1. Canon George D. Smith, The Teaching of the Catholic Church, N.Y.: MacMillan, 1949. Yves Congar tells us 'this expression, 'two sources of Revelation', was rejected by a nearly two thirds majority at the Second Vatican Council. This decision is of considerable importance for the future of the dialogue recently reopened on this question between the Protestants and ourselves. As a well informed commentator noted on this subject: 'With this vote of November 20th (1962), it may be said that the period of the Counter-Reformation is at an end, and that Christianity is entering a new era whose consequences are as yet unpredictable.'' The Meaning of Tradition, The Twentieth Century Encyclopedia of Catholicism, N.Y.: Hawthorn, 1964. Hardly unpredictable!
2. Ad. Tanquerey, A Manual of Dogmatic Theology, N.Y.: Desclee, 1959. It has been argued by some that Tradition is a 'post-Tridentine' phenomenon. Listen to the words of St. Epiphanus (circa 370): 'We must also call in the aid of tradition, for it is impossible to find everything ins Scripture; for the holy Apostles delivered to us some things in writing and others by Tradition' (Adv. Haeres). St. Basil similarly speaks of dogmas being found - 'some in doctrinal writings, others handed down from the Apostles... both of which have the same religious force' (De S. Sanc.).
3. 'But there are also many other things which Jesus did; which if they were written every one, the world itself, I think, would not be able to contain the books that should be written.' (John, 21:25).
4. Cardinal Henry Manning, The Temporal Mission of the Holy Ghost, London: Burns,Oates, 1909. Indeed, Joseph Wilhelm and Thomas Scannell point out in their Manual of Catholic Theology (Kegan Paul: London, 1910) that 'the reading of the Bible is not necessary for salvation, or even advisable for everyone under all circumstances.' The fact that the Revelation of Christianity was given intact prior to the writing of the Scriptures makes the Protestant rule of faith - 'sola Scriptura' - absurd.
5. Exposition of Christian Doctrine, op. cit.
6. Contra ep. fundament., c. 5: prior to 379 a variety of texts were read during Mass, including some which were not written by the Apostles. The Council fathers decided which texts were spurious and which were authentic. There were for example, 13 Epistles of St. Paul. This council drew up the 'canon' of the New Testament, and their decision was confirmed by the Holy See. The Church has with great care preserved this body of writing intact and has never admitted any changes. She has moreover renewed her anathema against all who should deny or dispute this collection at the Council of Florence, the Council of Trent and Vatican I. (Rev. Henry Graham, Where We Got the Bible, N.U.: Herder, 1911).
7. Witness to the importance of this principle are the almost countless English translations of the Scriptures currently available. Many different translations are approved by the post-Conciliar Church.
8. cf. Catalogue of Bibles in the Caxton Exhibition at South Kensington in London in 1877. The subject of Luther's translation is discussed in Father O'Hare's 'The Facts About Luther', N.Y Pusket, 1916. There were nine German editions available before Luther started his translation, and 27 in print before Luther's was published. In Italy there were 40 editions in the Vernacular before the first Italian Protestant version saw the light. These editions were authorized by the Church. In considering these issues one should remember that the printing press had just been invented.
9. Rev. Henry G. Graham, Where We got the Bible, N.Y.: Herder, 1911. Anglo-Saxon translations obviously pre-dated Wycliffe. And why not if King Alfred saw fit to translate such texts as Boethius's Consolation of Philosophy for his subjects.
10. Rev. (later Cardinal) F. A. Gasquet, The Old English Bible, London: John Nimmo, 1847. He also calls attention to the Anglo-Saxon translations that predated Wycliffe
11. Hilaire Belloc, Cranmer, Phil: Lippencot, 1931. W. Walker, an individual hardly friendly to the Church, calls Luther's translation 'very free... judged by modern canons of accuracy' (The Reformation). Zwingli was even more critical: 'Thou corruptist O Luther, the Word of God. How much we are ashamed of thee whom we had once so much respected.' De Sacramentis, Vol. II, quoted by Galitzin in Galitzin's Letters, Loretto, Penn: The Angelmodde Press, 1940.
12. Thomas J. Ward, Esq., Errata of the Protestant Bible, Sadler: Boston, 1841 (many editions). The quote from Luther is obtained in Bakewell Morrison, S.J., The Catholic Church and the Modern Mind, N.Y.: Bruce, 1933.
