Avoid Intellectual Suicide: Do Not Interpret the Bible Like a Fundamentalist

Avoid Intellectual Suicide: Do Not Interpret the Bible Like a Fundamentalist May 14, 2010

Holy Scripture, despite all appearances, will not always be  easy to interpret. We can be lulled into thinking our “common sense” and “by the letter” interpretation of a text is what God intends us to get out of it.  However, if this is the case, there would be little to no debates about its meaning; there would be little confusion as to its purpose and how it applies to us today. St. Peter would not have needed to tell us that no prophecy of Scripture is to be interpreted privately, because all interpretations of Scripture would end up the same. We need to understand and heed the warning of St. Mark the Ascetic: “Do not let your heart become conceited about your interpretations of Scripture, lest your intellect fall afoul for the spirit of blasphemy.” [1] Why would he be warning us of this? Because Scripture, in its most external, simplistic level, could easily lead people to a perverted understanding of God and the Christian faith. 

For an interpretation of Scripture to be acceptable (which does not mean it is necessarily correct), it must at least conform to the basic dogmatic teachings of the Church. If God is love, this must be manifest from one’s understanding of Scripture. If one’s interpretation of a text would lead to God doing or commanding something which runs against the law of love, the law by which God himself acts, then one has indeed committed blasphemy. If one really believes God commands some intrinsic evil, such as genocide, one has abandoned the God who is love, and has at least committed unintentional blasphemy by something evil about him. One cannot get out of this by saying, “whatever God wills, is now good,” or that “the very nature of right and wrong has changed through time,” because both would contradict not only the fundamental character of love, but also the fact God has provided us a positive means by which we can understand something of him via analogy; we know what love is, we know what the good is, and therefore we know something about God when we see he is love or that he is good. While we must understand our concepts are limited in relation to God, it is not because God is less than our concepts, but more and their foundation. Thus, Pope Benedict wisely says:

In contrast with the so-called intellectualism of Augustine and Thomas, there arose with Duns Scotus a voluntarism which, in its later developments, led to the claim that we can only know God’s voluntas ordinata. Beyond this is the realm of God’s freedom, in virtue of which he could have done the opposite of everything he has actually done. This gives rise to positions which clearly approach those of Ibn Hazm and might even lead to the image of a capricious God, who is not even bound to truth and goodness. God’s transcendence and otherness are so exalted that our reason, our sense of the true and good, are no longer an authentic mirror of God, whose deepest possibilities remain eternally unattainable and hidden behind his actual decisions. As opposed to this, the faith of the Church has always insisted that between God and us, between his eternal Creator Spirit and our created reason there exists a real analogy, in which – as the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 stated – unlikeness remains infinitely greater than likeness, yet not to the point of abolishing analogy and its language. God does not become more divine when we push him away from us in a sheer, impenetrable voluntarism; rather, the truly divine God is the God who has revealed himself as logos and, as logos, has acted and continues to act lovingly on our behalf. Certainly, love, as Saint Paul says, “transcends” knowledge and is thereby capable of perceiving more than thought alone (cf. Eph 3:19); nonetheless it continues to be love of the God who is Logos. Consequently, Christian worship is, again to quote Paul – “λογικη λατρεία”, worship in harmony with the eternal Word and with our reason (cf. Rom 12:1).[2]

Christianity affirms both the transcendence and immanence of God. The second allows us to say something positive and true about God, while the first reminds us that  positive assertions are limited, that they are at best analogous pointers to something beyond the statements themselves. Our teachings truly say something about God. They must be used as the guideline by which we read Scripture. Moreover, as the Church makes abundantly  clear, Scripture is itself an ecclesial document, to be interpreted in and by the Church. It must be interpreted in such a way that dogmatic teachings about God (such as his unchanging goodness) are in accord with our understanding of Scriptural text. If reason suggests a disconnect between an interpretation and dogma, we must follow dogma and dismiss the interpretation. Richard Gaillardetz explains this well:

The apostolic witness would be preserved both in the canonical Scriptures and in the ongoing paradosis or handing on of the apostolic faith in the Christian community. The unity of Scripture and tradition is grounded then in the one word whose presence in human history comes to its unsurpassable actualization in Jesus Christ. Scripture and tradition must be viewed as interrelated witnesses to that word. Furthermore, neither Scripture nor tradition can be separated from the Church. The unity of Scripture, tradition and the living communion of the Church itself is fundamental.[3]

Revelation, therefore, is centered upon Jesus Christ – and through Christ, the whole of the Holy Trinity:

The principal purpose to which the plan of the old covenant was directed was to prepare for the coming of Christ, the redeemer of all and of the messianic kingdom, to announce this coming by prophecy (see Luke 24:44; John 5:39; 1 Peter 1:10), and to indicate its meaning through various types (see 1 Cor. 10:12). Now the books of the Old Testament, in accordance with the state of mankind before the time of salvation established by Christ, reveal to all men the knowledge of God and of man and the ways in which God, just and merciful, deals with men. These books, though they also contain some things which are incomplete and temporary, nevertheless show us true divine pedagogy.[4]

If the vision of God that one gets out of Scripture is not one which reveals his justice and mercy, the reader of the text has missed something about the text itself. Perhaps the mistake lies in their interpretive scheme, where they assume the text follows the contours of modern historical writings. This is not the case; indeed Christians since the beginning of Church history have understood a very different scheme for the Biblical text: one which presents a kind of history but uses that history to present a deeper, more fundamental understanding of the world. Texts which are seen as impossible, if interpreted as history, nonetheless must be accepted, not because they are historical, but because they reveal something theological.  St. Neilos the Ascetic, for example, takes 2 Samuel 4:5-8[5] as being historically absurd. This, he thinks, should be obvious. But if this is the case, does it make the text meaningless? By no means:

It is clear that this story in Scripture should not be taken literally. For how could a king have a woman as door-keeper, when he ought properly to be guarded by a troop of soldiers, and to have round him a large body of attendants? Or how could he be so poor as to use her to winnow the wheat? But improbable details are often included in a story because of the deeper truths they signify. Thus the intellect in each of us resides within like a king, while the reason acts as door-keeper of the senses. When the reason occupies itself with bodily things – and to winnow wheat is something bodily – he enemy without difficulty slips past unnoticed and slays the intellect.[6]

This scheme was in accord with what Origen taught. Indeed, he believed that the writers were inspired to put in statements which were absurd so as to remind us not to take the text so simply, but to look for the deeper, spiritual nourishment we can get from them, even for those texts which also have a real historical basis:

But since, if the usefulness of the legislation, and the sequence and beauty of the history, were universally evident of itself, we should not believe that any other thing could be understood in the Scriptures save what was obvious, the word of God has arranged that certain stumbling-blocks, as it were, and offenses, and impossibili­ties, should be introduced into the midst of the law and the history, in order that we may not, through being drawn away in all directions by the merely attractive na­ture of the language, either altogether fall away from the (true) doctrines, as learn­ing nothing worthy of God, or, by not departing from the letter, come to the knowledge of nothing more divine. And this also we must know, that the principal aim being to announce the spiritual connection in those things that are done, and that ought to be done, where the Word found that things done according to the history could be adapted to these mystical senses, He made use of them, concealing from the multitude the deeper meaning; but where, in the narrative of the develop­ment of super-sensual things, there did not follow the performance of those certain events, which was already indicated by the mystical meaning, the Scripture interwove in the history (the account of) some event that did not take place, sometimes what could not have happened; sometimes what could, but did not. And sometimes a few words are interpolated which are not true in their literal acceptation, and sometimes a larger number.[7]

Scripture, of course, was written by various people. While they were inspired by God to write what they wrote, and God inspired the Church to collect the texts it did, in the form it did, we must also understand that the people behind the texts are not mere puppets being forced by God to write as they did. Thus, when patristic authors, or the Church, asserts God as the author of the text, we must not take this as fundamentalists do, but rather recognize that God works with authors based upon their ability and through their cooperation with his intended purposes: “The fathers look upon the Bible above all as the Book of God, the single work of a single author. This does not mean, however, that they reduce the human authors to nothing more than passive instruments; they are quite capable, also, of according to a particular book its own specific purpose.”[8] Indeed, God can inspires people to reveal something about him without their knowing of it, or knowing the meaning behind their words, as St Edith Stein masterfully explains:

Must the inspired person who is the instrument of a divine revelation be aware of the fact? Must he know that he has been illuminated, must he himself have received a revelation? We may well imagine cases where none of this is true. It is not impossible that someone utter a revelation without realizing it, without having received a revelation from God, without even being aware that he is speaking in God’s name or feeling supported by God’s Spirit in what he says and how he says it. He may think he is only voicing his own insight and in the words of his choosing.

Thus Caiphas says in the Sanhedrin : ‘You know nothing and do not consider that it is better for you that one man die for the people and not the whole people parish.’ And John adds:  ‘but his he said not of himself but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the people…’ Hence Caiphas spoke in God’s name and followed divine instructions without either knowing it or wishing to do so. John, however, knows that Caiphas was speaking God’s word and perhaps that he was himself enlightened by God as he wrote this. Does John know the prophetic meaning of Caiphas’ words through a revelation accorded him? Quite possibly. But it may also be that the fulfillment of those words in the death of Jesus and John’s view of the overall work of salvation made him realize their prophetic nature.[9]

Now this is not to say it is the norm, nor common, but, as we see, a person inspired by God does not have to understand the meaning of their words, nor that they are actually saying something that will be collected together as being inspired by God. The intention of God as the inspired author of Scripture does not have to be one with the intended meaning of the human author, and indeed, could be one which runs contrary to what such a human might have thought (as, for example, we find in the case of Jonah).

Thus, it is important to discuss inspiration, but as the Pontifical Biblical Commission warns us, we must not follow the simplistic interpretation found within fundamentalism:

Fundamentalism is right to insist on the divine inspiration of the Bible, the inerrancy of the word of God and other biblical truths included in its five fundamental points. But its way of presenting these truths is rooted in an ideology which is not biblical, whatever the proponents of this approach might say. For it demands an unshakable adherence to rigid doctrinal points of view and imposes, as the only source of teaching for Christian life and salvation, a reading of the Bible which rejects all questioning and any kind of critical research.[10]

And, it is especially when people take the Bible as history where this becomes the problem. “Fundamentalism also places undue stress upon the inerrancy of certain details in the biblical texts, especially in what concerns historical events or supposedly scientific truth.”[11] It creates a false, blasphemous view of God through its simplistic understanding of the text, and demand adherence to that simplistic view, with the explanation that if one denies this scheme, one must reject Scripture itself. There is no basis by which one can understand the deeper, spiritual value of revelation. And it is for this reason it ends up creating an evil-looking God, and promotes the acceptance of intrinsic evils such as racism or genocide as being good if and when God commanded them. “Fundamentalism likewise tends to adopt very narrow points of view. It accepts the literal reality of an ancient, out-of-date cosmology simply because it is found expressed in the Bible; this blocks any dialogue with a broader way of seeing the relationship between culture and faith. Its relying upon a non-critical reading of certain texts of the Bible serves to reinforce political ideas and social attitudes that are marked by prejudices—racism, for example—quite contrary to the Christian Gospel.”[12] While simple, it is this simplicity which leads to a letter that kills, because it requires a denial of reason when engaging the faith, and leading to “intellectual suicide”:

The fundamentalist approach is dangerous, for it is attractive to people who look to the Bible for ready answers to the problems of life. It can deceive these people, offering them interpretations that are pious but illusory, instead of telling them that the Bible does not necessarily contain an immediate answer to each and every problem. Without saying as much in so many words, fundamentalism actually invites people to a kind of intellectual suicide. It injects into life a false certitude, for it unwittingly confuses the divine substance of the biblical message with what are in fact its human limitations.[13]

No wonder St Mark the Ascetic warned us to be careful when we interpreted Scripture. He understood how people would confuse the human side of Scripture with its divine meaning, and how that would end up creating a false, humanly constructed, image of God. A God presented in the image of fallen humanity can only be a monster, the monster which we see proclaimed by fundamentalists the world over.  


[1] Mark the Monk, “On the Spiritual Law” in Counsels on the Spiritual Life. Trans. Tim Vivian and Augustine Casiday (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2009), 93.

[2] Pope Benedict, Regensburg Lecture,  Sept 12, 2006.

[3] Richard R. Gaillardetz, Teaching with Authority: A Theology of the Magisterium of the Church (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1997), 84.

[4] Dei Verbum 15 (Vatican Translation). 

[5]“ Now the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, Rechab and Baanah, set out, and about the heat of the day they came to the house of Ishbosheth, as he was taking his noonday rest.  And behold, the doorkeeper of the house had been cleaning wheat, but she grew drowsy and slept; so Rechab and Baanah his brother slipped in.  When they came into the house, as he lay on his bed in his bedchamber, they smote him, and slew him, and beheaded him. They took his head, and went by the way of the Arabah all night,  and brought the head of Ishbosheth to David at Hebron. And they said to the king, ‘Here is the head of Ishbosheth, the son of Saul, your enemy, who sought your life; the LORD has avenged my lord the king this day on Saul and on his offspring’” (2 Sam 4:5-8 RSV).

[6] St Neilos the Ascetic, “Ascetic Discourse” in The Philokalia. Volume I. Trans. And ed. By G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard and Kallistos Ware (London: Faber and Faber, 1983), 210. 

[7] Origen, “On First Principles” in ANF(4), 364.

[8] Pontifical Biblical Commission, The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church (March 18, 1994), III-B.2

[9] St Edith Stein, “Ways to know God” in Knowledge and Faith. Trans. Walter Redmond (Washington, DC: ICS Publications, 2000), 103.

[10] Pontifical Biblical Commission, The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church, I-F.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid.

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  • Kyle R. Cupp

    Bravo, Henry.

    • Thanks, Kyle.

      I had to write it quickly without polishing it up, so I hoped that my limitations didn’t hurt my post. There is much more I could bring to the table, but this was, I think, a good example of where I go with this kind of conversation.

  • Carl

    Henry and Kyle,

    In affirming that God commanded genocide, neither St. Paul, nor St. Augustine, nor St. Thomas nor I have in any way abandoned the God who is love. What an offensive suggestion.

    Quite the contrary, if God commanded genocide out of his covenantal love for Israel – as was indeed the case – in denying that God commanded genocide, you have “abandoned the God who is love” and “committed unintentional blasphemy.” By the way, how exactly does one “commit” acts that are “unintentional”? The verb implies intention.

    Even if one says, “it must be good because God did it” (which I haven’t said, mind you), it would not be voluntarism or an affirmation of a capricious God. Such a statement merely suggests that one does not know God’s reasons, but trusts that he has them.

    St. Neilos the Ascetic notwithstanding, St. Alphonsus de Liguori condemns Origen’s (and your) approach to Scripture: “Presuming too much on his wisdeom, Origen fell into different errors, by wishing to interpret many texts of Scripture in a mystical, rejecting the literal, sense. Those, he says, who adhere to the letter of Scripture will never see the Kingdom of God (Stromata, l. 10), hence we should seek the spirit of the word, which is hidden and mysterious” (History of the Heresies, p. 46).

    Henry, why don’t you show us one pope, council, doctor of the Church or father of the Church who ever said that God did not really command the slaughter of the seven nations of Canaan? You can’t.

