THEY THINK THEY'VE WON IN CATHOLIC EXEGESIS
hundred years after Pope Leo XIII's Providentissimus
Deus (Nov.10, 1893), and fifty years after Pius XII's
Divino Afflante Spiritu, (Sept. 30, 1943), the Pontifical
Biblical Commission has developed a synthesis of the two
encyclicals. Msgr. Gianfranco Ravasi, a spokesman
and member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, presents
an outline of this so-called "precious document"
being published by the Pontifical Biblical Commission (see
the journal Gesù, Oct. 1993, pp.45-50). Ravasi
sees Providentissimus Deus, "apologetic"
in nature, as the thesis, and Divino Afflante Spiritu,
"entirely oriented toward the exaltation of authentic
scientific exegesis," as the antithesis.
presenting this new document, Ravasi unintentionally
casts a shadow over both the reformed Biblical Commission
and its members (who are not cardinals as in the past, but
exegetes thinking along the same lines as Ravasi):
let us remember that...at the beginning of Vatican Council
II, when two Roman ecclesiastics, Romeo and Spadafora
[the goodies], launched a virulent attack against the
Biblical Institute, they succeeded in bringing about the
suspension of two great professors: the Jesuits Lyonnet
and Zerwick [the baddies]. Paul VI reinstated them
in their teaching functions, and I had the good fortune
of being the student of these two extraordinary men of
research and of faith….
The Holy Father addresses the solemn
convocation commemorating the centenary of Providentissimus
Deus and the 50th anniversary of Divino Afflante
US SET THE RECORD STRAIGHT
while Ravasi showers unmerited praise upon Zerwick
and Lyonnet, whose "faith" was clearly
manifested after the Council in their denial of the fundamental
truths of Catholicism, he unfairly casts blame upon Romeo
and Spadafora. It is therefore fitting, first of
all, that the truth be known about Romeo and Spadafora,
who are painted in such bad light by Ravasi.
CREDENTIALS OF MSGR. ANTONIO ROMEO
is what Spadafora himself wrote about Msgr. Antonio
Romeo, after the death of the Biblical Institute
professor, in Palestra del Clero, (#21, 1978):
in Reggio Calabria on June 8, 1902, he [Romeo]
completed his secondary studies at the famous St. Michaels's
School in Fribourg, Switzerland, where he learned both
German and French. For his theological studies, he went
to the Regional Seminary of St. Pius X at Catanzaro, and
was ordained a priest on December 20, 1924. In 1927, after
completing the course of studies offered at the Pontifical
Biblical Institute, he immediately returned to the Seminary
at Catanzaro, where he taught Sacred Scripture from 1927
to 1934. Being in great demand in the Dioceses, he was
named Pro-Vicar General in Reggio Calabria. On January
1, 1938, at the Sacred Congregation for Seminaries and
Universities, he began his studies in Rome, producing
an excellent body of hidden work over a period of more
than thirty-four years.
the introduction to his fine work, The Present and
the Future in Biblical Revelation (1964, starting
on p.xxxiv), Msgr. Romeo writes the following:
gratitude goes out to the unforgettable students who took
my courses at the Regional Seminaries in Calabria. In
brotherly collaboration, I spent the happiest years of
my priestly life with them examining the Holy Scriptures.
I thank them all, and it is to them that I dedicate this
volume, which is a faint reflection of Eternal Truth -
a Truth which they sought to penetrate and contemplate
in Biblical revelation.
these few lines we catch a glimpse of the supernatural
spirit and the keen sense of modesty of this great master.
The undersigned was one of those students who, after having
finished his theological studies in Catanzaro and Posilipo,
followed the path of his venerable master by attending
the Pontifical Biblical Institute from 1936 to 1939.
was to him that I dedicated my first exegetical work,
which was the translation and commentary of the Book of
the Prophet Ezechiel (1948). In the book's dedication,
I wrote: 'To my professor, Msgr. Antonio Romeo,
to whom I owe my beginnings, as well as my fervor in studying
Holy Scripture." I thus expressed my profound gratitude
for having received a solid foundation in hermeneutics,
Biblical inspiration, scriptural exegesis, Hebrew, and
Members of the Diplomatic Corps
accredited to the Holy See
at the solemn convocation
CREDENTIALS OF MSGR. SPADAFORA
Msgr. Spadafora himself, we mention three of his
works from amongst many other writings in scientific exegesis
and historical criticism:
his commentary on the book of Ezichiel, and its translation
from the original (Marietti 1948, 357 pages, 2nd ed. 1950).
In Revue Biblique (#57, 1950), Fr. R. J. Tournay,
O.P., states the following in his review of the commentary:
to the commentary itself, which is quite developed, especially
in the area of literary criticism, the author has formulated
a critical apparatus that sometimes surpasses the importance
of the commentary itself. Specialists will find in this
work a great number of interesting observations and references.
