Daily Archives: October 28, 2008

John Allen publishes the Propositions of the Synod in English

If you have been waiting for all the propositions from the Synod of Bishops on the Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church in English, you can stop holding your breath, because here they are thanks to the girls and boys at National Catholic Reporter and especially the one bright boy of the pack, John L. Allen Jnr.


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"Archaeologists dig up dirt on Luther"?

So proclaims the headline in Cathnews today. Story and comments follow:

German archaeologists have stoked controversy by unearthing evidence that Reformation leader Martin Luther lived well and did not die as a pauper as commonly believed. [Who ever thought that? We all know he lived in a big house (the old Wittenberg Augustinian monastery), had tons of kids (whom he presumably fed well enough), ate well (just look at the portraits of the “young Luther” as a monk compared the “late Luther” after Katie had been feeding him for 20 years!), and enjoyed a beer as much if not better than the next bloke.]

The Taipei Times [Taipei??? You’ve got to be joking. Wasn’t there a source for this story closer to home? Nb. The byline in the Taipei Times says the story comes from the Guardian in London.]reports German scientists have reconstructed a detailed picture of the domestic life of Martin Luther by trawling through his household waste uncovered during archeological digs on sites where he used to live.

Beer tankards, grains of corn, cooking pots, his wife’s wedding band and even his toilet are among the finds dug up during the five year project in the three places in Germany he spent his life. [Yep, well, those items would pretty well sum up his domestic and health life… But that all seems pretty normal to me… not evidence of being “flush with cash”.]

But the Protestant Church in Wittenberg has called “religiously irrelevant” the evidence that the peace loving family used to throw dead cats into the rubbish bin [what else do you do with a dead cat?] and that the nails Luther used to secure his 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg – which led to his excommunication from the Catholic Church and launched the reformation – were in fact drawing pins [Um? They found the NAILS he used to post the 95 Theses? That might just start a Lutheran relic frenzy! Anyway, I guess if the Church door was the local notice board, the “nails” could be called “pins” – but you would still need a hammer to get them into the thick oak!].

“We’ve been able to reconstruct whole chapters of his life’s history,” said Harald Meller, one of the main researchers. [Good for them. Not as if we were short on info though.]

Protestants from around the world were expected to flock to an exhibition at the history museum in Halle, where the best of the discoveries are to go on display starting on Friday. [Like I said – the new collection will rival those of the Elector’s at the Castle Church on All Saints Day 1517. Listen out for the sound of a Luther’s ghost hammering drawing pins into the notice board of the Halle Museum…]

Despite the widespread belief that Luther lived in poverty, evidence suggests he was a well fed man, weighing a hefty 150 kilograms when he died in 1546 at the age of 63. [Have these guys never heard the German saying “As fat as Martin Luther”?]

The most extensive research carried out at the family home in Wittenberg showed that Luther wrote his celebrated texts with goose quills under lamps lit by animal fat, in a heated room, which overlooked the River Elbe. [When he wasn’t in the Wartburg Castle throwing inkpots or down at the printers shop correcting providing material as quick as the printer could print it.]

It debunks something of the Luther myth to know he wrote the 95 theses on a stone toilet, which was dug up in 2004. [Que? He wrote them on a stone toilet? It takes some imagination to picture him then using drawing pins to fix the stone toilet to the Wittenberg Church door… I think what they mean is that in 2004 the stone dunny in the Luther home was dug up, and that LUTHER was on this toilet when he wrote the 95 Theses. And to correct even THAT story, we need to point out that Luther said he was on the toilet when he realised his principle of JUSTIFICATION, NOT when he composed the 95 Theses. Good grief, journalists garble stories some times…]


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On being a (Scriptural) Theologian

One of the really odd things that struck me when I left the little pond known as the Lutheran Church of Australia for the big ocean of the Catholic Church was how often I came across Scripture scholars teaching in our Catholic institutions who would begin their address by saying “I’m not a theologian, but…”

Que? That didn’t compute with my Lutheran theological education. When I did my humble Bachelor’s degree in Theology, I did two years each of biblical Hebrew and Greek. This was followed up by at least three exegetical studies in each of Old and New Testament books. Suffice it to say, that “Sola Scriptura” meant that even in Dogmatic (or what was known as Systematic) Theology, the first qualification was to be a Scriptural theologian.