13. 'The reading of Holy Scripture is permitted to Catholics, and is very profitable to them; but the text used by them must have been authorized by the Pope, and must be provided with explanatory notes.' Rev Francis Spirago, The Cathechism Explained, N.Y.: Benzinger, 1899. The Church has always encouraged the study of Scripture. 'This fancy', says St. Chrysostome, 'that only monks should read the Scriptures is a pest that corrupts all things; for the fact is that such reading is more necessary for you [the laity] than it is for them' (In Matt. Hom. ii). The Church however also taught: 'let the reader beware how he makes the Scriptures bend to his sense, instead of making his sense bend to Scripture' (Regula cujusdem Patris, ap. Luc. Hols. Cod. Reg.
14. Mistranslations are nothing other than the application of private judgement to the sacred writings.
15. Summa, II-II, Q. ll, On Heresy.
16. Available through TAN, Rockford III. This translation was for centuries the Catholic standard. It remains such to this day.
17. The Remnant, Dec. 17., 1981. Space does not allow us to review or even list innumerable other translations being used by post-Conciliar Catholics. Mention should however be made of the translation by Msgr. Reginald Knox whose many defects are exposed in a publication available from Britain's Catholic Library, P.O. Box 554, London, W8 6RS, England.
18. Similar distortions are to be found in the Sacraments. Thus for example the Latin Presbyter, normally translated as ' priest' is translated as 'presbyter' in the 'Form' of the post-Conciliar Ordination rite. A 'presbyter' is, according to the Oxford English dictionary, 'a non-sacrificing priest'. The issue is discussed at some length in my article Once a Presbyter, Always a Presbyter, The Roman Catholic, (Oyster Bay, N.Y., Aug. 1983).
19. I am grateful to Roslie Cowles for pointing this out. The Remnant, Oct. 15, 1983.
20. St. Thomas More, A Dialogue Concerning Heresies and Matters of Religion, New Haven: Yale, 1982. Also quoted in W. E. Cambell's Erasmus, Tyndale and More, Milwaukee: Bruce, 1978. The commentary in this paragraph is essentially that of Professor Cambell.
21. It is to be admitted that St. Paul uses the passive form in at least one place. The defect in the new translations lies not in saying Christ was raised, but in suppressing the texts that say He rose by His own power. For He was as much raised by His own power as by the Father with whom He is one Person. Many other examples could be given such as 'He groaned in the spirit and troubled Himself' (John 11:33) by 'He shuddered with the emotions that flared up within Him' - the latter clearly suggesting that Christ was not in control of his passionate nature.
22. One finds the phrase 'favored' in the Authorized King James Version and in the Gideon Bible. I suppose we should be grateful that it wasn't translated 'Hi ya babe!
CHAPTER III, part 2
Exegesis is the explanation of the meaning of Scripture. As alluded to above, heretics not only mistranslate Scripture, they also misinterpret it, distorting its meaning so as to make it reflect their own private opinions. In an earlier age Catholic exegetes followed traditional patterns and a text published by an identified Catholic author (usually carrying a Nihil Obstat) guaranteed its authenticity(23). Prior to Vatican II authorized translations of the Bible carried annotated explanations of obtuse passages, such being required by canon law. Today Catholic authors frequently fail to identify themselves as such (it would be unecumenical) and priests allow themselves to be illustrated on book covers dressed as laymen (what we think of a surgeon who dressed like a garbage collector for the book cover of a medical text?) Moreover, when the Nihil Obstat is used, it guarantees absolutely nothing in terms of orthodoxy and functions only to seduce the unwary faithful(24). Official translations of Scripture are still required to have annotated commentaries of obscure passages, but these modern annotations are inspired by the same ecumenism as are the translations themselves.
