Volume > Issue > Letters to the Editor: May 1986

Letters to the Editor: May 1986

Somewhat Irrelevant

The well-known changes since Pius XII in the Vatican’s at­titude toward scriptural scholar­ship described by James Hege in his March 1986 letter to the ed­itor are somewhat irrelevant to the question of the limits of the historical-critical method used by Fr. Raymond Brown and ques­tioned by me in my March 1985 letter to the editor entitled “The Little Ones.”

Hege is confused in recalling that I told him in conversation that “Brown ‘comes close to be­ing a Neo-Modernist’ on the Laurentin issue.” I could not have done so, since I do not know what either Brown or Laurentin has said or what the issue is.

Hege is also very confused in saying that I think a century and a half of biblical criticism has accomplished little. Textual criticism and hermeneutics have indeed accomplished a great deal. My point in “The Little Ones” had to do with the historical-crit­ical method. If, I said, “the ob­ject of the historical-critical method is to confirm or modify or discard the articles of faith…what, in fact has been established — proved or disproved — by it?” That is, what article of faith has been proved or disproved by that method? This is quite different to saying that all biblical scholar­ship has accomplished nothing.

Although Hege thus inaccu­rately cites what he thinks are my views, he does not touch on the great question I put to Fr. Brown: “What of the little ones?” Hege’s generous enthusi­asm for Brown gives point, to me, to the question. Still, Hege concludes by quoting my words, even to the emphasis, as his own: “Christianity is a faith.” Precise­ly.

Sheldon Vanauken

Lynchburg, Virginia

No Exception

Regarding the Rev. Brian W. Harrison’s letter (March): In pri­vate correspondence, Harrison did indeed challenge me on cer­tain points relevant to the moral question of nuclear deterrence; and he is certainly not defective in his moral theology or in his fi­delity to the full Catholic tradi­tion.

But his challenge was direct­ed against two positions that were never my own! They are:

(A) “It is rigorously proved or provable that the ‘conditional intention’ to use nuclear weap­ons genocidally is genuine — in some quarters at least — and not merely simulated for purposes of deterrence-by-pure-bluff.” In order to prove that, one would need to search countless hearts; and only God can do that. (Har­rison appears to agree that if and where that “conditional inten­tion” is real, the formal guilt of murder is already incurred, with various consequences for “formal and material cooperation.”)

(B) “From the moral theol­ogy of this matter, one can reach firm conclusions of the political kind, about what nations and governments ‘should’ do, or about how individuals should vote.” I am far too much of a po­litical agnostic to reach such con­clusions in any matter!

If I have ever appeared to endorse either of those two posi­tions, it was by pure inadver­tence, for which I now apologize. But I don’t think I ever have.

I therefore regard Harrison as no sort of real exception to my claim (Nov.) that no compe­tent Catholic has yet challenged the positions I have taken up in this matter.

Christopher Derrick



Is It too Late?

I was greatly moved by Robert Coles’s March column, “Don’t Worry, Dad.” As a col­lege professor researcher, I too felt over the years that teaching/research was the sine qua non of living. I was quick to anger when my oldest son sought to inter­rupt and hoped to be noticed. His response to my typical pro­fessorial lecture was, “Don’t worry, Dad.”

How I long to hear those very special words, “Don’t wor­ry, Dad”! My son Michael died (age 20) after a brave fight against cancer just a year ago. In only the past year did I realize and admit how much he taught me. Is it too late to say, “I’m sorry, Mike”?

Sam Houston

Department of Math & Applied Statistics, University of Northern Colorado

Greeley, Colorado

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