Tag Archives: Synod

Scripture and the Synod on the New Evangelization

I was pleased that the final propositions of the recently concluded Synod on the New Evangelization included something about Scripture. The first mention is in Proposition 9 where the Synod fathers recommend the composition of an instructional book for training evangelists. They propose that this book contain, “Systematic teaching on the kerygma in Scripture and Tradition of the Catholic Church.” The “kerygma” is a favorite word of the synod and it refers to the core message of the Gospel, the essential truth about the life of Jesus that ought to be proclaimed whenever the Gospel is proclaimed.

The synod’s Proposition 11 is all about Scripture:

God has communicated himself to us in his Word made flesh. This divine Word, heard and celebrated in the Liturgy of the Church, particularly in the Eucharist, strengthens interiorly the faithful and renders them capable of authentic evangelical witness in daily life. The Synod Fathers desire that the divine word “be ever more fully at the heart of every ecclesial activity” (Verbum Domini, 1).
The gate to Sacred Scripture should be open to all believers. In the context of the New Evangelization every opportunity for the study of Sacred Scripture should be made available. The Scripture should permeate homilies, catechesis and every effort to pass on the faith. 
In consideration of the necessity of familiarity with the Word of God for the New Evangelization and for the spiritual growth of the faithful, the Synod encourages dioceses, parishes, small Christian communities to continue serious study of the Bible and Lectio Divina, the — the prayerful reading of the Scriptures (cf. Dei Verbum, 21-22).

These guidelines from the synod fathers are not necessarily surprising. Rather, they re-emphasize themes from recent magisterial documents on the Bible, explicitly citing Dei Verbum (of Vatican II fame) and Verbum Domini (the most recent post-synodal apostolic exhortation penned by Benedict XVI). The proposition highlights the connection between the “Word made flesh” and the Bible itself, emphasizing their identity and difference. The “divine Word” is the Scripture, yes, more so it is Jesus himself. In the context of the New Evangelization, the synod teaches here that Scripture strengthens the faithful and is an essential component in spiritual growth. Also, they emphasize the centrality of Scripture to the teaching and preaching that goes on in the life of the Church. And, just as if they were intending to warm a CatholicBibleStudent’s heart, they insist twice that study, and even serious study of Sacred Scripture should be part and parcel of what the Church does in her daily life and in promotion of the New Evangelization. The mention of “small Christian communities” is interesting. The phrase shows up here and in Proposition 42. I think it refers to any kind of small group that meets within a parish or movement, but I wonder if it is inspired by the kinds of ideas in a book by Stephen Clark called Building Christian CommunitiesThere’s a bit more about Catholic Small Chrisitian Communities on CatholicCulture.org. Lastly, the synod fathers recommend the prayerful reading of Scripture, Lectio Divina. Lectio Divina has been a consistent theme over the past few years in magisterial documents, most notably in in Verbum Domini. I hope that Catholics are able to take it to heart. I think though that since there is not an agreed upon structure for it apart from monastic traditions that it will be hard for most lay Catholics to practice. Some clear instructions on how to do it would be helpful. All in all, I’m happy the synod took time to talk about Scripture in its final propositions. We’ll see how much of this makes it into Benedict’s next post-synodal apostolic exhortation.


The Symphony of Revelation in Verbum Domini

In Verbum Domini, the Pope provides a quick summary of the theology of revelation:

In the light of these considerations, born of meditation on the Christian mystery expressed in the Prologue of John, we now need to consider what the Synod Fathers affirmed about the different ways in which we speak of “the word of God”. They rightly referred to a symphony of the word, to a single word expressed in multiple ways: “a polyphonic hymn”.[17] The Synod Fathers pointed out that human language operates analogically in speaking of the word of God. In effect, this expression, while referring to God’s self-communication, also takes on a number of different meanings which need to be carefully considered and related among themselves, from the standpoint both of theological reflection and pastoral practice. As the Prologue of John clearly shows us, the Logos refers in the first place to the eternal Word, the only Son, begotten of the Father before all ages and consubstantial with him: the word was with God, and the word was God. But this same Word, Saint John tells us, “became flesh” (Jn 1:14); hence Jesus Christ, born of the Virgin Mary, is truly the Word of God who has become consubstantial with us. Thus the expression “word of God” here refers to the person of Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of the Father, made man.