'Traditions are necessary', says St. Alphonsus Liguori, 'that the Church may determine the true sense of the passages of Scripture.' Clear cut norms are available for the use of exegetes. Above all, these are the Fathers such as Sts. Augustine, Chrysostome and Jerome. Whenever they explain a given passage of Scripture pertaining to the teaching of faith and morals in a similar way, they have supreme authority (Ds. 1945). In addition, apart from the writings of the Church Fathers, there are excellent commentaries available. St. Thomas Aquinas's Catanea Aurea or 'Golden Chain' (translated into English in the 1850's - (strangely using the King James version of Scripture) provides a consensus of what the saints and fathers said on all the pertinent passages of the Gospels. Further, he has left us commentaries on the Epistles of St Paul. Another famous compilation is that of the 18th century Jesuit Father Cornelius Lapide running to some 35 large folio volumes. Unfortunately, only the commentary on the Psalms (that of St. Cardinal Bellarmine) and the New Testament are available in English(25). No one claims that these authors have exhausted every interpretive possibility, for as the ancient Jews taught, Scripture is like an anvil - when struck with a hammer, a thousand sparks fly forth(26). Clearly any given passage can have multiple meanings, but new insights, if such are developed, should fall within a traditional framework and be consistent with the entire corpus of the Church's teaching. Certainly, no amount of 'modern' or 'scientific' insight can contradict Church doctrines if for no other reason than that Science is of a lower order of knowledge than Revelation.
The Church has traditionally taught that Scriptural passages can be understood on four levels. To quote Dante's Convivio 'the first is called the literal and it extends no farther then the letter as it stands; the second is called allegorical (some use the term typical), and is the one that hides itself under the mantle of these tales... The third sense is called moral... [and] the fourth sense is called the anagogical (some say mystical) which is to say, 'above the sense'; and this is when Scripture is spiritually expounded.
Such is no longer the case. Modern Catholic Scripture scholars, following in the footsteps of Protestant exegetes, neglect these venerable sources and principles, and would replace the understanding of the sacred with what they call 'higher' and 'lower' criticism - philology, historical criticism, psychological interpretations, to say nothing of merely socio-economic and political expositions - reducing the Bible to the level of modern profane literature. It is on the basis of such a 'scientific' approach that individuals like Father Brown have the audacity to attack the Virgin Birth, Christ's Miracles, the Resurrection and a host of other doctrines. Those who do not accept these methods and conclusions are labeled 'Fundamentalists'(27).
Traditional Catholics would do well to be familiar with the jargon and methodology of these wolves. The term 'fundamentalist' was originally coined by the Modernists to describe, not those who insisted on limiting our understanding to the merely literal, but rather to describe those who wished to profess and defend the 'fundamentals' of the Catholic faith. As Stephen Clark tells us, it is used 1) to identify the early enemies of Modernism; 2) to describe the conservative interpreters of Scripture, and 3) as a term of abuse for those considered more conservative than oneself(28). As Father George Kelly notes, 'the Catholic Church of Pius X would be considered fundamentalist on all three counts'(29).
According to the canons of 'modern criticism', Scriptural Revelation can only be understood by a study of the original intent of the authors and this in turn can only be ascertained by a study of the context or circumstances in which they wrote - as if the contents of the Bible can be encased in the relativity of history. Such of course conflicted with the principle that the authors of these texts wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, so revised concepts of inspiration had to be developed. Rather than truths handed down in immutable form, these pseudo-savants hold that the Scriptures relate the experience of the Apostles - their reactions to 'inspirations' related in the idiom of their age. If such is the case, Scriptural passages can be seen as illustrations of God's action or influence on the men of that age rather than as the immutable Word of God and the unique communication of God's truth to mankind. As a result, the Bible becomes a record of the evolving religious consciousness of the human race. Needless to say, the modern exegete sees his function as reinterpreting this experience in such a manner as to make it applicable to the man 'of our times'. As The Cambridge History of the Bible puts it, this process 'makes man the judge of revelation; Man becomes the Lord of Scriptures.'
It was Luther who first distinguished between the critical study of the text (lower criticism) and the critical study of the context (higher criticism). The critical movement sharpened in the 18th Century, and developed most radically in the 19th. All this has culminated in the work of individuals like Rudolf Bultmann(30). His extreme historical scepticism, which showed in his work in the 1920s, subsequently developed into an insistence of the need to demythologize the whole New Testament. He argues that it is not only particular narratives and incidents (e.g. the Virgin Birth, the Ascension) which embody mythological elements, but that the entire Gospel accounts are based on a mythical conception of the universe (e.g., a three-storied heaven, earth, and hell) which cannot be accepted. Stripped of all such myths, the New Testament will disclose, according to him, its real meaning. He separates history from faith and makes of the latter an existentialist decision: Christianity [his Christianity] is true, whether it happened or not. Bultmann has been the driving force in New Testament studies since that time, not only in Germany, but throughout the entire world. He is one of the darlings and heroes of the modern Catholic exegete.