    • Carl,

      I will let this through, and respond to you, in brief, only once. There are way too many over-simplifications going on by you, and way too many equivocations.
      1) The Church does allow a variety of opinions. They do not have to be in agreement, indeed, they can be radically in disagreement, even in things such as the interpretation of Scripture, or the way which one goes about such interpretation. However
      1b) there are limits which we must use. These limits are the dogmas of the Church. There are also contours which we must follow, the various doctrinal statements which might not be dogmatic, but nonetheless hold some level of authoritative teaching. We must of course recognize the various levels of these contours, so that it helps us understand the freedom we have to disagree, as well, if we have a good reason to do so.
      1c) Thus, pitting one father or saint against another, like say – Peter Abelard — is easy. We can all do it. The question remains, when we do it, what do we end up saying.
      2) The Church has defined many things on some of its highest teaching authority to be intrinsic evils (racism, abortion, genocide, etc). We must not end up becoming a voluntarist and say the reason why is “because god wills at this time.” In doing so, we not only end up destroying reason and become irrational, we also turn God himself into someone who is constantly changing.
      3) Objective and subjective dimensions are important to remember. Objective blasphemy does not mean one intended it in the subjective sense.
      4) Denying God commanded evil is necessary. This is basic to Christian doctrine. And genocide, as the Church declares, is evil. There is no “but ands” about it. Genocide IS EVIL. And there is no “less/greater” evils. Genocide IS EVIL. Anyone who commands literal genocide is evil. The “this is the only way God could have done it” argument not only posits God as being evil, but also a weak God. You would do better to try a fittingness argument, but once you do that, the ugliness of your aesthetic sense is quite clear.
      5) The whole issue of voluntarism is that “one never knows God’s reasons” because “God is transcendent?” You keep providing the same arguments Pope Benedict rejected from Islamic sources with this “you don’t know the reason x.” As Pope Benedict says – WE KNOW the good. Keep falling for the rabbit hole which Pope Benedict rightfully criticized, and came out of nominalism.
      6) There are many saints, as I have continued to express, which affirm the basic foundation of Origen. What they often did not understand is tha what they say is “Origen” was not really Origen properly, but later Origenism which they are rejecting. I have already pointed out how Maximus has said the “letter” leads to “falsehood” in other posts. You have fallen for a very Protestant framework of Scripture via Scott Hahn. His path is not the normative path in Catholic Biblical Studies — indeed, it is rejected for what it is by most, Protestantism.
      7) St Neilos is a Church Father. Origen is a Church Father. St Clement of Alexandria is a Church Father. St Maximus the Confessor is a Church Father. St Gregory of Nyssa is a Church Father. You will find, if you explore outside of your limited Scott Hahn false presentation of the Fathers, they were quite speculative and free, and didn’t think one should follow “the letter.” It is quite typical to find an interpretation of “kill th children” to mean “stop your bad thoughts when temptation comes.”
      8) And if you are claiming “one must” think as you do, and it is the “only way” Catholics are to think, you must make the proof, and not rely upon arguments from silence (and assume why there is silence, either). It must take into account the full diversity in tradition and show why that diversity was allowed and no longer is. I have shown why some things cannot be – and as has been shown, Councils and Popes have condemned things as intrinsic evils which you are trying to affirm.

  • Alan Avans

    I wonder what the Tea Party reading of scripture would be like? What would happen if we applied their methods of reading/not-bothering-to-read the US Constitution to the biblical canon? The result might look like an ‘elephonkey.’

    Methinks white would be black and black would be white.

  • Carl


    Your interpretation of fundamentalism is incorrect. Let’s take a look at the first two sentences from the section on “fundamentalist interpretation in the PBC/Ratzinger’s “Interpretation of the Bible in the Church”:

    “Fundamentalist interpretation starts from the principle that the Bible, being the word of God, inspired and free from error, should be read and interpreted literally in all its details.”

    Please note that the PBC does not condemn this aspect of fundamentalism, but on the contrary considers it “the element of truth” in fundamentalism. The next sentence reveals the problem. The PBC never condemns fundamentalism’s insistence that Scripture “should be read and interpreted literally in all its details.” This aspect of fundamentalism is ENTIRELY CONSISTENT with the Catholic dogma that Scripture was “dicated either by Christ’s own mouth or by the Holy Spirit” (Trent, Sess. IV, Decree concerning the Canonical Scriptures).

    “But by ‘literal interpretation’ it understands a naively literalist interpretation, one, that is to say, which excludes every effort at understanding the Bible that takes account of its historical origins and development.”

    The problem is not that fundamentalism “accepts the literal reality of an ancient, out-of-date cosmology.” Fundamentalists don’t generally believe in a flat earth or geocentric models of the universe. The problem is that they are not taking account of the historical origens and development of the Bible. They treat the Bible as though it just recently wafted down from heaven without any human instrumentality.

    Any re-interpret any aspect of Scripture that does not conform to their philosophical and theological presuppositions. If there is evidence in Scripture that suggests that the creation narrative was originally written and intended as a “myth” (in the P. Ricoeur sense of the word), they immediately reject it.

    This is EXACTLY the problem with your interpretation of the charam, Henry. You are not basing your rejection that this command was divinely originated on any historical or litarary EVIDENCE, but only on your own (erroneous) philosophical and theological PRESUPPOSITION that an all-good and all-loving God could not have commanded genocide.

    In other words, just like a fundamentalist, you are “committing intellectual suicide” by contradicting the very plain evidence provided by the text. Scripture says “tsavah Yahveh Elohiym.” Either Scripture lied or God commanded genocide.

    Please forgive the Johnny Cochran-ness of that last sentence 😉

    • “Either Scripture lied or God commanded genocide.”

      Classical fundamentalist reaction. “Either my interpretation of this, which says it is pure history happened, or Scripture lied.” This is also how fundamentalists go about other passages, such as Romans when Paul says everyone sinned. “Either Scripture lied, or everyone sinned including Mary.” It’s the same thing. The exact same thing. I said I would respond only once, but I saw your ridiculous post as I was responding and so include this in the first. Will you say I lied, or will you see what I am saying?

  • Henry,
    Do you even realize where the word fundamentalist is derived from? You are confusing fundamentals with fundamentalism.

    You must be a member of a version of the Catholic Church that promotes an anything goes philosophy, while rejecting the TRUTH of God through divine scriptures. You are a modernist rejecting Church Tradition.

  • David Nickol

    Henry, why don’t you show us one pope, council, doctor of the Church or father of the Church who ever said that God did not really command the slaughter of the seven nations of Canaan? You can’t.


    You would claim they were not speaking infallibly!

  • Carl


    Whether you choose to respond is up to you. You may not agree with what I have written, but you will not find anything to justify preventing the following from being posted.

    1) I agree with all three parts, but make the following additions:

    1d) A doctor of the Church (St. Alphonsus) has more theological authority than a church father who is obscure (St. Neilos) or condemned (Origen).

    1e) The opinion of saints, fathers and even doctors who lived before the Church spoke on a matter of doctrine cannot be cited against the doctrine itself. The tridentine dogmas on

    2) Pope Benedict’s condemns as voluntarism the idea that God is not bound by truth and goodness. He does not condemn the argument whereby, starting from God’s goodness and truth, we assert the real truth and goodness of acts that otherwise appear not good or not true. This is irrelevant, however, to my arguments regarding the charam: God tolerated a lesser evil (i.e. commanding the genocide of the seven nations) in order to avoid a greater one (i.e. Israel falling into the abominable practices of those nations). The moral principle of tolerating a lesser intrinsic evil for the sake of avoiding a greater one is expressly asserted in Veritatis Splendor 80.

    3) Agreed. This is precisely the reason we should try to avoid using the verb “to commit” in describing the performance of acts that do not meet both objective and subjective requirements.

    4) St. Thomas Aquinas taught that “evil is suitably divided into evil of moral wrong and evil of punishment” (De Malo I, 4) and explicitly applied this distinction to the charam: “all were ordered to be slain, on account of their former crimes, to punish which God sent the Israelites as executor of Divine justice” (Sum. Theol. I-II, 105, 3, ad. 4).

    The apparent contradiction between St. Thomas’ position and the statements of Gaudium et Spes 27 and Veritatis Splendor 80 about the intrinsic evil of genocide, can be reconciled by having recourse to and exploring the “least evil alternative” principle found in later in Veritatis Splendor 80, which the pope explicitly says applies even “with regard to intrinsically evil acts.”

    5) Voluntarism is not EPISTEMOLOGICAL (“man is incapable of understanding God’s reasons”) but ONTOLOGICAL (“God doesn’t need reasons”). In our disagreement, this is irrelevant because I believe God’s reasons for commanding the charam are not only knowable but known. Therefore, whether you agree with the reasons I’ve provided or not, it makes absolutely no sense for you to keep accusing me of voluntarism. My opinion is not voluntaristic even by your standards.

    6) I quoted Cardinal de Lubac, not Scott Hahn: “It cannot be doubted that the literal meaning comes from the Holy Spirit” (Scripture in the Tradition, p. 19). If you look to the other threads, you will find my response to your misinterpretation of St. Maximus and other fathers: It is the letter taken ALONE (i.e. apart from the spirit) that leads to falsehood.

    7) I agree with the validity and excellence of your interpretation that “kill the children” means “stop your bad thoughts.” I disagree, however, with your insistence that “kill the children” does not mean “kill the children.”

    8) In the same paragraph that the pope said that genocide was intrinsically evil, he also said that tolerating a lesser intrinsic evil is lawful to avoid a greater intrinsic evil (VS 80). Why then do you call me names (e.g. fundamentalist, voluntarist, blasphemer, etc) when I suggest that the reason God commanded genocide was to avoid a greater evil?

    It seems that it is you who are claiming that one must think as you do.

  • David Nickol

    God tolerated a lesser evil (i.e. commanding the genocide of the seven nations) in order to avoid a greater one (i.e. Israel falling into the abominable practices of those nations). The moral principle of tolerating a lesser intrinsic evil for the sake of avoiding a greater one is expressly asserted in Veritatis Splendor 80.


    As I have pointed out elsewhere, you are utterly wrong to say God “tolerated” a lesser evil by commanding genocide. God does not “tolerate” his own commands. He makes them. The principle of toleration applies not to the self, but to others. If God could command genocide based on the principle of toleration, than a president or a general could do the same, as long as they could demonstrate the genocide was the lesser of two evils. As I have said previously, by your reasoning, any evil is permissible as long as it is chosen as the lesser of two evils. That simply does away with the concept of intrinsic evil.

    I quote once again.

    According to this principle, those who govern both society and the individual institutions that constitute important elements of the common good may at times—where prudence dictates—tolerate the evil actions of others (including some intrinsic evils), if two criteria are met: 1) if a greater good or set of goods would be lost if the evil action were not tolerated; or, 2) if greater evils would occur were the original evil not tolerated. The Principle of Toleration, however, should be not be considered a “loop hole” to the prohibition against formal and immediate material cooperation. In other words, the principle of toleration cannot justify an illicit participation in an intrinsically evil action, but only the toleration of others participating in evil actions where the eradication of this participation is not practically or morally feasible.[Emphasis added]

  • David Nickol

    With regard to intrinsically evil acts, and in reference to contraceptive practices whereby the conjugal act is intentionally rendered infertile, Pope Paul VI teaches: “Though it is true that sometimes it is lawful to tolerate a lesser moral evil in order to avoid a greater evil or in order to promote a greater good, it is never lawful, even for the gravest reasons, to do evil that good may come of it (cf. Rom 3:8) — in other words, to intend directly something which of its very nature contradicts the moral order [genocide, murder of innocent children], and which must therefore be judged unworthy of man, even though the intention is to protect or promote the welfare of an individual, of a family or of society [or of the Hebrews] in general.”

  • Br. Matthew Augustine Miller, OP


    The apparent contradiction between St. Thomas’ position and the statements of Gaudium et Spes 27 and Veritatis Splendor 80 about the intrinsic evil of genocide, can be reconciled by having recourse to and exploring the “least evil alternative” principle found in later in Veritatis Splendor 80, which the pope explicitly says applies even “with regard to intrinsically evil acts.”

    Nonsense. VS 80 says no such thing. In fact, it says the opposite. Your inability to understand what VS is saying does not inspire confidence regarding your interpretation of texts in general.

  • Arturo Vasquez

    The lesson it seems that you want us to take away is:

    “Don’t let the Bible get in the way of your theology.”

    And people wonder why so many Catholics want to ordain women priests, bless homosexual unions, deny the physical resurrection of Christ, and so forth. Once you accept the above principle, you can just roll with it to all sorts of interesting places.

    • Or, that the revelation is a person: Jesus to which Scripture and tradition point to and come from. Scripture alone is never valid because no one comes to it without preconditions and interpretive schemes. There are basic parameters one must follow.

  • Carl


    The Protestant claim that Mary is not sinless is based on Romans 3:10-18: “None is righteous, no not one, etc.” St. Paul is quoting Psalm 14/53 as proof that “both Jews and Greeks are under the power of sin” (3:9) and as evidence that “no human being will be justified in God’s sight by works of the law” (3:20). The statement is not directly about Mary but about Judaism: if Jews were not under the power of sin, the psalmist would not have lumped them in with everyone else. If works of the law could justify, then all of the men in the psalmist’s time would not have been unrighteous.

    The literal sense of Romans 3 tells us that if Mary is sinless, it was not because she is Jewish and it is not because of works of the law. When Protestants and Catholics make Romans 3 say more than this about Mary, they stray from the literal sense of the passage. They are no longer talking about the same things that St. Paul is talking about.

    With regard to Deuteronomy 20:16-18, however, we both seem to agree that the literal meaning is “God commands you Israelites to kill every man, woman, child and beast in the cities of these six nations.”

    While you think the literal meaning must be rejected, I think it must be held. Therefore, our disagreement is of a different nature than the Catholic-Protestant disagreement about Mary’s sinlessness.

  • Br. Matthew Augustine Miller, OP


    On the contrary, I think the point of Henry’s post is “If the ostensible truths you take away from the inspired text lead to incoherence in your body of beliefs, then these ought not to be regarded as the truths that the text is intended to impart.” I assume that you would not take scriptural language describing God as having body parts or repenting from evil at their face value, and you would presumably resist such attribution because it conflicts with sound doctrine and theology. You would be right in doing so: in allowing certain presuppositions to determine what truths you take away from the text. Another possible example is verses in the New Testament describing the brothers and sisters of Jesus. The Greek words used are ambiguous- they are sometimes used to refer to cousins and sometimes to actual brothers and sisters. I assume you would not be content in allowing the ambiguity to remain, but would rather say they must refer to cousins given what we know, de fide, of Blessed Mother’s perpetual virginity.

  • Carl

    David Nickol,

    If the principle of “least evil alternative” is true, then there would be one evil – the greatest evil – that would never be permissible. This begs the question, what is the greatest evil? Scripture would tell us that this evil is unfaithfulness to the covenant between God and man and that it was precisely to avoid this evil that God command the genocide of these seven nations and that the Israelites had to carry it out to the best of their ability.

    Your interpretation of “tolerance” is wrong because passive choices or “sins of omission” can be intrinsically evil. If, for example, the ONLY way to hide a Jew during World War II was to deliberately lie to a Nazi, one ought to tolerate the evil of lying in order to avoid becoming an accomplice to murder.

    In the context of Veritatis Splendor 80, the word “tolerance” is used because one’s direct intention is not the lesser evil but the avoidance of a greater evil. This is demonstrated by the fact that John Paul II expressly contextualizes the affirmation with the phrase “with regard to intrinsic evil.” The implication is that one is making a choice (whether the act is passive or active) that he would never make were it not to avoid a greater evil.

    The quote that you supply not only lacks authority, but it fails to address the problem of being faced with a choice between alternatives all of which would be called “intrinsically evil” by reason of their object, not by reason of intention, circumstances or consequences).

  • Carl

    Br. Matthew,

    On the supposition that my interpretation of VS 80 is incorrect (which I’m not admitting except “for the sake of argument”), the text still would not say the opposite.

    The text would not tell us 1) whether it is possible to be faced with a choice between intrinsic evils or 2) if it is possible, what to do in such a case.

    Why can’t we at least agree that if one truly were faced with a situation where the only two possibilities were both intrinsically evil, we would be morally obligated to choose the lesser evil? To deny it would mean to affirm the possibility of choosing a greater evil over a lesser one.

    – – –

    “Woe to you, Chora’zin! woe to you, Beth-sa’ida! for if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it shall be more tolerable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Caper’na-um, will you be exalted to heaven? You shall be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that it shall be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.”

    If this statement leads to the incoherence of your belief about the kindness and love of God, it is because your belief is incoherent and it should be abandoned: You have gravely misunderstood the kindness and love of God. You should not be so arrogant as to presume that God didn’t really mean or say what he said.

    You completely missed Arturo’s point.

  • ari

    What precisely was so wrong with Henry’s post? I thought elements within it resonated with the contents in Pope Benedict’s remarkable book, Jesus of Nazareth.

    Besides, if Sola Scriptura is so magnificent a principle to follow, perhaps Arturo should consider following the ever-fragmenting Protestant/heretical sects that endlessly sprout as a result.

  • David Raber


    You seem very determined to maintain that God commanded genocide.

    I want to remind you again that what we read in the biblical text about this is what the human author believed that God did, and the assertion has to be interpreted in the context of the whole revelation contained in the Bible and especially the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    As Henry writes, “A God presented in the image of fallen humanity can only be a monster, the monster which we see proclaimed by fundamentalists the world over.”