While the Christ event is at the heart of divine revelation, we also need to realize that creation itself, the liber naturae, is an essential part of this symphony of many voices in which the one word is spoken. We also profess our faith that God has spoken his word in salvation history; he has made his voice heard; by the power of his Spirit “he has spoken through the prophets”.[18] God’s word is thus spoken throughout the history of salvation, and most fully in the mystery of the incarnation, death and resurrection of the Son of God. Then too, the word of God is that word preached by the Apostles in obedience to the command of the Risen Jesus: “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation” (Mk 16:15). The word of God is thus handed on in the Church’s living Tradition. Finally, the word of God, attested and divinely inspired, is sacred Scripture, the Old and New Testaments. All this helps us to see that, while in the Church we greatly venerate the sacred Scriptures, the Christian faith is not a “religion of the book”: Christianity is the “religion of the word of God”, not of “a written and mute word, but of the incarnate and living Word”.[19] Consequently the Scripture is to be proclaimed, heard, read, received and experienced as the word of God, in the stream of the apostolic Tradition from which it is inseparable.[20] (Benedict XVI, Verbum Domini, sec. 7)

It is funny to me how we use the term “word of God” with so many different meanings. What connects them all is that each meaning somehow denotes God’s revelation. The Bible is the word of God. Jesus is the word of God. Even creation is the word of God. I’d like to set the whole thing up as an equation:

The Word of God = Creation + The Bible + Jesus + Salvation History + Apostolic Preaching + Tradition

But I do not think it is quite that simple. Somehow, each element listed can be said to be the Word of God, not just a “part” of the word of God. They are all interrelated and yet not one of them is perfectly complete without the others. I mean, for example, Jesus stands outside of creation and yet is part of creation through his incarnation. Tradition somehow encompasses the Bible and yet is distinct from it. The Apostolic preaching included biblical material, especially from the Old Testament, but it also proclaimed the resurrection of Christ before the New Testament was in written form. Salvation history is recorded in the Bible and yet extends beyond the reach of the Bible. Jesus is the culmination of Salvation History and yet the story extends beyond him into his effects on the whole world. All the elements of the Word of God, of God’s revelation to man are essential, interrelated and overlapping. Rightly do the Synod Fathers declare the word of God to be a “symphony.”

Finally, Pope Releases Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation on the Bible; SBL blogging

Ok, so the Pope finally released his document on the Bible,Verbum Domini. It was posted on the Vatican website on Thursday, November 11. So…you may have thought I was asleep at the wheel since I have been watching for this. But…I’ve been doing a lot like eating turkey and going to the SBL conference. More on that in a bit.

Anyway, I plan to go through the document here on the blog and comment on different sections. For now, here are my initial thoughts:  The document is very long–much longer than is typical for this kind of document. There is nothing in the document that is surprising or ground-breaking. It is pretty much a faithful elaboration on the Synod’s earlier documents, especially the Propositions. It is a restatement of many important  Catholic positions on the Bible and all things biblical. It also deals with how the Bible ought to function in the life of the Church in all its aspects. I think it will be a valuable touchstone in the years to come, but not a sea-change document. I’ll post more thoughts as they come to me.

Ah…and about that Society of Biblical Literature conference.  I went to the Annual Meeting in Atlanta. At the meeting, I attended a session on “biblioblogging,” with presentations by some of the major academic Bible bloggers. It was very interesting and inspiring. It made me feel that I am not alone in the world of blogging about the Bible and re-invigorated me for this blog. Most of the presenters posted their papers on their blogs before delivering them at the meeting. I felt a little weird–yet kind of cool–sitting there reading Jim Davila’s paper on my Android while he spoke. It was also nice to be able to put a face with a name for a lot of Bible bloggers out there.

Here’s what the session looked like:

Theme: The Past, Present, and Future of Blogging and Online Publication

The room was packed–far beyond what I anticipated. Unfortunately, there were very few women. It was a great collection of Bible scholars and computers nerds all together in one place. I would encourage you to read some of the papers that were presented, which I have linked to above. Or perhaps you’ll find some other interesting posts at their authors’ blogs.

Rumors: Apostolic Exhortation on the Bible to be Published Soon

So, I gave you a false alarm back in March that the Pope’s Postsynodal Apostolic Exhortation on the Bible would be out by Easter. That did not happen. However, I just obtained new information that the final edits to the manuscript were in the works during the first week of July and that it now has been submitted to the official Vatican publisher. The document exists and will soon be published. As soon as I hear anything more, I will let you know.

At the Synod: Tension Between Biblical Scholaship and the Catholic Faith

I found this report from CNS to be illustrative of the conversations going on at the synod:

  • During the first 10 days of the Oct. 5-26 synod on the Bible, a recurring theme in the synod hall was the tension several bishops see between some schools of biblical scholarship and the traditional faith of the church.

    The day after Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Quebec presented his summary of the synod’s initial discussions Oct. 15, several synod members met with reporters to discuss points the cardinal raised.

    U.S. Cardinal William J. Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said the tension between some schools of interpretation, or exegesis, and the traditional theology and teaching of the church was “not just one of the key — but I would say one of the most delicate — questions” for the synod.

    He said, “We might look at the tension this way: When you look at the Scriptures, oftentimes you are told, ‘Read the Scripture to look just at what this passage says to you or says in itself.’

