Tuesday, June 28, 2016

A Forward, A Nihil Obstat and An Imprimatur

SW:  In a discussion on the Catholic Debate Forum I was debating an atheist with the initials "MJ" who claimed the Forward to the Jerome Bible Commentary (JBC), written by Cardinal Bea of the Pontifical Bible Commission (PBC) was his "imprimatur" stating "nothing offensive."  Those with even a little bit of Catholic understanding and education can probably see where this is headed.
MJ responded:  But the Catholic Encyclopedia denies you that much freedom to disagree when it comes to your obligation to believe non-binding interpretations of the bible set forth by the Pontifical Bible Commission:
SW: The CE is not an official Catholic authority which can deny or permit anything - it is an encyclopedia.  Encyclopedias have articles which are the opinions of the person(s) writing the articles.  The CE has no authority. 
MJ goes on to quote (which he had cited in an earlier posting on CDF) from the CE:
Authority of its decisions  The Commission though formed like a Congregation is not a Congregation but seemingly of lower rank. Its decisions are approved by the pope and published by his command. Such approval, when given in formâ communi, does not change the nature of the decisions as emanating from a Congregation or Commission, nor does it make them specifically pontifical acts; much less does it imply an exercise of the pope's personal prerogative of infallibility. Hence they are not infallible or unchangeable, though they must be received with obedience and interior assent, by which we judge that the doctrine proposed is safe and to be accepted because of the authority by which it is presented. These decisions are not the opinions of a private assembly, but an official directive norm; to question them publicy would be lacking in respect and obedience to legitimate authority. We are not hindered from private study of the reasons on which they are based, and if some scholar should find solid arguments against a decision they should be set before the Commission.
SW:  Note, "We are not hindered from private study of the reasons on which they are based, and if some scholar should find solid arguments against a decision they should be set before the Commission."  In short, we can disagree privately with PBC decisions - we are not "bound" per se, but we must receive them in obedience and interior assent - in short, we must be respectful of the office, especially if we are in disagreement with the office.
MJ: how much sophistry must be engaged in to distinguish "must be recieved with obedience and interior assent" from "must be accepted as true"?  The more you refuse to agree with the above-highlighted part of the CE, the more you help make my case that exactly what Catholic sources on Catholic authority are reliable and which aren't, is confusing.
SW:  I did not know you were making a case for this being confusing and you were apparently confused yourself, MJ, in arguing on one had that we MUST obey/believe these "non-binding" decisions, while on the other hand you were denying any such authority existed, for it had fallen into "disuse."

MJ: Again, from the official Catechism, we find a similar statement that demands obligatory belief in something specifically denied to be infallible:
892 Divine assistance is also given to the successors of the apostles, teaching in communion with the successor of Peter, and, in a particular way, to the bishop of Rome, pastor of the whole Church, when, without arriving at an infallible definition and without pronouncing in a "definitive manner," they propose in the exercise of the ordinary Magisterium a teaching that leads to better understanding of Revelation in matters of faith and morals. To this ordinary teaching the faithful "are to adhere to it with religious assent"422 which, though distinct from the assent of faith, is nonetheless an extension of it. 
SW:  Yes, this is in reference to something of faith or morals when they teach something in accordance with "the ordinary Magisterium."  That is, when a bishop teaches something which is in accord with the pope and the rest of the bishops - it must be obeyed.  This is NOT a statement that we must adhere to a given commentary on Scripture.
MJ continues:
Pope John Paul II: "With respect to the non-infallible expressions of the authentic magisterium of the Church, these should be received with religious submission of mind and will." (Address to U.S. Bishops, 1988).
MJ:  Apparently, my understanding of Catholicism is correct:  The non-infallible nature of a teaching is not your ticket to freely dissent.  You can still violate official Catholic teaching by disagreeing with non-infallible teachings.
SW:  No sir.  Your understanding is not correct.  You even quoted the proper understanding, but then ignore it.  We MAY disagree - PRIVATELY - and if solid evidence is found to the contrary then we can and should submit our finding(s) to the Commission. 


SW:  The JBC, while it has some good points, is also chalked full of "commentary" from the modernist and dissenting views of Fr. Brown & Co.  Again the irony - you're citing a commentary which dissents from orthodox Catholic teaching and then challenging OUR ability to dissent from that commentary!

MJ:  So at the end of the day, there is no meaning to "be received with religious submission of mind and will".  Your obligation under those words disappears just as fast as you can say "I think this Catholic theologian got it wrong".
SW:  Well, not exactly.   Our cause for dissent must be more than just "I think this Catholic theologian got it wrong."  If you have hard evidence said theologian is wrong, that's another story.  

SW: So, let's backtrack here a bit.  MJ presented the JBC interpretation of the Parable of the Talents.  Keep in mind, the Jerome Bible COMMENTARY is just that, a COMMENTARY.  The editors and censores deputati of the nihil obstat (one and the same, in this case) along with Cardinal Bea (who wrote the Forward) stated it was their HOPE that the commentary would find widespread use.  There is no "command" to be obeyed here.  

SW:  Next, MJ cites the imprimatur - which he stated was written by Cardinal Bea, and accurately states that he is a member of the PBC, which DOES have SOME authority.  The problem we have here is MJ is taking this OPINION and transferring the authority of the PBC to the JBC, where no such transfer takes place in reality.  ALSO, Cardinal Bea did NOT grant the imprimatur (permission to be printed), Abp. Shehan of Baltimore did.  Cardinal Bea wrote the Forward.  MJ's citation is absolutely false.  

SW:  Just because someone who belongs to the PBC expresses HIS OPINION in support of the JBC, this cannot be equivocated to the PBC granting the same opinion.  Likewise, even the pope - as Mr. Conte points out, when he expresses his PERSONAL OPINION, even if it be a theological opinion, is not to be taken as a binding teaching.  An example of this is the papal opinion on the death penalty - he disapproves of it, but faithful Catholics may stand in support of it.  We must respect his opinion, but we don't have to go along with it.

SW:  The rational thinker must be questioning - why would the editors of the JBC not seek to receive the nihil obstat from someone else who was not connected to the production of the JBC?  Perhaps Fr. Brown did seek this from others, but either a) could not find anyone else or b) just took the easy path (Matt. 7:13-14).

SW:  I, for one, would take the COMMENTARY of St. John Chrysostom over the JBC on this one.  The point of the parable is to put that which God has given you to work.  Don't bury it or hide it (put it to disuse) but get out there and USE it!  The parable has nothing to do with the "power" of the disciples, but with how one USES the gifts/graces from God.  See St. Chrysostom's full commentary here:  http://fisheaters.com/parables18.html

Other Catholic commentaries on the Parable of the Talents:

The Catholic Exchange, article by Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio http://catholicexchange.com/the-parable-of-the-talents-2

Bp. Barron (then Fr. Barron) offers this video commentary on the Parable of the Talents:
Catholic World Report, Bp. Robert Barron, Archdiocese of Los Angeles (similar to video above). http://www.catholicworldreport.com/Blog/3380/the_deeper_meaning_of_the_parable_of_the_talents.aspx

SW: Now, I had also read that the editors of the JBC were the self-imposed Censores Deputati, the "officials" who would declare the "nihil obstat" (nothing offensive to the Catholic Faith).  I looked around and could not find proof of this, so I purchased the JBC of 1968 and sure enough, here's what I found:
Please share!

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