    I don’t know if your background or education is Protestant, but it does seem to me that you are clinging very tightly to a ceratin view of scripture and a certain image of God which is out of sync with the mainstream of Catholic thought on these matters. Perhaps you are not one of those infamous “cafeteria Catholics” but a “potluck Catholic,” bringing your own dish to the meal according to the venerable Protestant tradition.

  • David Nickol

    Why can’t we at least agree that if one truly were faced with a situation where the only two possibilities were both intrinsically evil, we would be morally obligated to choose the lesser evil?


    Can you give a hypothetical (or real-life) example in which a human being has no alternative but to choose to commit one lesser intrinsically evil act rather than to commit another, greater, intrinsically evil act?

  • David Nickol

    Your interpretation of “tolerance” is wrong because passive choices or “sins of omission” can be intrinsically evil. If, for example, the ONLY way to hide a Jew during World War II was to deliberately lie to a Nazi, one ought to tolerate the evil of lying in order to avoid becoming an accomplice to murder.


    Whether it is permissible to lie to save a life is by no means a settled question. Augustine said no:

    St. Augustine held that the naked truth must be told whatever the consequences may be. He directs that in difficult cases silence should be observed if possible. If silence would be equivalent to giving a sick man unwelcome news that would kill him, it is better, he says, that the body of the sick man should perish rather than the soul of the liar. Besides this one, he puts another case which became classical in the schools. If a man is hid in your house, and his life is sought by murderers, and they come and ask you whether he is in the house, you may say that you know where he is, but will not tell: you may not deny that he is there.

    You are implying that if you tell the truth, you are morally responsible for how another person uses the information. I don’t think that is a good argument.

    It seems to me that you are advocating proportionalism (as someone else has already said). (Full disclosure: I think there is a lot to be said in favor of proportionalism, but it is condemned by the Catholic Church.) You seem to be saying that there is nothing evil a person can’t do, as long as he does it as an alternative to an even greater evil. This amounts to saying the end justifies the means.

    Newman said the following:

    The Catholic Church holds it better for the sun and moon to drop from heaven, for the earth to fail, and for all the many millions on it to die of starvation in extremest agony, as far as temporal affliction goes, than that one soul, I will not say, should be lost, but should commit one single venial sin, should tell one willful untruth, or should steal one poor farthing without excuse.

  • Ronald King

    Henry, Excellent post! God is not the god of greater or lesser evil, men are the gods of greater or lesser evil.

  • Good post Henry. Thanks for this contribution

  • bill bannon

    What the anti-Carl side is doing though is reducing God to man’s level vis a vis the right to end life. God has the right to end life and does so everyday of the week. God will end each of our lives at the moment that is most wise for Him to do so.

    Deuteronomy 32:39
    “See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.” Are you interpreting such passages or are you rendering them void and subtracting them in fact which would mean you will also have to subtract God killing Uzzah for touching the ark and God killing Er and Onan and David’s son and the 42 boys who mocked the prophet Eliseus and God killed in Acts 5 Ananias and Sapphira. That’s alot of editing to do.

    This power was emphasized in the Old Testament because man needed threats prior to grace and the mood does change after Christ but the New Testament continues the identical theme at lower volume lest Christians proceed to think as the Manichaeans did, that there is a break between the God of the OT and the God of the NT. Hence in Acts 12 God kills Herod Agrippa through an angel of death and worms…verse 23 ” At once the angel of the Lord struck him down because he did not ascribe the honor to God, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last.” That is not Genesis nor Exodus but Acts.
    Such incidents are lower in volume than in the OT, but they are there so that you see them. Christ Himself in Luke 13 does not sound like any recent Catholic homilist but like the old time mission Catholic Dominican preachers when He notes: ” 4 Or those eighteen people who were killed when the tower at Siloam fell on them –do you think they were more guilty than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem? 5 By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!”

  • David Nickol

    What the anti-Carl side is doing though is reducing God to man’s level vis a vis the right to end life.


    The big question, it seems to me, is not whether God has the right to end lives, but whether he can tell human beings to do the killing for him. And if it is morally permissible to kill children because it is God’s will that they be killed, why may a person not — in some particular circumstance — conclude that killing a child is what God would want, and consequently be able to kill the child as a virtuous act rather than a sinful one?

  • bill bannon

    A person according to Aquinas (and the Bible in this case) is never responsible for unreasonable scandal but only for reasonable scandal and it is unreasonable for a present leader to leave out the distinctions that Deuteronomy makes concerning the dooms…ie that they only apply to the named Caananites and to no others.
    A usage of private inspiration for odd acts though happens several times in the Bible. If someone takes the example of Abraham incipiently sacrificing his only son until he is stopped at the last moment by the angel…as an exemplar to sacrifice his own real life son outside the parameters of the Bible, such a person is either mentally ill and hears voices or is ignoring the need within that original event (and never to be repeated) for directions from God.
    Augustine brings up the case of Samson being inspired by God to simultaneously kill himself (suicide) and the Philistines above him by pushing on the columns to his right and left and Augustine proceeds to warn Christians never to do such things unless incredibly sure that God is moving them by private revelation. What double effect people would argue in respect to Samson and one (suicidal)character within Maccabees who kills the elephant above him in order to kill the king atop the elephant…that I don’t know.

  • David Nickol


    I am not talking about private revelation. I am talking about being convinced you are doing the right thing. Carl’s theory is that God “tolerated” the evil of genocide because it was the lesser of two evils. If human beings can commit the lesser of two evils if directly commanded to by God, why can’t they commit the lesser of two evils if they sincerely believe it is God’s will, even though they have no direct communication from God. Carl’s position is that God’s actions in ordering genocide are understandable and rational. If there are good reasons for God commanding genocide, why can’t there be good reasons for a human being in authority to commit genocide?

  • grega

    “Augustine proceeds to warn Christians never to do such things unless incredibly sure that God is moving them by PRIVATE revelation.”
    Thanks for sharing this ‘comforting’ insight.
    That is the sort of thing that moves plenty of religious fanatics the world over to murder, terrorize, and act criminally – our prisons certainly house plenty of such folks as it is.
    The term intellectual suicide does only begin to describe the danger of this sort of mindset.

  • David Nickol

    If you receive what is very convincingly a message directly from God, is there any way to be certain, based on the content of that message, that it is not, in fact, from God? If God tells you to make a burn offering of your first-born son, it could be from God, since there’s precedent for that. If God tells you to commit genocide, it could truly be a message from God, since there’s a precedent for that, too. If God tells you to impregnate your dead brother’s widow, that’s plausible. So if you think you have received a message from God commanding you to do something, should you just do it? And if your first thought is, “Wait, God would never command someone to do such a thing,” what criteria do you use to decide whether you are correct?

  • bill bannon

    I have no part with the lesser evil theory. God ordered the Jews to do the dooms and there is no evil in it since they were acting not as private men but as His instrument as was Abraham acting as His instrument in the attempted sacrifice of Isaac. And He told men in the same breath in Deuteronomy that outside of that one context, they cannot do such a thing. Logically the most fundamentalist biblical reading of Deuteronomy forbids nuclear warfare for that very reason….that the dooms were only for the named tribes and with all other tribes, women and children were to be spared which rules out nuclear warfare.

  • grega

    Bill perhaps we should be grateful that the Catholics Herr Hitler and Goebbels did not bother too much justifying the doom and evil they along with half a generation of perfectly pious traditionalist minded German speaking Catholics inflicted on our jewish brothers and sisters and surrounding Nations. Piece of cake really to invoke God to justify ones evil thoughts and deeds.
    And yes in my view after we have been down that route more than once in history – in my humble opinion in the end you and others somewhat naive nice folks end up doing the bidding for some less naive and nice folks that will take that kind of literal attitude to the next level.
    In my view the reason why we have the kinds of scriptural text that we debate here is because they fit a very real attitude among human beings – past and present. So folks with that kind of mindset wrote down scripture accordingly. Not much has changed really in 4000 years. Some rather enjoy been given free hand to kill the ‘enemy’- others prefer to see the good in friend and foe. Most of us are not one or the other really.

  • bill bannon

    Can you show me where Hitler invoked God?

  • grega

    As far as I know he did not thus I wrote “did not bother too much” – my point was that it would have been so very easy to do otherwise.
    As you know plenty of hideous terrorism and killing is done these days in the name of God/Allah – in my view this is not a question of invoking the ‘right’ God – it is a question that we as civilized society insist that it is not correct and acceptable ever under any circumstance.
    This is where we are today – that is not to say that we are without fault – indeed the example you mention of potential for nuclear disaster very much is at our ‘civilized’ societies disposal – and unfortunately might as well come back to bite us one of these days.

  • David Raber


    Not to belabor my point or anything, but when you say that “God ordered the Jews to do the dooms . . .” apparently you regard the order simply as an historical fact, like say, the Rev. John Hagee, a firm biblical literalist, would do. I think we realize (don’t we?) that not all things reported as historical facts in the Bible are historical facts as we understand that notion today. Probably most Catholic Biblical scholars today would not even regard Jesus’ long speeches in The Gospel of John as historically factual. Why do you insist on interpreting the God-orders-genocide text literally, as reporting an historical fact?

    Being a follower of Jesus and a believer in the God he teaches, I for one am open to the notion that God did not as a matter of historical fact tell his chosen people to do the thing reported in the text in question.

  • John

    Thanks, Bill.

    When the Israelites condemn all Benjamin to utter destruction, it is not from God. And they come to regret it. The only ban I know of is of the Canaanites. Thus, we have very early an example of a “religiously” motivated genocide.

    Like Bill, I reject the lesser evil argument. It is God’s to give life and take it away. There are the examples of the flood, Sodom and Gemorrah (not to mention the eradication of the Northern tribes).

    To contrast, there is the example of Ninevah. And in the end Christ comes without whom we’d all be banned.

    It is for no man to judge and to declare genocide: not Hitler, nor the ancient Israelites. This is for God because judgment is his and so too the power of life and death.

    Again thanks for all the thoughtful if at times too heated discussion, and to Henry for his thought provoking article (as well as the reminder of Augustine and the controversy of when and whether to lie and what is a lie).

  • Carl

    David Rabner-

    It depends on how one defines “genocide.” A Hittite such as Uriah (the erstwhile husband of Bathsheba) who lived in a Jewish city and lived according to the Mosaic law was not under the curse of destruction. The command to kill every man, woman, child and beast applied only to those who lived in cities of these nations and conformed to their customs. I don’t think this distinction, however, changes the character of the “charam” which meets the modern definition of “genocide.”

    I am determined to maintain that God commanded the “charam” because to deny it, one must either hold a heretical view of the inspiration and inerrancy of Sacred Scripture (cf. Florence, Trent, Vatican I) or do severe violence to the clear meaning of the text for the sake of his erroneous presuppositions about God’s goodness and justice.

    As for my “background,” I have a masters degree in theology and am familiar with Hebrew, Greek and Latin. My view of Scripture is directly informed by Providentissimus Deus, Spiritus Paraclitus, Divino Afflante Spiritu, Dei Verbum, Interpretation of the Bible in the Church, as well as Henri de Lubac’s Scripture in the Tradition. If my view of Scripture is out of sync with the “mainstream of Catholic thought,” it is because the mainstream of Catholic thought has bought into a “hermeneutic of rupture” with regard to Vatican II and lost its foundation in Catholic tradition. I can either be in sync with the theology department of name-your-Jesuit-university or I can be in sync with ALL TWENTY-ONE ecumenical councils, but I can’t do both.

  • Carl

    David Nichol,

    Dropping the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki represents at least a hypothetical example of the principle, which is demonstrated by the fact that Truman’s opponents try to show the existence of options other than a land invasion resulting in the deaths of millions. I considered (and still consider) voting for John McCain (a supporter of ESCR) in 2008 a real-life example. I considered the failure to oppose the election of Barack Obama in the most direct and effective fashion to be a greater evil than supporting a candidate who supports ESCR, precisely because of the grave and lasting impact of judicial appointments.

    Please don’t use secondary sources with regard to St. Augustine. Am I disagreeing with St. Augustine or am I disagreeing with the Catholic Encyclopedia?

    Anyway, the Nazi issue is certainly different from the sick man issue addressed by St. Augustine. Catholic moral tradition generally advocates (in cases similar to the one I mentioned) equivocation or other forms of deception that avoid material falsehood. In other words, Catholic moral tradition hasn’t answered the problem by shifted it to another location by being cute with semantics. The problem remains: such deception is itself only justified because it is a lesser evil.

    Proportionalism seeks to justify an intrinsic evil (e.g. contraception) by an appeal to consequenting material goods (e.g. reduction in AIDS rate). This has nothing to do with what I’m advocating, namely the toleration a lesser intrinsic evil (e.g. genocide, slavery) for the sake of avoiding a greater intrinsic evil (e.g. unfaithfulness to the covenant). This idea is actually ADVOCATED in Veritatis Splendor in the very same paragraph (no. 80) which condemns proportionalism.

    As I’ve repeatedly said, when an alternative is “least evil” this is a constitutive condition of the object chosen. Show me when or where the Church even considers, much less condemns this proposition. I absolutely and completely agree with the Newman quote.

    As for how one knows whether a message is from God, he must remember the various rules of faith. St. Francis de Sales has an excellent exposition in the tracts collected and published under the title, “The Catholic Controversy.”


  • Carl

    Bill Bannon,

    The real issue is whether God can and did command an intrinsic evil such as genocide. If genocide is intrinsically evil, like abortion, rape or blasphemy, how could God command the it? Your argument essentially hinges on either genocide not being intrinsically evil or else God not commanding it. Neither option is possible.

    The “least evil alternative theory,” first of all, is undeniable. To deny that one can choose the least evil alternative is to affirm that one can choose a greater evil! Second of all, it is explicitly and repeatedly affirmed by the Book of Deuteronomy, not that anyone here has demonstrated the least interest in actually READING IT before forming their opinion of what it says and means!

    The command to “utterly destroy” (Hebrew: charam charam) these nations was expressly conditioned by the fact that the failure to do so would prevent Israel from taking possession of the land (Dt 4:38, 5:33, 7:1, etc) and cause Israel to fall into their abominable practices (20:18) and be destroyed (6:15). The command was thus given out of God’s fidelity to his covenant with Israel (Dt 4:31).

    “You shall therefore keep all the commandments which I command you this day, that you may be strong, and go in and take possession of the land you are going over to possess” (Deuteronomy 11:8).

    But then I’m sure my opponents will denounce me as a “fundamentalist” for once again reading the Bible before deciding what it says! These people are hilarious.

  • bill bannon

    Genocide from its roots (to kill a tribe) is something God can do with total innocence since He alone can end life due to fault and He alone knows real formal guilt as to each person and God can do genocide through using the Jews at that time.

    I don’t accept your two alternative limit. You are accepting your opponents’ assumption as they bind God to the laws that men are bound by. The difference is that God can take lives based on knowing that each man’s time is up as to his chance for salvation…which no human on earth knows and so cannot end another’s life based on the other person’s time being up. Hence we can only kill in self defense.

    God did not commit murder when He killed Onan…did He? But a man would have committed murder if he killed Onan for coitus interruptus..an act that is not even punished at all later in the Mosaic law. (The real offense there was risking the non appearance of Christ which again no human would have known about nor knew that Christ must come from either Judah or from one of his 3 sons).

    God did not command murder when He told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac did He? Yet a man would have counseled murder if a man had told Abraham to sacrifice his son. Do not judge God by the laws applicable to humans.

    God did not commit murder when He moved two bears to kill 42 boys who insulted Eliseus. Yet a man who killed 42 boys for insulting Eliseus would be committing murder if he did the identical thing.

    Nor did God commit genocide since He can kill for fault due to formal guilt (and we can’t though the state can as to material guilt) which fault as God He knew (Wisdom 12)…in all the cases like the tribes.

    Genocide is wrong for us because we can’t punish for formal guilt which only God knows of nor can we know that a person’s time is up and he has received the measure of God’s patience already.

  • bill bannon

    David Raber
    It sounds then like you are totally free to subtract those Biblical passages that you object to…”not happen” and “fiction” seems to mean you can ignore the fictional…but according to Christ in Mt.12:41 the men of Nineveh (fictional) would rise at the judgement and condemn his generation because they repented at the preaching of Jonah and a greater than Jonah was present there in Christ….seems like Christ failed to read the Jerome Biblical Commentary.

