The Fathers of the Synod of Bishops on "the Word of God" finally decided last Friday not to take a piece of heterodox ‘bait’ that had been slipped into their Instrumentum Laboris . The IL was the working document prepared for the Synod by elite biblical scholars and presented publicly at the Vatican by the Synod General Secretariat on June 12. It was then even published as a special supplement to L’Osservatore Romano .
The IL taught in section 15(c) that the Bible’s inerrancy applies "only to ‘what God wanted put into the sacred writings for the sake of salvation’". This is one version of the doctrine of restricted or limited biblical inerrancy — a doctrine that has been repeatedly condemned by Popes and Councils as contrary to the faith of the Catholic Church, given that the Holy Spirit, along with the human authors, is the Author of the whole Bible, "entire and in all its parts." The IL even cited Vatican Council II’s Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, Dei Verbum, article 11, in support of its unorthodox teaching, even though the Council affirms in that same article that "everything affirmed by the inspired authors or sacred writers must be held as affirmed by the Holy Spirit" — who can neither deceive nor be deceived.
Among the list of 53 final Synod propositions destined for consideration by Pope Benedict XVI, there is a short one that touches directly on the topic of inerrancy. Admittedly, what the Synod produced was not the ideal. It would have been much better if the Synod had included in its list a clear and positive affirmation of the perennial, orthodox Catholic doctrine of biblical inerrancy — to wit, that everything affirmed by the sacred writers, regardless of its specific subject-matter, is guaranteed to be true.
Nevertheless, simply by declining to endorse section 15(c) of the IL, these world representatives of the Successors of the Apostles have clearly decided, as a group, to stop short of eating the forbidden fruit with which they were tempted by prestigious exegetes and by the Synod’s General Secretariat itself, prior to their three-week meeting. Given the currently widespread — indeed, dominant — heterodoxy on this matter in the Catholic academy, and even among some bishops, that is certainly a cause for heartfelt thanks to the Holy Spirit, Mary, Mother of the Church, and St. Michael the Archangel.
Our prayers must continue for the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to which the ‘hot potato’ of biblical inerrancy has now been passed by the Synod Fathers.
I present below the text of proposition 12 in Italian (the only language in which the complete list is so far available online), followed by my own translation.
Ispirazione e verità della Bibbia
Il sinodo propone che la Congregazione per la Dottrina della Fede chiarifichi i concetti di ispirazione e di verità della Bibbia, così come il loro rapporto reciproco in modo da far capire meglio l’insegnamento della Dei Verbum 11. In particolare, bisogna mettere in rilievo l’originalità dell’ermeneutica biblica cattolica in questo campo.
My unofficial translation:
The Inspiration and Truth of the Bible
The Synod proposes that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith clarify the concepts of the Bible’s inspiration and truth, together with their reciprocal relationship, so as to enable a better understanding of the teaching of Dei Verbum, #11. In particular, there is a need to bring out clearly the originality of Catholic biblical hermeneutics in this field.