The Role of Academics in the Secularization of the Church
“The phrase ‘Dominus vobiscum,’ which is used so often in the Mass, is translated into English as the subjunctive expression ‘the Lord be with you.’ One might imagine that there is an implicit word ‘may’ at the beginning to express that this is only a wish, a desire of the speaker, that God be with the person whom He is addressing; in our case, the Priest wishes this upon those hearing his Mass. But nothing about ‘Dominus vobiscum’ requires that it be taken in the subjunctive; nothing contained within the words themselves suggests that they are only a wish. It would almost seem more logical to interpret the phrase as being declarative, as stating ‘the Lord is with you.’ After all, only three ideas are contained in the words of this expression: Dominus (God), vobis (pl. you) and, –cum (with); none of them are ‘wish’ or ‘hope’ or the like. In fact, if you ever did want to communicate declaratively to someone that the Lord is with him, the Latin would be the same. The point is that translation obviously is not simply a matter of finding the word in one language which is the same as the word in another, it is about capturing the meaning of the words, something which oftentimes requires more insight than the simple knowledge of a text. And here the meaning of the words is inseparable from what is intended by the Church.
“But recently, allegedly Catholic scholars and theologians have cast ominous shadows of doubt over the Church’s ability to interpret, not only the texts of the Mass, but of the Bible as well. These people hold up awkward interpretations of ancient texts as the basis for their rebellion, and are for that very reason trusted and followed. These people, these so-called scholars of modernity who play on people’s trust, seem to form the foundation upon which modern liturgical and theological abuse is built. Although none of it could have gotten anywhere without weaknesses speckled here and there throughout the Church, the fact of the matter seems to be that even the clerics who played into modernity’s hands could not have done as they did without the help offered by corrupt Biblical interpretation.
“The most major phenomenon that this tactic makes use of is people’s tendency to accept an interpretation outside of the context of the Church’s tradition simply because it is linguistically valid. Also, people seem to be easy to convince that a text’s true translation must be any other than that taught by the Church. So, for someone who has already rejected the authority of the Roman Church, or for someone who is looking for a reason to do so, a bad interpretation or translation of a text—not simply a bad idea—will push them over the edge from speculation or disagreement into formal heresy. As long as they have a script to point to and say, ‘There, that’s the basis for my belief’ they feel reassured that theirinterpretation is correct. Without this, Christian heresies and modern abuses would only stand on the foundation of the charisma of their founder, and would therefore fizzle out like most cults do, when the leader dies.
“Every Christian heretic has done this, everyone who leads people away from the Catholic Church must not only devise a corruption of Her teaching, but they must also base this on a text which the people will willingly accept as valid, most often, this is done with the Bible; other times with apocryphal texts as with the recent DaVinci code craze, or, less frequently, with made-up texts, such as the book of Mormon. To simply approach a Catholic and tell him, that the Bible is not and never was the inerrant word of God would be too much of a shock to him. It would be far too hard to entice people with such a harsh message. It would be much more convincing to approach them and tell them that the Bible is all good and true, but that we’ve just been misunderstanding it all this time, and that liberation from Catholic oppression lies in the interpretation of a text that this person already holds dear. The words have always been there, it’s just that no one has found their real meaning until now.
“Now, this is easy enough to do in English; modern protestants do it all the time. Take for instance the passage in which Christ gives the Keys to the kingdom of heaven to Peter. Protestants don’t reject this as the establishment of the Papacy because Luther or anyone else told them to; they reject it because they believe that people like Luther have shown them the true way to read that particular part of the Bible. They believe that the truth is in the words, not in some person who tells them to read it a certain way. This is similar to telling a child that when the hands on the clock are at the 12 and the 8 that he has to go to bed; instead of simply telling him to go to bed at 8:00. By apparently removing the authority from your hands, your message is received as truth more readily.
“But there is really a limited range of meanings that one might be able to draw from any given English Bible passage. No one could argue convincingly, for instance, that Christ didn’t actually present Peter with keys, but that they were summer sausages instead. No one could do this because English is spoken today and we all know that the letters ‘k-e-y-s’ could never mean ‘summer sausage.’ But, if you were dealing with a dead, ancient language, the general population would have no idea what the squiggles on the page meant and without trust in the authority of the Catholic Church could wind up convinced of whatever interpretation was argued most passionately. Perhaps the best illustration of this phenomenon is the recent ‘discovery’ that Muslim heaven is actually a storehouse for white grapes instead of virgins. Here you have a situation where an alleged translation of a few words on a page is presented in contradiction to right reason, tradition (albeit Muslim tradition), and even some elements of psychology, and people bought it simply because the words were there. For hundreds of years the world has heard, from countless secondary sources and oral tradition, that the Muslim idea of a heavenly reward consists of a sensual gratification; that is, somewhere around 70 virgins awaited every Muslim male who made it to heaven. But in 2006, the truth was finally unveiled! The words said ‘white grapes’ not ‘virgins!’ All of the Saracens of history had been deceived, and we now know the truth, all thanks to a translation error that has finally been cleared up! There is no need for me to go into much more detail about how ridiculous this is. And yet, people will believe it because, as the Muslims say, it is written. And people use this exact same approach to justify the most outlandish interpretations of Biblical texts today, by going back to the Hebrew and discovering new ways of interpreting texts whose meaning has been understood and agreed upon for millennia.
“Hebrew is a language that lends itself to vagueness and allegory. Many words have a range of meanings, and it takes a great deal of scholarship, but most especially the guiding hand of providence, to ensure the proper translation of a Biblical text written in Hebrew. And because of this fact, it has recently become the language of choice for rogue scholars and theologians to use as a tool to attempt to insert their own ideas into the fold of Catholic thought and even Catholic dogma. This tactic has caused people to believe, for instance, that there is a serious basis for disbelief in the virgin birth, because the Hebrew word used in prophecies of the Blessed Virgin Mary can be translated simply as ‘young woman’ and do not explicitly say ‘virgin.’ Despite the fact that the Septuagint translates this as ‘virgin’ and the fact that it is the tradition and teaching of the Church to understand the implication of ‘young woman’ to mean unmarried and therefore a virgin, people still are shedding their trust in Catholic teaching because of these few pseudo-intellectual ‘scholars’ who can point them to a misinterpretation of a text.
“As I said, we can only have gotten where we are today as a result of a combination of factors. These are: bad ideas, an ancient textual basis for belief in these bad ideas, and a scholarly source to point to as the reason why the text should be interpreted in such a way. And I believe that this last category, the ‘scholars’ of the modern universities, stand behind these radical interpretations and act as their driving force, as the foundation atop of which is built the wrecking-ball of modernity within the Catholic Church. Bad scholarship can do unfathomable amounts of damage and even, in this case, wreak spiritual havoc. For this reason, I would like to remind the students of Southern Catholic of the potential power that they wield. Although Southern Catholic [was very small and is no more] it nonetheless initiated all of its students into this very same world of academia on whose authority countless false doctrines have been spread. Schools such as Southern Catholic perform the indispensable duty of leading their students out of ignorance and showing them their nature. And it is only after having done this that an individual can hope to enter the world of greater academia (graduate school and beyond) equipped with the knowledge and abilities necessary to combat modernity at its very heart. All too often it seems like the choice to pursue a lifestyle in academia is portrayed as self-serving or useless in a practical sense, but I think that nothing could possibly be further from the truth. It seems to me that the role of the Catholic Scholar is in fact amongst the most significant in the fight against modernity, and that without them, the secular universities would be able to turn scholarship into a weapon that couldn’t be defended against.”