So what gives? Why have Catholic Scripture scholars universally given up the right to call themselves “theologians”? This is the very essence of an issue raised at the current Synod of Bishops on the Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church – by no less a personage than the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, himself:

Where exegesis is not theology, Scripture cannot be the soul of theology and, vice versa, when theology is not essentially the interpretation of the Scripture in the Church, this theology has no foundation anymore.

Therefore for the life and the mission of the Church, for the future of faith, this dualism between exegesis and theology must be overcome. Biblical theology and systematic theology are two dimensions of the one reality, what we call Theology.

And the bishops have listened! The new propositions have taken this issue very seriously in four of the propositions:

25. Need two levels in research exegetical
26. Enlarging the prospects of the current study exegetical
27. Overcoming dualism between theology and exegesis
28. Dialogue between exegetes, theologians and pastors

As soon as a proper English text is available, I will put up some of this material.

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Synod on the Word "Boring"?

Yes, well, His Eminence George Cardinal Pell may have described the Synod of Bishops on the Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church (which closed on Sunday) as “least interesting” of all the synods he has attended, but that is only judging by the “Crittenden Criteria” that to be interesting religious news has to be controversial.

But things will really become interesting when (and, sad to say, IF) the fruits of the last three weeks find their way into the life of the Church.

I am currently working through the Synod Propositions (currently only available in Italian, but you can use Google Translation to come up with a tolerably readable text). I am only half way through, but there are some very interesting suggestions for liturgy, catechesis and exegetical/theological study.

In particular:

1) The proposal for a CDF study of “inspiration and the truth of the Bible” which highlights the particular Catholic hermeneutic of scripture.

2) The proposal (#14) of giving a special “visible place of honour” to the book of the Scriptures “within the church.” Lutheran Churches used to (not so common any more) have an open copy of the Scriptures always upon the altar itself facing the people. I don’t think that is a good idea (the altar is the table of the Eucharist, not of the word), but why not in association with the Ambo from which the Word is proclaimed? Of course, it is usually the Lectionary or the Gospel book that usually has pride of place there. But it is something to think about.

3) The proposal for a true “gospel procession” (#14) being reinstituted in the ceremony of the Liturgy of the Word – perhaps along the line of the Eastern rites?

4) The suggestion originally made by Archbishop Mark Coleridge for a “Homiletical Directory” is taken up in proposition #15.

5) The suggestion (#16) for a revision of the Lectionary ditching the forced connection currently existing between the Old Testament reading and the Gospel. This would be very opportune.

6) The suggestion of promoting the ministry of women in the reading of scripture in the liturgy. I haven’t seen the latin text, so I don’t know if the Synod is actually proposing that ordination to the office of “Lector” should be open to women. I would be surprised by this and even more surprised if the Holy Father actually agrees with this suggestion.

7) Work on the Sunday “celebrations of the word of God” so as to prevent confusion with teh Eucharistic liturgy (#18)

8) An official “simple form of the Liturgy of the Hours” for laity (#19)

9) support for “small ecclesial communities” (#21). This would have to be handled carefully given the history of BEC’s in the church, but could be beneficial.

10) I am glad that suggestions for devotional reading of scripture are much broader than the classical “lectio divina” every one talks so much about today. (#22)

11) The emphasis on the connection between Catechesis and Scripture (#23) suggests that there should be a kind of Post-RCIA course following baptism especially deepening the newly baptised adult’s connection with scripture and the catechism.

12) A number of propositions directly addressing the catastrophic division between academic scriptural exegetical study and the study of theology (#24-28).

That last mentioned set of propositions could, in the end, be the most significant outcome for the whole Synod. I had started to blog on this but didn’t finish the entry. I will get around to it.

I expect that the propositions will be available on Zenit in English by tomorrow.


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