Be warned! She has an excessively large spleen!
It’s no surprise, then, that Gledhill would try to gin up more controversy with a story such as her new one, which she or her editor eggregiously and INACCURATELY titled
With a provocation like that, I’ve received links to the story from loads of folks looking for comment.
So let’s get to it.
As noted, here’s how the article beigns:
Catholic Church no longer swears by truth of the Bible
By Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent
This implies that the Catholic Church has announced that it no longer "swears by" the truth of the Bible (whatever that means). In order for that to be true, there would have to be a statement from the Holy See announcing this. If there’s not then the headline is not only offensive it is also INACCURATE. In order for this to count as "news" the document would also have to be recent.
Is there such a document?
The first sentence of the article would lead you to believe that there is:
THE hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church has published a teaching document instructing the faithful that some parts of the Bible are not actually true.
When did that happen?
I thought Pope Benedict was tied up with the Synod of Bishops at the moment discussing the liturgy. Did someone sneak in an ecumenical council while we weren’t looking? I mean, there’s only two ways that "the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church" can issue a document in the name of the whole, and that’s either through an action of the Vatican or through an ecumenical council, so it must have been one of those two things.
ANY religion reporter qualified enough to keep her job would know THAT!
So what’s the scoop on this new document?
The Catholic bishops of England, Wales and Scotland are warning their five million worshippers, as well as any others drawn to the study of scripture, that they should not expect “total accuracy” from the Bible.
Ooooooh! That’s completely different, then! It ain’t "the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church" but just the bishops of England, Wales, and Scotland that issued the document!
Gledhill must have been raised in a non-Euclidian universe where the fallacy of composition works, so that you can identify the part with the whole without fear of inaccuracy.
Things–including news reporting–must be so much simpler in Gledhill’s universe of origin, what without having to worry about that pesky part/whole distinction.
Over there the Vatican has probably not bothered calling any ecumenical councils gathering all of the world’s bishops to speak for the Church. They’ve just let the bishops of Great Britain issue all of the Church’s official statements. Maybe the pope is even based in non-Euclidian England!
“We should not expect to find in Scripture full scientific accuracy or complete historical precision,” they say in The Gift of Scripture.
Here the bishops have used an unfortunate phrase. It would be better if they had noted that Scripture frequently is not attempting to make assertions of a scientific nature and that the reader will arrive at scientifically inaccurate conclusions if he tries to press these statements into serving a purpose for which they were not intended, just as if you parsed a weatherman hyper-literally when he says "It’s raining cats and dogs!"
Something similar applies with the statement that Scripture does not provide "complete historical precision." It’s quite true that Scripture writes history according to a different set of rules than modern historians do and that it has a more approximative style of recording history. This needn’t trouble us as there’s different strokes for different folks. Mr. Spock may want times of arrival calculated down to the last nanosecond, but most of us make do with more approximative reckonings. In the universe from which Gledhill hails, they are apparently so approximative that they freely mix their parts with wholes.
For all I know, the bishops may have set their above-quoted remark in a context that makes the same kind of points that I just did. (I can’t check because the document isn’t online.) It may be that Gledhill has simply snipped out the "juciest" bits that she could use for supporting her triumphalistic "The Bible contains error! ERROR do you hear me!" theme.
The document is timely, coming as it does amid the rise of the religious Right, in particular in the US.
Apparently the history of the non-Euclidian mirror universe is somewhat different than the history of the one in which we live. It would appear that where she’s from people were less religious in the past and are now becoming more religious instead of the other way around.
Gledhill also seems to have confirmed the idea that in the mirror universe the bishops of Great Britain speak for the whole Church, given her seeming expectation that members of "the religious Right, in particular in the US" would take seriously something written by churchmen on her fair, non-Euclidian Isle.
Some Christians want a literal interpretation of the story of creation, as told in Genesis, taught alongside Darwin’s theory of evolution in schools, believing “intelligent design” to be an equally plausible theory of how the world began.
Yet another instance in how the history of the Gledhill universe diverges from that of our world. Here in our world, there are THREE different scenarios for the origin of the world that different groups of people wish to see taught in schools: (1) "a literal interpretation of the story of creation, as told in Genesis," (2) "Darwin’s theory of evolution," and (3) "Intelligent Design."
Being from non-Euclidian England, Gledhill is unfamiliar with the distinction between (1) and (3) or the fact that people who support (3) being taught in schools do not necessarily support (1) being taught in them. In fact, people who support (3) may strongly disagree with those who support (1). They’re merely arguing that the universe contains SOME evidence of having been intelligently designed, without that being tied to any particular view of what the designer or the designers were like or whether the Genesis narrative is to be taken literally.
