Benedict opens the synod

I am scratching my head a little about the "Word of God" Synod which just opened.  I think we are willing to stipulate that Scripture is good, fundamental, etc.  So… we are in favor of Scripture.

But the Synod connects Scripture with Mission.

As the Synod unfolds, maybe we will find out what they have on their minds.

In the meantime, here is a story about the Holy Father at the opening Mass of the Synod.

Pontiff: Synod to Tell World That God Is Not Dead

Says Church’s 1st Task Is to Be Nourished by Scripture

ROME, OCT. 5, 2008 ( Benedict XVI opened the world Synod of Bishops on the Word of God expressing the hope that it give birth to a new missionary dynamism in the regions of the world where it seems that “God is dead.

Today the Pope presided over the inaugural Mass of the synod, which will end Oct. 26, at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls. The synod’s theme is “The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church.”

Nations that at one time were rich with vocations are now losing their identity, under the deleterious and destructive influence of a certain modern culture,” the Holy Father noted in his homily.   [A sad fact.  It is good to hear a POPE say it.]

“There are those who, having decided that ‘God is dead,’ declare themselves ‘god,’ taking themselves to be the singular artificers of their destiny, the absolute lord of the world," he continued.   "Clearing God away and not awaiting salvation from him, man believes he can do as he pleases and poses himself as the sole measure of himself and his action.  [The Holy Father has been focusing on this during his Pontificate.]

“But when man eliminates God from his horizon, when he declares that God is ‘dead,’ is he truly more happy? Does he truly become free?

“When men proclaim themselves absolute owners of themselves and lords of creation, can they really build a society where freedom, justice and peace reign?” 

Division and confusion

Benedict XVI answered the question in the negative, explaining that “the daily news amply shows” that with this vision “the will to power, egoistic interests, injustice and exploitation, violence in all its forms” spread. “The end of all this is that man finds himself alone and society more divided and confused."

The Pope said that with this synod the Church wants to show the world “that evil and death do not have the last word, but Christ is the victor in the end. Always!

“The Church never tires of proclaiming these glad tidings, as she does today in this basilica dedicated to the Apostle of the Gentiles, the one who first spread the Gospel in vast regions of Asia Minor and Europe,” he said.

To accomplish this mission, the Pontiff added, the Church’s “primary and fundamental” mission is to nourish herself on the Word of God. “In fact, if the proclamation of the Gospel constitutes her reason for being and her mission, it is indispensable that the Church know and live that which she proclaims so that her preaching is credible, despite the weaknesses and poverty of the human beings who constitute her.”

Citing St. Jerome, he added: “Whoever does not know the Scriptures does not know the power of God nor his wisdom. Ignoring the Scriptures means ignoring Christ.”

The synod’s work will begin on Monday with a meditation offered by Benedict XVI.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Barb says:

    He also pointed out that God punishes us for our sins. We should try to focus on that fact a bit more. I hear
    so many people denouncing the mere idea that He would punish us. He is like a loving father who must do that
    to instruct His children. His Holy Justice demands it as well. I am glad the Holy father mentioned that.

  2. Chris Altieri says:

    The Word of God is first and foremost the Word made flesh, about whom every word of Scripture speaks. The Secretary-General of the Synod, Abp. Eterovic has explained that the Catholic understanding of the Word of God embraces Scripture, and not vice versa. The Fathers are therefore, once again, recovering a sense of what distinguishes the Catholic Faith, and celebrating it. The topic is therefore clearly, both in terms of its thematic and its intention, in continuity with the work of the XI Synod and with Sacramentum Caritatis.

  3. Dei Verbum is, of course, the title of the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation of the Second Vatican Council. But the title of the Synod’s topic is, in part, Verbum Domini. Perhaps this slight difference in formulation implies a liturgical dimension to the Word of God in the mission of the Church. This is certainly a personal and professional preoccupation of the pope.

  4. Mark says:

    We are in an exegetical mess. Often the scripture is picked apart as a mere historical text and not reassembled. Perhaps the focus on mission will serve as an antidote to this.

  5. Harrison Ayre says:

    It must be remembered that this Synod is about the “Word of God”, not the “word of God”, though the latter has a fundamental role in the proclamation of the “Word of God”. Reading Ratzinger on Divine Revelation, and the SVC’s document Dei Verbum, one notices that this is not about Scripture primarily. It is about the event of the revelation of Jesus Christ. Thus, mission has a very central role to play in this whole aspect because it is an aspect of making this event present to others who have not encountered the Word of God made flesh in Jesus Christ.

    The preparatory documents make this very clear that this is a Synod on Revelation in all its aspects, fundamentally in the event of Jesus Christ, the Word of God spoken to us in the flesh, and the means God gives humanity in His Church to proclaim this event to the whole world. Revelation and mission are inseparable, especially in the theology of Benedict.

