Dangers For The Word

A brief snippet on the CNS site today about Pope Benedict’s hopes for this Fall’s synod on the Word of God. If I were to directly attribute these bits to the pope, I have a feeling I would be unfair to him. The pope is  reportedly hoping for a pastoral approach at this synod, working with bishops to search out what the people of God need. The working paper is on the ZENIT site here.

There are no quotes or sources cited for this “news brief,” so I’ll just take it as it is and assume the lens of journalism has distorted it.

(D)espite an upsurge in biblical interest after the Second Vatican Council, only a minority of Catholics read the Bible regularly.

It’s better than fifty years ago, but I’d agree we have lots of room for improvement.

The pope views the lack of scriptural formation as part of a wider crisis of catechetics in the church.

If we have a catechetical crisis, there’s no doubt it’s rooted in part in the widespread ignorance of Scripture–and that predates Vatican II. In fact, pre-conciliar Catholic ignorance of the Bible is almost a cliche.

The pope sees a danger in modern biblical interpretation that he believes diminishes the meaning of Scripture and erodes the bond between Bible and church. In particular, he has warned that various modern-day methods of interpreting the Bible are too limiting; for instance, some scholars read Scripture as if they are seeking to break a code and pluck out answers one by one.

I can’t say this has been my experience with the scholars I knew in grad school and since. Like any tool, modern interpretation can be misused. Misuse is more likely to happen among parish clergy who are not Scripture scholars, for whom biblical studies are a means to break a code for homilies and teaching, and plucking out the answers from there. I’ll add that many lay people approach interpretation with a certain lack of connection as well.

Instead, Pope Benedict believes the Bible must be seen as a whole and as the word of God, in which everything relates to everything else and offers the possibility of a spiritual journey, rather than being seen as a textbook on divine matters.

The problem with this approach is not that he’s off-base with it. The problem is that other elements in the hierarchy are out of touch with this approach, curial liturgists being among them. The indulgence for “accurate” translations and the “red ‘n’ black” mentality is as dangerous, reducing liturgy to something worse than a textbook. The cookbook mentality has the potential to cut off the liturgy from the spiritual journey, something that primarily about following directions, instead of being imbued with a deeper spirit and meaning.

This synod is worth watching, as it will touch on matters of liturgy as well as the expected themes of catechesis and spirituality.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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