'Lower' or 'textual' criticism is used to 'study' and attack the accuracy and historical validity of Scriptural texts under the guise of establishing the original text of the biblical documents. The Latin Vulgate of St. Jerome looses its authority and Scripture is looked on as a piece of literature open to the kind of textual analysis given to the works of Virgil or Homer. Now, clearly there is a place for such studies - Sts. Augustine and Jerome both engaged in it. However their efforts were constructive, and despite mountains of effort, little of value has been added to their conclusions. The modernist uses this methodology however, not to demonstrate the consistency of his material, not to penetrate deeper into truth, but to attack the traditional teachings of the Church. An excellent example of this is the patently false contention that there was no word for 'all' in Aramaic, and hence that when our Lord said 'many' he really meant 'all'. (To demonstrate the absurdity of this contention one has but to change all the 'manys' in Scripture to 'alls'.) We see the effects of this in the mistranslations of the consecratory formula used in the Novus Ordo Missae, the rite used in the post-Conciliar Church to replace the traditional Mass.
An example of 'historical criticism' are the conclusions drawn regarding Melchisedech who is mentioned in the traditional Roman Canon of the Mass after the Consecration (God is asked to accept the Sacrifice of the priest, as he accepted the sacrifice of Able, that of Abraham, and that of Melchisedech -sanctum sacrificium, immaculatem hostiam. His name has been deleted from the Novus Ordo Missae. According to an explanatory footnote in the approved Anchor Bible, Melchisedech is thought to have been a king of Jerusalem in the Middle Bronze Age and a priest of the pagan god el Elyon. The New American Bible calls him a 'Canaanite priest' rather than an Israelite.) He brings out offerings and invokes his god, while Abraham, no doubt in a spirit of ecumenical dialogue, gives him a tithe of everything. Te reader is thus led to think that the Church prays (or prayed) in her most solemn rite that God would accept the sacrifice of Christ as he accepted the ministrations of a pagan hierodule, and that the Hebrew patriarch apparently recognizes the spiritual authority of a non-Israelite. He is further led to believe that in the post-Conciliar ordination rite, the presbyter is ordained according to the Order of the pagan Melchisedech. What the reader is not told in these various footnotes is that in Psalm 109 David is addressed as 'a priest forever after the order of Melchisedech,' and that the 'historical' Melchisedech of the commentator is a reconstruction based on pure conjecture - all the more so in that this mysterious individual had neither father nor mother. In the chapter on the nature of the traditional Mass it will become clear that the 'perpetual Sacrifice' is one of which Melchisedech represented a type.
Another aspect of historical criticism is the attempt to show that the Bible is a reworking of earlier 'creation myths' such as the Caldean or the Indian. No thought is given to the fact that we all derive from Adam (a de fide statement), and that other ancient peoples may have derived from him certain insights into the Creation of the world - what traditional exegetes have referred to as the remnant of some primordial revelation. And all this is to say nothing of the various attempts to explain away the miracles of the Old Testament as natural phenomena incompletely understood by those not as highly evolved as ourselves, or the attempt to show that Genesis is really two books, or that Moses could not have been the author of he first five books of the Bible (31).
Even more devastating is 'higher' criticism. This in turn is subdivided into: 1) 'Form criticism' which supposedly studies the literary form the author used to convey his meaning - is it poetry, fable, drama or history. Now of course Scripture is all of these things, but not in the sense that the modern understands them. To reduce the Sacrifice of the Cross to mere history is to deprive it of all metaphysical impact; to see the Canticle of Canticles as mere poetry is to place it on a level with the writings of Longfellow and Robert Burns, cute and pleasing, but void of intellectual content. (In his general Audiences of May 1984 John Paul II actually discussed the 'body language' of the Song of Songs!) 2) 'Redaction criticism' which attempts to delineate and reassemble the original source material that the New Testament author used in fashioning his particular Gospel or Epistle - asking such questions as what needs and purposes led the authors to write as they did, and where the original sources of their material lay. As a result of these techniques - essentially conjectural in nature - Scripture is divorced from the rest of tradition so necessary to its proper understanding, and is reduced to a collection of poetic myths, often borrowed from pagan sources. Individuals like Father Brown - their name is legion - have the impudence to raise such questions as: Was Jesus really conceived by the Holy Ghost or was he conceived by sexual intercourse? Are the stories on which the Church's understanding of Mary's conception of Jesus really true? Are they based on historical fact or are they legends drafted after the 'resurrection' to enhance Jesus' importance in the early Christian community? (...)
