Jaeger David-M. A. ,
Antonianum, 82/3 (2007) p. 409-413
Can the Word of God be studied as if there were no God (etsi Deus non daretur)? This is, in essence (or, if you prefer, in extremely simplified - even simplistic - form), the question that has occupied thoughtful Christians since what is now referred to globally as the “historical-critical” method of studying the Scriptures first burst upon the scene. Pope PIUS X pointed out forcefully the methodological incongruity inherent in such an enterprise, and sought to exclude it altogether from the purview of Catholic scholars. Later, Pope PIUX XII opened the door to drawing all possible benefits from methods that, left to themselves, should certainly be insufficient. And ever since then Catholic theologians have had to face this challenging dilemma: What if the results yielded by the merely “natural” study of the ancient texts (as ancient texts) were to be incompatible with the Church’s knowledge-in-faith of their actual, true content and meaning? Some might sustain - as a famous theologian once did in dialogue with then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – a resuscitated form of the inadmissible “dual truth” claim of the mediaeval “Latin Averroists”, saying in effect: The “scientific” study of this Scripture tells me one thing, but since I am a Catholic, I accept the dogma of the Church that tells me something else entirely. Others would erect fences around the application of the “historical-critical” method, and turn away from employing it - to invoking instead directly their knowledge-in-faith - whenever the merely “scientific” study threatened to cross that boundary. The ecclesiastical Magisterium has certainly been alert to the need to defend the depositum fidei, and fend off any incursions into hallowed ground, while at the same time encouraging the fruitful use of modern methods of study as far as they could be carried compatibly with the faith. All in all though, there is a nagging feeling that the over-all methodology has not yet been formulated that would set forth organically the relationship between the Church’s knowledge-in-faith of the Scriptures and the knowledge to be gained from “scientific” methods; a methodology that would not necessitate recourse to extrinsic limits, but that would contain within itself all the necessary “grammar” and “syntax” for speaking truthfully and coherently about the Gospels above all. There have been advances though in more recent times towards a closer integration: A renewed emphasis on the canon, and revived attention to the ways the Fathers of the Church and the ecclesiastical writers of antiquity sought to understand the written Word of God, are some of the more prominent signs of awareness of the need to make whole once more the study of the Scriptures-in-Church. A uniquely prominent example of how this can be done has now been offered us in Jesus of Nazareth, the book whose Author is significantly named Joseph Ratzinger – Benedict XVI, as if to highlight that he is writing as a “private doctor”, who is yet in fact the Successor of Peter, the first to profess his faith that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Whether a reigning Pontiff should at all put out “private” publications is a question that might have been debated in the past, but that was already decided by the practice of JOHN PAUL II. Arguably indeed the “personalisation” of the Office Holder seems to be demanded for effective mass communication in today’s world, however much it diverges from PAUL VI’s reported answer to a writer friend: “Giovanni Battista Montini is dead, now there is only PAUL VI.” Ratione dignitatis materiae, as well as ratione dignitatis Auctoris, this issue of Antonianum opens with a special section dedicated to this book: our own Jorge Humberto Morales Rios ofm, our Theology Faculty’s New Testament scholar, writes as an exegete, taking seriously the Pope’s invitation to examine his book in complete freedom, without the a priori assent that would have been due to it were it formally a document of the Church’s teaching Authority. The fruits of his labours make for fascinating and instructive reading, and help one profit even more from the book’s answer, in our times, to the age-old enquiry: Who is the Son of the Man? There follows an appreciation by a patristic scholar, Roberta Simini, of the renowned Ecumenical Institute “San Nicola” in Bari. A theologian she offers the reader a guide to the presence in the book of the Fathers and ecclesiastical writers. Is a “Christian philosophy” possible? Is it even meaningful to put such a question? This is another of the persistent dubia, to which thinking Christians have long felt challenged to respond. Is there any more sense in speaking of a “Christian philosophy” than there would be in postulating a “Christian astrophysics,” for example? And if affirmative, is it possible to have more than a single “Christian philosophy”, the philosphia perennis in the authorised version, as it were? Glori Cappello invites us into a segment of this conversation through consideration of recently discovered correspondence between the towering figure of Maurice Blondel and the Italian philosopher Luigi Stefanini, one who surely deserves to be far better known internationally too. This issue then brings you the second and concluding part of the monumental article of our Giuseppe Buffon, ofm, with M. Antonietta Pozzebon, seeking to trace – specifically through a case study - the sometimes subtle processes by which the ethos of charitable works by religious, and then of religious communities themselves, may undergo substantial “secularisation”. Somehow the transition can be felt as wholly appropriate from that study to the article by our Theology Faculty’s Maksym Adam Kopiec ofm on the teaching, at the Second Vatican Council