Cardinal Wuerl shared with the priests of this Archdiocese (at the Chrism Mass last month) the full remarks of Pope Benedict that were given during the ad limina visit by bishops of this region. I had seen excerpts, but never the full set of remarks. They are powerful and ought to receive careful consideration by us all.

To that end, I would like to share substantial excerpts and offer a few reflections of my own. As is usual the original text is in bold, black italic text. My own comments are in red plain text.

For her part, the Church in the United States is called, in season and out of season, to proclaim a Gospel which not only proposes unchanging moral truths but proposes them precisely as the key to human happiness and social prospering.

A good reminder to us and to the world. We do not propose the vision of the Gospel merely as a set of prohibitions. Neither do we propose it merely because we wish to advance our right to speak out and make our voice heard in the world of ideas. Rather we proclaim the Gospel because we passionately believe that these truths are the key to happiness, salvation and every other good. In the past missionaries set out to distant lands and made great personal sacrifices, often losing their own life, because they had a love and passion for people and understood that the vision of God was essential for the salvation and well being of all.  The loss of the gospel vision, the forgetfulness of God and confusion about the true purpose of human life has caused great harm. If we as a Church truly believe that the Gospel has answers and the remedy for our time, we must speak out. To remain silent or to allow ourselves to be compelled to silence would be sinful and selfish. The Church must say as St. Paul did: For I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! (1 Cor 9:16).

To the extent that some current cultural trends contained elements that would curtail the proclamation of these truths, whether constricting it within the limits of a purity scientific rationality, or suppressing it in the name of political power or majority rule, they represent a threat not just Christian faith, but also to humanity itself and to the deepest truth about our being and ultimate vocation, relationship to God. When a culture attempts to suppress the dimension of ultimate Mystery, and to close the doors to transcendent truth, it inevitably becomes impoverished and falls prey, as the late Pope John Paul II so clearly saw, to reductionist and totalitarian readings of the human person and the nature of society.

In effect, the Pope is reminding us that what we announce is not merely something that is “meaningful,” but something which is true. And the opposite of true is not “less meaningful,” it is false. Falsehood and error harm the human person. Truth liberates and enriches. The suppression of the truth is the main cause of our suffering and poverty.

The reductionist and totalitarian readings to which the Pope refers have caused grave harm to the world because they are false. It is conservatively estimated that 100 Million people lost their lives in the 20th century due to totalitarian, materialist, fascists, secular and atheistic movements.

In current times the suffering continues as the West suffers from low birth rates, the horror of abortion, the advancing destruction of the family, distortion in the understanding of sexuality, and crippling debt as our spending swirls out of control. These too stem from reductionist understandings of the human person, creation, and the meaning human life.

Alienated from God, we lose our way and come to think we answer to no one. Thus, we become increasingly dangerous.  Alienated from the truth we descend into the tyranny of relativism where reason cannot win the day and thus power does.

The Gospel is true. And the opposite of true is not just “another opinion,” it is false. And error leads to great suffering. The Church must continue to proclaim and propose the truth without compromise. For only the truth will set us free, and the Gospel is truth.

With her long tradition of respect for the right relationship between faith and reason, the Church has a critical role to play in countering cultural currents which, on the basis of an extreme individualism, seek to promote notions of freedom detached from moral truth. Our tradition does not speak from blind faith, but from a rational perspective which links our commitment to building an authentically just, humane and prosperous society, to our ultimate assurance that the cosmos is possessed of an inner logic accessible to human reasoning.

Magnificent. The appeal not only to Scripture, but also to reason and to Natural Law, (which the Pope speaks of as the “inner logic” of the cosmos), is what distinguishes Catholicism from simple fundamentalism. We reason from Scripture with ourselves and among believers, but we also appeal to reason and Natural Law, especially with those we do not share our belief in the Scriptures as the Word of God.

Our sacred teaching is both thoughtful and deeply rooted in a long and careful philosophical and theological tradition stretching back thousands of years. What we teach and proclaim is neither simplistic nor ephemeral. It is careful, well thought out, and has stood the test of time.

It has also helped enormously in the development of a more humane and caring world as the Gospel’s message of love and forgiveness has born fruit in hospitals, orphanages,  universities, and the cultivation of the arts and sciences in the Christian West.

We abandon this wisdom and ancient teaching to our peril.

The Church’s defense of this law is not a threat to our freedom, but rather a “language” which enables us to understand ourselves and the truth of our being, and so to shape a more just and humane world. She thus proposes her moral teaching as a message not of constraint but of liberation, and as a basis for building a secure future.