  6. Dei Verbum – revealed in both Sacred Scripture and Divine Tradition.

  7. Dcn Jake says:

    Fr. Z,
    I’m actually a bit worried about this synod. I’m working on an MA in Scripture and have been really fascinated by the question of inspiration and inerrancy. As far as I can tell, the Popes and Councils have always said that the bible is both inspired, whole and entire, and inerrant, whole and entire. However, I was ready in the instrumentum, no doubt written with the help of the PBC, which says that inerrancy only extends to those parts of the scripture which contain the truth which God wished to reveal to us for our salvation. That is one way to read DV 11, but I think the wrong way. Hopefully the bishops come out with a strong statement on inspiration and inerrancy that supports the long-standing tradition

  8. Chris Altieri says:

    Dear Dcn Jake, the language about which you are concerned is really not, on its own, terribly worrisome: “only those parts, etc.” is actually quite meaningless. All of Scripture is for our salvation. Every word speaks of the Word. In other words, to say “only those, etc.,” does not logically entail, nor does it provide grounds for inference, that there are parts of Scripture not fitting the inspired and inerrant “bill”. I can’t give a detailed, particular explanation of how that particular phrase got into the IL, but it probably had to do with throwing a bone to some Father(s) with wacky ideas about how best to build relationships with doubtful citizens of modernity. Nothing about which to raise the alarm.

  9. DoB says:

    Chris Altieri,
    I’m not sure Dcns reservations can so easily be explained away. If the working document is unclear or unspecific then you can be pretty sure what comes out at the end will reflect this. I would say “only those parts” is misleading and not meaningless as you suggest. Surely it does set up in the mind that there are parts of the Bible that pertain to salvation and other parts that do not. All of Scripture is for our salvation is certainly true. Are you not taking this as a given and therefore concluding the meaningless of the phrase “only those parts”? If you read the document simply for what it states without this prior assumption then I cannot see how one could not conclude that the working document for this synod stinks to high heaven.

  10. Chris Altieri says:

    “You can be pretty sure what comes out at the end will reflect this.”

    DoB, do you mean to say that the post-synodal Exhortation, to be written by Pope Benedict XVI, will reflect the flakiness of some of the bishops?

  11. Charles Collins says:

    I think that the “only those parts” is just a way of saying the Bible is not
    a science book. There are those who believe in a geocentric universe,
    because the Bible presents that world-view, which was the culture it was
    written in. Also, there are some books of the Old Testament (Judith, for
    example) which most scholars believe to be “Sacred Novels”, given the
    fact of its obvious historic inaccuracies.

    Limiting a very technical inerrancy to matters of salvation helps avoid
    debates on numbers, dates, science etc. which obscure the true purpose
    of sacred scripture.

  12. DoB says:

    I have no idea what Pope Benedict will write at the end. I would expect him to uphold the Truth. So no, I do not expect his document to reflect the strange views of some of his bishops. However, I think that it is a disgrace to start out with an unclear position that implicitly throws doubt on the position of scripture. If this working document is supposed to scope the task and has been accepted as such then I remain doubtful that this synod will bear good fruit. I might be wrong and our bishops might come up trumps but I doubt it. I suppose we will have to wait and see.

    I don’t think we could limit inerrancy to only those matters pertaining to salvation because implicit in that position is an assumption that there are
    1) “parts of scripture” that can be so classified and parts that are not.
    2) that we can determine what those parts are and classify them

    Is not this the primary departure from Truth that is such a disgrace?

  13. Chris Altieri says:

    Dear DoB, the Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops is much more like a Star Trek convention than a Constitutional convention. Folks talk about stuff they have in common, and listen to more or less interesting speeches from more or less well-formed and informed people. It has no power to issue documents, and can make no law. It is, therefore, precisely the place for silliness. The IL, further, is deliberately reflective of this. Basically, Bishop X reads scritpure scholarship by Y, and says to Z, “Let’s talk about this at the Synod,” and in it goes.

    That’s it, and, usually, that’s ALL of it. Some of the Fathers are extremely intelligent and well-formed and energetic Churchmen. Others are not. Some of them are 100% dead wrong about many points of doctrine, and 100% happy to be corrected by their brothers. I could go on and on – the point is that you seem to expect them to have thought everything through before coming together to…think things through.

    In any case, my point from the very beginning is that you are 100% dead wrong about what the language “implies.” At this point, I wonder whether you are clear about what an implication is. I am also taken aback, frankly, at the judgment you pronounce regarding the IL, i.e. that it is disgraceful. That is very serious language. Perhaps you meant, “really, really, really disappointing that the bishops have drafted so poor a working document.” If so, then I say, “fine,” though I think you 1) expect way too much from the Fathers and 2) ought not to conflate personal disappointment with disgrace. They are not necessarily the same thing. I suspect you do not fully understand the purpose of the Synod. It is a “safe place” for the bishops to vent, and for fraternal correction to take place outside the public eye. It is also, frankly, a chance to eat and drink (a lot) on the Borgo (a lot). That’s human nature DoB.

    Finally, though you directed your remarks to Charles Collins, let me enter a rejoinder, as the issues you raise touch those I have broached, as well.

    You say that you are studying for your MA in Scripture. Good for you. You may know, then, that there are different levels on which we must interpret scripture. While all Scripture is intended for our salvation, our salvation does not depend on whether some Israelite got counted twice when making the tally of those fit for military service. The story, however, does, as does the way it is told, etc. So, it seems to me that you are taking the term, “part” to mean something like, “passage”. That is mistaken. The point of the absolute inerrancy of Sacred Scripture is that every line, and every syllable of scripture may be read with profit for one’s soul. It does not require us to believe that no Israelite was counted twice, or that the Sun goes around the Earth, or that both Mary Magdalene alone AND Mary Magdalene with someone else went to the tomb on the 3rd Day.

  14. Chris Altieri says:

    Sorry, DoB, it was Dcn Jake who is studying srcipture. The substance of my comments is unaltered.

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