Wolves in Sheep's Clothing
Because of these dissenters, it is absolutely essential that Catholics arm themselves with the truth about Catholic teaching and continue to fight against the heresy and false teaching that is creeping up within our own parishes.
In my parish, you ask?
This is a difficult thing to write about but it's also necessary. Sometimes, doing what is right is not the popular thing to do and it often comes with a price to pay in one way or another. But, we've all seen how these things work. First, you allow contraception, then it's abortion for extreme cases, then it's abortion at will, which then leads to euthanasia of babies born with disabilities. You see the progression here? When we make allowances for the seemingly little things, they eventually turn into big things. Before you know it, the value of the truth of life's sanctity is being questioned all over the globe and the fight to keep things right becomes overwhelming.
It is the same way with any good vs. evil, or truth vs. falsehood. As Catholics, we have a right to attend a Mass that is done properly... a good, orthodox, and valid Mass. We have a right to experience the Sacraments the way the Church intends for us to experience them. Catholicism IS the fullness of truth! But, what happens when we allow people from within to decide what's important and what isn't? What happens when we allow those teaching others within the Church to teach things contrary to what the Church teaches? And what happens when we believe these things and carry them out to others, teaching others the wrong we've been taught? Before we know it, the fight to keep things right becomes overwhelming.
I'm not going to go so far as to say that all these people teach error knowing they're doing so. Some are just sincerely wrong. The problem comes when they believe they are above correction... when pride does not allow them to see the error they promote and their hearts are unwilling to change. Having a degree and a few letters after your name does not make you infallible or above correction. We, as humans, are always growing, always learning and always changing. I, for example, never thought in a million years I'd convert to Catholicism. Why? Because my pride did not allow me to see that Catholicism was a fuller truth than what I already knew. Once pride got out of the way, and I realized God had something to show me, I was able to really let the truth sink in.
This brings me to the point. This fall, while attending RCIA, the RCIA Director taught the class that the Bible is inspired but that it contains error. This statement troubled me because I was ALWAYS taught, and believed that the Catholic Church taught, that the Bible is inerrant. In fact, this statement bothered me for months. At first I thought, "Well, maybe she didn't mean to say it that way..." But I thought that even if she didn't mean it that way, that's how it was taught. At this point, I began to look into what the Church actually teaches about the inerrancy of Scripture. To my relief, the Church teaches that ALL of Scripture is inerrant. So, now it was just a matter of discussing it with the director.
So, we were all given evaluations to fill out at the end of the RCIA year and I decided this would be a good time to bring up my issue with the director's statement. Unlike most evaluations, we were asked to identify ourselves (but not until the end of the evaluation). How can one feel good about being honest when they're required to say who they are? Anyway, a couple of weeks later, I received a call from the DRE. She informed me that I do not understand Catholic teaching about Scripture and requested to meet with me about the issue. She emphatically stated, "There ARE errors in Scripture." I figured I should probably agree to meet with her to figure out exactly what her position was on the matter. Perhaps, I was just not understanding what she meant. But, I also decided that I had better look further into the issue and learn about the actual Catholic position regarding the inerrancy of Scripture.
Through my study, I found that the Catholic Church throughout history has ALWAYS taught that Scripture, being authored by God, is fully and entirely without error:
St. Irenaeus in Against Heresies said, "If, however, we cannot discover explanations of all those things in Scripture which are made the subject of investigation, yet let us not on that account seek after any other God besides Him who really exists. For this is the very greatest impiety. We should leave things of that nature to God Who created us, being most properly assured that the Scriptures are indeed perfect, since they were spoken by the Word of God and His Spirit."
St. Clement of Rome in Letter to the Corinthians said, "You have studied the Holy Scriptures, which are true and inspired by the Holy Spirit. You know that nothing contrary to justice or truth has been written in them."
St. Justin Martyr in Dialogue with Trypho said, "But I shall not venture to suppose or to say such a thing [that the Scriptures err]; and if a Scripture which appears to be of such a kind be brought forward, and if there be a pretext [for saying] that it is contrary [to some other] since I am entirely convinced that no Scripture contradicts another, I shall admit rather that I do not understand what is recorded, and shall strive to persuade those who imagine that the Scriptures are contradictory, to be rather of the same opinion as myself."