Yes, As St. Paul said: I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes (Rom 1:16) And salvation here is not merely a heavenly reality, but one which on earth we experience as a kind of foretaste. The Gospel saves in the age to come and bestows health and help now as well.

The Church’s witness, then, is of it’s nature public: she seeks to convince by proposing rational arguments in the public square. The legitimate separation of Church and State cannot be taken to mean that the church must be silent on certain issues, nor that the State may choose not to engage, or be engaged by the voices of committed believers in determining the values which will shape the future of the nation.

Here again the premise is that silence is deadly. And whether that silence is due to the sinful omission by believers of their evangelical duty, or whether that silence is somehow compelled by the State, either way, evil triumphs when the voice of faith is silent.

In light of these considerations, it is imperative that the entire Catholic community in United States come to realize the grave threats to the Church’s public moral witness presented by a radical secularism which finds increasing expression in the political and cultural spheres. The seriousness of these threats needs to be clearly appreciated at every level of ecclesial life. Of particular concern are certain attempts being made to limit that most cherished of American freedoms, the freedom of religion. Many of you [Bishops] have pointed out that concerted efforts have been made to deny the right of conscientious objection on the part of Catholic individuals and institutions with regard to cooperation in intrinsically evil practices. Others have spoken to me of a worrying tendency to reduce religious freedom to mere freedom of worship without guarantees of respect for freedom of conscience.

Cardinal Wuerl has frequently commented that religious liberty is being increasingly construed by many to mean only the freedom to worship inside the walls of our Church and that otherwise, religious speech or expression has no place in the public discussion. This sort of thinking has been making incremental advances in our culture. And, while every other form of speech is to be tolerated in the public square, religious, and specifically Christian speech is attacked as “out of place” and in violation of the Constitution (which it is not). But this thinking is growing and hindering the Church’s critical mission to evangelize and speak the truth in love.

Further, religious liberty is not merely a right of the the Church. It is an individual right of every American to both proclaim and openly live their faith, and not be compelled to act against their faith. The First Amendment is not applied only to organizations or the Church, but to the individual.

Here once more we see the need for an engaged, articulate and well formed Catholic laity endowed with a strong critical sense vis-à-vis the dominant culture, and with the courage to counter a reductive secularism which would delegitimize the Church’s participation in public debate about the issues which are determining the future of American society. The preparation of committed lay leaders and the presentation of a convincing articulation of the Christian vision of man and society remaining primary task of the Church in your country…There can be no doubt that a more consistent witness on the part of Americas Catholics to their deepest convictions would make a major contribution to the renewal of society as a whole.

Pay attention Lay faithful. As we have discussed many times on this blog before, the specific role of the laity is the renewal of the temporal order, as they live and witness to their faith in the family and in the world. To this end the Church has initiated many programs of adult study in parishes and this must grow and continue. Robert Barron’s Catholicism series is an excellent example of adult study and renewal.

Lay Catholics must also courageously bring their faith to bear in the political order and insist on being included in the political process at every level.

A magnificent articulation of the problem and the solution for the Church here. It’s pretty old fashioned actually, but also time tested and true. And what is that ancient and yet always new way?  In the face of rampant secularization, confusion and hostility:

Preach the Word; be ready, in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. (2 Tim 4:2-5)

Amen.

The Pope’s full remarks are here: Ad Limina

In these videos Fr. Barron (a great evangelizer) sets forth some of the basic errors of our days that make the proclamation of the Gospel difficult, but not impossible.

18 Responses

  1. Vijaya says:

    Thank you so much for sharing these and your insights as well. I am currently drafting a letter to our school regarding the curriculum and will be refering to this particular post. We must fight the good fight. St. Michael, pray for us.

  2. RichardC says:

    This might be out of place for this post, but it might provide encouragement. Anway, I would like to share this beautiful hymn where you can see our Holy Father singing: Salve Regina http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bA2M8j9Pdig&feature=related .

  3. Scott says:

    It is important to acknowledge the challenge we face as Catholics in this country. It is not a new challenge but one that Catholics through the centuries have faced since the early days of the Church. And, in the end, this challenge can be reduced to the heresy of gnosticism which, at its root, derives from the sin of pride (and, for sure, noting my oversimplification for purposes of discussion).