    And this system of subtracting based on fiction’s prescence would mean that your resultant abridged Bible would really be the best thoughts and inclinations of David Raber. Then the next human being with that same system will deduct other passages and his abridged Bible will be his best values of person B….etc…etc.
    Pretty soon…there will be a billion separate versions of what God and Christ said and really did and all people will then return in a great crowd to the Jesus Seminar and wonder if Christ existed at all. In short…it’s been done and it leads to its logical conclusion.

  • Carl

    Bill Bannon,

    Your problem isn’t with me but with the Catholic Church, which teaches that genocide is evil “always and per se, in other words, on accound to their very object, and quite apart from the ulterior intentions of the one acting and the circumstances” and it is a “a negation of the honor due to the Creator” (VS 80).

    If genocide is intrinsically evil, as the Church teaches, you are not correct that God can simply do it at will.

    Now saying that “God alone can end life due to fault” is just completely silly. I can’t even believe you said that. The Catholic Church has always taught and still teaches that the state may execute criminals if it is necessary to effectively defend human lives.

    You’re completely wrong about Onan. He not only disobeyed levirate laws (Deuteronomy 25:5-6) but he disobeyed his father, which is a matter that carried the death penalty in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 21:18-21). In its original context it should be understood that Onan was killed for parental disobedience and his malice toward his departed brother as well as for his ironically contraceptive act. It was ironic because “Onan” means virile.

    Seriously, everybody, read the Bible. It won’t make you grow another head and become a fundamentalist. Just pick up your Bible and read it. The Deuteronomic laws are given so that Israel may be established in the land of Canaan in fulfillment of God’s promises to the patriarchs. It isn’t that God just wants to kill these people because he wants to and he can. He does it because his covenental love for Israel requires it. READ THE BIBLE!

  • Carl

    Bill Bannon,

    Did you know as far as the charam is concerned, you are on the same side as the Jerome Biblical Commentary, which says of Dt 7:1-16 –

    “This section contains an injuction to apply the charam followed by a paraenetic development giving reasons; it concludes with a repetition of the injunction (inclusion). It is a further development of the 6:4 — the worship of Yahweh alone leading to the unity of sanctuary law, 12:2-5. Yahweh is responsible for the conquest — a theological postulate of the holy war” (p. 107)


    “In the case of the Canaanite cities, the ban had to be applied in all its rigor” (p. 114)

    Later, in commenting on 1 Samuel 15 –

    “The ban is the outgrowth of obedience to God. In this sense, observance of the ban was higher service to God than sacrifice: ‘To obey is better than sacrifice’ (cf. Is 1:11-17, Mi 6:5-8, Am 5:21-24, Hos 6:6)” (p. 170).

    But maybe the Jerome Biblical Commentary is written by “fundamentalists” (i.e. anyone who has actually read the bible)?

  • grega

    “…and it leads to its logical conclusion.”
    I do think you are correct here Bill – as you know all the major religions have split off into variants of the original foundational direction- including very much Christianity. Furthermore all successful Religions from the beginning of times have had a period of more or less vigerous rise ( otherwise they would not be considered influential and successful) followed by a plateau and a eventual decline. The only historical constant is that a large majority of humans really enjoy believing and will find ways to worship a devine being.
    For me the Holy spirit is here to stay to say it a bit sloppy – the rest will ebb and flow.
    Who is to know where we are with our wonderful catholic religion in that scheme – as far as I am concerned as long as we are adaptable we are relevant – part of this adaptability means to shed or sideline stuff that does not fly within the current context(death penalty, slavery, soon homosexuality) – the stuff we tiptoe around here in my view does not fly – now I have no problem to fully accept and embrace the fact that a good number of very wonderful, superbly educated and personally perhaps lovely folks like yourself and Carl (and i would admit the majority of Catholics actually) do very much require the kind of scriptural bedrock you eloquently defend – personally I view our catholic religion with all the messy incorporation of willy nilly traditions arising very much out of a human context as much more adaptable than for example our bible thumbing sideshow- thus in my view the broad strokes of our religion – the kindness expressed for strangers and minorities , the real generous attitude towards others and the ability to listen to popular demand and adjust are much moire important than picking the flawed scriptural text with a fine tooth.
    We are living on a tiny dot in the Universe – lets not take us too seriously.
    The creator of this is a bit bigger than a God who would have to advice a tiny tribe on a tiny sliver of land to do his bidding and wipe out a bunch of enemies. I am not saying that we are any smarter today than people back than really – we still are very much in the business of wiping out enemies – it was not correct than – it was not supported by GOD in my view back than – it is not today – it will not in the future. I can not proof this sort of thing but I happen to enjoy seeing it that way right now. Chances are my view will shift as I age- perhaps yours a bit too.

  • David Raber


    We do the best we can, don’t we? If God gave me a faith so complete and so certain that I would not need to rely upon my own judgment whatsoever, I would be the happiest man in the world. God may give me that gift yet, but I do not have it now and I will not commit intellectual suicide (see the title of the post, way up there) by pretending that I have a sure ticket to %100 truth in the Bible or in the authority of the Church either.

    On some TV news show the other day, I heard a true-blue creationist say that if the creation story was not literally true, then everything else in the Bible could be questioned (I guess in his way he was worried about this “subtracting” that you talk about, and its “logical conclusion”).

    Now here is a guy who just does not want to deal with any questions (and who does, really? because thinking is work), just as true-blue atheists who believe only in science want a sure and final form of knowledge as well. Absent a private revelation, we won’t get it in this life without deluding ourselves. Life is tough; we do the best that we can, and God help us all.

  • bill bannon

    Section 80 of Splendor of the Truth might be the most flawed papal writing on morals and is not infallible (see section 62 of EV to see what infallibility looks like when done by John Paul II) and you are talking as if it is and you know it is not thanks to your education. It calls deportation an intrinsic evil and the catholic blogs all reported this week Italy’s deporting of two Muslims who had planned to murder Pope Benedict. Not one Catholic blog mentioned that deportation in that case was an intrinsic evil…lol. Not one Cardinal tried to stop the deportation because none of them take section 80 seriously apparently.
    Section 80 says slavery is an intrinsic evil while in Deuteronomy God gives chattel slavery as a grant to the Jews over foreigners…ie…can’t be intrinsic evil.
    Section 80 says subhuman living conditions are an intrinsic evil. My lowest salary ever for hard work was as a youth mopping floors for a Catholic old age home 8 hours a day with large industrial mops at minimum wage; and with me was a black man who at that salary had to live in the YMCA of a tough town in a tough murderous area.
    Section 80 says that torture is an intrinsic evil despite papal cooperation with torture from 1252 til 1816 which means Popes were doing intrinsic evil for close to 600 years.

  • Bill,

    I have been following your dialogue, esp., with Carl. You both seem to know more theology than I do, so I have been waiting to see how it shakes out between you two. I have also been avoiding commenting (I would have been defending a position that you and Carl have in common – that the inerrancy of scripture requires faithful Catholics to accept the divine sanction of the charam in 1st Samuel 15). I have bowed out of the conversation for my friend Kyle’s sake, since I don’t want to cooperate with anything that has even the slighest chance of provoking him to his already-thrice-promised apostasy should he be convince that we are right about how inerrancy applies to that passage. I am jumping in now because I don’t think that anything I have to add has any chance of doing that.

    You mention Veritatis Splendor 80 as flawed and not infallible, and give a good example of a JPII infallible declaration. But isn’t the relevant point the Veritatis Splendor quote about the intrinsic evil of genocide, not that of deportation? And on that score, isn’t its statement on genocide merely a quote of a very clear and infallible declaration in Gaudium et Spes? I would be glad to be refuted on this point, but it seems to me that Carl should have quoted Gaudium et Spes on the intrinsic evil of genocide, and if he had, you would have had a harder time of it. It is looking more and more like there is a real tension in Church teaching (though I do not claim that the mere appearance of tension indicates a real contradiction). Not that this helps Carl’s point any – he has vassilated back and forth on the intrinsic evil of genocide. Earlier and elsewhere he has said that the genocide ordered by God could not have been intrinsically evil because it was the lesser evil. Now he seems to be saying that it was intrinsically evil but still permissible for God to order because it was the lesser evil. But then why not wipe the Amalekites out Himself? Why enlist the cooperation of Saul and the Israelites in even a “lesser” intrinsic evil? He could have done it Himself and the Israelites could have watched, which would not be a cooperation in intrinsic evil (They could not stop Him even if they wanted to). It doesn’t make much sense to me.

    Anyway, back to VS 80 – it largely a passage of quotes from documents that (I believe) are covered in their content by infallibility, so I don’t see much leeway there, except perhaps for how it uses the quotes. I agree that the deportation thing is a misuse of GS and makes something that is not intrinsically evil out to be an intrinsic evil, but I don’t see similar flexibility about genocide.

  • bill bannon

    Gaudium et Spes is not infallible. It even calls itself a “pastoral constitution” rather than a “dogmatic” one like Dei Verbum is called which means certainly it is not infallible and it was the source of John Paul II’s list. And even there with the “dogmatic” constitutions of Vatican II like Dei Verbum, theologians would not see infallibility simply due to the word “dogmatic” in their titles since two Popes were on record saying nothing new in Vatican II could be called infallible because it was intended by John XXIII as pastoral. If it mentioned previously defined dogma in passing, those passages would be infallible because they were already deemed so.

    Google Vatican II Infallible…and though you will run into extreme conservative sites who did not like Vatican II, you will see the quotes from Paul VI and Ratzinger on this very topic.

    The problem with section 80 is its lack of noting exceptions. Genocide by humans without inspiration by God is evil. Genocide by God using men or bears or floods or whatever is His right since in Ezekiel, He says “all souls are mine”. Eze 18:4 “Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die.” Wisdom 12 explained that each Caananite was in sin and had been appealed to slowly by God first with patience…a fact which apparently mankind will leave out whenever it talks of this event.

    What some are not getting is how God differs from us. We are not the owners even of our own soul. God owns all souls and as He says in Deuteronomy, He kills and He makes to live. But people don’t care what He said. If half of one percent of Catholics read the entire Bible by death, I would be very very surprised. I don’t think our Popes read it entirely by death. I did. I thought it was the least I could do for Someone who pulled me out of a very deep dark world. Why not read what He said? Imagine getting a letter from your mom and reading only a fraction of it.

  • David Raber


    Do I “do severe violence to the clear meaning of the text” not only if I question the historical factuality of the “charam,” but also if I question the historical factuality of the creation story starring Adam and Eve?

    What you regard as “erroneous presuppositions about God’s goodness and justice” I regard as the teaching of Jesus about God the Father. The Church has always looked at the Old Testament through the lens of Jesus.

    Jesus himself explicitly reinterpreted the Old Testament as he “fullfilled” its teaching. For example, he said that the Sabbath was made for man, not vice versa. And He said that the rain falls on the just and the unjust, which contradicts dozens of OT statements about God reliably showering favors on the righteous and punishing the wicked. I guess Jesus did severe violence to the meaning of those texts.

    As Christians we not only accept Jesus’ reinterpretation of his Scriptures, we accept his teaching and himself as the reinterpretation and standard that is normative for us when judging of literally everything–including the Bible. As Catholics often point out in the controversy with “Bible-believing Christians,” the “Word of God” is Jesus Christ, not the Bible.

    I’ll end my contributions to this discussion with a word from St. Paul out of one of the readings for Mass on Pentecost: “No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.” To me this means that all who call Jesus Lord share something a lot more important than the differences we might manifest in an intellectual debate. May the Holy Spirit guide Christians of all varieties and opinions to a greater unity in all things.

  • I applaud your feeling about reading the entire Bible as an imperative. I felt the same for as long as I can remember knowing about the Bible and tried many times until I finally got through it at age 15. Then I immediately read it again. I retain a great deal of familiarity with it even though its been about a quarter of a century since I undertook that cover to cover reading project.

    I am glad and grateful to be corrected about the status of Gaudium et Spes. Although I had heard that Vatican II was “pastoral not dogmatic”, I wasn’t sure (as you point out, Dei Verbum has “dogmatic” in its title, and that, I was sure, meant something. I still think so). I was under the impression that Conciliar documents were covered under infallibility. But you seem to have successfully put that position into doubt without calling the faith into question. I will look further into it – googling seems like the least I can do, so I will do at least that. As for the rest of what you say, I, who am not your typical Vox Nova commenter, I agree with you, although I have to wonder about what to make about the Wisdom quote which seems to impute moral guilt on all the Canaanites including the infants. But I think even that problem can be overcome. How many infants were still there in Canaan anyway? They were pretty keen on murdering infants as sacrifices to Baal (one of the crimes that merited the ban in the first place). Might others not have been carried away in secret by their mothers who did not wish to give their children over to the oven? Plus, even if moral guilt cannot be passed on to infants, sin, in some sense, is, and, prior to the New Covenant, punished through multiple generations. In the world prior to the Incarnation, Satan held a great deal of sway, and was able to enslave people through multiple generations to a supernatural blight complete with signs and wonders that none of the Ghost Hunters and their knock-off TV investigators ever saw. It is not unreasonable to believe that God knew that continuing to live would have just about guaranteed damnation to the children who died under the charam.

    Once again, I agree with counsel that those who think they know better than the inspired writers of scripture what God’s will was should read the Bible. They should start with Wisdom 12. It deals directly with their objection.

  • bill bannon

    On dogmatic questions regarding Councils for example, don’t let the internet be your entire source. If you live near a Catholic University or college, you might want to call the theology department and ask if one of the priests or lay teachers of that department with a specialty in dogmatics there has time to meet your for a half hour. Often you will meet with a yes. I did it many times when something came up.

  • To David Raber,

    While I do not relish butting in between you and Carl, and beg both your pardons for doing so, I feel I can save you, David, some time. I have been going back and forth with Carl on exactly that topic, and I have not been able to preserve the impression that he has a single, coherent, consistent, definite and meaningful conviction about what exactly we must believe as Catholics in that regard, nor what we may believe. If the question falls to me, I’ll answer it, but before that happens, I would like to ask you how you hold the doubt implicit in your question about Adam and Eve consistent with the prohibition against polygenism in Humani Generis 37? Carl has answered this question in Kyle Cupp’s Journeys In Alterity blog, and it is likely that he will help you if you come up short on an answer, but I thought you might benefit at least from considering the question.

  • ari

    “If human beings can commit the lesser of two evils if directly commanded to by God, why can’t they commit the lesser of two evils if they sincerely believe it is God’s will, even though they have no direct communication from God. Carl’s position is that God’s actions in ordering genocide are understandable and rational. If there are good reasons for God commanding genocide, why can’t there be good reasons for a human being in authority to commit genocide?”

    In other words, in David’s book, the 9/11 terrorists were more than merely justified in committing their horrible atrocities since even though they murdered several innocent lives, they were just doing God’s will.

    I never thought there were Catholics who would construct some of the most shockingly repulsive apologia for none other than these terrorists.

    Bravo. Really.

  • David Nickol

    In other words, in David’s book, the 9/11 terrorists were more than merely justified in committing their horrible atrocities since even though they murdered several innocent lives, they were just doing God’s will.


    You are attributing to me a position I am condemning. I am saying that carried to its logical conclusion, Carl’s assertion that God can command humans to do evil (even the lesser of two evils) results in a universe where terrorists can argue their actions are justified. However, I disagree with Carl. It is my position that God cannot command (or will that) any human being do any evil act, even as the lesser of two evils. (I am speaking of moral evil, not “temporal affliction.”)

    My position is that genocide (as in the total elimination of the Amalekites) or any other intrinsic evil (terrorism, murder, etc.) may never be perpetrated by human beings, even as the “lesser of two evils,” even if human beings believe they have been commanded by God. I am not advocating disobedience. I am saying if they believe God has commanded them to do evil, they are mistaken. I agree with the note to 1 Samuel 15 in the NAB that says

    Under the ban: in such wars of extermination, all things (men, cities, beasts, etc.) were to be blotted out; nothing could be reserved for private use. The interpretation of God’s will here attributed to Samuel is in keeping with the abhorrent practices of blood revenge prevalent among pastoral, seminomadic peoples such as the Hebrews had recently been. The slaughter of the innocent has never been in conformity with the will of God.

    I am siding with the “heretical” note in the New American Bible in opposition to Carl, whom I believe to be so totally wrong that he is beyond arguing with.

  • NAB footnote:

    “the slaughter of the innocent has never been in conformity with the will of God.”

    Once again total and typical ignorance in a footnote writer of Wisdom 12. Too bad Phd. programs do not actually require reading the Bible in toto prior to moving on to footnote writing. These people bond with each other and all sound predictable due to that and due to not reading and memorizing scripture.