St. Augustine in Letters said, "[To Jerome, a. 394-395] I think it is extremely dangerous to admit that anything in the Sacred Books should be a lie... If we once admit in that supreme authority even one polite lie, there will be nothing left of those books, because, whenever anyone finds something difficult to practice or hard to believe, he will follow his most dangerous precedent and explain it as the idea or practice of a lying author."
St. Augustine to St. Jerome said, “On my own part I confess...that it is only to those books of Scripture which are now called canonical that I have learned to pay such honor and reverence as to believe most firmly that none of their writers has fallen into any error. And if in these books I meet anything which seems contrary to truth I shall not hesitate to conclude either that the text is faulty or that the translator has not expressed the meaning of the passage, or that I myself do not understand.”
I think these five quotes alone should rest my case but I want to look further because the argument being made against the inerrancy of Scripture will become a grossly obvious misinterpretation of Church documents if one can see and understand the historical position of the Church.
Providentissimus Deus by Pope Leo XIII, written in 1893:
“It is absolutely wrong and forbidden either to narrow inspiration to certain parts only of Holy Scripture or to admit that the sacred writer has erred. For the system of those who, in order to rid themselves of those difficulties, do not hesitate to concede that divine inspiration regards the things of faith and morals, and nothing beyond...this system cannot be tolerated.... It follows that those who maintain that an error is possible in any genuine passage of the sacred writings either pervert the Catholic notion of inspiration or make God the author of such error.... ...all the Fathers and Doctors [of the Church] agreed that the divine writings, as left by the [sacred authors], are free from all error, [and] they labored earnestly, with no less skill than reverence, to reconcile with each other those numerous passages which seem at variance.”
Here we are told that we cannot limit inspiration to certain parts of Scripture and we cannot say that the writer has erred or we make God the author of error.
Divino Afflante Spiritu by Pope Pius XII 1943:
“...not merely because [the books of the canon] contain revelation without error, but because, having been written under the inspiration of the Holy spirit, they have God for their author...When, subsequently, some Catholic writers, in spite of this solemn definition of Catholic doctrine, by which such divine authority is claimed for the ‘entire books with all their parts’ as to secure freedom from any error whatsoever, [when these Catholic writers] ventured to restrict the truth of Sacred Scripture solely to matters of faith and morals...Leo XIII...justly and rightly condemned these errors.... Finally, it is absolutely wrong and forbidden ‘either to narrow inspiration to certain passages of Holy Scripture, or to admit that the sacred writer has erred’.... For as the substantial Word of God [Jesus Christ] became like to men in all things, ‘except sin,’ so the words of God, expressed in human language, are made like to human speech in every respect, except error.”
Here we are told that it is WRONG to believe that inerrancy of Scripture is limited to matters of faith and morals. Apparently, some tried to make this claim and the Church, through Pope Leo XIII, condemned this belief.
Humani Generis by Pope Pius XII in 1950:
“For some go so far as to pervert the sense of the Vatican Council’s definition [this is Vatican Council I] that God is the author of Holy Scripture, and they put forward again the opinion, already often condemned, which asserts that immunity from error extends only to those parts of the Bible that treat of God or of moral and religious matters.”
Again, in 1950, we're told that it is wrong to restrict inerrancy solely to matters of morality or religion... that ALL of Scripture is inerrant.
Vatican Council II, Dei Verbum:
“Sacred Scripture is the speech of God as it is put down in writing under the breath of the Holy Spirit.... Since, therefore, all that the...sacred writers affirm should be regarded as affirmed by the Holy Spirit, we must acknowledge that the books of Scripture, firmly, faithfully and without error, teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the sacred Scriptures. Thus ‘all Scripture is inspired by God, and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness...” [2 Tim 3:16].”
So, here we have at Vatican II, the same thing happening... So, what's the problem, you ask? Well, I met with the DRE and found her position, despite her degrees and knowledge of Scripture, to be contradictory to Church teaching. Take a look at the part I made bold in the last paragraph... These 6 short words, have somehow permitted the DRE to believe, contrary to the historical teaching of the Church, that the inerrancy of Scripture is limited to matters of salvation (or faith and morals). She believes that Scripture contradicts itself and that the authors erred on matters not pertaining to faith and morals, such as science and history. She claimed that this Vatican II document CHANGED the Church's teaching on the inerrancy of Scripture. In reality, the Church NEVER changes truth and it NEVER changes it's doctrines. It may change disciplines, but it does NOT change doctrine. I believe it is CLEAR that the Catholic Church teaches that ALL of Scripture is inerrant. However, the DRE is teaching this error, based on her interpretation of Dei Verbum, not only to RCIA students, but to the older children in the parish as well.