    We can only combat this through proper formation – spiritually and doctrinally. We cannot forget the intersection of spiritual and doctrinal formation is liturgical formation – the Mass is the source and summit of the Christian faith. Through this formation, we are to encounter God to know Him as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

    In preparation for the upcoming Year of Faith, Bishop Echevarria offered a formula for the Faithful to consider when discerning their formation. Put simply, we are called – and I believe this is at the heart of some of the aforementioned ad limina – to conform our intellect, will, and heart with knowledge of God and revealed doctrine.

  4. elcid says:

    Msgr Pope,

    How can we reconcile what Pope Benedict XVI says; “The legitimate separation of Church and State” with what Pope Pius X in “Vehementer Nos” and Pope Leo XIII in “Libertas Praestantissimum” say in opposition? is there a conflict or did Benedict mean it in a different context?
    With the recent economic crisis inflicting our country, some Catholics have mention a new system of economics base on the concept of Solidarism, base on the work of Fr. Heinrich Pesch, but even he mentions this system is base on a moral foundational framework at the community and state level, with the current dogma by the left in this country preaching separation of church and state I don’t see how this would ever come into fruition if it were ever attempted.

  5. Clinton R. says:

    Regarding the video it must always be taught that there was an Adam and he did sin, the original sin. Otherwise, as atheist Richard Dawkins mused, what is the point of Baptism? which happens when we reduce the depiction of Adam and Eve into a fable.

    • Saying that we do not read the Genesis account in a literalist fashion, is not to reduce it to a fable. Adam and Eve were real historical figures, and committed actual sin, A sin which reaches all of us. But that the events described are historical and the people are real, does not mean that every detail, lacks any sense of allegory, analogy, figurative speech, etc. Genesis is not a science book, or written in the form of a modern history. It’s speaks of real people and real offense, and thus is not a fable, but it is not meant to be read in a necessarily crudely literalist sense. I refer you to the Popes recent letter Verbum DOmini my Doming he and the catechism of the Catholic Church, wherein it speaks of the creation story

      • Clinton R. says:

        Pope Pius XII’s encyclical Humani Generis is helpful in this matter as well. Thank you for your time, Monsignor.

  6. Shari says:

    Does the church say that they were historical figures? Actually I see them as “spiritual figures.” Certainly we all share a common biological ancestor – “Eve.” Biomedical archaology suggests she lived in Africa 200,000 years ago, and all humans on every continent share her genome (including her mitochondrial genome).

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100817122405.htm

    However the “fall” seems to predate this prehistorical homonid. At least creatures were rending one another, and we had “survival of the fittest” with creatures preying on one another, long before even the dinosaurs ruled the earth 60 million years ago.

    But, there was a time where God could have looked on the world and called it “Good.” Three and one half billion years ago, when life first evolved in the oceans (over which the Holy Spirit “brooded’) we were all single celled organisms “prokaryotic cells” with no special organelles. Those organelles, (the mitochondria which power our cells, the flagella and cilia which give us mobility, the nucleus which serves as a control center) all evolved as separate single prokaryotic cells came together (along with their separate DNA) to create a new and “better” “eukaryotic cell” (a process known as “endosymbiosis.”) We had survival of the “fittest” then too, however the “fittest” was the organism that was most able to cooperate, not the one most able to compete.

    http://bugs.bio.usyd.edu.au/learning/resources/CAL/Microconcepts/Evolution/theory.html

    Something happened to mar that “Eden” of 600 million years ago, for predation appears to have followed closely on the heels of the formation of eukaryotes, and the world has not been right since.

    So while we should take responsibility for the Fall, it would seem that the Spiritual Eve/Adam must have antedated the Physical one by several million years.

    Oddly enough, what Christ seems to offer is a spiritual return to the physical “Eden” of 1/2 billion years ago. God is a community (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) no less than is a eukaryotic cell a community. And we are invited, through Christ, into that community. Hopefully physical community will follow our new reunion, just as physical rupture followed whatever spiritual rupture occured so many years ago.

      • shari says:

        Well, I read your blog post (it was very good as usual).

        You wrote “Catholics are free to believe in some sort of evolutionary or gradual process as a secondary cause of biodiversity. But we simply cannot accept a theory which says that the sufficient cause and complete explanation of all life is the combination of natural selection and random mutations. The words NATURAL and RANDOM are positively meant to exclude intelligent activity by God by most proponents of the Theory of Evolution. Catholics can come to accept a kind of theistic evolution wherein God is the primary cause of all secondary causes. But we are not free to accept the Theory of Evolution as most commonly proposed without the necessary distinction that natural selection and random mutations are not sufficient causes or a complete explanation for the existence of all things as they are.”