  • Bill,

    You have hit on a major complaint I have about the NAB: its footnotes which, in not-too-subtle defiance of Church tradition, the magisterium and with an appalling lack of due piety and faith in inspiration and inerrancy, usually border on the heretical…. except for the times when they cross the border and freak dance on the other side with middle fingers upraised.

    That such a literarily medicocre and gratuitously ambiguous translation could get a nihil obstat and imprimatur is scandlous enough. The footnotes should have earned their writers formal excommunication!

    But I doubt that they simply haven’t read the Bible. I think the problem is that they didn’t believe it. They never see such a belief as necessary, nor even remotely virtuous. They cannot aproach the text with even the basic hermeneutic of charity to the ancient human authors that they, as scholars, would apply to nearly any other ancient text outside the Bible.

    This was brought up in a related topic in this very blog – it got started when someone asked me whether it was safe to trust the New Jerome Bible Commentary. My response: “In a word, No.” The somehow the NAB got into it, and I was challenged to to provide two clear examples of heresy in the footnotes. The person who challenged me acknowledged the examples and said he’d look further into it. Nothing has come up about it so far that I have seen. Perhaps I missed it. Perhaps that person is still looking into it.

    I am going to look back and see who it was and inquire as to how the investigation is going.

  • grega

    Kevin glad to see that you have it all figured out.
    Yes indeed imagine that – pious smart theologically sound persons can come to a different conclusion.
    How can it be?
    For our amusement, could you provide us with an example for what you coin as ‘freak dance with middle finger’?

  • “For our amusement, could you provide us with…”

    Gee, that sounds worthwhile! Who could refuse a sneering, derision-drenched request like that? Except I have already replied to a request of that sort, and the dialogue is about to be revived
    in a discussion that I have not been keeping up with for reasons I have stated elsewhere.

  • Kevin
    Fr. Raymond Brown edited the New Jerome Biblical Commentary and he did not believe that Mary said the Magnificat/ did not believe there was a census at the time of Christ or a massacre of innocents/ did not believe there was a flight into Egypt. He is not the guy to invite over for telling Christmas stories to your children….and he is the leader of modern Catholic exegesis. There are troughs and crests and we are in one trough that will last for another millenium. Benedict probably sees no problem with such people. John Paul II thought like them…see section 40 of Evangelium Vitae. You job though is to be alert for true things they might say because Raymond Brown actually is great in “Community of the Beloved Disciple”.
    Mt. 13:52 And he replied, “Then every scribe who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.”

  • Carl

    Bill Bannon,

    I agree that VS 80 is poorly written and somewhat misleading (“flawed”), but completely disagree that it is in any way erroneous. As an encyclical, it is an extremely authoritative expression of the Church’s ordinary and universal teaching power, and as such, “remains unimpaired by any error” (Vatican I, Pastor Aeternus, ch 4). Infallibility describes the unalterability of the formula, not mere freedom from errors in faith or morals. Error is never owed “religious submission of intellect and will,” yet this is what Catholics must give to non-definitive doctrines such as are found in encyclicals.

    If you read the text carefully, Veritatis Splendor never actually says that an act that is intrinsically evil can never be justified. It never contradicts that such acts and institutions may be necessitated in order to avoid greater evils. On the contrary, the pope expressly says, “it is lawful to tolerate a lesser moral evil in order ot avoid a greater evil or in order to promote a greater good.”

    Can torture be tolerated in order to suppress heresy and promote the common good? Veritatis Splendor does not say. Can deportation be tolerated in order to maintain a society governed by the rule of law? Veritatis Splendor doesn’t say. All Veritatis Splendor tells us is that in a perfect world, such things would not exist because “independently of circumstances, they are always seriously wrong by reason of their object.”

    Just as circumstances can justify otherwise evil acts, they can also transform otherwise justified acts into evil acts. There is nothing in itself wrong with going to a baseball game, but if you are missing Mass to do it, it becomes wrong. If you miss your grandmother’s funeral because you have frontrow tickets to the playoffs, you are very likely going to go to hell. Circumstances can render otherwise innocuous acts into acts of idolatry or profound selfishness.

    I am perfectly willing to admit that VS 80 does a very poor job communicating these things, but you are wrong to imply that VS 80 is actually erroneous.

    The very simple fact of the matter is that God did not order genocide simply to order genocide. Rather he ordered it in order to fulfill his covenant with the Israelites by giving them possession of the land promised to their fathers.

  • Carl


    Veritatis Splendor doesn’t have all that much less authority than Gaudium et Spes. Neither is infallible, both are extremely authoritative expressions of the Church’s supreme and universal Magisterium. Obviously, a conciliar document (let alone a “constitution”) is a somewhat more solemn type of document than an encyclical, but it is hardly the difference between an ex cathedra definition and a Wednesday audience.

    Anyway, the importance of VS 80 is the context it gives to GS 27: “The Second Vatican Council itself, in discussing the respect due to the human person, gives a number of examples of acts [that are intrinsically evil, that is per se and in themselves, independently of circumstances, they are always serious wrong by reason of their object].” By applying the term “intrinsically evil,” VS 80 seems to imply that these acts can never be licitly done. This meaning – pivotal to Kyle and company’s argument – cannot be gathered from GS 27 without reference to VS 80. Gaudium et Spes, unlike Veritatis Splendor, is not put forward as a systematic exposition of moral theology.

    The appearance of vascilation in my position is caused by two factors:

    1. There is a difference between Kyle’s definition of intrinsic evil (i.e. can never be done under any circumstance) and the Church’s (i.e. wrong by reason of object rather than circumstance). Genecide is intrinsically evil in the first sense but not in the second.

    2. I have repeatedly asserted a “least evil alternative” theory which states that when an act is the least evil among a closed set of alternatives, this condition is as constitutive to the object chosen as marital status is constitutive to sexual relations. This condition creates confusion because it changes the SUBSTANCE of an act that appears the same in every other respect. “Least evil alternative X” is a completely different act from “X.” If “Genocide” is the least evil alternative, it is not the same thing as “Genocide,” anymore than the conjugal act in marriage is the same thing as the conjugal act outside marriage. The difference is that we have wonderful words to describe this second difference: marital relations, fornication, adultery, etc. With “least evil alternative” acts, we do not have such wonderfully precise language.

    Therefore I appear to be saying “genocide” is at once intrinsically evil (Church’s definition) and later “genocide” is not intrinsically evil (Church’s definition). This is because “least evil alternative genocide” is not the same thing as “not least evil alternative genocide.”

  • Carl
    That was an excursion into confusion. Chapter 4 of Pastor Aeternus, Vatican I is strictly about infallible definitions only. You stretched it to include the non infallible as really being furtively infallible since Lumen Gentium 25 (which is not infallible either according to two Popes) calls for “religious submission of mind and will” in the non infallible so it would not call for that if any error was also in the non infallible. Ludwig Ott totally disagrees with you online in his Intro to the Fundamentals of the Catholic Faith:

    ” With regard to the doctrinal teaching of the Church it must be well noted that not all the assertions of the Teaching Authority of the Church on questions of Faith and morals are infallible and consequently irrevocable. Only those are infallible which emanate from General Councils representing the whole episcopate, and the Papal Decisions Ex Cathedra (cf. D 1839). The ordinary and usual form of the Papal teaching activity is not infallible. Further, the decisions of the Roman Congregations (Holy Office, Bible Commission) are not infallible. Nevertheless normally they are to be accepted with an inner assent which is based on the high supernatural authority of the Holy See (assensus internus supernaturalis, assensus religiosus). The so-called “silentium obsequiosum.” that is “reverent silence,” does not generally suffice. By way of exception, the obligation of inner agreement may cease if a competent expert, after a renewed scientific investigation of all grounds, arrives at the positive conviction that the decision rests on an error.”

    That is the opposite of everything you averred.

    Your further contentions that section 80 never ruled out using the intrinsically evil is even more confused. You are doing contortions to make the Pope correct in a non infallible document that Ludwif Ott says does not qualify from being free from moral error.

    Put Ott in your mind and all your contortions become totally unnecessay. Rahner and others thought Lumen Gentium totally incomplete and it is and moral theology books that post date it by conservatives like Germain Grisez even ackowledge that when they complete its thought by allowing dissent with prayer, counsel and struggled study as to the non infallible. Lumen Gentium 25 should have had that completion within Vatican II but did not just as Florence should have had exceptions to the EENS statement but did not until Vatican II made them by using Florence’s language against itself.

  • Carl

    David Raber,

    You are wrong to say “the word of God is Jesus Christ, not the Bible.” When we say “the Christian faith is not a religion of the book, but a religion of the Word” (CCC 108), we are not denying that the Bible is word of God, but denying that the Bible is the only form in which the Word is communicated to us. Without “Christ, the eternal Word of the living God acting through the Holy Spirit to open our minds to understand the Scriptures,” the Bible would be a mute word (CCC 108). Nevertheless, Catholics acknowledge Scripture “as what it really is, the word of God” (CCC 104). The Bible is MOST CERTAINLY the Word of God. Christ and Scripture are so inseparable in their identity as the Word of God that Catholic dogma follows St. Jerome in saying, “Ignoratio enim Scripturarum ignoratio Christi est.”

    Deuteronomy is a much clearer document than Genesis 2-3. Deuteronomy is a legislative text that is just as conscious in AVOIDING double meanings and figurative language as Genesis 2-3 is in EMPLOYING such language. What’s at stake in this conversation is not the HISTORICITY but the AUTHORITY of the charam. Historically, these nations no longer exist. The question is not whether they were annihilated, but whether their annihilation was ordered by God.

    Do you know any Hebrew? Have you studied the bible on an academic level? Do you know the reasons why virtually all scholars believe that Genesis 2-3 was not originally intended as an historical text? Do you know why they believe it was written in the “Yahwist tradition”?

    Comparing Deuteronomy 20 or 1 Samuel 15 to Genesis 2-3 does severe violence not only to the meaning of the texts but to biblical scholarship. You are exactly like a fundamentalist inasmuch as you make decisions about the meaning of the bible without reading or studying it. You have pre-determined what the text can and cannot say based on your own philosophical and religious prejudices.

  • Carl

    Bill Bannon,

    Chapter 4 of Pastor Aeternus is NOT strictly about infallible definitions only. If this were true, the document would say, “the See of St. Peter SOMETIMES remains unimpaired from any error” instead of saying, “the See of St. Peter ALWAYS remains unimpaired from any error.”

    Vatican I defines that ex cathedra statements are “unalterable” (sic), it never says that non-infallible statements might be erroneous. Christ didn’t say, “the gates of hell will not prevail as long as you are speaking ex cathedra.” He said “the gates of hell will NEVER prevail.” Infallibility is only one aspect of the Roman Church’s INDEFECTIBILITY. The ordinary Magisterium is also instituted and directed by Christ and therefore immune from error in matters of faith, morals, discipline and government of the Church. It’s teaching and decisions are unlike those of the solemn magisterium, however, in that the teaching can be reformulated and the decisions can be changed. The ordinary teaching authority (“magisterium”) is still AUTHORITATIVE and therefore owed adherence. This adherence would not be possible if it were capable of error.

    Ott (who is not only not infallible, but capable of error) is speaking of the suppositional character of some . In other words, the Church sometimes render conclusions based on a supposition, which is not itself affirmed or denied. The Church’s teaching on capital punishment is an excellent example. The Church’s opposition to capital punishment is based on the supposition that the cases in which the execution of the offender is necessary to effectively defend human lives are rare if not practically non existent (CCC 2267, Evangelium Vitae 56). The supposition, however, has not been proposed for belief, but merely stated as a commonly agreed-upon fact. One may support the death penalty if he can justify his rejection of the supposition upon which the Church’s opposition of the death penalty is based. He cannot support the death penalty just because he believes the criminal “has it coming.” To put it in Thomist terms, the good of “vindictive justice” is not sufficient to justify executing a man if he is not “dangerous and infectious to the community” and his death is not necessary “in order to safeguard the common good” (Sum Theol. II-II, 64, 2; III, 85, 3).

    Bill, although I actually agree with Ott when properly understood, I am shocked that you would attempt to put the theological musings of Ludwig Ott against and above the ordinary magisterium of the Pope! Your cafeteria Catholic approach to encyclicals is condemned by Pius XII:

    “Nor must it be thought that what is expounded in Encyclical Letters does not of itself demand consent, since in writing such Letters the Popes do not exercise the supreme power of their Teaching Authority. For these matters are taught with the ordinary teaching authority, of which it is true to say: “He who heareth you, heareth me”; and generally what is expounded and inculcated in Encyclical Letters already for other reasons appertains to Catholic doctrine. But if the Supreme Pontiffs in their official documents purposely pass judgment on a matter up to that time under dispute, it is obvious that that matter, according to the mind and will of the Pontiffs, cannot be any longer considered a question open to discussion among theologians” (Pius XII, Humani Generis 20).

  • Carl


    Your argument is essentially that God can and did order genocide because he is Creator and Master of life. That makes no sense. “God created all things that they might exist” (Wisdom 1:14). Being Creator and Master of life would – all things being equal – disincline one from ordering genocide. lol.

    As far as the NAB footnote is concerned: There is no implication in Scripture that the Amalekite infants were “innocent.” The comment is perfectly true, but it has nothing to do with what is happening in 1 Samuel 15. The NAB commentators might as well include a footnote informing us of the yellowness of bananas. It would be just as relevant to the text.

    Rather, we ought to conclude that the NAB footnote is designed to prevent ignorant readers from drawing false conclusions from the text. It would be very easy for someone today to misread 1 Samuel 15 as contradicting the divine prohibition against killing innocents. The footnote doesn’t attempt to explain the text (which would take more space and expertise than is available and would probably only provoke debate), but to simply provide a reminder of a counter-balancing truth that one must remember in interpreting the text.

  • Carl
    My advice to you is to print out your posts and show them to a priest whom you respect. They are total chaos and there is no point in responding to you again. The ordinary magisterium has been incorrect historically repeatedly just as Ott infers: Exsurge Domine, 1520 by Leo X in rejecting article 33 condemned Luther’s rejection of burning at the stake for heretics…as “against the Catholic Faith”. That is totally rejected by any sane figure in the magisterium right now. I am for the death penalty and totally against burning at the stake for heretics which Leo X promoted.

  • grega

    “I am for the death penalty and totally against burning at the stake for heretics which Leo X promoted.”
    Huh? You are totally against burning at the stake – What a relieve indeed – how unexpected progressive of you. You are still not exactly up to speed regarding the current CCC interpretation of the death penalty – but hey perhaps in a short 500 years you will catch up.
    LOL Perhaps you should consider talking to a Priest yourself?

  • Carl


    I have a masters degree in theology. I work for a bishop and have discussed these matters at length with the priest who speaks on his behalf on matters of theology and doctrine. He agrees with everything I’ve written on this forum.

    Why would you wish to punish those who destroy bodies more severely than those who destroy souls?

    Anyway, the Church’s assertions in favor of religious liberty pressupose “the just requirements of public order are observed” (Dignitatis Humanae 2, 3, 4). If the execution of a heretic were required to maintain public order, Vatican II would support it. This is why the proposition of Luther was rightly condemned.

    If you think putting heretics to death would still be wrong, even if it were required to maintain public order, you would be condemned by Vatican II and Exsurge Domine alike.

  • David Raber

    Bill and Carl,

    Your mission to the Vox Nova heretic bloggers and their fellow travelers has apparently failed. I wonder if now, in your version of a perfect world, a crusade would be declared against that crowd and they would suffer a fate like that of the Albigensians–or the Amalekites.

  • Carl


    You think Dr. Ludwig Ott has more authority than a papal encyclical and you are accusing ME of chaos?!?

    Dude, you can’t be serious.

  • Grega
    Lol…have you tried reading at all rather than running your mouth without referring to anything outside your imagination. You bring no research to any discussion. Go to wiki which in this case seems to have done the most complete work and it gives the murder rates by country. The catechism position which rejects the papal position from Augustine til Pius XII in 1952 is doing great work in the world. Half of the top 20 murder rate countries…10…are predominant Catholic and 1 of the ten has a death penalty. The other 9 have not had one for decades in most cases.
    So following the catechism and in advance of its wisdom in most cases we are the religion with the worst murder rates. We have in fact the Catholic continent of South America which contains half the Catholics in the world and one would never send one’s daughter there for vacation but one would send her to pagan Japan. Japan with no Christianity and with a death penalty is the 4th safest nation in the world in that respect.