Note also Gledhill’s editorializing tone, dissing the idea that the idea the idea that the universe was intelligently designed is "an equally plausible theory" as the idea it was utterly random. Apparently, this is a settled matter in the mirror universe upon which newspaper reporters can pronounce with confidence.
But the first 11 chapters of Genesis, in which two different and at times conflicting stories of creation are told, are among those that this country’s Catholic bishops insist cannot be “historical”. At most, they say, they may contain “historical traces”.
Here Gledhill feels confident that, in her capacity as a reporter, she can tell us that Genesis 1 and 2 offer "at times conflicting stories." Apparently she has examined all the different harmonizations of the two accounts and, on her own authority as a biblical scholar, judged them wanting. How blessed the readers of the Times are to have such a surplus of scholarship in a single writer, who can not only report the news but also authoritatively pronounce her own scholarly judgments on biblical texts as well!
So masterful is Gledhill in handling texts that she is able to summarize a complex and easy-to-get-wrong point while giving the reader only three words ("historical," "historical traces") from the source document without her readers worrying that she may be mischaracterizing what the document says.
It’s unfortunate that she didn’t choose to tell her readers what the bishops meant by "historical." Clearly the early Genesis narratives are not written according to the conventions of our contemporary historical writing, so they’re not "historical" writings in the modern sense.
It’s also not really news that these narratives contain "historical traces" since the Catechism of the Catholic Church says that "The account of the fall in Genesis 3 uses figurative language, but affirms a
primeval event, a deed that took place at the beginning of the history of
man" (CCC 390). Presumably the other early narratives also reflect primeval events recounted in a way using figurative language.
One can’t help wondering, though, whether Gledhill has accurately summarized what the bishops wrote or whether her non-Euclidian background may be affecting matters.
The document shows how far the Catholic Church has come since the 17th century, when Galileo was condemned as a heretic for flouting a near-universal belief in the divine inspiration of the Bible by advocating the Copernican view of the solar system.
Yet another instance in which the history of the mirror universe is apparently different from our own. In our universe, Galileo was not "condemned as a heretic." He was condemned as suspect of heresy, which is not the same thing.
The Bible is true in passages relating to human salvation, they say, but continue: “We should not expect total accuracy from the Bible in other, secular matters.”
Here again the bishops have phrased themselves in an unfortunate manner. The Vatican II decree Dei Verbum teaches that the "everything asserted by the inspired authors or sacred writers must be held to be asserted by the Holy Spirit" and that this entails Scripture’s inerrancy. It may be true that Scripture is principally concerned with our salvation rather than "other, secular matters," and that it therefore contains more assertions on the subject of salvation than on other matters.
But it is misleading to suggest that statements of Scripture that are NOT assertions (properly so-called) are inaccurate. It would be better to say that, since they are not assertions, they are not to be taken literally and that to do so could result in error. The problem is not with what Scripture says, but with one trying to apply it to a purpose that God and the sacred authors did not intend.
They go on to condemn fundamentalism for its “intransigent intolerance” and to warn of “significant dangers” involved in a fundamentalist approach.
“Such an approach is dangerous, for example, when people of one nation or group see in the Bible a mandate for their own superiority, and even consider themselves permitted by the Bible to use violence against others.”
Here it is not clear who the bishops may be thinking of. Fundamentalists–those who use the term for themselves–typically do not "see in the Bible a mandate for their own superiority." Members of the Klan might, but people at your local Fundamental Baptist church are more likely to be confessing their own unworthiness as sinners in need of God’s grace.
It is also really unusually to find any Fundamentalists who "consider themselves permitted by the Bible to use violence against others" except in the perfectly OBVIOUS cases where the Bible (and the teaching of the Catholic Church) allow the use of violence against others as part of legitimate defense (CCC 2263-2267, 2309).
Unfortunately, Gledhill has quoted so little of what the bishops wrote that it is impossible to tell what sort of Fundamentalists they had in mind (certainly not the normal kind).
Gledhill then switches back to her editorialization:
Of the notorious anti-Jewish curse in Matthew 27:25, “His blood be on us and on our children”, a passage used to justify centuries of anti-Semitism, the bishops say these and other words must never be used again as a pretext to treat Jewish people with contempt. Describing this passage as an example of dramatic exaggeration, the bishops say they have had “tragic consequences” in encouraging hatred and persecution. “The attitudes and language of first-century quarrels between Jews and Jewish Christians should never again be emulated in relations between Jews and Christians.”
What the bishops are reported as saying her eis just fine. But Gledhill has editorialized, telling us that Matthew 27:25 is "notorious" and an "anti-Jewish curse," when the bishops are at pains to explain that it is NOT anti-Jewish but is "an example of dramatic exaggeration." Gledhill has thus misunderstood the document on which she is reporting (or else stepping in to overrule the news with her own views).
