following:

    If you wish to follow Christ on cannibalism, say nothing about it.

    If you wish to follow Christ on the matter of turning pedophile priests over to the police, say nothing about it.

    If you wish to follow Christ on matters related to stewardship of the environment, say nothing about it.

    If you wish to follow Christ on animal abuse, say nothing about it.

  • badjumbly

    Dear Woodrow Holbrook, I do not believe that I committed a logical fallacy with that statement, but I see that I probably need to clarify what I meant by it. I was certainly NOT trying to argue that a form of behaviour should be accepted simply because no words on the matter are attributed to Christ. My intention was to point out precisely what you have in fact amplified here: that any definition of Christianity as an adherence to Christ’s teaching must take into consideration that the Christ of the Testaments is silent about many issues that provoke a great deal of moral debate in the world today. The Pope can easily point to Biblical verses when denouncing homosexual activity, but he cannot muster in support of his denunciations anything supposed to have been uttered by the man he credits with founding his religion and after whom his religion is named. In this sense, not one of the Biblical condemnations of homosexual activity is Christian in origin.

    To this you might reply “So what if Christ himself didn’t speak against it? Other Biblical sources do”. The problem there is that other Biblical sources also present us with all kinds of ancient Judaic behavioural imperatives, such as how men should trim their beards and what meats are permitted and so on, that even the Pope politely ignores. If today you followed the Bible in everything, you would become a laughing stock. A common way round this for Christians is to claim that Christ’s teachings have an authority surpassing that of the Old Testament: that his is the Bible’s ultimate moral voice. Unlike, for example, the most orthodox Jews, most Christians are content to follow their own tastes in facial hair and to eat pork, because that all belongs to Old Testament Law, is culturally specific, and doesn’t have Christs’s endorsement, which is what really matters. My point was that the ban on same-gender sex also derives from that Old Testament Law, and when Paul endorses it in the New Testament, it is not Christ’s authority that backs him up. The question I would put to any Christian who denounces same-gender sex is “Why respect an anti-gay verse if you ignore an anti-pork verse which derives from the same non-Christian source?”.

    I hope this makes my position clearer.

  • Anonymous

    When Christ talked about marriage, of course he referred to the union of men with women, because no other type of marriage was publically recognised at that time. Had he expressed support for same-gender marriages, he would have been regarded as, at best, a lunatic, and people would have stopped listening. His not referring to same-gender marriage does not indicate any disapproval of same-gender sexual acts.

  • Biju Joseph

    Many catholic stand are against Word of God.
    Who is powerful?
    Catholic church or Father God?
    Word of God as a whole and as single are true and will come true.The words of men will pass.
    As Peter the first Pope says in His second letter chapter 1:20,”first of all you must understand this,that no prophesy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation because no prophecy ever came by human will,but men and women moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”
    This is clearly written in the Bible.Catholic church or any other church is not the authority to interpret the Word of God.
    Read Is 34:16 .
    “Seek and read from the book of the Lord;Not one of these shall be missing.none shall be without its mate.
    For the mouth of the Lord has commanded and His Spirit has gathered them.
    Don’t be fooled by these liars…

  • Woodmeister_h

    Dear badjumbly, thank you for clarifying. I apologize for responding so late to you. I’ve been very busy. Too busy! “…the Christ of the Testaments is silent about many issues that provoke a great deal of moral debate in the world today.” That is true. But the community He founded is not and has not been silent on these issues. Indeed, it is Protestant thinking, not classic Christian thinking, that holds so strictly to the Bible. Since the founding of the Ancient Church, Christians have held to beliefs that were passed down from Jesus and His closest followers orally as well as in the Scriptures. Even though the Church has split on several occasions (the Armenian and Coptic Churches from the Ancient Church around 500 A.D. and the Catholic and Orthodox Communions splitting apart in the 1200s A.D. I’ll refer to these as the catholic Church [note the small "c"]), and even though there are disagreements about exactly how the Church guides, defends, and promulgates the Faith (e.g. the Roman Catholic Magisterium or the Orthodox view requiring the entire Church, both laity and clergy), all these Churches agree that the Church is guided by Christ in discerning what parts of the Old Testament Law apply in the moral sphere, and what parts don’t. The catholic Churches would define Christianity as being part of the catholic Church, which Jesus did claim in the Bible to found. The answer I would give to your question is that the entire Bible is a Christian book, which is why the catholic Church uses it; Her teaching is backed by Christ, therefore, the “anti-gay” verse is a Christian source. You claim it isn’t Christ’s authority backing up the apostle Paul, the catholic Church, which lived during Paul’s and Jesus’s time says otherwise. If it comes to a choice of believing the witness of people who were there at the time or believing modern people’s opinions on what happened back then, I’ll settle for the first-hand accounts, thank you.

  • Woodmeister_h

    P.S. I’m the same Woodrow and Woodmeister_h are the same person. Apparently I’ve posted using two different email addresses.

  • Woodmeister_h

    Weary Convert, the Church cannot state that parts of the Bible are uninspired because it is a dogma that the entire Bible is inspired. And the Church has offered many possible explanations of these bloody passages (e.g. God had to work out His plan within the context of the bloody, ancient world; death is not the same thing to God as it is to us; God, as Sovereign Lord and Creator has the right to kill; God took the innocents killed in these battles to be with Him, etc.) The Church would say to you “It is no wonder that you have difficulty with some Old Testament passages. They are types and shadows. Christ is the light. He came to reveal fully and completely what God is like. Interpret the entire Bible according to His character.”

