At long last! Inspectis dierum nostrorum!

At the blog of The Chairman of the LMS there is great news.

For a while I lamented that the Congregation for Catholic Education’s 1990 Instruction on the Study of the Fathers of the Church in the Formation of Priests was not widely available in English.

This is an important document. It requires that seminaries provide training in Patristic theology.

That is not really being done in seminaries. Of course they should also be teaching St. Thomas Aquinas (can. 252§3) and making sure that the seminarians are very well trained in Latin (can. 249). They should also be training the men in the Extraordinary Form (UE 21).

Strong formation in the Fathers will be of enormous importance for future priests.  Patristic theology and methodology are powerful antidotes to modernism and junk theology.

Here is the Chairman:

The value of tradition: Inspectis dierum nostrorum

I mentioned yesterday the document Inspectis dierum nostrorum, which up to now has been available in English only as a scanned image in a dark corner of the website of the US Bishops’ Conference. It has now been retyped so it is much more legible and also searchable. I always wonder whether any particular thought goes into the non-availability of particular documents on the Vatican website; we owe to EWTN’s library and various others a huge number of items which, I suspect, some people in Rome would rather had disappeared down the memory hole. Inspectis dierum is now available on the LMS website here (as a Word file) and in pdf format here.

Inspectis dierum contains a very interesting attack on the notion one constantly meets in modern Catholic theological studies, that theology should be done by juxtaposing the Bible with modern concerns and problems. The Bible itself is then subjected to the kind of (often very shoddy) ‘scientific’ analysis which seems designed not only to rid us of all reverence for the sacred text, but to relativise its contents to such a degree that we will end up saying: so, this is what some editor thought, unless it inspires some thoughts of my own, why should I care?

The traditional approach is to say that the interpretation and application of the Bible to pastoral issues by the Fathers and Doctors of the Church is normative for us. We are not presented with the Biblical text in an aching vacuum, but in the context of centuries of commentary which, while it can go in different directions and leave many things open, is on many controversial topics actually pretty unanimous. This tradition is a source of theology alongside the sacred texts themselves.

If the Church began in 1962 with the opening of the Second Vatican Council, then the traditional view of theology has to be eradicated. Inspectis dierum, which is supposed to set the tone for the study of the Fathers in seminaries, is having none of that. […]

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    We do two semesters of Patristics here at SHMS. Both in Theology I.

  2. rtjl says:

    In the past year or so, I have deliberately adopted a particular policy with respect to my personal Bible study. Whenever I begin a a book of the Bible to do a “deep dive” on I always select two commentaries. One of these will be written by a Catholic author and the other by an Orthodox author. Why? Because I have found that Catholic authors often have a slight edge (a very slight edge) on a modern scientific/historical critical approach to scripture but are often weak on Patristics and on traditional readings of the scriptures. Orthodox authors are almost never weak on Patrisitics and traditional readings although they may have different understandings of those readings than Catholics do. Never-the-less, I find that getting a balanced study requires paying attention to both approaches and methodologies and the easiest way to do that is to pay attention to both Catholic and Orthodox sources. Sometimes I will refer to protestant sources: N.T. Wright being one of my favorites.

  3. Dr. Edward Peters says: We do two semesters

    You need more.

  4. Elizabeth D says:

    I agree with Fr Z, I want our seminarians (some of whom are at SHMS) to be truly VERY KNOWLEDGEABLE with a very working knowledge of Patristic theology. And 2 semesters is not a lot. But, at least it is not absent, and instruction in Latin not absent.

    They should also particularly be knowledgeable in all the Doctors of the Church. If the Fathers and Doctors are covered then they will be okay. They do not even need to hardly know who Karl Rahner and Tielhard de Chardin are. St John of the Cross happens to be my favorite Saint but a lot of priests hardly know his teachings and have not read his writing and have a very negative opinion of him, which is really absurd and his teaching, and that of all the Fathers and Doctors, is really needed today. And Pope Benedict XVI is also Doctor of the Church material, so they should study his writings.

  5. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    Well, if it were up to me, we do 6-8 semesters of —- oh, don’t get me started.

  6. Maltese says:

    May I recommend the Haydock study bible, replete as it is with patristic, orthodox commentary?

    I read the Douay-Rheims alongside the Vulgate, but am very guilty of enjoying the King James for the beauty of its english!

  7. sw85 says:

    Of the priests I know, very few are trained in Latin, none in spiritual direction, their formation in liturgy isn’t *obviously* great, and they have almost no background in, e.g., mystical theology, asceticism, and other venerable theological traditions in the Church. Since they evidently don’t study patristics, either, what in the world do they spend 6-9 years learning?

  8. robtbrown says:

    The study of the Fathers should not be limited to Patristics classes.

    When I was teaching theology, primarily that of St Thomas, Fathers were often included. For example, it’s really impossible to teach General Sacramental theology without bringing in St Thomas, and Angelology, Gregory the Great.

  9. Bob B. says:

    My students liked to learn about the Patristic Era of the Church (Sts. Jerome, Augustine and Ambrose were favorites and the Church Councils of the period often provided context). It was during this period of time that we would start learning a little Latin, which they also enjoyed. Not bad for 7th and 8th graders!

  10. robtbrown says:

    SW85 says,

    Since they evidently don’t study patristics, either, what in the world do they spend 6-9 years learning?

    It depends on when they were in seminary and the curriculum. Sometimes the titles of the classes might have been good, but the content poor. In many seminaries theology was influenced by Rahner, and so much time was dedicated to initiating students into the fog of German Existentialism–with get together masses the result. Moral theology classes, also influenced by Rahner, were dedicated to getting people to do what they want to do (why classes are necessary for that is an enigma). Other classes might have had good content but so scholarly that it was difficult to pass it on in homilies.

  11. Carlos says:

    This is great news! All seminarians should have at least a passing knowledge of the Fathers.

  12. everett says:

    Patristics should be studied both as a subject in itself, and as a part of the study of most other subjects. Moral Theology? What did the Fathers say? Sacramental Theology? What did the Fathers say. Liturgy? Scripture? Prayer? Spirituality? I would hope that the Fathers would be a part of just about every class in which they said something relevant to the topic, which I’d have to think is darn near every class.

  13. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Your comment on English Bible translations reminds me of C.S. Lewis in his book on English Literature in the Sixteenth Century: “In spite of its divisions all of western Christendom is involuntarily collaborating” and, ten pages later, “Even a few hours spent in actual collation will, I think, leave the impression that the vast majority of variants result neither from differences in doctrine nor from literary taste but from the steady advance of scholarship” – between and around which are lots of fascinating examples.

    Fr. Z concludes his selection from the Chairman, “Inspectis dierum […] is having none of that.”
    And how on target it is! In reading chapter eight of Lumen gentium just now, I am struck by how richly Patristic it is, and left thinking, I really must follow up all those references in the notes (I hope, with the help of online translations, in most cases).

  14. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    This doc is avaiable in Origins. See 19/34 Origins (25 jan 1990) at 549, 551-561.

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