15 October 2008

Pope Benedict, Doctor of the Church

There is a synod of bishops going on in Rome right now considering the written Word of God in the life of the Church. This is an important topic because for a long time now the professional, academic study of scripture has been divorced from the liturgical and devotional life of the Church and of the faithful. I remember being in seminary and hearing the complaint about reading modern Biblical scholarship that it was so boring and so uninspiring to the life of faith in Jesus Christ. Many seminarians therefore did not relish the study of sacred scripture. This is a problem. In the patristic and medieval periods, most scripture commentary was directly rooted in the liturgical life of the Church and of believers. Its starting point was faith, not criticism or doubt. Scholars and ordinary faithful were looking at the Bible from the same perspective and therefore could speak to each other and understand each other. That has not been the case for a long time. The Bible more and more became an object to use in theological debates, especially since the Reformation. It eventually became an object to dissect apart from a community of faith altogether. Pope Benedict wants to do something about this great divorce of the study of scripture from the life of faith.

Yesterday at the synod, the Pope made an unexpected talk about this problem, reading from his own hand-written notes. This is like one of the Fathers, whose integration of faith in Jesus Christ and study of the Bible Benedict XVI is recommending. The Holy Father is acting like a doctor of the Church -- a teacher. Let's listen and learn.

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