This work deserves to be placed among the best commentaries
Gesù e la fine di Gerusalemme (Jesus and
the Destruction of Jerusalem). This work deals solely
with Jesus' prophecy concerning the destruction of Jerusalem,
without any references or allusions to the end of the world.
Fr. Benoît, in his review published in Revue
Biblique (#59, 1952, starting on p.119), wrote that
he found "this exegesis to be excellent," and
he "approved of it completely." C. Spicq, in Revue
des Sciences Philosophiques et Théologiques (#36,
1951), applauded the work, saying that its "necessity
will increase as time goes on."
Pilato(IPAG, Rovigo 1973, 215 pages). Fr. Bernini,
SJ., a former professor of Sacred scripture at Gregorian
University, wrote the following in his review published
in Civiltà Cattolica (March 6, 1976, p.519):
well-known exegete from the Pontifical University of the
Lateran, exercising his extraordinary erudition, and using
his skills in examining problems in literary and historical
criticism, wished to examine the old problem of Pontius
the goal of establishing the historicity of the Gospel of
Matthew, and of demonstrating how the Jewish sources referring
to Pilate are without foundation.
book was written with ease and agility - indeed, with
the erudition of a true master.
MODERNIST MANIFESTO OF THE PONTIFICAL BILICAL INSTITUTE
established the identity of the various persons involved,
let us now turn our attention to the facts of the case.
around 1950, the students of the Pontifical Biblical Institute
began informing Msgr. Romeo about the "novelties"
that some of the Jesuits there were teaching them concerning
the nature of the divine inspiration of the Sacred Books.
They were taught that inspiration was no longer considered
to be personal, but collective, and that inerrance was limited
only to passages concerning dogma. Such novelties were closely
linked to the acceptance of the latest rationalist systems
(Bultmann-Dibelius) of Formengeschichte and Redaktiongeschichte,
which were based on the denial of the authenticity and historicity
of the Gospels.
the Institute, Leone Algisi and Luigi Moraldi,
both of whom eventually left the priesthood, were among
those who boasted about these novelties, claiming that they
were taught by Pius XII himself in the Encyclical
Divino Afflante Spiritu (1943). These same ideas
are now being peddled by Romano Penna, Gianfranco
Ravasi, and other former students from the Pontifical
SIN ON ORIGINAL SIN
those years, Msgr. Romeo was a compiler in Sacred
Scripture for the Enciclopedia Cattolica. He entrusted
the expression "Original Sin" to Msgr.
Spadafora, who was a professor at the Lateran, saying, "the
students of the Biblical Institute tell me that Fr. Lyonnet
has developed an original exegesis for Romans 5:12."
Spadafora then called upon Fr. Lyonnet, his
former classmate (1936-1939), who allowed him to read his
interpretation of the above passage.
years passed by, and on September 3, 1960, in La Civiltà
Cattolica (pp.449-460), Alonso Schökel,
S.J., came up with eleven pages of gratuitous assertions
in which he pretended to justify the "novelties"
that had already been taught for years at the Pontifical
Biblical Institute, attributing them to Pius XII's
Divino Afflante Spiritu, (which he tried to place
in opposition to Leo XIII's Providentissimus Deus).
INSTITUTE UNVEILS MODERNIST DESIGNS
was in this manner that the Pontifical Biblical Institute
unveiled its designs. Its new program consisted in a radical
shift that went against all the directives given by the
Magisterium on Catholic exegesis. In this program, the Jesuits
at the Institute had adopted the two latest rationalist
methods which were then in fashion, pretending that the
changes were attributable to Pius XII. They did this
by interpreting Divino Afflante Spiritu in their
own way, and by ignoring Humani Generis altogether.
According to these new systems, all dogmatic principles
were pushed aside, Biblical science became purely philological
and historical in nature, and the wall separating Catholics
and rationalist Protestants was torn down.
reaction of the Roman exegetes took shape in Msgr. Romeo's
erudite critical study, "The Encyclical Divino Afflante
Spiritu and the Opiniones Novae" in Divinitas
(#4, 1966, pp.378-456}, in which he states the following:
after the death of the great Pius XII, and with
seventeen years of hindsight [since the publication of
Divino Affiante Spiritu], Fr. Alonso tells us that
there was a novelty, a transformation, introduced by Divino
Affiante Spiritu that will: "open up a new, wide
path." We find nothing in the documents of Pius
XII and John XXIII...even remotely suggesting
that novelties, an opening of doors, or new liberties
were conceded by the Supreme Magisterium in 1943.