  • Carl,

    “As far as the NAB footnote is concerned: There is no implication in Scripture that the Amalekite infants were “innocent.” The comment is perfectly true, but it has nothing to do with what is happening in 1 Samuel 15. The NAB commentators might as well include a footnote informing us of the yellowness of bananas. It would be just as relevant to the text…Rather, we ought to conclude that the NAB footnote is designed to prevent ignorant readers from drawing false conclusions from the text. It would be very easy for someone today to misread 1 Samuel 15 as contradicting the divine prohibition against killing innocents. The footnote doesn’t attempt to explain the text (which would take more space and expertise than is available and would probably only provoke debate), but to simply provide a reminder of a counter-balancing truth that one must remember in interpreting the text.”

    That is a very charitable reading of that footnote, and not implausible. You’re probably right, and in any case, that’s how I suppose we should read those footnotes even if that was not what their authors meant, since it believes the best of them that we can and also helps us see truths in the text instead of being distracted by apparent falsehoods outside them.

    I must be fresh out of charity for the writers of those footnotes — I used it up years ago over the NAB — because when I see comments like that, they look to me the way they looked to Bill: like bald assertions of a materially heretical nature. That attitude is not likely to change any time soon.

  • David Nickol

    “As far as the NAB footnote is concerned: There is no implication in Scripture that the Amalekite infants were “innocent.”


    You are making up your own definition of innocent. Here’s a paragraph from Essays in Pastoral Medicine by Austin O’Malley and James Joseph Walsh (which you can find on Google Books):

    We may not, however, kill an innocent man even indirectly, because no end is proportionate to the sacrifice of an innocent man’s life, but the case of an unjust aggressor differs from that of an innocent man. By an unjust aggressor is meant some one that outside the due course of law threatens your life or the equivalent of your life, or the life of some one you should or may protect. You may stop such an aggressor, and if you happen to kill him while trying to stop him, there is no moral wrong involved. This aggressor may be formally or only materially unjust; he may be a normal man with a formal intention to kill you or your ward, or a murderous lunatic that tries to kill you or your ward, but he must be unjust either formally or materially.

    Innocent means “not an unjust aggressor.” An innocent person is a person who is not an unjust aggressor, either formally or materially. A baby — even a baby who may grow up and become a military enemy or a corrupting influence — cannot be an unjust aggressor, and hence is definitely and unquestionably innocent according to Catholic moral theology. A command from God to kill a baby would be a command to commit an intrinsic evil, and there would be no possible justification for a human being to carry out what he believed to be such a command, even if he believed it came from God.

    You are making up your own definitions of concepts like innocence, tolerance, and inerrancy to persist in your mistaken interpretation of the Bible.

  • Carl
    Dude…you changed Exsurge Domine to addressing capital punishment. It specified “burning at the stake” and supported it. You tried to make that vanish. “Burning at the stake” includes death with torture…with torture… the latter of which is forbidden by section 80 of Splendor of the Truth and in your and apparently your Bishop’s world of pan infallibility, Splendor of the Truth and Ex Surge Domine both have infallibility and yet they contradict each other. What does that say about your and your Bishop’s theory?

  • R. Rockliff

    Carl said:

    “I have a masters degree in theology.”

    According to Carl, the opinions of “modernist” scholars are not due respect, not even the respect of an accurate report. Yet, many of these “modernist” scholars have degrees. If degrees do not confer status to the opinions of the scholars with the degrees, then what is the purpose of Carl’s disclosure?

    Carl said:

    “Dude, you can’t be serious.”


  • R. Rockliff

    Kevin said:

    “….when they cross the border and freak dance on the other side with middle fingers upraised.”

    Sounds like they could use some Philosophical Therapy.

  • From your lips to our Lord’s ears, Rockliff – Amen!

  • Carl

    David Nickol,

    I guess it’s too bad that the sacred writers didn’t read “Essays in Pastoral Medicine.” The Hebrew word for innocence is “naqiy” which has NOTHING to do with “not an unjust aggressor.” The word means clean or pure. It is not a default state, but one brought about by repentence and ritual actions, which express God’s merciful love: “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Ps 51:5); “all alike are corrupt, all alike are depraved” (Ps 14:3, 53:3).

    I never said there is no implication in ESSAYS IN PASTORAL MEDICINE that the Amalekite infants were “innocent.” I said there is no implication in SCRIPTURE that they were innocent. In Scripture, our default state is that which we have inherited from our fathers.

  • Carl

    Bill Bannon,

    I thought your point was about Vatican II’s teaching on religious freedom vis-a-vis the medieval practice of executing heretics. I didn’t realize it was about torture.

    In international law, which is undoubtedly presupposed by the Vatican II/John Paul II use of the term, torture is defined as “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him, or a third person, information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in, or incidental to, lawful sanctions.”

    Burning at the stake as a lawfully sanctioned punishment for a crime does not meet this definition but is explicitly barred from the definition: “Torture does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in, or incidental to, lawful sanctions.”

  • Carl

    The source for the above quote is the “United Nations Convention against Torture.”

  • Carl

    R. Rockliff,

    Did I use the word “modernist” or attack scholars? Actually I remember quoting the “Jerome Biblical Commentary,” edited by Raymond Brown and Joseph Fitzmyer, S.J. From the beginning of this conversation I have employed the historical critical method to answer a misreading of the text that arises from tenuous philosophical presuppositions rather than sound exegesis.

    The purpose for my disclosure was to respond to Bill Bannon’s suggestion that I print out my comments and show them to a priest. In another place he seemed to imply that I might be relying purely on internet resources and winging it. Having a degree and being a professional doesn’t give any authority to my arguments but they do answer these rather offensive and completely irrelevant remarks.

    Let’s deal with the arguments and leave our character out of this conversation.

  • R. Rockliff

    Would anyone here who thinks that the stake is not “torture” comment on what they think the purpose of the stake is? We know it is a form of execution. So are hanging and beheading. What would be the motive for going to the trouble of burning someone alive, as opposed to simpler methods like hanging or beheading?

  • grega

    Bill – I have read this sort of critique from you before – sure we have various level of knowledge and verbal abilities – and most certainly I would not be the one anyone would mistake for anything other than a person offering personal opinions. Remember this are comment boxes not scholarly journals. But honestly do not fool yourself while your own utterances might be filled with factoids to your own liking in the end they amount to nothing more than your opinion – it is interesting to see you readily dismiss Popes and Cardinals if they happen to say/write things the great Bannon disagrees with.
    Yes I found it rather amusing (and revealing) that you have the hubris to send an obviously well read thoughtful fellow catholic like Carl to seek priestly advice. And yes I fundamentally disagree with the underlying philosophy that seems to inform your take on our religion.
    To get back to one of your favorite issues. You know full well that JPII changed CCC language to reflect more updated understandings in regards to capital punishment – I take it you do not like it.
    IMHO you should Wiki and Google yourself towards a better argument than the one you present regarding murder rates and relationship to CCC. The US tops the murder rate – the US is NOT a predominantly catholic country. Let me be frank since you seem to be under illusion that back until 1952 the catholic world was just wonderful – just take a closer look at three predominately catholic countries in the heart of Europe with the kind of laws in place back than to your liking (and currently not to your liking) : Germany – Italy -Spain

    A) How come that these countries with strong pious catholic populations who worshipped very much in the way that quite a few folks particular here in the US seem to be under the illusion these days to be superior to post Vatican II went down the facist route and murdered millions?

    Currently CCC reads:
    “2267 The traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude, presupposing full ascertainment of the identity and responsibility of the offender, recourse to the death penalty, when this is the only practicable way to defend the lives of human beings effectively against the aggressor.
    “If, instead, bloodless means are sufficient to defend against the aggressor and to protect the safety of persons, public authority should limit itself to such means, because they better correspond to the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.
    “Today, in fact, given the means at the State’s disposal to effectively repress crime by rendering inoffensive the one who has committed it, without depriving him definitively of the possibility of redeeming himself, cases of absolute necessity for suppression of the offender ‘today … are very rare, if not practically non-existent.'[John Paul II, Evangelium vitae 56.]”

    You do not like it and prefer to live in the past.
    Your choice.

  • Grega…long and still largely made up off the top of your head except for the CCC which was quickly copied and pasted. I’m sure you have a good IQ. You simply are lazy and writing a long post once in a blue moon instead of chirping shots from the fence will not change that. Effort will; but Aquinas said sloth is rooted in a sorrow. Conquer the root sorrow and the sloth will evaporate and you will be contributing rather than taking snide shots from the sidelines.

    Carl…that was long because you were selling a used car with a bad radiator. But you fooled yourself and that is what counts.

  • R Rockliff
    As Ishmael said in Moby Dick, “cast not off these peaceful islands, thou mayest never return.”
    Carl needs burning at the stake to be only the death penalty; and you and I know that it is the death penalty and torture simultaneously since they also had beheading at that time which while gruesome to watch is less painful because it separates the brain from pain messages…the very opposite of burning at the stake as to mercy.

    Carl needs it to be only the death penalty because Ex Surge Domine (1520) which supported burning at the stake is contradicted by Splendor of the Truth section 80 which calls torture an intrinsic evil. Carl wants the ordinary magisterium to have no errors while Ott’s Fundamentals of the Catholic Faith says that it does have moral errors. Carl believes in creeping infallibility such that anything in the ordinary magisterium will eventually be infallible. What is true is that some issues in the ordinary magisterium eventually receive the approbation of infallible statements as abortion’s condemnation did in section 62 of Evangelium Vitae.
    Usury’s meaning for 1400 years is an example of another mistake in the ordinary magisterium. We corrected it in 1830 during Pius VII’s reign at which time we literally allowed what Calvin had said all along: that moderate interest on personal loans was moral. Calvin said that in 1545 which shows you that all the elaborate theories of Catholic apologetics people on how we wisely changed as economies changed…was a crock similar to Carl above pretending that burning at the stake is just like any other death penalty and has no torture side by side with the distinct death penalty aspect. When Anglicans accepted contraception in 1930, Catholics said they were giving in to the world. But that is whay we did in 1830 on the matter of interest on a personal loan…we always permitted extrinsic titles in business oriented loans and even Aquinas did. Calvin agreed with that too but Luther stayed with Catholicism on forbidding interest on personal loans but also Luther said Catholicism was wrong in allowing extrinsic titles on business loans.
    Calvin had both Catholic positions..business and personal…but he had the latter 300 years before we did.

  • Carl

    Bill, let me try to get through to you from another angle.

    The Church’s modern rejection of “cruel practices that in times past were commonly used by legitimate governments to maintain law and order” and modern view that the Church’s support of such practices is “regrettable,” hinges on the judgment that they were and are “not necessary for public order” (CCC 2298).

    In this, the truth of Exsurge Domine is actually not denied but affirmed: the use of these practices would be justified if they were necessary for public order. The proposition attributed to Luther is condemned precisely because it asserts that burning at the stake would still be unjust even if it were necessary for public order.

    Exsurge Domine did not condemn the assertion that “burning heretics at the stake is not necessary for maintaining public order.” The difference between the two teachings hinges on a question of whether this practice was/is necessary to maintain public order.

    Just as the Church’s former acceptance of these practices hinged on the supposition that they were necessary, so the Church’s current rejection hinges on the supposition that they are not necessary.

  • R. Rockliff


    I can only conclude that denial that the stake is torture is sophistry of the worst kind. If the stake is not torture, then nothing is. One need only set up the pretense that whatever torture one wants to inflict is a part of the “lawfully sanctioned” death sentence one is executing, and then see to it that the victim dies of it, eventually.

    The Church has indeed changed its position on many subjects, and that, of course, creates a problem for anyone who must insist that both positions, old and new, are infallible. I suppose one can, and some do, invent ingenious and convoluted arguments to demonstrate that the position did not change. I have seen such arguments deployed on the subject of usury. Such arguments can be attractive, in a way, I do admit.

    Concerning usury, I personally wish the Church had not changed its position, and admit that I do not understand what motivated it to make the change. My opinion on this matter, I understand, is unpopular and open to criticism. My only defense is that I learned it, mostly, from Chesterton and Belloc.

  • Carl


    Ott does not say magisterial “teaching” may “contain error” but that says that a magisterial “decision” may “rest on an error.” This distinction is pivotal to this conversation.

    The Church’s former teaching rested on the assertion that cruel practices are necessary for public order. The Church’s current teaching rests on the assertion that they are not. Unless they were necessary but no longer are, one of these teachings rests on an error. The fact of whether such practices are or are not necessary for public order is not a matter of faith and morals but a matter of fact.

    Ott is saying that while one must still give outward adherence (“silentium obsequiosum”) one may withhold “inner agreement” to a decision if and only if he has legitimate reason to believe the truth of the decision only follows from a supposition that is itself erroneous (i.e. “based on an error”).

    In other words, a fourteenth century Catholic could have withheld inner agreement to the assertion “cruel practices are justified” if he had legitimate reason to believe the public order required it. Likewise, one may today withhold inner agreeement to the assertion “capital punishment should be abolished” if he has legtimate reasons for believing the requirements of public order still justify the practice.

    In such cases truth of the Church’s teaching is suppositional (i.e. it depends on an “if” that may be open to doubt).

    I didn’t avoid your point about “burning at the stake” being torture, but misunderstood it. I didn’t originally realize that you were not making a point about religious freedom and capital punishment, but rather about torture.

  • Carl

    R. Rockliff,

    Your problem isn’t with me but with the definition of “torture,” which expressly excludes pain resulting from “lawful sanctions.” Whether pain resulting from burning at the stake constitutes torture depends on whether it has been lawfully enacted by a legitimate government because of a just requirement of public order.

    I personally believe that CAPITAL PUNISHMENT – never mind a form of capital punishment as terrible as burning at the stake – was NEVER necessary or even effective in suppressing heresy. I also disagree with Bill’s simplistic case that the suppression of capital punishment leads to increased murder rates. I am opposed to every use of capital punishment in stable states that have an effective prison system (i.e. US, Europe and most of the rest of the world).

    My point is purely supposition: IF burning at the stake were necessary for public order and executed lawfully, it would not meet the definition of torture and it would be justified. My position that it IS torture and NOT justified, follows from my belief that it is not necessary for public order.

  • R. Rockliff


    I would say that IF burning at the stake is necessary for public order, THEN torture is necessary for public order. What is truly necessary for public order is, as you say, debatable.

    What I say may not be consistent with certain interpretations of certain texts, authoritative or not, but it shows some respect for the word. The word “torture” does have its juridical meanings, and these meanings have been tortured out of the word, in order to make it easier to torture bodies without having to call it what it is. The word itself, historically and etymologically, means the infliction of intense pain. Burning at the stake qualifies, if anything does, whether or not it is conducive to public order.

    If an execution brings about incidental pain as a side-effect of inflicting mortal injury to the body, then I would say that it is death without torture. If it brings about death as a side-effect of inflicting intensely painful injuries to the body that only cause death when artificially prolonged, then I would say that it is death by torture. I do not feel that I have said anything absurd or naive.

    The Church may have believed that death alone was not a sufficient deterrent to heresy, and that to death it was necessary to add the horror of intense and prolonged pain. I would not say, however, that the belief that intense and prolonged pain was necessary for public order changed the stake from torture into non-torture. It may make a difference to the judge, but it makes no difference to the condemned heretic, whether or not someone discovered a clever way to redefine “torture.” I assure you, those who are burned experience it as torture.

  • David Nickol

    I guess it’s too bad that the sacred writers didn’t read “Essays in Pastoral Medicine.” The Hebrew word for innocence is “naqiy” which has NOTHING to do with “not an unjust aggressor.”


    The meaning of innocent in Hebrew has nothing to do with this discussion. I am talking about the meaning of innocent in moral theology. Babies, were they born today in the United States of America, or were they born to the Amalekites thousands of years ago, cannot be other than innocent. You seem to me to be implying that the commandment against murder meant something in Old Testament times that it does not mean today, or means today something it did not mean then. I do not at all agree. Killing an innocent baby — that is, a baby that is not an unjust aggressor — was just as much murder then as it is now. God does not command human beings to murder each other. He commands them not to murder each other. The compilers of the NAB are correct to point this out.

  • Carl…Carl…Carl,

    ” not all the assertions of the Teaching Authority of the Church on questions of Faith and morals are infallible and consequently irrevocable.”

