Yet another silly rant…

by Bernard Brandt

You know, I REALLY should stop reading Aleteia. Yet again, I have found a well meaning article, by what appears to be a really good young woman by the name of Therese Anthony, which article is entitled “Dear Priests: Please Teach Us”. The essay may be found here, and I would invite my four or five readers to peruse it. Basically, she asks Roman Catholic priests to stop feeding us pabulum, and actually to teach us the Faith.

I was tempted to say that I hardly had the heart to disabuse her of her illusions, but that would not be quite true. Needless to say, I wrote the following comment. It seems that the comments I write to Alethea somehow so far aren’t approved for publication. I was also tempted to say that I really would want to know why they are not, but that would not be quite true either. So, here is my comment, God help me:

Dear Theresa,

Sorry to have to break it to you, but most priests these days CAN’T teach you the Faith. That is because they do not know it themselves.  In order to do so, they would have to know Scripture, Tradition, and the Magisterium, or church authority. Let’s take those three one by one.

To know Scripture in any detail, one would have to know the languages of Scripture, which are Hebrew and Aramaic (if one is looking at the Maseoretic text of what we call the OT) and Greek (if one is looking at the Septuagint [or Greek OT] or the New Testament). Most priests these days don’t. They don’t know much biblical history, either, which helps to explain things that otherwise are unclear in Scripture. If one compares your average RC priest with a fundamentalist or evangelical preacher, or even a Jehovah’s Witness (who don’t know those languages either, but who at least READ Scripture),  the priest will come out the worse in any encounter.

As to tradition, most of it is to be found in the teachings and preaching of the Church Fathers, who wrote in Greek, Latin, Aramaic, and Coptic. Most priests don’t know any of those languages. Most also do not bother reading the Fathers in translation, either. And until recently, Patristics, or the study of the Church Fathers, was an elective in seminary, which most priests did not take.
As to the Magisterium, it can be found in the Ecumenical Councils, the writings of the Popes and synods, Canon Law, and Liturgical law. The first seven Ecumenical Councils were in Greek. The rest (at least for RCs) were in Latin, as are Canon Law and Liturgical Law. Three guesses as to how much Latin or Greek most priests know these days. Three guesses also as to how many priests read the Councils or the Popes even in translation. The first two guesses do not count.
By the bye, Theresa, this is why most RC liturgies really suck these days. Since, in most cases, priests have not bothered to read Scripture or Tradition, or even modern liturgical law in light of those fonts of the Holy Spirit, they have no clue as to how to serve a simple, dignified, devout liturgy, or to preach their way out of a paper bag, either.
My suggestion, Theresa, is that if you want to learn the Faith, you must learn it first yourself. Read Scripture. Read Tradition, as expressed in and by the Fathers of the Church.  Read the Councils and the writings of the Popes. And then you will at least have a touchstone to help you to know if a particular priest knows of any of those things, or can only speak of his own opinions or prejudices. If you can find a priest who actually knows these things, and can serve a simple and reverend liturgy, then stick with him as best you may.
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