On September 30 we celebrate the feast of a great Church Father and Doctor, St Jerome (d 420). I take comfort that Holy Church honours such a seeming curmudgeon. Jerome was prickly when the truth was under attack. He did not eschew sharp words in its defence.
In his 1920 encyclical letter for the 15th centenary of St Jerome’s death, Spiritus Paraclitus, Pope Benedict XV wrote about modernists who break the essence of the Scripture for the sake of their agendas. Today too, certain notables call into question what we can rely on with certainty in Holy Writ. I have in mind, for example, the present superior general of the Jesuits who opined that we don’t know what Christ said because there were no tape recorders back then; and Cardinal Walter Kasper, for whom the content of Scripture is an ever-moving target depending on the needs of the readers.
Speaking of such notables, Benedict XV wrote:
Then there are other assailants of Holy Scripture who misuse principles – which are only sound, if kept within due bounds – in order to overturn the fundamental truth of the Bible and thus destroy Catholic teaching handed down by the Fathers. If Jerome were living now he would sharpen his keenest controversial weapons against people who set aside what is the mind and judgment of the Church, and take too ready a refuge in such notions as “implicit quotations” or “pseudo-historical narratives” or in “kinds of literature” in the Bible such as cannot be reconciled with the entire and perfect truth of God’s word, or who suggest such origins of the Bible as must inevitably weaken – if not destroy – its authority. What can we say of men who, in expounding the very Gospels, so whittle away the human trust we should repose in it as to overturn Divine faith in it? They refuse to allow that the things which Christ said or did have come down to us unchanged and entire through witnesses who carefully committed to writing what they themselves had seen or heard.
Jerome’s love of truth and his immersion in the Word of God should inspire us, today, to read more Scripture on our own. Holy Church encourages us to do so through the grant of a plenary indulgence for spending a mere 30 minutes reverently reading the Bible, and partial for less. So easy. So beneficial.
How to continue reading…
This article appears in the Catholic Herald magazine - to read it in full subscribe to our digital edition from just 30p a week
The Catholic Herald is your essential weekly guide to the Catholic world; latest news, incisive opinion, expert analysis and spiritual reflection