The dialogue here is an exchange between myself and Fr. Casey, who is a Catholic personality with a Youtube Channel called “Breaking in the Habit.” As many of the readers here know, as a trained historian, I thought the video was a generalized view on the historicity of the Exodus with dated talking points on the historicity of the Exodus. Many of the writers here know that I’ve studied Exodus in some detail, and quite frankly, we’re learning something new every year and the opinions on it are diverse. If Fr. Casey came to me as a historical consultant and pitched this video to me, I would have said, “No way, what you say could be outdated by tomorrow.”
There were many times I thought about commenting on the video about its historicity, but I took a different approach due to the sharpness of some of the replies that Fr. Casey made to his viewers: Here is an example of an exchange:
To be fair, the response of the commenter wasn’t that tactful, but I wanted to show a comment that Fr. Casey’s reaction may be justified or not–you decide. However, this is just one of many, so I decided I wanted to defend some of those who expressed a more literal view of how things happened during the actual events of Exodus, because actually from a historical viewpoint, it’s still up in the air because discoveries are few in the region and one small thing unearthed could change the consensus immediately. After all, I would argue that the intention of the authorship of Exodus was to record history, which follows Dei Verbum 11 pronouncement on the matter, but what exactly does that mean–well, that causes the issues here that arise.
@Breaking In The Habit I don’t think Pope Leo XIII or Pope St. Pius X would agree with your statement. The idea of limited inerrancy is a new development in Catholicism–its not binding on the faithful, so your detractors here are just as Catholic in understanding as you claim to be–have some humility. The PBC and Ratzinger have had to do mental gymnastics in an attempt to find a crack door from Proivdentissimus Deus and Praestantia Sacra Scripturae mainly by cherry-picking Pope Pius XII.
Fr. Casey reply:
@Phillip Marshall Maybe they wouldn’t. But not everything they thought is authoritative teaching. The Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, however, is authoritative, and does agree with what I said.
@Breaking In The Habit I’m sorry, but it only does agree with you because it’s an ambiguous document. A statement “for the sake of salvation” doesn’t actually say anything because that statement was still true with theologians in say the 10th century.
First off, you keep speaking about Dei Verbum in means of authority, are you claiming that Vatican II is a Dogmatic Council? It was not. It didn’t make any Dogmatic pronouncements and it didn’t anathematize anything. So, nothing new expressed, may be expressed in a different way. I think a better argument could be made that Leo XIII’s language carried the weight of Papal authority; or better, yet, Pius XII’s in Humani Generis is filled with Papal authoritative language around paragraph 37. Far more clear and precise than Dei Verbum at any rate.
Second, Dei Verbum 11 is ambiguous like most of those documents of Vatican II with flowery language–it only discusses that people wrote with means afforded to them in the time and culture. Sure, that allows you to make your argument, but it doesn’t dismiss the other views expressed here. Anyone trained as a historian holds to some view of historicism; however, there’s disagreement on what that precisely means between historians. I’m trained, but everyone I know would give you a similar but different definition of what that term actually meant.
Instead of responding with sharp comments to your viewers–because they’re not necessarily wrong, Simply, acknowledge the disagreement and pray. Why do you need to be right on an open question?
I try to remember that Christ says that the greatest will be those that are like children. People here are expressing their faith to you and to the world. And that’s beautiful.
So, let’s take a look at the actual documents. I want to note that many times that Fr. Casey responded with sharp comments to viewers’ concerns he expressed the authority of Dei Verbum’s declaration on Sacred Scripture, but never actually quoted the document to express how his view of Exodus is the correct view and others are wrong.
The Money quote from Dei Verbum 11:
In composing the sacred books, God chose men and while employed by Him (2) they made use of their powers and abilities, so that with Him acting in them and through them, (3) they, as true authors, consigned to writing everything and only those things which He wanted. (4)
Therefore, since everything asserted by the inspired authors or sacred writers must be held to be asserted by the Holy Spirit, it follows that the books of Scripture must be acknowledged as teaching solidly, faithfully and without error that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings (5) for the sake of salvation. Therefore “all Scripture is divinely inspired and has its use for teaching the truth and refuting error, for reformation of manners and discipline in right living, so that the man who belongs to God may be efficient and equipped for good work of every kind” (2 Tim. 3:16-17, Greek text).
The interesting that I pointed out to Fr. Casey, the most literal view wouldn’t be dismissed by this statement. The most literal view may be wrong; however, the phrase ‘for the sake of salvation’ is crafty to the degree that yes it does allow Fr. Casey to express limited inerrancy but it doesn’t dismiss former positions either. And that’s the supposed authority that grants Fr. Casey the ability to dismiss out of hand those who’ve expressed concern with his conclusion.
