But what if you were to ask the pope, "Holy Father, what is the top priority for your papacy?" What do you suspect he might say?
Well, you don't have to wonder; he's answered the question, and, in fact, he did not mention any of the things listed above. And sadly, the item identified as the top priority gets short shrift--if any mention at all--in the Catholic blogosphere.
That’s not to say the concerns above are not important to him. They are. Yet when the Pope talked about his “supreme and fundamental” focus he actually named something else.
The sad thing is, most people—even Catholic writers—largely seem to ignore it, emphasizing to one degree or another other aspects of his papacy.
The Pope's "Supreme and Fundamental Priority"
How does the Holy Father describe his top priority? Here's Benedict in his own words:
“Leading men and women to God, to the God who speaks in the Bible: this is the supreme and fundamental priority of the Church and of the Successor of Peter at the present time.”
Leading people to "the God who speaks in the Bible"—that's the pope's chief aim. ...
Yesterday, then, was like the icing on the cake.
Pope Benedict released a 200 page document laying out in exhaustive detail the Church’s teaching on Scripture, Verbum Domini. The document is a follow-up—almost three years after the fact!—to the Synod on Scripture he convened in 2008.
As I explained yesterday, this is a historic document. The last major papal document on Scripture was published 57 years ago (Divino afflante Spiritu ). The last major magisterial document outlining Church teaching on Scripture was Dei Verbum, a document of the second Vatican Council--dated to 1965, 45 years ago!
As Rome Reports explains, this is "the most important [Church] document on Scripture since Vatican II." See the video at the bottom of this post.
Yet this historic and extensive document received only passing mention--if any at all--on many of the most popular Catholic websites.
Let me put it another way: imagine the Pope had released a 200 page letter on the Mass. What kind of treatment and analysis would that be getting? Is the Pope's teaching about the Bible not also worthy of careful attention?
In fact--I'm just going to come right out and say it--there does seem to be a real overreaction to Protestantism in Catholic circles. Quote chapter and verse from the Bible in some Catholic circles and you might get a weird look: are you really a Catholic? Yet Pope Benedict is calling for precisely that: memorization of Scripture in Catechesis (cf. Verbum Domini 74).
There seems to be a creeping suspicion in some Catholic circles that liturgy is for Catholics, the Bible is for Protestants. The only problem is: that not what the Pope himself is saying!
Read the entire post, written last Friday, as well as Dr. Barber's follow-up post, written yesterday.
I suspect (I hope!) that many bloggers and other Catholics (and non-Catholics, for that matter) are busy reading "Verbum Domini"; it weighs in at 40,000+ words and it is a demanding read at times. On the other hand, it is a really fabulous document, loaded with an abundance of insights, information, challenges, and rich food for thought and contemplation. I will be posting a few thoughts about it over the next week; I am currently writing a feature piece about the apostolic exhortation for Our Sunday Visitor newspaper, with the goal of helping guide folks through the document, unpacking some of the heavy theological ideas and terminology, and providing some context as to the exhortation's significance. (For those who might not know, I write the weekly column, "Opening the Word" for Our Sunday Visitor.)
Anyhow, I think the challenges issued by Dr. Barber in his post are very much worth reading and reflecting on. If nothing else, do read "Verbum Domini", and then read and study Scripture.
• Pope Benedict XVI: Theologian of the Bible | Fr. Joseph T. Lienhard, S.J.
• Historical-Critical Scripture Studies and the Catholic Faith | Michael Waldstein
• Introduction to Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger's God's Word: Scripture, Tradition, Office | Peter Hünermann and Thomas Södin
• God, The Author of Scripture | Preface to God and His Image: An Outline of Biblical Theology | Fr. Dominique Barthélemy, O.P.
• Going Deeper Into the Old Testament | An Interview with Aidan Nichols, O.P.
• The Pattern of Revelation: A Contentious Issue | From Lovely Like Jerusalem | Aidan Nichols, O.P.
• Origen and Allegory | Introduction to History and Spirit: The Understanding of Scripture According to Origen | Henri de Lubac
• How To Read The Bible | From You Can Understand the Bible | Peter Kreeft
• Introduction to The Meaning of Tradition | Yves Congar, O.P.
• The Bible Gap: Spanning the Distance Between Scripture and Theology | Fr. Benedict Ashley, O.P.
• The Divine Authority of Scripture vs. the "Hermeneutic of Suspicion" | James Hitchcock
• Enter Modernism | From Truth and Turmoil: The Historical Roots of the Modern Crisis in the Catholic Church | Philip Trower
• Singing the Song of Songs | Blaise Armnijon, S.J.