        I have no trouble with this. However I think you are having a little trouble wrapping your mind around the idea of Adam and Eve as historical figures, and yet arising from natural selection.

        As I see it, there is no conflict:

        God does not live in time. Time is, in any event, a physical constraint that bends at speeds approaching that of light. And, any way, we believe that the Eucharist we celebrate every Sunday is the same one celebrated 2000 years ago, so we must agree that God does not live in time.

        Further those who are spirit are not necessarily flesh at the same time. For example we agree that Jesus existed as the second person of the Trinity (a presumably spiritual relationship), eons before He existed as the human being who was born in Bethleham. Similarly, we have Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” Ergo we must both agree that the human spirit can exist before conception, and be “known” as a person to God.

        So what is wrong with the following scenario:

        15 billion years ago (the age of the universe to us who live in time) and a few thousand years ago for God who does not live in time, God chooses to make the universe. God chooses worlds, and selects and forms spirits named Adam and Eve to be the stewards of the world named Earth.

        Satan gets jealous, and tempts the still spirit Eve in the still spirit world. Adam joins in. We know the rest of the story. The seedling universe now carries a fatal taint of disobedience. God promises a Redeemer.

        There is a Big BANG. The galaxies, and worlds form, rocks cool, oceans form and, as originally planned, life starts to emerge from the primordial slime, first gladly cooperating, and then as the fatal madness in the DNA makes itself known, competing, and then preying on one another. This takes about 11 billion years for us who live in time and five days for God who does not.

        God, guides evolution, such that the physical beings of the first Eve and Adam (and it appears that it was a single common ancestor) evolve from the otherwise random mutations which result in the rise of the mammals, primates and hommonids. This takes about 3 1/2 billion years from our point of view and one day from God’s point of view.

        The descendents of Adam and Eve spread out accross the world. Some of them carry a greater proportion of the fatal taint, others carry less. Those who have very little of the taint are able to “hear God” more clearly and we call them prophets like Noah. Eventually random selection (with God putting His finger on the dice) coughs up somebody who can hear God unusually well. His name is Abram and at this point writing has been invented, so we are now into history, rather than prehistory and oral tradition.

        So. Am I a heretic?

        • Well you’re kind of making up your own story here. Why not just stay with the biblical data? Many of the details of your scenario conflict with the data of Scripture and Church teaching. We were not created as spirits and later given bodies. Nor where they created prior to the Universe. There is just no basis to say that. We were from the beginning created as a combination of body and soul. As for how exactly God caused our physicality to emerge I have no problem that he could have done it any way he wanted, whether by direct creation or as the result of a long process guided by him. But in the end it seems, for the reasons I state in that articles and the teachings of Popes, and the Catechism we have to hold that Adam and Eve were historical figures and that all of us are physically descended from them. Otherwise the teaching on Original Sin is lost etc, as per what I set forth in the article. Questions of heresy aside, I would avoid making up elaborate scenarios to try and make the Genesis account fit modern sensibilities. We do better to take a Catholic approach to the issue which I try to set forth in the article and to take our cues from Scripture and the Catechism when it comes to Protology (i.e. the study of origins).

          • Shari says:

            Why not just stay with the biblical data?

            Well, I suppose the best explanation I can give is “cognitive dissonance.” I mean I am a physician, and at one time a scientist, and the evidence for evolution, and a 15 billion year old universe seems overwhelming to me.

            On the other hand, the evidence for the existance of God, and the truth of Christ, and the amazing parallels in Holy Scripture also seems overwhelming to me.

            So I feel some need to try to make the two accounts “fit” and I thought I had found a solution that worked pretty well :(

            But how can one hold that Adam and Eve were “historical figures” when history is dependent on time, and God works outside time? It does seem to me that there is a disconnect here. And surely, when Jeremiah wrote that before he “was formed” in the womb God “knew” him suggests that spirit must/may prefigure body. And why shouldn’t that be, since we know that God works outside of time?

            • But the Bible doesn’t testify against a 15 Billion year old universe. It renders no opinion on the age (unless one takes a fundamentalist Literalist interpretation of “Day” – which wouldn’t be the Catholic approach. – Afterall, what does a “day” mean when the sun isn’t even created until the fourth “day”) I have no problem with your elastic notion of time as you speak of it, for to God 1000 years are as a watch in the night. However don’t divorce God from time altogether as he created time and space and we who live in it cannot totally dismiss it.