Conservative defenders of the post-Conciliar church will immediately claim that Father Brown, Hans Kung, Schillenbecxs and individuals of similar ilk - individuals in full communion with the post-Conciliar Church - are 'abuses' that do not represent real Catholicism. They are of course correct in this - they are indeed abuses that do not represent the true Church. But what is one to say when for example these individuals are given the full support of the hierarchy and are given free reign to spread their errors in post-Conciliar seminaries and priestly 'Renewal Programs'. Father Brown, despite innumerable complaints on the part of the Catholic laity, is repeatedly defended by such eminent post-Conciliar 'bishops' as James Rausch (General Secretary of the U.S. Catholic Conference), Archbishop Whealon of Hartford, Cardinal Humberto Medeiros of Boston and Cardinal Timothy Manning of Los Angeles - all men with the reputation of acting to restore the traditional Church. Despite all the talk of a 'return to orthodoxy' none of the post-Conciliar 'popes' has taken any effective action against these 'creeps'. It is an old story. These wolves who would, to use a phrase of St. Gregory of Nyssa, 'break the bones of Scripture' are given full freedom to attack the sheep - the shepherds, if not actively encouraging the resulting devastation, stand idly by 'like dogs who cannot bark'(32).
It is impossible to understand how anyone with a love of Scripture and Holy Mother Church can tolerate such abuse or ignore the terrible course pronounced against those who add to, detract from, or pervert the holy words of Scripture (Apoc. 22: 18-19). St. Augustine instructs us that 'heresy is derived from the Greek word for election, because each person chooses for himself that doctrine which he likes best. Wherefore, whosoever understands the Scriptures contrary to the sense of the Holy Ghost, by whom they were written, can, though he secedes not from the Church, be called a heretic.' He further tells the story of an African bishop who in preaching to his subjects desired to substitute for a single word of the Gospel, another which seemed to him more appropriate. The people revolted. Affairs came to such a pass that the bishop was obliged to retract what he had said, and to restore the ancient word, failing which the people would have abandoned him(33). Surely this provides an example for our times.
In the face of all this sloppy ecumenical compromise - the phrase is gentle, for in an earlier age it would have correctly been described as depraved innovation and heresy - on the part of the post-Conciliar hierarchy, one wonders just how they understand and explain away the instruction of St. Paul: 'Hold the form of sound words which thou hast heard of me in faith and in love, which is in Christ Jesus...' (2 Tim. 1:13) (34)
But our study carries us beyond the issues of Scripture. The Bible is by no means the only channel through which Tradition is preserved and handed down. Other organs of the Magisterium also sub-serve this function - above all the Liturgy (the traditional Mass, the Breviary, the Sacramental rites and traditional prayers), the Councils, the writings of the sub-Apostolic fathers and the historical documents of the Church. It is these 'traditions' of the Church, as much as Scripture, which function to preserve the original deposit. St. Francis de Sales tells us that 'the orthodox fathers received and honor with an equal affectionate piety and reverence, all the books as well of the Old Testament as the New, since the one God is the author of both, and also these Traditions, which as it were, were orally dictated by Christ or the Holy Ghost and preserved in the Catholic Church by perpetual succession.' He further states that 'the Scripture is the Gospel, but it is not the whole Gospel, for traditions form the other part... He then who shall teach against what the Apostles have taught, let him be accursed; but the Apostles have taught by writing and by Tradition, and the whole is the Gospel.' Hence it follows that, as St. John of Damascus said, 'he who believeth not according to the Tradition of the Catholic Church... is an unbeliever', and St. Augustine says, 'it is madness to quit the traditions of the church.' How could these saints say otherwise when the Apostle himself instructs us: 'Stand fast, and hold the traditions which you have learned, whether by word or by our epistle...' (2 Thes. 2:14).
It is the nature of Tradition that we shall discuss in the next chapter.