So, I mentioned two Popes and two of their documents that were written on the topic of Sacred Scripture and its inerrancy. The interesting aspect is that Fr. Casey dismisses both Pope Leo XIII and Pope St. Pius X as things they “thought.” Nonetheless, that’s not how Papal documents work in Catholic Magisterium and Fr. Casey would know it. For example, we’re being told by the Vatican, at this time, that Pope Francis’ most recent exhortation Querida Amazonia is a part of the Magisterium. The two documents that I mention one is an Encyclical Proivdentissimus Deus and the other is a Motu Propio Praestantia Sacra Scripturae that reiterates the teaching authority of Pope Leo XIII’s papal document Sacred Scripture.
The second thing to note is any Papal or Vatican document is the ‘authoritative’ language that surrounds a phrase. I haven’t studied the documents enough to see if there is any such language, nonetheless, it’s important to keep in mind when reading documents that language matters. And if clear teaching language is used then it would need some form of abrogation. I’ll use Pope Pius XII’s Humani Generis as an example, please note the bold:
37. When, however, there is question of another conjectural opinion, namely polygenism, the children of the Church by no means enjoy such liberty. For the faithful cannot embrace that opinion which maintains that either after Adam there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from him as from the first parent of all, or that Adam represents a certain number of first parents.
The first document we’ll examine is Pope Leo XIII’s Proivdentissimus Deus. The document is a very stern warning and some of the points to which Fr. Casey is expressing by hiding behind some authority granted by Dei Verbum are found in these passages. I’d like every reader to keep in mind Fr. Casey’s reluctance of speaking about the Plagues or anything rather supernatural happening in the Exodus in the video while reading Pope Leo XIII’s warnings of such theological exegesis :
10. But first it must be clearly understood whom we have to oppose and contend against, and what are their tactics and their arms. In earlier times the contest was chiefly with those who, relying on private judgment and repudiating the divine traditions and teaching office of the Church, held the Scriptures to be the one source of revelation and the final appeal in matters of Faith. Now, we have to meet the Rationalists, true children and inheritors of the older heretics, who, trusting in their turn to their own way of thinking, have rejected even the scraps and remnants of Christian belief which had been handed down to them. They deny that there is any such thing as revelation or inspiration, or Holy Scripture at all; they see, instead, only the forgeries and the falsehoods of men; they set down the Scripture narratives as stupid fables and lying stories: the prophecies and the oracles of God are to them either predictions made up after the event or forecasts formed by the light of nature; the miracles and the wonders of God’s power are not what they are said to be, but the startling effects of natural law, or else mere tricks and myths; and the Apostolic Gospels and writings are not the work of the Apostles at all. These detestable errors, whereby they think they destroy the truth of the divine Books, are obtruded on the world as the peremptory pronouncements of a certain newly-invented “free science;” a science, however, which is so far from final that they are perpetually modifying and supplementing it. And there are some of them who, notwithstanding their impious opinions and utterances about God, and Christ, the Gospels and the rest of Holy Scripture, would faro be considered both theologians and Christians and men of the Gospel, and who attempt to disguise by such honourable names their rashness and their pride. To them we must add not a few professors of other sciences who approve their views and give them assistance, and are urged to attack the Bible by a similar intolerance of revelation. And it is deplorable to see these attacks growing every day more numerous and more severe. It is sometimes men of learning and judgment who are assailed; but these have little difficulty in defending themselves from evil consequences. The efforts and the arts of the enemy are chiefly directed against the more ignorant masses of the people. They diffuse their deadly poison by means of books, pamphlets, and newspapers; they spread it by addresses and by conversation; they are found everywhere; and they are in possession of numerous schools, taken by violence from the Church, in which, by ridicule and scurrilous jesting, they pervert the credulous and unformed minds of the young to the contempt of Holy Scripture.