              The major flaw in your attempt to make things fit is to present Adam and Eve as spirits prior to their being made flesh. As for them being historical figures, that means they actually existed as a man and a woman and are not simply literary constructions or allegories.

              It is quite possible for us to simply hold the mystery of much of this and not need to make everything fit. Your scientific background may make this seem difficult to you, but remember that God doesn’t “fit” into our constructs necessarily. Though science, as well as theology, can and do speak truth, they speak of elements of the truth, using human language which is limited. God is simply bigger than our words or ideas and we cannot claim comprehensive understanding of all things. So, whatever “fit” we find will always be more analogical than univocal.

              • Shari says:

                Well, you are right of course. I am making this unnecessarily difficult and complicated for myself, and I really should know better. I already know that what is “true” will not necessarily “fit” into the constructs of my rather impoverished imagination.

                Back when I was in RCIA, praying daily that my patron saint would identify him/herself (I had been hoping for a physician) I had the following vision:

                At that time, I was in a rancorous debate on a different blog regarding the morality of the first Gulf War. I had been making a large number of cutting jokes at the expense of the French, and was alone in my study blogging away. Shortly after I fired off another “good un,” I felt the presence of somebody standing behind me, reading over my shoulder, and I heard her laugh. When I turned, I saw a fleeting glimpse of a young woman in a white nun’s habit and heard her say (in highly amused tones) in English, with an exquisite and old fashioned French accent, “What?! Can there be anything good come out of France?!” The image lasted less than a second. All I can say is that though she was wearing what was clearly a white nun’s habit, the habit was composed of all the colors of the rainbow, and had I not been Christian I would have said she was the goddess of Spring. Yet, despite this, what she was wearing was still, a pure, brilliantly white, nun’s habit. Later that day, I read in the book of saints that I had been studying, the story of St. Therese Martin, and I was positive that it was her voice and her face (which I had not ever seen before) that I had heard and seen.

                I really can’t even picture it in my mind now, how a habit can be both entirely white (it seemed made of white light actually) and yet be bright with all the colors of the rainbow but I know I “saw” it once. There ARE mysteries that the mind can’t grasp. I have enough trouble understanding relativity theory, though I can (just barely) wrap my mind around that. I guess we will find out how Adam and Eve can be true historical figures in good time. (Just as well I’m just a simple neurologist, not an evolutionary biologist or my head would be spinning trying to keep up.)

                (It does sound a bit lame, when you are explaining it to your kid, to just say “well it’s a mystery” though… :( But I guess if your a parent, sounding stupid is part of your job description.)

  7. Burton says:

    Msgr Pope,

    I am a Protestant of the conservative evangelical stripe and I have been contemplating conversion to Catholicism for several years. One stumbling block for me is the perception that the Catholic Church has so embraced modernity that it has disregarded the traditional understanding of the Bible and watered down the Truth in an effort to not be like those “fundamentalists” (one of the favorite whipping boys of secular modernism). Do you have any idea which parts of the Bible the Catholic church would claim to be in the genre of “legend”, as described by Fr. Barron? I am glad to hear that official Catholic teaching embraces the literal existence of Adam and Eve as the first human individuals from whom we all have our parentage. Is there an official Catholic position on the global flood described in Genesis? The Bible provides a direct lineage from Adam to Christ. Is this taken literally?

    Sorry for hitting you with a barrage of questions. This is important to me.

    • Fr. Barron does not call Genesis legend, however he does state that the genre “legend” does exist in certain parts of the Bible. Some examples might be the story of “Job” which is not likely the story of an historical figure who lived at a certain time. Job is likely more an allegorical man who represents the man who suffers… “There once was a man named job….” Jesus often used literary figures in his parables. For example the “Good Samaritan” was not likely an actual man who lived, but the subject of a story Jesus tells to illustrate a point. It would be silly to go to the Holy and try to find the ruins of the inn where the Good Samaritan carried the wounded man. It is just a story.