and since, concerning the relationship between Christianity and the religions of humankind. A more topical subject at this point in our history may be difficult to imagine; it is a subject central to so much theological discourse these very days, and one which requires the will and ability to hold together a firm grasp of the Christian doctrine and a genuine appreciation of the many ways, in which human beings everywhere, not having yet had the Gospel effectively preached to them, have sincerely tried to relate to the as yet “unknown” God. A recurrent focus of tension and (at least subjective) uncertainty in the history of the Church in the Holy Land for over a century was the proper relationship between the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land, with its roots in the thirteenth century, and the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, as [re]established in 1847. At this distance in time from the turbulent earlier periods of this now substantially settled relationship, to counterdistinguish their respective missions might seem deceptively simple: The Custody specifically represents the universal Church at, and in relation to, the Holy Places entrusted to its care, while the Patriarchate (or, the Latin Patriarchal Diocese) constitutes the local Diocese of the Latin Church sui iuris (alongside the circumscriptions in the same territory of several Eastern Catholic Churches); each offering its cooperation with the mission of the other (the Custody, for example, by staffing the parishes entrusted to its care by the Diocese). “Deceptively simple” because for a very long time it did not appear to be simple at all, and conflicts and misunderstandings abounded, in which temporal powers too did not disdain to interfere, seeking their own advantage. Researching these tensions in their historical context amounts indeed to researching the whole history of the Holy Land (political, diplomatic and socio-economic, as well as ecclesiastical, history) in the decades (preceding and) following the Pope PIUS IX’s 1847 bull, “Nulla Celebrior”, whereby ordinary episcopal government was [re]established for the Latin Church in the Holy Land. Doing so at a remove from the controversies and concerns of past times allows for the kind of critical study that alone promises to be fruitful. As an illustration of one’s meaning, suffice it to offer here this one marginal comment: Official documents and histories speak invariably of the “re-establishment” or “restoration” of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem – rather than, say, its foundation – in 1847. There were excellent reasons at the time for this rhetorical choice, yet it is objectively but a kind of masterly trompe l’oeuil: It was justified by reference to the “Latin Patriarchate” that had already been there in the Middle Ages, at the time of the Crusaders. Yet at the time none would have envisaged the legitimate possibility of a rite-specific “patriarchate” co-existing in the same territory – and occupying, as it were, the same “see” - with other rite-specific “patriarchates” or dioceses, as, e.g., the famous canon 9 of the Fourth Lateran Council evidences. At the time it was simply the case that the Crusaders believed the see of Jerusalem to be vacant, so that a Latin prelate was appointed to occupy it – and other Latin prelates after him. This is very different from what a Latin “Patriarchal Diocese” of Jerusalem would later come to mean, i.e. a rite-specific Diocese for the Latin Catholics in the designated territory, co-existing in the same territory, “proper” to each - and possibly sharing the same “see - with other rite-specific circumscriptions. Among the very few professional historians truly equipped to write on the subject are Giusppe Buffon ofm and Paolo Pieraccini, and it is therefore a treat to have the former present the latest book produced by the latter. Increasingly in the ecclesiastical universities the need is being acknowledged for a genre that, in the heady days of the Conciliar and post-Conciliar theological renewal, tended to be judged obsolete, and was sometimes even despised, that of the “manual.” To be sure, no longer could the teaching of theology (even at the “institutional” level, i.e. to undergraduates) be reduced (if ever it was) to treading the via doctrinae alone, as it were, and a much more extensive direct contact with the “sources” themselves is rightly indicated. Yet without reference to an authoritative, orderly “guidebook,” bringing together the consolidated results of the two millennia of study and teaching, the students might not have a firm starting point, a solid base, from which to proceed further, and in the light of which to measure critically their own and others’ work. Manuals, appropriately renewed in method and form, are therefore once more particularly welcome. The current Dean of our Theology Faculty, Vincenzo Battaglia ofm, has now made his own contribution to this renewed genre with his Manual of Christology, which takes its title from the opening words of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council’s foundational document, its Dogmatic Constitution on the Church. It give us particular satisfaction to be able to present this volume here, both through an appreciation by a fellow theologian of the younger generation, and by means of reproducing, by permission, the Manual’s own self-presentation, which could hardly be bettered. Book reviews, more numerous than in recent issues, and a listing of other books we have received, bring this issue to a close. As always, my colleagues on the editorial team and I hope that you will find this issue of Antonianum, the third to appear in the current year 2007, as interesting and rewarding to read as we have found it while working to put it together – all for your delectation!