Papist Bryan Cross has a shtick about "interpretive authority." Without the papacy, we sadly lack the "interpretive authority" to rightly interpret Scripture.
Of course, that’s an old chestnut, and Protestant apologists have hammered it mercilessly by making the elementary observation that it only pushes the question back a step. By what “interpretive authority” does one interpret the “authoritative interpretations” of the pope?
Now Called to Communion has done us the unwitting service of illustrating that very conundrum. Benedict XVI was recently quoted as making some controversial remarks about the use of condoms.
Tim Troutman did a post in which he offered the first clarification of the pope really meant:
“Dr. Janet Smith has written an excellent rebuttal to the irresponsible treatment of this story by the media.”
But her clarification was insufficiently clarificatory, for we find, on comment #4, that “Academic Editor” Bryan Cross offers the second clarification of what the pope really really meant:
“In addition to Janet Smith’s article, Jimmy Akin has posted a helpful clarification here.”
Yet this additional clarification was insufficiently clarificatory, for that’s actually the first of five different clarifications (and counting) which Akin has issued:
November 23, 2010 BY JIMMY AKIN
New Developments on the Pope and Condoms
November 23, 2010 BY JOHN BURGER
Cardinal Burke: What the Pope Really Meant
Freshly minted Cardinal Raymond Burke discusses the controversy regarding 'Light of the World,' and what it’s like to work in Ratzinger’s Rome.
November 21, 2010 BY JIMMY AKIN
Understanding the Pope's Dilemma on Condoms
November 21, 2010 BY EDWARD PENTIN
Vatican Clarification on AIDS and Condoms
November 20, 2010 BY JIMMY AKIN
The Pope Said WHAT about Condoms???
Moreover, Akin’s clarification doesn’t seem to be all that helpful, for Bryan’s remark is follow by a series of comments in which Joe Palmer and Nathan B. present conflicting interpretations of what the pope really honest-to-goodness meant.
Then on comment #26, “Blog Editor” Sean Patrick offers the third clarification (not counting Akin’s five clarifications) of what the pope really really really meant:
it “appears to be an official response to the comment” by “Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman.”
Yet this “official clarification” doesn’t clarify the pope’s comment to the satisfaction of mateo, Johannes, K. Doran, Ray Stamper, Tim Troutman, and Nathan B., who continue to present conflicting interpretations of what the pope really and truly meant until Michael Liccione pipes in on comment #37.
However, that doesn’t resolve the issue the satisfaction of all parties concerned, for Johannes, mateo, Ray Stamper, David Pell, Paul Rodde, K. Doran, Tim Troutman, Nathan B., and GNW, continue to present conflicting interpretations of what the pope really for real meant until comment #91, when Bryan Cross offers a fourth clarification of what the pope really really really really meant:
“Fr. Fessio’s ‘Did the Pope ‘justify’ condom use in some circumstances?” is helpful.”
Okay, so what are some of the “helpful” observations that he makes? Well, among other things, he says,
“It is important to note that there are two very serious mistranslations in the Italian version of the Pope’s remarks, upon which many early reports were based, since the embargo was broken by the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano. (That’s another story.) First, the German speak of “ein Prostituierter”, which can only be a male prostitute. The normal German word for prostitute is “ [eine] Prostituierte”, which is feminine and refers only to a woman. The Italian translation “una prostituta” simply reverses what the Pope says.”
And how does that square with the “official clarification” which Sean highlighted on comment #26? Among other things, Fr. Lombardi said:
"I asked the pope personally if there was a serious or important problem in the choice of the masculine gender rather than the feminine, and he said no, that is, the main point ... is the first step of responsibility in taking into account the risk to the life of another person with whom one has relations," Father Lombardi said.” Whether a man or a woman or a transsexual does this, we're at the same point.”
But in that event, Fr. Fessio’s “helpful” distinction between callboys and callgirls is moot.
Anyway, Fr. Fessio’s helpful clarification doesn’t seem to be all that helpful, for Jae, mateo, Tim Troutman, Nathan B., and GNW continue to present conflicting interpretations of what the pope meant to mean to intend to say until comment #102, when Bryan Cross offers a fifth clarification of what (take a deep breath) the pope really really really really really meant:
“Steven Long of Ave Maria University has a helpful article on this subject titled “Remarks of Benedict XVI Regarding Condoms.”
So what does his “helpful” article say? Well, among other things he says,
“Further, his [the pope’s] words appear far better than Lombardi's explanation of them, which tries to render the entire matter a function of moral theology, whereas part of the Holy Father's treatment is simply and purely epistemic, something that the media probably will never be able to grasp… Lombardi then goes on to speak of "numerous moral theologians and authoritative ecclesiastical figures" who "have maintained and still maintain similar positions". He is, in other words, reading the Holy Father as providing a casuistry of an exceptional case, and then pointing toward unnamed but authoritative figures whose ineffable nimbus of authority seconds the papal motion. This seems to me neither close to the meaning of what the Holy Father actually wrote, nor in the least helpful.”
So Long’s “helpful” clarification contradicts the “official clarification” (of the Vatican spokesman, Fr. Lombardi) touted by Sean Patrick.
And that’s as of tonight. So we have a scene of musical popery, where various interpreters continually vie with each other to gloss the true blue meaning of the pope’s statement.
It’s comforting to know that in a world hopelessly lost in moral confusion, the papacy is a beacon in the darkness.