  • Anonymous

    You claim that the entire Bible is Christian even though by far the larger part of it was written before Christ was born and contains a great deal of culturally specific behavioural instruction that Christ is never represented as endorsing. Never, even in the age of modern advertising, has one person’s image been so widely misappropriated. For me, as an atheist, the main problem with the various branches of religion which designate themselves “Christian” is how un-Christian they are. If, as you claim, “the entire Bible is a Christian book”, then it is un-Christian to eat pork. Ever eaten pork?
    There is no biblical or historical evidence that Paul’s anti-gay sentiments were shared by Christ, and the people who rule the Catholic Church today have no more knowledge in this area than the rest of us. Because Christ is silent on the issue of homosexuality, you look for guidance to Paul, who never even met Christ and could not possibly have known at first hand his opinions on the matter. Perhaps you should call yourself a Christian-Paulian-Old-Testamentian, for the sake of accuracy.
    You say you prefer to “settle for the first-hand accounts”, so I’d like to warn you that even first-hand accounts aren’t necessarily accurate, as every jurist and historian knows.

  • Woodmeister_h

    “There is no biblical or historical evidence that Paul’s anti-gay sentiments were shared by Christ,” Except for the fact that the Christian community that Christ founded affirmed that they were. I believe the testimony of the early Christian community, many of whom were alive during both Paul’s and Jesus’s lives, that what Paul taught is entirely consistent with what Jesus taught. First hand accounts do present some problems, but when you have a publicly proclaimed message heard by many, many witnesses, and when those witnesses do not disagree but have formed a community that continually recounts the message in public settings, the chances for accuracy are great. I claim the entire Bible as Christian because the Christian Church has always claimed the entire Bible. About the pork thing, you are aware, I would imagine, that those who form groups determine what behaviors or beliefs or etc. identify one as a member of that group and what behaviors or beliefs or etc. one must have/exhibit in order to be accepted into that group. From the earliest days of Christianity, Christians have eaten foods that weren’t lawful for the Jews to eat, and the gospel of Mark states that “Jesus declared all foods ‘clean’” (chap. 7, verse 19, quoting from the New International Version). I will continue to call myself a Christian, as did the Christians before me, because the same community is in existence today, and they let me become a part of it.

  • Woodmeister_h

    I want to thank you, too, for interacting with me here. One of the great frustrations I’ve experienced over the last few years is that I’ve surrounded myself with too many people that are like me theologically, politically, socially, etc. As a result, I’ve never faced challenges to my beliefs, never had to think them very far through, and never had to seriously consider how to explain them. Even doing it on this small scale was refreshing to me! (I really, really need to cultivate some friendships with atheists and agnostics, maybe even a Baptist fundamentalist!)

  • Anonymous

    Your reply seeks to solve the problem of how the word “Christianity” should be defined, but to me succeeds only in confirming how thorny the issue is. Since Christ left no writings of his own to act as a definitive testament to his thought, you are forced to define your Christianity as an allegiance to the early Christian community and to THEIR writings, which are based on what other people told them, and are full of incidents which appeal more to the imaginative part of the brain than to the rational. You are not taking into consideration, firstly, that Christ’s early followers were subject to cultural influences other than the life and example of Christ, and, secondly, that the formation even of the early Christian Church was not without dissent and schism, so that what came to be defined as its beliefs were the beliefs of the prevailing majority. Christ was not on hand to oversee the production of the New Testament or the partly political process by which the Church was transformed into a major social power, so had no direct control over the posthumous movement that took his name. To have to define what is Christian by what the majority of Christ’s followers thought, wrote and did rather than by what Christ is definitely known to have endorsed is  therefore perhaps inevitable, but that does not stop the indirectness from being problematic, even before we consider the further multiple divisions of Christianity over the centuries.

    Why is it that, although God is supposed to have an unequivocal message that He wishes everyone in the world to believe, He never seems to choose the most direct, credible, consistent and unproblematic way of delivering it? If I were writing a book to express my beliefs as clearly and persuasively as possible, I would try to avoid inconsistency, absurdity and ambiguity, but the book that God is supposed to have inspired is full of inconsistencies and absurdities and has had people arguing for centuries, and even killing each other, over issues of interpretation. To say that the truth is in the totality utterly fails to deal with the problematic details, since a falsehood cannot contribute to truth and does not become part of a truth by being included in the same volume as a true statement. Your quotation from Mark is just one minor example. If Christ declared all foods clean, and was correct, then the food prohibitions of the Old Testament are nonsense; yet by claiming the entire Bible as Christian, you cannot avoid claiming the food prohibitions as Christian too, even though Christ contradicted them and Christians don’t follow them. How can such self-contradictory thinking lead to truth?

    I would be interested to learn more about the evidence that the early Christian community affirmed that Christ expressed anti-gay sentiments, especially since none is attributed to him in the gospels. However, since the early Christian community also affirmed that Christ turned water into wine and rose from the dead, any such evidence would be unlikely to sway my own opinion.