was the central theme of Msgr. Romeo's article. He
wished to demonstrate the continuity of the Supreme Magisterium
on the question by examining various documents, beginning
with Humani Generis. He then brought forth evidence
which had been: "authorized first hand, and which could
be called unofficial." This evidence was the very explicit
commentary on Divino Afflante Spiritu by Cardinal
Agostino Bea, who was at that time Rector of the
Pontifical Biblical Institute. This commentary, which was
published in La Civiltà Cattolica (#94, 1943-1944,
pp.212-224), seems to have been completely ignored by Fr.
conclusion, Msgr. Romeo wrote that:
is therefore absolutely nothing, not even a chance indication
of any kind in the Encyclical..., nor is there anything
in Cardinal Bea's authorized commentary that indicates
this [and in fact, his commentary was probably authorized,
since Fr. Bea was advisor to the Holy Office and confessor
to Pius XII. Nothing in these documents could substantiate
the opinion being circulated...that this great Encyclical
had broken with the previous directives of the Supreme
Magisterium, or that it had the intention of giving a
new orientation to Catholic exegesis.
any case, it is clear, for anyone reading Divino Affiante
Spiritu, (and it becomes even clearer when studying
Humani Generis), that the Biblical Encyclical of
the great Pius XII adheres completely to Providentissimus,
which it confirms, expands upon, and clarifies on various
points; and it is, indeed, through Providentissimus
that we are linked to the spirit, the principles, and
the norms of uninterrupted Tradition on the veneration
of the Word of God, through strict and arduous exegetical
intervened at this point, writing an article for Divinitas
(#2, 1960, pp.289-298), entitled Romans 5:12: Exegeses
and Dogmatic Reflections. The article had been requested
by Cardinal Parente, assessor to the Holy Office, in response
to Fr. Stanislas Lyonnet's article "Le péché
originel et l'exégèse de Rm. 5:12"
("Original Sin and the Exegesis of Romans 5:12"},
published in Recherches de Sciences Religieuses (Research
in Religious Science, #44, 1956, pp.63-84).
we have already said, Spadafora had examined this
document some years before. Upon returning it to Fr. Lyonnet,
he brought it to the latter's attention that the exegesis
proposed was untenable, since it was irreconcilable with
response to Cardinal Parente's request, Msgr. Spadafora
refuted point by point the various arguments put forth by
Lyonnet, who tried to prove that the passage from
Romans 5:12 ("Wherefore as by one man sin entered into
this world, and by sin death; and so death passed upon all
men, in whom all have sinned.") was not to be taken
as an affirmation of Original Sin, but to mean, rather,
that "all have sinned" in "imitation of Adam."
He would have us believe that this passage refers only to
personal sins, whereas the entire context (5:12-20) clearly
states that "by the offense of one...many were made
was something even more grievous about the novelties proposed
by Lyonnet - namely, that the meaning of Romans 5:12
had already been solemnly defined by the Council of Trent
in two canons on Original Sin.
order to make a judgment in this case, the Holy Office intervened
by imposing silence on the two parties, who were asked to
present their respective arguments. After hearing both sides,
the Holy Office suspended Lyonnet and Zerwick
from teaching, and had them leave Rome. Then on June 20,
1961, the Supreme Congregation of the Holy Office published
the following Monitum (warning or admonition), primarily
in order to defend the historicity of the Canonical Gospels:
the study of Biblical subjects is being actively developed,
opinions and judgments are circulating in various places
that endanger the historical and objective truth of Holy
Scripture, not only for the Old Testament (something which
the Sovereign Pontiff Pius XII had lamented in
the encyclical Humani Generis, cf. A.A.S.) but
also for the New Testament; and sometimes these opinions
even concern the words and acts of Christ Jesus. Since
opinions and judgments such as these are of such great
concern to pastors and to the faithful, the most eminent
Fathers, who are the overseers of the defense and doctrine
of the Faith and of morals, have considered it their duty
to warn all those who treat of Holy Scriptures, in writing
or in speech, to handle such grave questions with the
respect that is due to them. They ask that they might
take into consideration the doctrines of the Fathers,
the mind of the Church and of the Magisterium, so that
the consciences of the faithful are not offended.
monitum of the Holy Office, and the measures taken
against the Jesuits Lyonnet and Zerwick, should
have swept away any modernist interpretations of the Encyclical
Divino Afflante Spiritu. It should have given a death
blow to those overtures being made to the "history
of forms" (Formengeschichte) and to the "history
of redaction" (Redaktiongeschichte), which are
Protestant in nature, and which spring from the "negation
of historical and objective truth" of the "words
and acts of Jesus Christ." On the contrary, the Council,
the pontificate of Paul VI, and the period after
the Council brought about a complete change of course in
favor of modernism.
de Rome, April 1994
Courtesy of the Angelus
Press, Kansas City, MO 64109
translated from the Italian
Fr. Du Chalard
Via Madonna degli Angeli, 14
Italia 00049 Velletri (Roma)