Monday, January 23, 2017

"A sure norm for teaching the faith"

According to the late John-Paul II:

In 1986, I entrusted a commission of twelve Cardinals and Bishops, chaired by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, with the task of preparing a draft of the catechism requested by the Synod Fathers. An editorial committee of seven diocesan Bishops, experts in theology and catechesis, assisted the commission in its work. 

The commission, charged with giving directives and with overseeing the course of the work, attentively followed all the stages in editing the nine subsequent drafts. The editorial committee, for its part, assumed responsibility for writing the text, making the emendations requested by the commission and examining the observations of numerous theologians, exegetes and catechists, and above all, of the Bishops of the whole world, in order to produce a better text.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, which I approved 25 June last and the publication of which I today order by virtue of my Apostolic Authority, is a statement of the Church's faith and of catholic doctrine, attested to or illumined by Sacred Scripture, the Apostolic Tradition and the Church's Magisterium. I declare it to be a sure norm for teaching the faith and thus a valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion.

So that's a thoroughly vetted text. But it turns out that it wasn't all that reliable after all: 

The Catechism says succinctly: "Lying consists in saying what is false with the intention of deceiving one's neighbor" (no. 2508). Despite this simple statement, there is a long historical debate about the actual meaning of the term.

Catholic moral theologian Germain Grisez has observed: "Although most Catholic theologians have considered the prohibition of lying a moral absolute, there is a lesser but significant school of thought holding that lying sometimes can be justified, particularly when it is a question of lying to an enemy, who has no right to the truth, in order to protect the innocent from harm" ("The Way of the Lord Jesus,"vol. 2, Franciscan Press, 1993).

These two ways of thinking are reflected in the editorial process of the Catechism, which was revised for the book's second edition. The earlier edition (1994) stated that to lie is "to speak or act against the truth in order to lead into error someone who has a right to know the truth" (no. 2483, emphasis added). This definition, reflecting what Grisez calls the "lesser but significant school of thought," stems from the teaching of the 17th-century Protestant writer Hugo Grotius.

After the publication of the Catechism, many Catholic scholars wrote to then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) about this paragraph. They asked for rectification of the text, which had abandoned centuries of Catholic teaching by accepting the position of Grotius. Fortunately, the paragraph was revised; the 1997 edition eliminates the words "who has a right to know the truth" (see also no. 2484).

So, despite the fact that the project was overseen by the Prefect for the Faith (Cardinal Ratzinger), despite the fact that it went through ten drafts, despite the fact that Pope John-Paul pronounced it to be a "sure norm" for teaching the faith, the original paragraph on the morality of lying had to be rewritten after the Catechism was published. And not due to a typographical blunder, but because it promoted an unethical position on lying. Yet this is supposed to be the church that has a divine teaching office. The church that God protects from ethical or theological error in its official teaching. 

1 comment:

  1. I think I read somewhere that Cardinal Wiseman explained infallibility in terms of simply having the magisterium sit down and actually study the Scriptures, and form an interpretation based on normal exegetical methods, and voila! its now infallible.
    Not sure if I remember this correctly, but it stuck with me.