Liberal interpretation of the Bible in the Catholic Church

 

Anonymous asked this question on 4/10/2002:

Hi Father,

I was born and raised Catholic and attended Catholic school for 8 years. I left the church, and my faith for that matter, for about 15 years.

Nearly 6 years ago my wife and I had a handicapped child that nearly died within her first few weeks of life.

I prayed the Rosary constantly, I mean like 10 hours a day, and she got better and was able to come home. Obviously she's still handicapped though.

Since then I've been studying the Bible intently, attending mass again with my wife and kids, reading other books about the Bible, and have listened to literally thousands of hours of Christian radio.

In the last few months my pastor has been saying some things that disturb me. He said that Jonah did not get Nineveh to repent; he said that when the Bible talks about angels it doesn't mean angels like we think, but rather simply human beings that were used as messengers; and on Easter he announced that the gospels are not biographies of Christ, but rather stories meant to convey what Jesus was like, and that all the crowds that are mentioned throughout the gospels were inflated, that no one was there for Jesus' trial before Pilate or at the cross as He hung.

I started reading a book by a Fr. Lukefahr called Catholic View of the Bible. I'm even more upset.

He's saying Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Joseph, Moses, Ester, etc. are all fictionalized accounts that are full of fables.

I can't reconcile that. The gospels give genealogies including these 'fictitious' people!!!

The book says that all of the OT was written from 550BC to the present, and that it is inspired by God, but written by men who used their own views of God in the writing. For example, when God commanded Abraham to slay Isaac, that would never happen because that would mean that God spoke to man. Also, when God told kings to slay every one of the enemies - man, woman, and child - that can't be correct because Jesus never said to kill your enemies.

I'm so upset by all of this that the thought of leaving Catholicism is very real to me right now.

I can still receive communion annually as required and when needed correct?

I'm considering joining the Baptist church.

I can't see how these priests can tell me that they're going to pick what's real, what fiction, even within the same book of the Bible, OT or new!!!!

What next, maybe they'll say Christ didn't really die on the cross; it's just an extreme example showing us how we have to die to sin and self!!!

I don't want to talk to my pastor about it because he obviously holds these wacky views.

It is just him and this other priest/author, or does Rome really consider the Bible to be iffy?

You know, in the book it even said that evolution is ok as long as you give God credit for the initial design!!!! Where does that leave us as being created in God's image?

Please please help me on this Father.

Thanks.

 

Answer

Dear brother in Christ.

The joy of the risen Lord be in your heart.

So sorry to hear about your plight. It is true; there is in the Catholic Church a liberal interpretation-streak. God help us! I remember assisting Mass on Epiphany-day and the priest spent the whole sermon talking about if there were three or four wise men and if they were kings or not en lieu de comment the message that this day is when God revealed His Son to the Nations while Herode and Jerusalem where preoccupied with the succession of the throne.

One priest and a book are not the Catholic Church! You will understand that I cannot comment on the items you cite because I would have to have the whole text in order to say something that is not hearsay.

The gist of all seems – if I understand rightly - that the priest of yours has no faith-message to announce. So he comments on speculations. Yes, these are speculations and enormous hypotheses. But that is not our faith. The solution for you is not to confound those theories because the debate generally is fruitless. It is not about faith but about theories.

So I would like to suggest that you look around in order to find Catholic Communities – there are wonderful ones - where you can hear the message of faith. It might be an other parish, it might be a convent of religious people or it might be one of the new spiritual movements of the Church like Neocatechumenate, Focolari, Communion and Liberation. Your will hear their message and then you’ll know you are home.

You can’t be serious becoming a Baptist. I know wonderful Baptist people who don’t condemn us Catholics to hell. The hell and brimstone ones have a literal Bible interpretation that is almost as bad as the liberal ones. Remember that we are adoring images and statues. ¡Come on! Do you think they will let you pray the Rosary there? You can’t imagine what it means to have the Pope and the Bishops interpret the Word. Why don’t you subscribe to Zenit.org or go to the Vatican’s Web in order to find real Bible interpretation.

So don’t desert. Martin Luther in 1500 instead of staying and fighting it out deserted and founded the protestant Church and look what has happened. Don’t be vengeful. This experience of yours is not a fortuitous hap stance. You remember what God says in the Deuteronomy to Israel: "I led you into the desert so that you might discover what is in your heart". You have discovered that your faith is not very strong, that in your anguish you are prone to running away. This is a first-rate experience because it should lead you to a community where you’ll get a stronger faith. This suffering is really a blessing in disguise. You’ll be a wiser – and hopefully – a better Christian. Please pray for that priest.

I hope you understand that I do not condemn you. Your anguish is real but your solution is wrong. Or do you want to baptize your child again? I’ll be praying for you.

God bless you

mscperu

 

Anonymous asked this follow-up question on 4/11/2002:

Thanks for the quick reply.

I understand that the issue is faith, not theories, but our faith is based on the Word of God, right?

Now it seems that if the church discounts the Word of God, in any way, that our faith and understanding will suffer.

Believing that there are errors or internal inconsistencies within scripture is discounting God's word.

The Catechism seems to be very very vague in its interpretation of scripture, but it does give one line implying the OT is less than accurate (I think it's around 110) and it also uses the adjective "synthesized" as part of its description of the gospel presentation. It's in the same area.