    -Ludwig Ott

    What you did was go far below that in the paragraph and choose a passage that was more malleable to those sculptor hands of yours. You should write apologetics…perhaps a book on the Inquisition as leading to our present knowledge of stretching exercises. Apologetics is filled with this hermeneutic of continuity wherein interest on a loan is mortal sin and intrinsic evil in December of 1829 and yet interest on a loan is innocent and not evil at all in December of 1830. And nothing changed. No wonder our main source of converts is primitive tribes to this day. They are amazed that we can change reality. But that is exactly why the newspapers never have half the faculty at Harvard or Yale converting to Catholicism. They know we are shucking and jivin’.

    It’s simple: Ex Surge Domine endorsed the worst torture of burning and Splendor of the Truth condemned all torture as intrinsically evil. There is no continuity between those two positions. We now follow Luther in Splendor of the Truth as to burning at the stake because in that one thing at least, he was correct; just as Calvin was correct on moderate interest on a personal loan. Your writing long exercises in Ratzingeresque continuity is converting only the mudmen of New Guinea…maybe. Not all mudmen are nodding their heads yes.

  • Carl

    R. Rockliff,

    I don’t really disagree with anything you’ve written here, but there remain two issues:

    1) Is your understanding of the term (i.e. severe infliction of pain without reference to the requirements of public order or lawfulness of institution) is the Church’s understanding of the term (GS 27, VS 80)? Is torture in the sense you understand it “intrinsically evil”?

    2) If we answer the questions above affirmatively, how does the intrinsic evil of torture relate to the evil of failing to meet the requirements of public order? In other words, if failing to employ “torture” meant compromising the common good, what would the Church’s teaching advise us to do?

    Do you see what I’m getting at?

    The Church’s rejection of torture explicitly rests on the hypothesis that torture is “not necessary for public order” (CCC 2298). But this can be taken in two ways. 1) Excruciatingly painful methods of interrogation and/or punishment are never necessary for public order. 2) When they are necessary for public order, excruciating painful methods of interrogation and/or punishment do not constitute “torture.” In other words, under such circumstances, the acts are not cruel or arbitrary but proportionate and necessary.

    One last note, I think there were aspects of ancient and medieval thought regarding burning at the stake that are relatively inaccessible to us today. It seems to me that they believed justice required the intensity of pain inflicted in the punishment needed to reflect the severity of the crime. I don’t think this was out of malice or cruelty, but out of a genuine sense of justice and proportionality.

    When push comes to shove, I’m not sure we can prove they were wrong.

  • Carl

    David Nickol,

    The meaning of “innocent” in Hebrew has a lot to do with this discussion if “all that is asserted by the sacred writers must be regarded as asserted by the Holy Spirit” (DV 11). Why would what you call “the meaning of innocent in moral theology” trump the meaning of Scripture?

    Obviously, there is no such thing as a baby who is an “unjust aggressor.” What is less obvious – indeed, not at all obvious – is whether babies are therefore innocent. Are babies conceived in innocence or in sin? If in sin is it always the same nature and the same degree? If inherited guilt exists, can it ever justify the taking of one’s natural life?

    That souls who die in original sin only descend immediately into hell is a matter of Catholic dogma (Council of Florence). Today, we get around this dogma, so to speak, by explaining how God can sanctify such souls with baptismal grace, but the point remains. If a soul actually departed in original sin only, they would go to hell! As Scripture says, “The wages of sin are death.”

    If a soul with original sin alone deserves to go to hell, why is it so strictly impossible that it could ever deserve something as innocuous as physical death? In asking this, I am not suggesting that “privacy” or “personal autonomy” or “equal citizenship” could justify the taking of an infant’s life (this is the position of the Supreme Court), but that in the hopeless world of the Old Testament, fulfilling God’s covenant could justify it. To fulfill His covenant with Israel, God had to order genocide. To fulfill their covenant with God, the Israelites had to execute the command.

    As the Jerome Biblical Commentary says, “The ban is the outgrowth of obedience to God. In this sense, the observence of the ban was higher service of God than sacrifice” (p. 170).

  • Carl


    Look at the quote you provided from Ott. Infallibility is about “irrevocability.” The Church’s teaching is always true when understood in context, but its formulas are not always irreformable. The Church has never said that the teaching of the ordinary and universal magisterium can or does or ever has contained error. No one has the “authority” to teach error.

    What changed in 1830 was the Church recognized that interest rates proportionate to the legitimate costs of loaning money (default rates, inflation, etc) not only did not constitute usury, but actually encouraged liberality in lending and the economic uplifting of the poor. The Church continued and continues to denounce arbitrary, excessive and avaricious collection of interest.

    You are absolutely right that Luther and Calvin were wrongly condemned on these two matters, but not because the Church’s position was wrong, but because the Church failed to understand their positions and therefore ended up condemning a straw man. If Luther had held the position of Exsurge Domine 33, he would have rightly been condemned. But as Lutherans pointed out then and continue to point out now, on this and many other points, Exsurge Domine failed to really grasp the thought it was attempting to condemn.

  • Carl

    R. Rockliff,

    I don’t know whether you agree with me but I agree with you. I don’t think you’ve said anything naive or absurd.

    Again, I think there was more to medieval procedure than simply the deterring effect of causing intense and prolonged pain. It was not so cold an exchange as that. But please bear in mind that I don’t agree with the view whose reasonableness I’ve been defending.

    I also don’t think the definition of torture that I’ve been defending is “tortured.” Various definitions can serve various purposes. I think your definition would be terrible if enacted in law. But I also think the legal definition only communicates a shadow of the full reality. The darkness of our world forces tragic choices.

  • Carl

    David Nickol,

    You keep asserting the innocence of babies as self-evident when it is not self-evident. The fact that a human being is not an unjust aggressor does not mean that a human being is innocent. St. Paul did not say that the wages of unjust aggression are death, but the wages of sin are death. Under the regime of Adam, all of our lives are forfeit. Again, this assertion is not a matter of some assertion in an encyclical, but a divinely revealed truth confirmed by dogma. To kill in obedience to God is not murder.

  • But the Bible is not all one!

    “I understand the Bible” is like saying “I understand the library”.

    “Genesis” is easy to read, but not everybody can read Isiah. It’s like reading Shakespeare. It’s simply not everybody’s cup of tea.

    I talked the other day to a highly successful chemistry engineer, somebody who is a Nr 1 in his field and is not yet 30.

    Well, now: he did not understand Robert Frost’s “Whose woods these are..” He looked puzzled and a little unhappy and next could not find words to explain why or how he did not understand.

    So? He cannot be expected to read “the Bible”.

  • Carl
    In 1829, money had the same organic capacities as it did in 1830. In 1829, to take interest was against the natural law for qa Catholic with no parvity of matter just like in sexual sins and he could go into eternal damnation never to come out from having charged cousin Waldo interest on a loan. And in 1830, a Catholic could do the very same thing scot free of natural law and parvity of matter. You…Carl… are indeed the great spinmaster we have awaited….the One who we want to do our taxes when they include royalties from foreign lands and from energy trusts….schedules K L M N O P. Hang out the shingle…you are the one we have awaited.

  • And Carl (R. Rockliff beware)

    You are once again in sleight of hand with still another source… ccc 2298. It does not only say that torture is found now not to work (which you are using to bless its Church past use since they thought it did work then)…it says something besides it not working. Here is the apposite sentence:

    ” In recent times it has become evident that these cruel practices were neither necessary for public order, nor in conformity with the legitimate rights of the human person.”

    ” nor in conformity with the legitimate rights of the human person” means it was always intrinsically evil then and now. Whether it worked or not has zero imput once something is intrinsically evil…then or now. Fornication relaxes stressed bodies…it works…zero relevance either in 1400 or 2010 as to its morality. I don’t agree that torture is intrinsically evil and think it should be used in rare e.g. Al Qaeda situations because I actually live on the NY harbor, the #1 target, unlike the many Catholic commentators (not all) who live in Whoville which will never be attacked by Al Qaeda and who strut righteous on this topic as they pass the next Holstein cow.

  • Ronald King

    Babies are innocent. Any other interpretation is a perversion. Babies have predispositions and are innocent. The environment will shape their innocence into something unknown for each.
    Now if you want to shape a child into an eternal enemy just develop a reputation as a genocidal culture and you will have all the enemies you can imagine.
    It is that same impulse for genocide which is against the natural law for human beings but exists within the animal realm that makes the human being vulnerable to develop other perversions that oppose the covenant of God.

  • Carl


    Among the Catholic rules of interpretation, CCC 112 advises us to “Be especially attentive to the content and unity of the whole Scripture. Different as the books which comprise it may be, Scripture is a unity by reason of the unity of God’s plan, of which Christ Jesus is the center and heart, open since his Passover.”

    In Biblical scholarship, “canonical criticism” gives us a more sterilized version of the idea by focusing on the process by which the faith community recognizes a work to belong to the body of inspired writings. Canonical criticism isn’t necessarily organized by a pervasive Christology, but it is focused on the principles, similarities and inter-dependencies that have caused the various books to all be recognized as Scripture.

    In a word: The Bible is definitely all one!

  • Carl

    Bill Bannon,

    “Taking interest on a loan proportionate to the costs of lending money” was a concept that was not recognized by the Church until 1830. As an unrecognized concept, the Church lacked the capacity to either affirm or condemn it. The same can be said of the Fathers, for example, with regard to “Baptism of Implicit Desire.” There are many texts by which the seem to condemn the idea, but upon closer analysis one unfailingly finds that the idea condemned is not the same thing as “Baptism of implicit desire.”

    One must know about something in order to say a word in favor or against it. When the Church recognized the concept (e.g. legitimate interest, Baptism of implicit desire), she affirmed it. Trying to interpret the Church’s condemnation of “legitimate interest” before 1830 is like trying to interpret my condemnation of algebra before I reached the 8th grade. How could I have affirmed or condemned something about which I knew nothing? When in fourth grade I told my older sibling, “x is a letter, not a number,” I was not denying algebra or algebra’s symbolic use of letters as variables. Indeed, I wasn’t committing an error of any kind. In algebra, X is not a number but SIGNIFIES numbers. But even this misses the point. In the fourth grade I was expressing what I knew, not denying what I did not know.

    Don’t worry, I’m sure you can avoid answering this argument by calling me a “spinmaster” or by throwing a half dozen new ad hominems in my direction. By the way, what self-respecting “Catholic spinmaster” would concede that the Church condemned not Calvin’s beliefs but a straw man of Calvin’s beliefs?

  • Carl

    And Bill Bannon (R. Rockliff beware),

    The Second Vatican Council Declaration Dignitatis Humanae, no. 2 teaches us that the legitimate rights of the human person depend very closely on the due limits that result from the just requirements of public order. Religious liberty is declared to be “based on the very dignity of the human person as known through the revealed word of God and reason itself” and it “must be given such recognition in the constitutional order of society as will make it a human right” and yet if the just requirements of public order are threatened, this “right” instantly evaporates.

    If a practice IS otherwise in conformity with the legitimate rights of the human person (e.g. collecting taxes, military draft, seizure of property for legitimate public interest), it could be performed even if was not strictly “required” for the observation of public order. If a practice is not otherwise in conformity with the legitimate rights of the human person (e.g. severely painful interrogating techniques, restricting religious freedom), it cannot be performed UNLESS strictly required for the observation of public order.

    This is why the Catechism rightly includes both aspects: Neither necessary for public order nor (because otherwise it could still be done) not in conformity with legitimate rights. The “cruel practices” denounced in CCC 2298 are not among the practices that could be legitimately prescribed even if the public order were not hanging in the balance.

  • Carl

    Ronald King,

    “Babies are innocent. Any other interpretation is a perversion.”

    That’s a statement, not an argument. According to Biblical anthropology, we act in our ancestors and they in us. Thus Levi is said to have paid a tithe to Melchizedek through Abraham, “for he was still in the loins of his ancestor when Melchizedek met him” (Hebrews 7:10). Your view that the Canaanite children were innocent of their ancestors’ sins and not deserving of the punishment of death is informed by a post-enlightenment notions of an autonomous individualism that has absolutely nothing to do with what is written in Scripture.

    What is perverse is the belief that we acquire merely our material state and not also our spiritual state from our ancestors.

  • ari

    Bill Bannon:

    Regarding your rather monstrous acclaim for Calvinist notions, why don’t you join eminent economists and history scholars alike who have reached the monumental conclusion:

    “We may sum up the Case for Catholicism as follows: (1) Smith’s laissez-faire and natural law views descended from the late Scholastics, and from the Catholic Physiocrats; (2) the Catholics had developed marginal utility, subjective value economics, and the idea that the just price was the market price, while the British Protestants grafted on a dangerous and ultimately highly statist labor theory of value, influenced by Calvinism; (3) some of the most “dogmatic” laissez-faire theorists have been Catholics: from the Physiocrats to Bastiat; (4) capitalism began in the Catholic Italian cities of the 14th century; (5) Natural rights and other rationalist views descended from the Scholastics.”

    Get that???

    It was the Catholics who had capitalism beat centuries before your Protestant betters.

    As for usury, Dr. Carson, a Protestant convert to Catholicism, had nicely elaborated upon the topic of Usury as it concerned the views of the Catholic Church herself then and now:

    “[L]et’s look instead at one that is often cited in polemical contexts: the teaching on usury. This is a nice example because most Catholics can agree that God is a Trinity, and that the Spirit proceeds from the Son, but there are some Catholics who think that the teaching on usury has substantially changed over time, and in this they disagree with their own Church, which maintains rather that the teaching on usury has developed over time…

    This is where the real arguing starts. The Church used to say that charging any interest whatsoever on a loan was usurious and, hence, sinful. Now the Church says that there are certain forms of lending in which it would not be usurious to charge interest, just so long as the interest rate meets certain criteria, hence not all lending at interest is sinful. The critics who claim that the teaching has changed say that the Church went from saying “All lending at interest is sinful” to saying “It is not the case that all lending at interest is sinful”, and that is indeed a formal contradiction…

    The defender of doctrinal development says that the Church now teaches, and has always taught, that “All usurious lending is sinful”, but the prudential understanding (not the formal, de fide, teaching) of what the definition of “usurious lending” is has developed in response to the rise of a capital economy beginning in the 17th century. Hence there is no formal contradiction at all, only an explicit recognition of new historical conditions under which usuriousness is present only under certain empirically testable conditions, not all of which include the presence of interest on a loan…

    Lending at interest is only usurious if the interest rate represents an unfair burden on the debtor. Prior to the advent of a capital economy, any interest rate could reasonably be regarded as “unfair”, in the sense of placing an insurmountable burden on the debtor. This was true because, in a feudal economy, there were very few, if indeed there were any, means by which a borrower could hope to make some sort of a return on money he had borrowed. This is because money was not itself the kind of commodity that it has become. Since the advent of capital economies in the 16th-17th centuries, the function of money itself in the economy has substantially changed. The sin of usury, by contrast, is no different than it has ever been: just as in feudal times, so too today there is still such a thing as a sinfully large rate of interest, and it is still possible to make loans that are usurious: all you have to do is charge a rate of interest that nobody could reasonably hope to pay. This is something that I believe the mob is rather famous for. However, there are certain rates of interest that do not represent anything like that kind of unfair burden, at least in certain kinds of cases, hence it is not by definition usurious to lend money at interest.

    The point of the development is precisely this: historical conditions, including the intentions of lenders and economic viability of debtors, determines the conditions under which a particular rate of interest is to be regarded as “usurious”. Prior to the advent of a capital economy in the 16th-17th centuries, any lending at interest could be counted as usurious (sinful); but after the advent of a capital economy not all lending at interest was usurious because someone who borrowed money could treat his loan as a commodity and invest it for a return. In short, the burden on the debtor is not at all what it had been under a feudal economy. The sin of usury is not defined as a sin of charging a person a fee for giving him something (namely, money), it is rather a sin of placing an undue economic burden on another person. What has changed is not the sin of usury, but the economic conditions under which money is loaned.

    So what appears to be a contradiction turns out to be merely an appearance. Hence the content of the teaching did not change (there is now, and always has been, such a thing as sinful, usurious lending [namely, charging an unfair fee for a loan], and the Church opposes it), but historical conditions have arisen under which the application of that content will be affected (if, in a capital economy, you lend money to someone who is going to be able to invest that money and earn more, then it is not, in fact, unfair to charge a certain level of interest).

