Friday, September 14, 2012

A response to “Fr Bryan” on “adding to” the Word of God

I had an interesting exchange on what became the remnants of the comment thread, Response to Jason Stellman Part 1.

A young priest, who hangs out at Called to Communion and goes by the handle” Fr Bryan”, had explained to Paige, one of the moderators, “how I describe it when I teach on such matters”, in response to a comment she made to the effect that the Magisterium “both interpret[s] and add[s] to the biblical text.”

Fr Bryan said [and we are told to listen to our priests when they teach such things]:

Here is how I describe it when I teach on such matters. I will say that revelation (The Word of God) is God’s perfect self communication. It is God speaking to us perfectly. However, perfect speaking is worthless if the listener is hard of hearing, which we are. In order for us to hear the word of God perfectly God needs to repair our hearing, which I’m sure you’ll agree with.

At this point, I’ll simply say that God, having created us, is certainly aware of our limitations, and is more than able, as Calvin said, to accommodate our limitations, without the help of an evil and oppressive “infallible interpreter”. In fact, one might say that “God speaking to us perfectly” is all that needs be said. For the “perfection” of God’s speech is “perfect” for our understanding.

He continues:

However the difference between Catholics and Protestants is not that God has opened the ears of the Church to hear the word of God but how he has done this. As a Catholic, I believe that he has used the system of leadership he himself set up to do this and that this system of leadership involves the Apostles and their successors.

Through this lens, the documents of Vatican II (or any official magisterial teaching) can be seen as the Fruit of the Church pondering the word of God in her heart and hearing the voice of God accurately and responding to the Holy Spirit’s invitation to proclaim the truth of the Gospel to the World in which we live.

Now, you likely reject this, but I hope it at least clarifies the difference between Scripture and Magisterial teaching as Catholics understand it.

I do reject it. Consider the phrase, “the Church pondering the word of God in her heart”. We are talking not about a person with a mind – we are talking about a collective of celibate men, many of whom are evil beyond the comprehension of most common people, and it is these men, in their collective deliberations, for which the phrase “the Church pondering the word of God in her heart” describes.

This is a church that we know ponders other, much more sinister things in its heart. For example, it was Good Pope John, pope of the Vatican II council, who signed the document that perpetuated a 1922 policy of secrecy which extends back through time, going back centuries of hiding and protecting sexual offenders.

Canon Law itself mandates the policy of maintaining secret archives on these cases which led to the kinds of shady dealings that frustrated a Philadelphia Grand Jury, for example.

There is no inclination to just simply be truthful. Jesus had a word for phenomena like this: “You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” He also said, a bad tree cannot bear good fruit

I offered this explanation to Paige:

Paige: it’s important to keep in mind that “Tradition” (capital “T”) is not the same as “tradition” (lower-case “t”)

“Tradition” and Scripture and Magisterium are all, on the surface, placed at the same level. But “Tradition” and Scripture are both “divinely inspired”, and further, “Tradition”, not being “tradition”, is really just some form of Magisterial pronouncement. For example, it’s a tradition that there’s a procession of priest and altar servers going into the Mass. They’ve been doing that from Pagan times (picked up a pagan practice and then continued to do it year after year).

However, it’s “Tradition” that Mary was conceived immaculately, and that she was assumed into Heaven. But it’s not “Tradition” because it was “tradition” (and bad “tradition” to begin with — the origins of both are spurious). These are “Tradition” because of pronouncements made in 1854 and 1950.

So, while the “divine revelation” that you and I would recognize as Scripture has ceased, the body of “divinely-inspired” materials can and does in practice continue to grow as the “system of authority” continues to make pronouncements that are considered “Tradition”.

So when you say “add to”, you are, essentially, correct.

Fr Bryan has not so far commented on this further.

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