It is also perfectly obvious that the remark is not "anti-Jewish" because it is uttered by Jewish people. The statement is an endorsement of Pilate’s actions uttered in the striking, hyperbolic mode of speech that was common in this time and culture.
The people aren’t literally cursing themselves (much less their whole ethnic group, which could scarcely have been in view in the crowd’s mind) any more than we are literally cursing ourselves if we say "Swear to God and hope to die!" or "May lightning strike me!"
These statements play other functions than attempting to literally bring a curse on oneself. Indeed, they are uttered when one feels SO confident that one is right that THERE IS NO DANGER of the misfortune coming to pass.
For a reporter–a professional wordsmith–Gledhill really should learn a little more about language and how it works. She also ought to read the documents on which she is reporting a little more carefully lest, as in this case, they CONTRADICT what she says.
As examples of passages not to be taken literally, the bishops cite the early chapters of Genesis, comparing them with early creation legends from other cultures, especially from the ancient East. The bishops say it is clear that the primary purpose of these chapters was to provide religious teaching and that they could not be described as historical writing.
Here Gledhill is again being misleading. While it is quite likely that the bishops noted similarities of the early chapters of Genesis to the creation accounts of other cultures, it is scarcely likely that they reduced them to the same level, which is what Gledhill’s statement would suggest. After all, the bishops believe in the inspiration of Scripture, while they do not believe in the inspiration of Egyptian or Babylonian mythology.
Similarly, they refute the apocalyptic prophecies of Revelation, the last book of the Christian Bible, in which the writer describes the work of the risen Jesus, the death of the Beast and the wedding feast of Christ the Lamb.
This represents an intolerable lapse of journalistic standards. It is completely inconceivable that the bishops of the Catholic Church in Great Britain perceived themselves as "refut[ing] . . . the last book of the Christian Bible."
This is yet another illustration of how Gledhill is too dangerously unqualified to keep her job. No reporter should be employed by a newspaper (especially not one with the pretentions of the Times of London) who cannot tell the difference between a group’s attempt to explain the proper interpretation of a book and refuting the book.
Explaining the proper interpretation of Shakespeare and refuting Shakespeare are two different things, and no reporter should be employed who can’t get that distinction right. This is all the more true when one is talking about a text that two billion people (the Christians of the world) hold to be divinely inspired.
That Gledhill has got it wrong and that the bishops were seeking to explain the proper interpretation of Revelation rather than "refute" it is plain, one again, from what she goes on to quote:
The bishops say: “Such symbolic language must be respected for what it is, and is not to be interpreted literally. We should not expect to discover in this book details about the end of the world, about how many will be saved and about when the end will come.”
Gledhill then goes on to note that the document carries a foreword that says that "people today are searching for what is worthwhile, what has real value, what can be trusted and what is really true." And she notes that the document was released for the 40th anniversary of Dei Verbum. And that Catholics have placed more emphasis on Scripture in recent years.
And then she does something really strange.
Apparently, Gledhill had a wordcount to meet and ran out of things to say about the bishops document that was the subject of the article. A few more quotations from it would have been nice so that we could see the context of those isolated words and phrases she gave us, but Gledhill either didn’t think of this or didn’t want to do it, so she chose instead to PAD HER STORY by giving us a micro-version of A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT STORY!
A Christian charity is sending a film about the Christmas story to every primary school in Britain after hearing of a young boy who asked his teacher why Mary and Joseph had named their baby after a swear word. The Breakout Trust raised £200,000 to make the 30-minute animated film, It’s a Boy. Steve Legg, head of the charity, said: “There are over 12 million children in the UK and only 756,000 of them go to church regularly.
That leaves a staggering number who are probably not receiving basic Christian teaching.”
While this kernel could have been developed into a story of its own, it has no place being intruded into a story on a different topic just to fill up space.
The fact that it was only raises further questions about Gledhill’s ability to meet journalistic standards.
Only the padding isn’t over, because the online piece then concludes with a long list of Scripture references under the heading "BELIEVE IT OR NOT."
Apparently the Times does not feel its readers have sufficient wattage in their noggins to decide for themselves what to believe, so Gledhill (or someone) has labeled some of them "UNTRUE" and others "TRUE." ("UNTRUE" gets top billing.)
Where these passages came from is a TOTAL MYSTERY. No indication of that is given whatsoever. For all we know, they are just Gledhill’s personal picks and pans. However that may be, it is scarcely likely that the bishops of Great Britain–who in the document appeared repeatedly to be explaining the correct interpretation of Scripture passages–would baldly label a whole set of Scripture passages "UNTRUE."
That sounds more like Gledhill’s style: Misreading an interpreation for a refutation. Or simply imposing her own opinions in contradiction to the actual news.
One more reason she’s earned her nickname of "I’m Too Dangerously Unqualified To Keep My Job."