I can get both entry #'s if you'd like.

I'm not sure that seeking a different parish or 'community' is the solution. The Catholic church should be ONE; holy and apostolic, right?

Doesn't the church universally adhere to a single teaching on the Bible; a single set of doctrines; a single rule book based on Tradition; a single pontifically-approved and inspired interpretation?

Are you saying that Catholic priests are permitted to offer any interpretation of any jot or title of scripture as they see fit?

If my pastor says that St. Peter didn't really walk on water, but rather that story is a fable to teach us about not faltering in faith - that's OK?

In 2000 years of church history scriptural interpretation by the church itself has never been outlined - leaving it to individual priests?

Moving to another 'community' isn't much of a solution. I expect the church to instruct and guide me in the Catholic faith no matter what RC church I go to, no matter what priest I listen to, no matter what Vatican- approved text I read.

Am I supposed to church-hop until I find the truth?

And suppose I do. Suppose I find a well- balanced parish. What happens to the hundreds and thousands of other Catholics that are being fed misinformation and borderline heresy? They are to just wallow in their ignorance?

I'm very confused here Father.

You're right that I can't imagine what it means to have the pope or bishops interpret the Word, because I can't find any interpretation from them.

Why is the church so silent on its view of scriptures, I mean SPECIFIC view of every line of the text?

I don't see a problem with a fundamental approach to scripture. Obviously when we read, "My God is my rock..." we know that God is not a mineral, but when we read that 600,000 men fled with Moses and that the Red Sea was parted, how can ANYONE possibly say that really means there were 150 men and the sea really didn't part?

I wouldn't pray the rosary in a Baptist church, but then again Catholics shouldn't be praying the rosary during mass either.

I checked zenit, but don't see anything on church teaching on specific scripture.

I'm not being vengeful, but rather am seeking sound Biblical instruction and reverence for the Word.

Here's my follow-up question in summary:

Who can I contact or what source of authority is there in the Roman Catholic Church that I can tap to find out exactly and specifically what the Church teaches on specific scripture?

 

 

Answer

This time I will comment point after point and you will see that is does not lead anywhere. We could infinitely object to objections and none of us would be satisfied.

 

I understand that the issue is faith, not theories, but our faith is based on the Word of God, right? Now it seems that if the church discounts the Word of God, in any way, that our faith and understanding will suffer. Believing that there are errors or internal inconsistencies within scripture is discounting God's word.

Our Faith is based on Scripture and Tradition. The Pope and the Bishops interpreting a passage don’t just emit their opinion. Generally there is a previous historical study regarding the teaching throughout the centuries. The Church is consistent with this interpretation. You say the Church discounts… Not so! I argued: One priest and one book is not the Church. Besides first there was oral tradition before it was written down.

 

The Catechism seems to be very vague in its interpretation of scripture, but it does give one line implying the OT is less than accurate (I think it's around 110) and it also uses the adjective "synthesized" as part of its description of the gospel presentation. It's in the same area. I can get both entry #'s if you'd like.

Please, do so.

 

I'm not sure that seeking a different parish or 'community' is the solution.

Why not?

The Catholic church should be ONE; holy and apostolic, right? Doesn't the church universally adhere to a single teaching on the Bible; a single set of doctrines; a single rule book based on Tradition; a single pontifically-approved and inspired interpretation?

You have a romantic vision of the Church. Don’t be offended. You want a Church without sin. Sorry the Church is saint and sinful at the same time; saint by the Founder, the sacraments, etc and sinful because of its members. The Holy Father goes to confession every week and he doesn’t do it just for the love of art. Now tell me sincerely: When have you gone to confession last time? An other point: The sectarian evangelical groups, they expel the sinner. So they have a holy community. The Catholic Church does not. This problem has followed the Church from the beginning. The Fathers of the Church have commented on the weed in the Church. It will be burned at the end of the time. Next point. There is a certain latitude regarding investigation. We have conservative and we have progressive theologians. The Church intervenes when someone oversteps the boundaries.

 

Are you saying that Catholic priests are permitted to offer any interpretation of any jot or title of scripture as they see fit?

If my pastor says that St. Peter didn't really walk on water, but rather that story is a fable to teach us about not faltering in faith - that's OK?

I told you, I cannot emit an opinion about your pastor’s sayings because a phrase out of context is very dangerous. The priest should give the interpretation of the Church.

 

In 2000 years of church history scriptural interpretation by the church itself has never been outlined - leaving it to individual priests?

Look, there is a document of the International Theological Commission about Scripture and its interpretation. Besides Saint Vincent from Lerins already writes that the doctrine is immutable but that we can always learn to understand and articulate it better.

Moving to another 'community' isn't much of a solution. I expect the church to instruct and guide me in the Catholic faith no matter what RC church I go to, no matter what priest I listen to, no matter what Vatican- approved text I read. Am I supposed to church-hop until I find the truth?

If you don’t want to look at other possibilities, why don’t you invite your priest to dinner and afterward tell him about your problem?

 

And suppose I do. Suppose I find a well- balanced parish. What happens to the hundreds and thousands of other Catholics that are being fed misinformation and borderline heresy? They are to just wallow in their ignorance? I'm very confused here Father.

Write to you bishop ant tell him about your confusion.

Vale

mscperu

 


Top

 

 Where come these questions from?