Episcopal Fundamentalism In the Catholic Church

April 2002

“Is There Such a Thing as Catholic Fundamentalism?” So asks Bishop Peter Henrici, S.J., of Zurich, Switzerland, in an article with that title in the English language edition of Communio (Fall 2001). His answer is: Yes, there is (and he doesn’t like it).

Bishop Henrici notes that the first fundamental of Protestant fundamentalism is “the literal inerrancy of Holy Scripture,” which, he says, the Catholic Church rejects. Why is this first fundamental so important to fundamentalists? Because of “the need people experience over the course of their lives to find certainty on the basis of infallible propositions….” However, says Henrici, “faith cannot be reduced to individual propositions, even if these are affirmed as essential; it [faith] represents an organic whole, formed from many truths (not propositions), which together make up a single truth. It is possible to test the validity of a proposition…. But truth is something one can only enter into….”

This is of course a typically “postmodernist” appeal to subjectivism and irrationality. If we can’t test the validity of truth claims, how can we ever know that the truth we’ve “entered into” is true? Muslims enter into their truth, secular humanists enter into theirs, New Agers into theirs, and Catholics into theirs. Are all of these truths true? They can’t be, because they contradict one another.

Henrici proceeds to take another whack at the topic of religious epistemology: “We can think…of the role that ‘scientifically proven’ statements play in matters that touch on personal health. In this respect, we could speak…of medical fundamentalists…. Faith, however, has nothing to do with this sort of certainty, but rather with something altogether different.” Altogether different? He continues: “Catholicism, too, affirms many ‘fundamentals’ and even claims these to be ‘unshakeable’ [sic]. They are unshakeable [sic], however, not because…they have been ‘revealed’ but because God’s saving deed…has been…revealed in Jesus Christ’s divine Sonship, in the virgin birth, in his dying ‘for us’ and in the bodily resurrection from the dead” (italics added).


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New Oxford Notes: April 2002

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