    “That is a very important step,” he said, “but when you think of the way in which the church for 2,000 years has been reading and reflecting on the Scripture, the next question seems natural and necessary, and that is, ‘How is this passage of Scripture related to all of the Bible and how is it related to the faith of the church?'”

I’m glad that the bishops are working through some of the most difficult and admittedly delicate questions about the Bible and the Catholic faith. It will be very interesting to see what they come up with. The “tension” between biblical scholarship and the Catholic faith is clear: when scholarship definitely proves something that contradicts the way that Catholics have always thought about something…well, what do you do? John Paul II made clear that the Church is committed both to faith and to reason as ways of discovering truth. But what happens when they seem to conflict?

There are a couple basic approaches to resolving the conflict. 1.) You can reject the traditionally held view as erroneous. 2.) You can gloss over the contradiction and ignore it.

But of course, both of these approaches are problematic. The first one is a problem because people have the tendency to throw out the baby with the bath water and reject more than was proved wrong. Or people assume that because one traditionally-held view was proved wrong that all traditional views should be questioned or overthrown. The second approach is a problem because it does not give due credit to reason–a legitimate and binding way of coming to know the truth.

I grant there are other (and more complex) ways of explaining the problem, but I just wanted to break it down for you.

There are a few attempts out there trying to solve this problem, but it just hasn’t been done on a wide scale. I’m hoping that the bishops will work through the difficulty and delicacy of the whole thing, but we’ll have to wait and see.

A Third Site about the Synod

As I keep discovering more sites about the Scripture Synod, I keep giving you the links. Today, I came across the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops site about the synod. As for news, it seems to rely on the same sources as the other two sites: basically reporting from Catholic News Service. BUT the site has the added bonus of blogging by none other than Bishop Gerald Kicanas. I think it’s pretty unusual to have a bishop blogging during a synod–it may be a first. Nonetheless, I hope you enjoy it. You can even get an RSS feed of the blog.

US Delegates at the Synod

In a previous post, I didn’t explain the synod structure quite right. So, there are 32 members appointed by the pope (all bishops) which are part of a total 253 voting members of the synod. The other members are members of the curia, heads of religious orders and bishops voted for by their respective bishops conferences. In addition there are the experts and observers.

So, the voting members from the US are:
1. Francis Cardinal George
2. Daniel Cardinal DiNardo
3. Archbishop Donald Wuerl
4. Bishops Gerald Kicanas
5. Archbishop Basil Schott, OFM

The experts from the US are:
1. Sr. Sara Butler
2. Fr. Damian Akpunonu
3. Msgr. Timothy Verdon

The observers from the are:
1. Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight
2. Ricardo Grzona
3. Sister M. Clare Millea, A.S.C.J., Superior General, Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

I hope that clears up any confusion about the synod’s structure and US representation there.

Synod Struggles Over Inerrancy

Hmmm…synods, I imagine, are generally rather boring. A bunch of bishops and theological experts sit around having abstruse discussions about Church life and theology. But whoa, you touch the Bible and whether it’s true–or at least, in what sense it is true–and zing! you’ve got a controversy. Thus is the case with the current Scripture Synod.

(For the record, CNS has reporter Cindy Wooton on the ground and National Catholic Reporter has John Allen Jr.)

Catholic Bible Student Notes on the Synod:
1. There’s been discussion about the correct Catholic understanding of the inerrancy of Scripture. Check out this article from NCP. Looks like theres been talk concerning the debate between “restricted inerrancy” and “unrestricted inerrancy,” a hot debate at Vatican II.

2. John Allen’s interview with Cardinal Pell. The Cardinal says: “I would say the synod is going along very sedately and securely. I’d say there’s less division in this synod than in any synod I’ve been to.” He also mentions the possibility of setting up an international Institute of Biblical Translation. He says that Cardinal George recommended that the CDF issue a statement on biblical inerrancy (in Cardinal Pell’s words) “to make clear that saying the Bible is ‘inspired’ is not necessarily the same thing as claiming that it’s universally inerrant, in every way.” The interview is long but makes for interesting reading.

3. Rabbi Shear-Yashuv Cohen addressed the synod on Monday. I’m looking for video of the address if anyone finds it, please post the URL in the comments. From what I’ve heard it was a moving speech. Unfortunately, he made some negative comments about Pope Pius XII–there’s been talk of beatifying this pope and some Jews have been upset by his supposed inaction during World War II. Other Jews like Rabbi David Dalin have defended his actions.

4. If you want to read what’s actually going on at the synod without any media filter. Check out the daily bulletins released by the Vatican which include the Holy Father’s homilies to the synod, short speeches by voting bishops and an outline of every day’s activity.
October 3
October 4
October 5 (opening day of synod)
October 6 another
October 7 another
October 8
October 9 another and another
October 10 another
October 11

Ok, these are my notes so far.