17…There has arisen, to the great detriment of religion, an inept method, dignified by the name of the “higher criticism,” which pretends to judge of the origin, integrity and authority of each Book from internal indications alone. It is clear, on the other hand, that in historical questions, such as the origin and the handing down of writings, the witness of history is of primary importance, and that historical investigation should be made with the utmost care; and that in this matter internal evidence is seldom of great value, except as confirmation. To look upon it in any other light will be to open the door to many evil consequences. It will make the enemies of religion much more bold and confident in attacking and mangling the Sacred Books; and this vaunted “higher criticism” will resolve itself into the reflection of the bias and the prejudice of the critics. It will not throw on the Scripture the light which is sought, or prove of any advantage to doctrine; it will only give rise to disagreement and dissension, those sure notes of error, which the critics in question so plentifully exhibit in their own persons; and seeing that most of them are tainted with false philosophy and rationalism, it must lead to the elimination from the sacred writings of all prophecy and miracle, and of everything else that is outside the natural order.
So, at this point, I’d ask the reader to review the statements found in Dei Verbum, paragraph 11 especially, and ask what exactly is more clear teaching on the matter of Sacred Scripture? I’d also like to point out that a document such Dei Verbum has to be read in the continuity of the traditional understanding of the teaching of the Catholic Church unless formally abrogated–which Dei Verbum or Vatican II (being a Pastoral council) did not abrogate prior teachings. Pope Pius X’s Motu Propio indicates that Pope Leo XIII’s teaching on Sacred Scripture is viewed as doctrinal (teaching) of the Church.
The next document to examine is Pope St. Pius X’s Motu Propio: Praestantia Sacra Scripturae, which I’ll note on the Vatican website is only translated in Latin and Italian. In the Motu Propio, Pope Pius X actually refers back to Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical and this is important because it shows an authority of teaching on the subject within the office of the papacy. So, what we have here is a clear genus of teaching on Sacred Scripture:
Pope St. Pius X writes:
…Leo XIII, of immortal memory, after describing the dignity of Sacred Scripture and commending the study of it, set forth the laws which govern the proper study of the Holy Bible; and having proclaimed the divinity of these books against the errors and calumnies of the rationalists, he at the same time defended them against the false teachings of what is known as the higher criticism, which, as the Pontiff most wisely wrote, are clearly nothing but the commentaries of rationalism derived from a misuse of philology and kindred studies…
…let them exclude from sacred orders those young men who give the very faintest reason for doubt that they favor condemned doctrines and pernicious novelties. We exhort them also to take diligent care to put an end to those books and other writings, now growing exceedingly numerous, which contain opinions or tendencies of the kind condemned in the encyclical letters and decree above mentioned; let them see to it that these publications are removed from Catholic publishing houses, and especially from the hands of students and the clergy…
It’s pretty clear that from the above documents that these were not mere thoughts and opinions of these two popes expressed by Fr. Casey; however, were pronouncements on Sacred Scripture of the teaching office of the Pope. At this point, one can only make the argument that PBC has allowed a development of understanding post-Vatican II council as written quite extensively by Pope Benedict XVI when he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. Professor Matthew J. Ramage makes this argument in his book Jesus, Interpreted: Benedict XVI, Bart Ehrman, and the Historical Truth of the Gospels which is a good book and even though Ramage falls on the side of limited inerrancy he understands that there is great tension from those two papal documents and continuity in Catholic teaching. Ramage’s book is intelligent and he knows he cannot simply say, “Dei Verbum, I’m right, I win.”
Timothy Flanders, a Catholic, has written a fairly good book titled Introduction to the Holy Bible for Traditional Catholics: A Beginner’s Guide to Reading the Scriptures for Spiritual Profit that explains the debate between inerrancy in Sacred Scripture and the limited inerrancy as a new development post-Vatican II. Flanders pointing out that Dei Verbum 11 left room for limited inerrancy of Sacred Scripture to keep into Catholic teaching:
“the original draft (Dei Verbum) left no room for question whereas the final draft opened the door to this error.
As a result of this, Limited Inerrancy was permitted to spread among the Catholic scholars.” (p. 224)
The interesting aspect of all of this is that the Pontificates of both Pope St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI would see that the interpretations of Dei Verbum and its supposed authority expressed by Fr. Casey had misled the Catholic faithful. Flanders mentions that instead of allowing natural law to guide morality, those ‘theologians’ expressed a desire to find what was underneath the Biblical text for true Christian morality. (p. 231) Flanders writes, “In the next year, the Pontifical Biblical Commission released a very large document in which Ratzinger admitted that the historical-critical method.” (p. 233)
Naturally, what I want to conclude here is that when it comes to Sacred Scripture is to approach the text with faith in our hearts and humility. I’d suggest that much of the errors stem from the radical change of philosophy of the mind being informed by the object rather than the object being manipulated by the desires of the mind. The humility we approach Sacred Scripture should allow the faithful to mold our lives to what has been Divinely Revealed to us by the Lord, our God.