Sunday, July 09, 2006

Dei Verbum 1

In some quarters, the "Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation" has come into a sort of ascendancy. Many Catholics see it as moving past Gaudium et Spes in a sort of "hierarchy" of the council documents. Does "dogmatic" trump "pastoral?" Can one say that the Word of God somehow outmaneuvers the Church itself in a Catholic sensibility? I doubt God would see it in those terms.

Certainly, Dei Verbum is a more comfortable document than GS. At the very least, one can say its twenty-six sections are a bit more manageable than GS's feast of 93. The language is much clearer as well. And treating the subject of God's self-revelation through Scripture and tradition tends to be more black and white. Is this particular war just? Differences of opinion can be entertained on that subject. Is the Bible the divinely inspired Word of God? That one is pretty settled.

DV was promulgated in November 1965, less than a month before the close of Vatican II. As we have done with the other Vatican documents, comments are certainly welcome. We begin with the preface:

Hearing the word of God with reverence and proclaiming it with faith, the sacred synod takes its direction from these words of St. John: "We announce to you the eternal life which dwelt with the Father and was made visible to us. What we have seen and heard we announce to you, so that you may have fellowship with us and our common fellowship be with the Father and His Son Jesus Christ" (1 John 1:2-3). Therefore, following in the footsteps of the Council of Trent and of the First Vatican Council, this present council wishes to set forth authentic doctrine on divine revelation and how it is handed on, so that by hearing the message of salvation the whole world may believe, by believing it may hope, and by hoping it may love. (cf. St. Augustine, "De Catechizandis Rudibus," C.IV 8: PL. 40, 316.)

We'll see from future footnotes a leaning on Vatican I. Yet the document builds on this tradition and encourages approaches to Scripture that might have been unthinkable in many Catholic quarters a generation prior to Vatican II.

Some of the readers out there might have their own issues with DV. Have you read it before? If so, how long ago? What would you like to see covered in the commentary on this important document?

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