The Blood is the Life, Part III
by Bernard Brandt
Between the difficulty of other tasks, not least being sole caretaker for my invalid wife, I have had to put off for a time writing on this weblog. I will, however, as time permits, return to this task, for I believe it to be an important one.
To sum up the theses in my previous essays, I posit that the Roman Catholic Church, or that part of it called the “Church Militant”, is suffering from an immune deficiency syndrome. In short, it would appear that most bishops are not teaching the Faith, most priests are not sanctifying, and most deacons are not serving effectively. This is not to say that they are not working, and working hard, in the sense that they are expending a great deal of effort. What I am saying, rather, is that since their labors are not based on what the Church has taught and still teaches, whatever work they are accomplishing is entirely or mostly ineffectual. It is time to examine why that is the case.
I will begin by examining the Second Vatican Council statement on Divine Revelation, Dei Verbum. In brief, it states that God has revealed Himself and His mind to us, through the operation of the Holy Spirit, in the Sacred Scriptures, in the Apostolic tradition, and in the authentic teaching authority of the Church, which is to be found (for Roman Catholics at least) in the Councils and the consistent teaching of the Fathers and of the Roman Pontiffs. The theology of the church is based upon these three ‘fonts of the Holy Spirit’, and it is the proper office or duty of the clergy, and particularly of bishops to study, to learn, and to teach that theology through a deep understanding of Scripture, Tradition and the Roman Magisterium.
As the late Anna Russell would say, “I’m not making this up, you know.”
But if you have actually studied Scripture, or Patristics, or Church History, one might notice that most Roman deacons, priests, or bishops show a startling lack of knowledge of those or many other subjects. More to the point, they appear to lack a knowledge even of the languages which would make such a study possible: for Sacred Scripture, Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, or even the Latin of the Vulgate or the Neo-Vulgate; for Tradition, Aramaic, Greek, or Latin; and for the Magisterium of the Councils or the Pontiffs, Greek and Latin. But even assuming that works in translation would be sufficient to teach these subjects, they show a lack of familiarity with those translated Scriptures, or Church History, or Patristics.
One would think that there must have been a change brought about by the Second Vatican Council, in which there were solemn pronouncements that these subjects are no longer necessary to be taught to bishops, priests, or deacons, in spite of the teachings to the contrary in Dei Verbum. But a reading of the Council Fathers’ statement on the education of priests, Optatam Totius would show rather the opposite: seminarians are, before entry into the seminary, to have the undergraduate education proper to those going on to graduate study in the sciences, medicine, law, or philosophy; they are to be well educated in Latin; they are encouraged to learn the languages of scripture, tradition, and the Magisterium; and this prerequisite knowledge is to be used to develop seminarians in the study of philosophy and theology. And the ends of such studies are to enable priests both to proclaim the Gospels and to engage the modern world.
I have a question to ask of my readers: how many RC priests do you know that have acquired such knowledge? The question, of course, is rhetorical, and the answer, of course is: “hardly any.” It is a commonplace that in an encounter between a RC priest and an evangelical preacher, or a Jehovah’s Witness, or even a Mormon elder of 18, in most cases the priest comes off far worse as regards a knowledge of Holy Scripture. Alas, therefore, most RC priests are ignorant of the basics, let alone a knowledge of philosophy or theology.
It would be one thing if this disparity between the directives of the Council Fathers in Optatam Totius, and the reality for the last fifty years, were just an oversight on the part of bishops, priests and seminary teachers. But those directives were repeated in the revision of canon law, completed more than thirty years ago. I would invite my readers to look at the English translation of the Code of Canon law, on the Formation of Clerics (canons 232-293) and more particularly, canon 234, section 2: “Unless in certain cases circumstances indicate otherwise, young men disposed to the priesthood are to be provided with that formation in the humanities and science by which the youth in their own region are prepared to pursue higher studies.”
A reading of canon 249 would also not be amiss: “The program of priestly formation is to provide that students not only are carefully taught their native language but also understand Latin well and have a suitable understanding of those foreign languages which seem necessary or useful for their formation or for the exercise of pastoral ministry.” Likewise, canon 250 says: “The philosophical and theological studies which are organized in the seminary itself can be pursued either successively or conjointly, in accord with the program of priestly formation. These studies are to encompass at least six full years in such a way that the time dedicated to philosophical disciplines equals two full years and to theological studies four full years.” If one were to examine the entire section of the CCL, I believe that one would find many other derelictions on the part of seminaries.
In short, if one were to compare the directives of Vatican II and modern canon law with the syllabi of most RC seminaries, one would find that those seminaries have been in elaborate formal disobedience with those directives for more than thirty years, in the case of canon law, and more than fifty years, in the case of Optatam Totius.
I believe that one can reasonably conclude therefore that the mis-education of most RC priests has been at the root of the rot in the Church, and through no other cause. How can priests teach the laity Church doctrine, if they do not know it themselves? How can they effectively serve the Divine Liturgy or the other mysteries of the Church, if they have never effectively been taught them? How can they even teach the Gospels, if they do not know them?
There is a saying in Latin: Nemo dat quod non habet: No one can give what they do not have. It is as simple as that.
I will leave for later parts of this essay an inquiry as to why the clergy and seminaries have succumbed to this New Dark Age, and the remedy for it.