Despite my efforts to show the DRE the Church's teaching on the matter, she refused to listen to any Church document that came prior to Vatican II. She claimed that I did not bring her a quote from ONE biblical scholar, when what I brought her was better than any biblical scholar: church documents. Scholars are not infallible. The ordinary Magisterium of the Church IS infallible. I asked the DRE to produce one magisterial document that states explicitly that Scripture contains error or that those six words should be interpreted as she's interpreting them. She could not. On the other hand, I had Church documents, the Catholic Encyclopedia, tracts from Catholic Answers and a letter from a well-known apologist, all of which are aware of this out-of-context interpretation of Dei Verbum and all of which state emphatically that ALL of Scripture is inerrant.
Can you imagine all of these children and adults being taught to believe this and spreading this lie as true Catholic teaching? Can you imagine the damage this can cause to believe that God permitted error on the part of the authors in writing His Sacred Word? We cannot allow people to teach this. It must be stopped... and we must pay attention to what those in leadership positions are teaching in our parishes. We must ensure that the Catholic faith is being properly taught. There is NO room for error on this matter.
I will not go so far as to say that the DRE is purposely trying to deceive people. I believe she is teaching what she truly believes to be Church teaching. I believe, if she could look at the evidence fairly, she would stop teaching this. But I believe she is ignoring all the evidence. I believe she does not understand that the Bible is not to be read literally throughout and that what she sees as contradictions are simply a lack of understanding of the author's intent or of the spiritual nature of what is on the page. Regardless of her degrees and credentials, she is simply wrong on this matter. The Bible is not a history or science book. In addition, we are always developing new understandings of Scripture. Our lack of understanding cannot be reduced to passing it off as error.
This whole ordeal has been difficult for me. I have a lot of respect for the DRE and I don't want to be in conflict with anyone. But, as a Catholic, it is my responsibility to demand that truth be taught in the parish, especially to children. If I just let this slide, who knows what kind of heresy this could snowball into? Sadly, there are many who share her position. There ARE scholars who believe and teach as she does. But it is a direct contradiction of Church teaching and it cannot continue. Dissident biblical scholars pose a huge danger to the faith and regardless of the prestige of the scholar, we must always be looking out for false teachings. Some scholars are bold in their attempts to promote their false viewpoints, giving themselves a nihil obstat, which officially declares their work as free from doctrinal or moral error. Raymond E. Brown, S.S., Joseph A. Fitzmeyer, S.J., and Roland E. Murphy, O.Carm, did just that in their widely used New Jerome Biblical Commentary (Catholic Answers, Beginning Apologetics 7:How to Read the Bible, page 33). In fact, these scholars are guilty of promoting the very interpretation of Dei Verbum that the DRE holds. I only wonder if these were the scholars she wanted me to quote that permitted her to dismiss me because I failed to do so.
Unfortunately, I was unable to convince the DRE of the Church's teaching on the inerrancy of Scripture. May the Lord grant her the grace to change her opinion and may He protect the ears of any who may hear her teach this in the future.
For anyone wishing to read about the "so-called" errors in the Bible, try to find a copy of John W. Haley's Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible (New Kensington, PA: Whitaker House, 1992).
In the meantime, keep a watchful eye for those dissenting against Church teaching and don't just sit back and let it happen. Speak up until it stops! You ARE the Church! You and your children have a right to hear the truth!
The Code of Canon Law states:
Canon 217: Since they are called by baptism to lead a life in keeping with the teaching of the gospel, the Christian faithful have the right to a Christian education by which they are to be instructed properly to strive for the maturity of the human person and at the same time to know and live the mystery of salvation. (emphasis mine)
Canon 229 (paragraph 1): Lay persons are bound by the obligation and posses the right to acquire knowledge of Christian doctrine appropriate to the capacity and condition of each in order for them to be able to live according to this doctrine, announce it themselves, defend it if necessary, and take their part in exercising the apostolate. (emphasis mine)