    This does not strike me as a particularly difficult problem (indeed, I have never understood why the Church’s critics have so often chosen this particular example to work with, when the explanation is so obvious). Indeed, it is true of many other sorts of cases. Take, for example, something as straightforward as the commandment that we are not to kill. Scripture itself makes it clear that historical conditions determine the application of this commandment, since Scripture itself commands the Hebrews to kill certain people who have committed certain crimes, and the Church has always accepted the legitimacy of killing in defense of the common good when serving in a duly appointed military capacity. Do we say that the teaching on “not killing” has changed, or that it changes from time to time based on what seems expedient? Not at all. We say that the meaning of the commandment depends upon certain empirically observable conditions, including intent, the nature of the threat, etc.”

  • Ronald King

    Carl, who implied a purely materialistic enherited state of being. My assumption is that these babies were created through an act of love and not just sex. They were then nurtured by their natural mother’s love. To stop the atrocities from contaminating future generations, you must eliminate the power that committs the atrocities. There are many ways to accomplish that. Babies are not the source of the atrocities, they are the victims of atrocities.
    What we do know is that the child’s brain is very malleable and with consistent loving effort 99.9% of children will thrive in a safe and nurturing environment.
    We do know that violence and a lack of security with primary caregivers actually changes how the child’s brain will grow and tend to be more hypervigilant and afraid of new situations.
    My mother was raised in a catholic orphanage her first 8 yrs. of life and she is the most loving hypervigilant person I know.
    I am rambling and I am not sure if I resoponded correctly to your comment. If not I am sorry.

  • Ronald King

    Carl, what you quoted from Hebrews implies a purely materialistic view of the individual. It gives him no freedom to be otherwise. Plus he observes him as an adult. This is a classic materialistic, mechanistic and deterministic view of individuals and groups. It runs throughout the Bible. This is the perversion.

  • R. Rockliff

    The circular argument for usury: It is permissible for a lender to charge interest for a loan because the borrower is able to become a lender and loan what he borrowed and charge interest for it.

  • Carl


    First, we must determine what is the view of the biblical writers. Second, we must decide whether we agree or disagree. There is no point in agreeing or disagreeing before we understand the “logos” of their position.

    The sacred writers are NOT materialistic. Materialism didn’t actually exist yet. I’m not even saying this in the way of defending them: in the first century and before, nobody was materialistic. We might find antecedents to materialism, but materialism itself didn’t begin to exist until the Middle Ages. And although I hate to admit it, Catholic orthodoxy does deserve some share of the blame in ushering it in. As we systematically excluded gnosticism, Origenism and the tripartite anthropology, we focused our lens on the most proximate realities of the body and soul and the most remote realities of the angels and God and we lost the ability to see everything in between.

    Anyway, in the biblical view, human beings are not “individuals” but “members.” This is a very important distinction. Biblical freedom is actually radical because it bears such a profound affect on others and the freedom of others bears such a profound affect on us. By our repentence we are capable of sanctifying ourselves, our generation, future generations, the earth and indeed the cosmos. Likewise, by our sin, we are capable of wrecking havoc on each circle of membership.

    We are free to impart to our children a better or worse material, spiritual and moral inheritance than we ourselves received.

    This is a radical freedom that has been largely lost upon us today. We still exercise this power, mind you, but we are utterly unaware of it and so are not free. If people realized what a profound affect their behavior has not just on ourselves but on those around us, those who come after us, on the world and universe itself, they would achieve a much higher degree of freedom.

    I must disagree quite strongly with your condemnation of the Bible.

  • Carl,
    Your usury posting of the convert is the worst of the usury coverups I have seen. Go to this link and read this Pope in 1745 and he says it does not matter whether the borrower can afford it or if the interest is small, it is sin and he was incorrect…he was actually following Aquinas who followed Aristotle on seeing even tiny interest as against nature:


  • Here is the Pope Benedict XIV saying the opposite of what your cite represented as core:

    “One cannot condone the sin of usury by arguing that the gain is not great or excessive, but rather moderate or small; neither can it be condoned by arguing that the borrower is rich; nor even by arguing that the money borrowed is not left idle, but is spent usefully, either to increase one’s fortune, to purchase new estates, or to engage in business transactions. The law governing loans consists necessarily in the equality of what is given and returned; once the equality has been established, whoever demands more than that violates the terms of the loan. Therefore if one receives interest, he must make restitution according to the commutative bond of justice; its function in human contracts is to assure equality for each one. This law is to be observed in a holy manner. If not observed exactly, reparation must be made.”

  • Carl


    That post was not by me but by somebody named “Ari,” whose argument is far more ambitious than mine. Whereas he’s trying to prove the direct, logical and necessary continuity between the Church’s earlier and later positions, I’m trying to prove mere non-contradiction.

    My argument is that previous to 1830, the Church did not consider the possibility that there were inherent costs in lending. Therefore the condemnation of Calvin – on this particular point – is a straw man argument. Vix Pervenit bears this out rather well. The words “inflation” and “default” are noticeably absent from Pope Benedict XIV’s extremely childish musings on the moral philosophy of economic theory.

    Before 1830, the Catholic Church never considered “the legitimate costs of lending” and therefore was incapable of agreeing or disagreeing, approving or condemning the notion of interest rates designed to offset those costs.

    Whether you see discontinuity or continuity is therefore a reflection of yourself rather than of the reality of the matter. Reality allows for both possibilities.

  • Carl
    The papal post shows that Aquinas’s and Aristotle’s error prevailed with Rome: that it was against the nature of money to get interest ergo one penny interest was evil. For them sex and interest did not permit of parvity of matter. Interest now does allow parvity of matter. There is no continuity between seeing interest as against nature and seeing interest as good if moderate. The cover up of the sex abuse problem was not new. Defensiveness made bs-ing cover ups a part of Catholic apologetics.

  • Carl


    Vix Pervenit says nothing about “parvity” of matter. Instead it says, “The law governing loans consists necessarily in the equality of what is given and returned.”

    This requirement would actually necessitates some form of “interest.” Let’s just focus on inflation because it’s conceptually easiest: the one dollar returned is never equal to the one dollar that was given. If the borrower is to return what he borrowed, he must replace what has been lost by inflation. He cannot return a dollar that once bought a dozen eggs with a dollar that buys a half dozen eggs.

    Vix Pervenit in its ignorant prattling never addresses this. The problem with the encyclical is not error, but blindness. It is impossible to make Vix Pervenit affirm or condemn ideas that it doesn’t consider. Let the ambiguity stand for what it is. Don’t try to force it to say more than it does.

    Bill, you are just as over-zealous in attacking Vix Pervenit as Ari is in defending it. For what it’s worth, I think you are quite right that Catholic apologetics are usually too defensive in seeking to clean up ambiguities, although I think your analogy to the sex abuse problem is strained at best.

    On the abuse crisis: Let’s find out whether you are the kind of person to let facts get in the way of his beliefs. I’ve got several questions that will determine this rather quickly.

    1) In the United States, what is the rate of pedophilia among Catholic clergy in comparison to a) Protestant clergy and b) Public school teachers? 2) What is the comparative rate of cover-up between these three institutional categories? 3) What percentage of minors allegedly abused by priests are male?

    The answer to each one of these questions contains a dirty little secret.

  • Carl
    Stop with the no parvity of matter in Vix Pervenit. You are like a person claiming the word purgatory is not in the Bible. The very first sentence of my above quote of Vix Pervenit addresses it in other words….”gain not great or excessive”.
    Stop with that topic…you are causing snowfall around my computer and it 70 degrees outside.

    On sex abuse:

    Public School teachers have been studied with parameters that shed no relevance on the matter vis a vis priests. If a public school teacher’s assistant in the ghetto making 10K a year flirts with a female senior who is 4 years younger than he, it is noted as abuse in the studies we know of on the net whereas in the ghetto it is ordinary daily language. There is no study of public school teachers that compares criteria similar to ours. The criteria that was used was far too broad and included verbal flirting.
    Secondly, public school teachers do not say the Mass in the morning..receive the Eucharist… and then proceed to French kiss children involuntarily later in the day. That is what makes the Catholic sin leagues worse than any other institution can provide examples of…”the corruption of the best is worst”.
    The goal of the true faith is not to be just a bit better than people who do not say Mass and receive the Eucharist earlier that day. We are supposed to be leagues…leagues above them in behaviour. Instead we are proud of allegedly being in the same ball park.
    Secondly the scandal is two fold. The actual sex abuse was 2 to 4% of priests in some decades but that is not what is worst for some of us. What is worse is that monsiegnor after monseignor and auxialiary bishop after auxiliary bishop was willing to replace these men near other children while not telling lay parents a thing about who was being situated near their children. Cardinal Law lied to two separate states and dioceses in an attempt to place Shanley away from Boston and Law hid Shanley’s condition so that California did not see him as a danger to children…this was a Cardinal who thought he would be the fist American Pope because he spoke a good book on sexual morals in public. Likewise Hoyos is now dead meat and he also was spoken of as perhaps the first Spanish Pope in centuries. God works in mysterious ways.

  • Carl


    The point that you keep ignoring is that the COSTS of lending render inequal the amount borrowed and the amount returned. This is not an issue of the greater or lesser profit of lenders (parvity of matter), but an issue of equality of matter. Just for starters, the dollar today is not equal to the dollar of thirty years ago.

    Benedict XIV and virtually all of Catholic tradition previous to 1830 fails to address this and other facts about lending, which isn’t particularly disturbing because economics as a scientific discipline remained in such a nascent state. As human development of economic reality developed, it is only natural that Catholic doctrine would also become much more precise.

    According to most studies, between 1.2 and 1.5 percent of priests ordained between 1960 and 2010 have been accused of sexual abuse. The highest figure I’ve seen comes from the New York Times, which claims that 1.8 percent of priests ordained from 1950 to 2001 have been accused of sexually abusing minors.

    According to USA Today, among the 1200 alleged victims, 85 percent were males. According to a study by a psychologist at Santa Clara University, 80-90 percent of perpetrators have engaged in sexual relations with teenagers, not prepubescent children. According to the National Center. Within the Catholic Church, lay teachers, catechists and other adult volunteers are two to three times as likely to be accused of unlawful sexual activity of minors, which are equally likely to be accused of abuse as public school teachers, boy/girl scout leaders and police officer liasons to schools. This fact is especially remarkable because men are far more likely to be accused of abuse than women.

    The “cover up” cannot be dissociated from theories of rehabilitation and recidivism prevailing during the 1970s, 1980s and into the 1990s. Public Schools, secular organizations and other religions/denominations engaged in exactly the same type of responses to abuse claims. Data from earlier decades is unreliable and largely speculative.

    Let’s get the FACTS straight before we argue about how to interpret them.

  • Carl
    You simply filibuster past what other people say….and you are wrong on top of that.
    John Jay School of Criminal Justice/updated April 2010/

    “We asked each diocese, eparchy and community for their total number of active priests in this time period. Adding up all their responses, there were 109,694 priests reported by dioceses, eparchies and religious communities to have served in their ecclesiastical ministry from 1950-2002. Using this number, 4.0% of all priests active between 1950 and 2002 had allegations of abuse.”

    The Nature and Scope of the Problem of Sexual Abuse of Minors
    by Catholic Priests and Deacons in the United States
    A Research Study Conducted by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice

    Bye Bye Carl. And again Calvin had the interest thing solved with our answer but in 1545.

  • Carl


    I believe John Calvin advocated fixed 5 percent interest rate on loans made to those who weren’t in dire need. A reasonable case can be made that this was an intuitive response to inflation taking place as a result of the influx of gold from the new world and that Calvin was “ahead of his time,” but your claim that Calvin “had it solved” is hilariously ridiculous. Calvin wasn’t basing his figure on measurable shifts in the money supply, consumer price indices or consumer confidence. I don’t ANYONE “has it solved,” not even Milton Friedman (who I think history will remember as the Isaac Newton of economic science).

    History has vindicated Calvin by showing that modest rates of interest are necessary to ensure the relative equality between what is borrowed and what is repaid. At the time, however, it appeared to many of his contemporaries (both inside and outside the hierarchy of the Catholic Church) that Calvin was like someone who would today say, “it’s okay to smoke crack as long as it’s very a small amount” (parvity argument).

    I enjoy being able to admit when I’ve been wrong. In reviewing my sources, I see that they are previous to and superseded by the John Jay study. Four percent it is!

    Now that the facts are straight, let’s turn to what they mean. Why did abuse grown during the 50s, 60s and 70s? Why did it decline so dramatically during the 1980s? On both ends of the curve, we see that the number of alleged incidents and the number of accused priests are virtually identical.

    The Jay study tells us that as the DISPARITY between incidents and priests increased/decreased, the NUMBER of incidents and priests likewise increased/decreased. What conclusions can we draw from this?

  • We can draw the conclusion that the generation that did most of the abuse was the older generation gays largely from Ireland who could not come out of the closet to their tough Irish parents without facing great anger. So instead of coming out during the 50’s and 40’s and facing hell on earth, they entered religious life in an attempt to cure themselves and to avoid explaining why they were not getting married and producing grandchildren.
    The abuse fades when coming out of the closet is no longer as traumatic even in Ireland and thus the abuse diminishes decade by decade with no work from the magisterium since each new generation of gays did not have to enter the priesthood as the solution to their gayness.

    Stop with the usury issue, you didn’t even know about 1830 or Calvin til you read about it in my posts. I was born at night but not last night.

  • Carl


    Do you honestly believe I have not been through this usury debate a thousand times? I’ve learned to always base my argument on what my opponent gives me. So you can yell “stop it” or you can demonstrate some error in what I’ve written. The choice is yours.

    Why 1980? Your explanation doesn’t explain what happened in 1980-1984 to cause such a dramatic decline in abuse incidents, abusing priests, and the disparity between number of abuse and number of abusing priests. In those four years, the situation returned to 1964 levels. By 1990, levels were down to levels in the early to mid 50s.

    If your theory were correct, we would expect the decline to have taken four or five times as long. What happened?

  • Carl
    Look at the John Jay study and graphs online. Starting in 1981 and with one uptick only four years later there is constant decline from 1981 onward like going down a mountain side…not just 1980-1984.
    The one uptick year threw you off. Look at the graph at John Jay.

    The greatest bulk of the offenders were born between 1920 and 1949. Prior and after those dates the difference is remarkable in the bulk numbers. So the greatest bulk of the offenders are now (if living) between 61 and 90 years old and entered seminary between the years
    c.1938 to c.1967. After that 1967, with folk culture and rock culture and people leaving home and earning a living easier…one did not need the seminary as much in terms of staying in the closet.
    After Woodstock etc, the number of abusers declines dramatically and many young people could live on their own more so than now when many young people remain with their parents due to owing school bills and rents being over 1K a month when in the 60’s, rents were more like half that.

  • Carl


    Your “repressed Irish gays” theory also takes no account of one of the most important findings of the John Jay study: Diocesan priests were far more likely to commit such acts than religious.

    Do you have actual statistical data on the ethnicity of sexually abusive priests or are you just a racist?

  • Carl
    Go to SNAP for a complete list of all priests. Final goodbye. You focused on the word “Irish” and you did not focus on the deeper point underlying that section: such priests could well come from those groups with parents who at that time did not readily accept bad sexual news about their offspring. Find some South Pacific groups who do not have those fierce communication walls on that subject of sex and I suspect few abusers would come from those groups. Hear this now: Finis. Goodbye.
    No further hooks will work….not even “racist”…lol. No one is paying me for all this writing….like your friend Bill Donahue…343K a year…suppers at Per Se…confit of Myer’s Lemon.
    Not checking another post by you at this thread.

  • Carl

    Whether you check or respond to my posts is up to you. I couldn’t find a database at SNAP but I found one at bishop-accountability.org. I didn’t see an ethnic proclivity. I saw lots of Italian names, Polish names, Irish names, Catholic names.

    If your theory is correct I don’t understand why abuse would so sharply decline in the 1980s. I also don’t understand why there would be so few incidents of abuse in the early to mid 50s. The John Jay study seems to suggest that the abuse crisis was largely charactaristic of the generation you describe (b. 1920-1949).

    Your “hurray for sexual liberation” theory is undermined by the fact that the decline in incidents of abuse from the 60s to the 70s is proportionate to the decline in ordinations over the same period of time. The real decline took place among those ordained in the 1980s. Only 8.4 percent of alleged abuse took place among those ordained in the 1980s, well less than half the amount of abuse that took place among those ordained in the 70s.

    It is interesting that the growth in abuse by precisely five years trails the years of the liturgical reform (1948-1975). I hesitate to draw conclusions from this fact, but it’s extremely interesting.