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MEDIEVAL-RELIGION  December 2000

MEDIEVAL-RELIGION December 2000

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Subject:

Re: canons on lay study of the Bible (response to Cardinal de Val)

From:

Tom Izbicki <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 28 Dec 2000 16:05:55 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

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Parts/Attachments

text/plain (158 lines)

This exchange is becoming excessively polemical.
Tom Izbicki

At 03:15 PM 12/28/2000 -0500, you wrote:
>At 03:45 PM 12/27/00 -0500, you wrote:
>> >>>http://www.aloha.net/~mikesch/banned.htm
>>
>>
>>ITEM #15
>>
>>      From Cardinal Merry de Val, "Forward," in the Index of Prohibited
>>Books, revised and published by order of His Holiness Pope Pius XI (new
>>ed.; [Vatican City]: Vatican Polyglot Press, 1930), pp. ix-xi:
>>[p. ix] What many, indeed fail to appreciate, and what, moreover
>>non-Catholics consider a grave abuse  as they put it
>
>yes, welcome to the modern world where multiple voices get heard.  as this 
>posting so disturbingly illustrates, there are some catholics  who do not 
>like to be accused of grave abuses, but do not hesitate to accuse others 
>of precisely the same thing... and, when they had power, to use coercion 
>to impose such a "reading".
>
>>of the Roman Curia, is the action of the Church in hindering the printing
>>and circulation of Holy Writ in the vernacular.
>>Fundamentally however, this ac- [p. x] cusation is based on calumny.
>
>okay, so the roman curia considers it not a good thing to be accused of 
>hindering layfolk from having access to the bible.
>
>>During the first twelve centuries Christians were
>>highly familiar with the text of Holy Scripture,
>
>you've got to be kidding.  if by xns he means layfolk, there is no way 
>anyone can say this with a straight face about europe from ca. 500-1200.
>
>>as is evident from the
>>homilies of the Fathers and the sermons of the
>>mediaeval preachers;
>
>not at all evident.  leaving aside the fathers (who, in the west, at 
>least, were dealing with a vernacular bible, appropriately known as the 
>"vulgate"), i wd argue that the sermons of the medieval preachers neither 
>assume knowledge of scriptures and certainly no specific, textual 
>knowledge of them.
>
>>nor did the ecclesiastical authorities ever intervene
>>to prevent this. It was only in consequence of
>>heretical abuses,
>
>heresy, for the historian, is a political category (see Talal Assad's 
>article, "Medieval Heresy: An Anthropological View," Social History, 11 
>(1986), 345-62).  one generation's heretics are another's church renewers 
>(from waldo, who thought himself fully committed to catholic orthodoxy and 
>wanted to fight the cathars, to francis).  to invoke heresy as if it were 
>an objective category comes back to the problem of "objective 
>exegesis."  obviously, altho perhaps not to cardinal de val, most of these 
>heretics believed that they were reading the texts honestly and 
>spiritually, and that the malice came from the church.  to assume the 
>heretics malice and then use it as a justification for burning vernacular 
>bibles, strikes me as a very bizarre defense against the alleged calumny.
>
>>introduced particularly by the Waldenses, the Albigenses,
>>the followers of Wyclif, and by Protestants
>>broadly speaking (who with sacrilegious mutilations of Scripture
>
>good grief.  i've heard of lack of exegetical modesty, but this is just 
>not acceptable discourse among historians.  you can't do good history if 
>you treat those who disagree with the catholic church as engaged in 
>sacrilegious mutilations of scripture.
>
>>and arbitrary interpretations vainly sought to justify
>>themselves in the eyes of the people; twisting the text of the Bible to
>>support erroneous doctrines condemned by the
>>whole history of the Church)
>
>ouch.  here is where i think we see modernity and the magisterium collide, 
>if i might digress onto a relevant but modern issue of epistemology.  the 
>point that all these "heretics" were trying to make was that this 
>"twisting of texts to support erroneous doctrines" describes precisely 
>what the catholic church was doing. as a historian it's not my job to take 
>sides (even if as a person of faith i have my own opinions), but it is my 
>place to point out that when the church cdn't win the fight with 
>persuasion (ie commonfolk were convinced that these wandering preachers 
>without institutional support who ran the risk of persecution were more 
>correct in their reading of scripture than the priests), she turned to 
>coercion, a sure sign of spiritual trouble. (for a good treatment of the 
>shift from persuasion to coercion, see the Edward Peters book on Heresy in 
>the MA. to invoke the "whole history of the church" in support of a 
>reading that used force to impose itself is not exactly what i wd call a 
>compelling argument.
>
>>that the Pontiffs and the Councils were
>>obliged on more than one occasion to control and
>>sometimes even forbid the use of the Bible in the vernacular...
>
>in order to protect their interpretation.  how can this be a refutation of 
>the argument that the catholic church tried to control access to the 
>bible?  just because they may have felt (and  may apparently still feel) 
>justified in controlling what people read and think for the sake of the 
>church's determination of what's good for their souls, this hardly 
>obviates the claim that they tried to prevent people from reading the 
>text.  so if everyone had read the bible their way, catholics wd have been 
>happy to have people read it, but since layfolk didn't, they tried to stop 
>them from reading it...  is this the defense against the calumny that the 
>church tried to keep layfolk from reading the bible?
>
>the fact that the present church (at least as represented by Cardinal de 
>Val), even finds this claim -- which they accept with explanation -- as a 
>"calumny" suggests all kinds of interesting forms of cognitive dissonance 
>as a result of modern, liberal society.
>
>>This quote from his Eminence Cardinal Merry de Val, shows that Michale
>>Shelfer's web site, quoted above, is not being straightforward in this
>>presentation of texts. He avoids the obvious context of all the
>>disciplinary quotes he makes: namely that the vernacular translations being
>>condemn or prohibited were erroneous translations
>
>my goodness gracious.  and the latin vulgate makes no mistakes?  think how 
>embarrassing such a claim is in the context of those knowledgeable in both 
>hebrew and greek.
>
>>motivated by those who
>>intended to protray the meaning of scripture other than that which its
>>historical authors intended.
>
>this sounds like "strict reconstructionism".  you realize of course, that 
>one cd conceivably make the case, based on this kind of argument, that 
>xnty, in all its shapes and forms, was a malicious little jewish heresy 
>that had the nerve to challenge the historical weight of biblical 
>interpretation by the rabbis for over a millennium; that these xn heretics 
>insisted on twisting the meaning of scripture (young maid becomes 
>virgin!), on inserting texts even into their own NT (on the trinity); and 
>that, if only the 1st cn jews had been as "disciplinary" as the 13th 
>catholics, there wdn't have been a xnty (e.g., they wd have started by 
>burning all septuagints).
>
>as far as i can make out, the only justification for this apologia is the 
>claim to have a "lock" on true interpretation -- dare i say, "objective 
>exegetical truth".  what wd such people do, had they the power to enforce 
>it? i return to my question, brother alexis, what do you make of the 
>franciscan participation in the inquisition.  which, i believe, returns us 
>to the subject of the list -- medieval history.
>
>>But then again that is M. Shelfer's intent on his web site:  ergo..
>>
>>A scholar should consider the context of his sources, primary and secondary.
>
>indeed.
>
>richard
>
>brother alexis, if there's anything in this discussion you wish to pursue 
>with me that is not relevant to the list, i'd be happy to do so.  i was 
>visiting your franciscan website and noticed that there was no mention of 
>joachim of fiore.  did i miss it?
>
>r

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