      There is debate about the Jonah and the whale. Jonah was clearly a real man, but is the story about the whale or large fish literal history or is it allegorical (i.e. that God miraculously rescued him is clear, but are all the details about the large fish etc. literal historical events or are they emphasizing that God acted mysteriously and wondrously). A Catholic is free to believe either scenario. As a preacher I sometimes tell stories and embellish them. For example I sometimes tell how God’s hand led me through a difficult patch in my mid thirties and gave me new strength. Am I saying that a physical hand came out of heaven and picked me up? No. Am I saying that saying I was in a literal “patch” (as in pumpkin patch)? No. But I AM saying God helped me, and that is the essential point. Here too, you are free to accept that a literal whale swallowed Jonah and that he spent time in its stomach, and was then belched out on the shore at Joppa. You and many others believe just that, but the Church does not rule that a detail like this MUST be accepted as literal fact. It could be metaphor, as in Jonah had a whale of a ride on those seas. In a story like this, there is freedom for the Catholic believer. Regarding other types of details, eg. when in revelation we read how a third of the stars are cast upon the earth. Are these literal stars? Likely not. Perhaps the stars are euphemisms for fallen angels. Perhaps it means that a third of the stars are no longer visible on earth due to the smoke of a burning city. Perhaps it means that the navigation points of the world are swept away and man is disoriented. In modern English when I say it is raining cats and dogs, you would not run out and expect to see the ground littered with dead animals. You would understand my point: it was raining hard. What if an future reader were to read my description to you? How would he understand it without a cultural context? He might think literally and assume that some horrible tornado had struck a kennel and transported animals through the air. But he would be wrong in his interpretation. If I were to say the world is turned upside down, you would not expect to be able to go into space and see the northern and southern hemisphere switched. But you know what I mean, I am saying the world as I know it is changed. And thus when we read some of the prophetic language and utterances we ought to be careful not to do violence to the text by reading everything in a crudely literalistic way. Revelation, Joel, Zechariah and the whole prophetic traidtion had and used expressions just like we do and we should be careful to understand things properly.

      Now Catholics and also biblical scholars do not always agree where to draw the line on every particular text and they do not always agree when to see something as literal or figurative. Even many Protestants who claim to read everything literally suddenly change tunes when coming on a text like “This is my Body” spoken over the bread. Hence the role of the Church is to assist in refereeing some of the differences. In some cases, diversity is allowed, (e.g. in Jonah’s whale ride above), in other cases there is direction: This is my Body is understood literally, “I am the door” is more metaphorical, (i.e. Jesus does not mean he is a piece of square wood with a doorknob). In making these determinations the Church looks to ancient traditions, to how the early Church understood these sorts of texts, and to the whole of scripture.

      One final example that Fr. Barron mentions” “Talking snakes” He is here referring to a common atheist jibe against Bible readers. Consider for a moment that the Genesis text itself does not speak of a talking snake. Rather it speaks of a serpent but does not describe the attributes of that serpent. Only after sin does God give the serpent a new form by condemning it to crawl on its belly and in the dirt. Hence, in a case like this, recourse to the text itself is necessary. We do not really know the qualities of the serpent before the Fall except that it was the most cunning of God’s creatures. Hence we need not admit simply to “talking snakes” in the attempt to ridicule us. Rather the text itself summons us to a kind of sophistication in know the whole text, not just the mere line.

      I realize this reflection, typed rapidly, may not answer all your questions. But the bottom line of the Catholic approach to Scripture is that there is more to Biblical interpretation than merely the literalistic meaning of every line. God’s Word uses many genres and each text must be considered carefully. And, frankly, in many cases the Church allows us some freedom where exactly to draw the line in every case.

      Read more in the catechism #s 101-141

      • Burton says:

        Thank you. That was very helpful. I think that for me one of the bedrock principles in interpreting Scripture is to start with Jesus and work “outward”, if that makes any sense. We know that He is fully God and fully man, that mankind inherited sin from his first parents, and that therefore Jesus had to die as our sacrificial atonement. If we get these basics of Christology and anthropology right, it helps to delineate the non-negotiables from the parts that have a bit more wiggle room (e.g. this helps explain why polygenism must be rejected, but some aspects of macroevolution can be accepted). Often modernism, and even some within the church, start with an overly academic textual analysis and work out from there, usually resulting in a screwed up Christology and anthropology. Any thoughts?

  8. Scott W. says:

    I really like how the Holy Father only briefly touches on freedom of religion. As much as I am pleased that our bishops are outspoken on the HHS mandate, I think they wave the 1st Ammendment around too much and in once case declaring it has nothing to do with contraception. When they do that it’s like saying, “We have this kooky and irrational belief that contracetion is wrong, but Paul VI stuck us with it, and we think there is something in the Constitution that forces our fellow Americans to leave us free to be wing-nuts.” Rather, I’m hoping a bishop will eventually say, “Contraception is evil. Period. It desecrates marital bonds, offends against chastity, and is a menace to public morals–and the State has no common-good interest in promoting it to say nothing of forcing anyone to materially support it.”

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