A $100,000 Answer to Eric Svendsen


Here Lies Svendsen's Anti-Catholic NTRMinThis is an answer to a challenge (dated 1999) from a former Catholic turned Evangelical Protestant apologist, Eric Svendsen who asks what he thinks are seemingly difficult questions and promises to pay any Roman Catholic $100,000 for the answers to his challenge. He doesn't specify "correct" answers but I'll assume that's what he wants. Eric is author of the self-published book Evangelical Answers: A Critique of Current Roman Catholic Apologetics (NTRM, 1997). The present form of his challenge can be found on his New Testament Restoration (now "Research") Ministries web site (since defunct). 


Answers to 18 "Tough" Questions on

  1. Private Judgment
  2. Ecclesial Systems
  3. True Church
  4. Biblical Inerrancy
  5. Predestination
  6. Genesis and Evolution
  7. Jonah and the Whale ("great fish")
  8. No Salvation Outside the Church
  9. Vatican Council II
  10. Tradition and Revelation
  11. OT Canon
  12. NT Greek Manuscripts
  13. Real Presence
  14. Transubstantiation
  15. Development of Doctrine
  16. How to Interpret the Bible
  17. Novus Ordo and Latin Mass
  18. Mary's Death (and Assumption)

Since I am a "Roman Catholic" I will accept his challenge. I am responding to the original challenge although I recognize a couple changes were made (for example, the deadline is now October 31, 1999 -- and he added one question at the end) but I'll answer them all since I could use the money. I downloaded the original challenge on 9/14/99 at 9:55 PM which contained (17) questions, and no deadline was set. Here is what it looked like: Eric Svendsen's words are ES>

ES> Take the Roman Catholic Challenge Today! We will pay $100,000.00--that's right, $100,000.00--to any Roman Catholic who can answer the following points. We will post the most . . . mmmm . . . let's say, creative answers. Good luck to you (or, good Divine Providence; whichever your theology allows : )

Thank you, Eric.

I would like the money distributed in small, unmarked bills of $10, $20, and $100 in two rugged suitcases, each with a combination lock that I won't open until we are safely past the dreaded Midnight hour of Y2K -- January 1, 2000. This way I will know whether to keep the money safely as cash, or deposit into my bank accounts once the computers at my credit union are functioning properly after the possible Y2K disaster. The combination to the locks can be sent to me in encrypted Email. When the non-mass-hysteria of Y2K is over, then I will deposit the money and figure out which Catholic charities and apologetics organizations will receive some of your money.

In answering this challenge, I will try to be as thorough as necessary referring to the official documents of the Catholic Church or standard reference works. If the doctrine or issue in question has not been officially defined, then I will state such. Eric can't force me into defining something which the Church has not yet seen fit -- yes, in the providence of God -- to officially define. This is the case with a couple of his questions. That should not disqualify me from winning the $100,000.

(1) Tell us how you came to decide that Rome was the "true" church without engaging in the very private judgment that Rome condemns as illegitimate.

The answer to the first one is easy. I did not have to "decide" this since the decision was made for me. I was baptized and raised a Catholic. My family is Catholic and we have always known the Catholic Church (Rome) is the true Church. So your question and objection is seemingly directed at converts to the Catholic faith, not myself. A convert to the Catholic faith can answer your question about "private judgment" and whether they see that as a problem. I do not. If you could define "private judgment" more explicitly, and show me where "Rome" condemns such that would help.

There are indeed cradle Catholic apologists who are not converts. I know they are few right now for the simple reason that many post-Vatican II Catholics don't know their faith or are indifferent toward it, and don't know how to defend their faith against the likes of a James White or Eric Svendsen. Myself and the thousand or more current Internet Catholic apologists are going to remedy that in the next 30 years. If I knew you when you were young, Eric, maybe I could have kept you from leaving the faith of your youth.

See also On Private Judgment and Catholic Teaching on this site

(2) Demonstrate that those ecclesial systems that follow "Scripture plus an Infallible Interpreter" are more unified in their beliefs than those ecclesial systems that follow Sola Scriptura.

Here you ask a more "empirical question" that requires some "scientific study" and evidence concerning the beliefs of "ecclesial systems" (what I'll simply call churches). I shall assume the question requires the demonstration that the Catholic Church is more unified than those Protestant churches that claim to follow Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone). While not taking a rigorous scientific approach, I'll tackle the question in a general way. The main differences between the Catholic Church and the many Protestant churches consist of four broad areas: the nature of the Church and authority, the meaning of salvation, the Liturgy or how we worship, and moral theology or how we are to live.

Catholics officially can be shown to be unified in all four of these areas. The nature of the Church is hierarchical (with Bishops, priests, and deacons) and sacramental (we along with the Orthodox have seven sacraments), and the Pope being the Bishop of Rome is the visible head of the Church, and has the final say on matters of doctrine and belief. The meaning of salvation is we are saved by Christ through His Church, which includes faith in Him, participation in His sacraments (mainly Baptism, Eucharist, Confession), and salvation and justification is seen as a process that must be lived out by grace in obedience to Christ and love of neighbor. The worship or Liturgy of Catholics is specified in the order of the Mass, and the obligations and disciplines required for Catholics are clear (holy days of obligation, confession at least yearly, though recommended often, fasts during Lent, etc). The moral teachings of the Church are defined quite clearly (see the Catechism on the Life of Christ and the Ten Commandments). The specific doctrines and beliefs involved in these four main areas are spelled out in great detail in such sources as the Ecumenical Councils, papal encyclicals, a book like Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma by Ludwig Ott, or the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Protestants officially can be shown to be disunified in all four of these areas. On the nature of the Church, there is no agreement. Is the Church hierarchical or not (Bishops or no Bishops, a pastor or plurality of "elders"), sacramental or not (Anglicans, Lutherans, some Methodists, and some Reformed accept sacraments as "means of grace" while many others do not). On the meaning of salvation, while there is general agreement among Protestant churches that justification is "sola fide" (by faith alone), what Protestants mean by this is not clear. Can salvation be lost by committing grevious sin? Can a person of his own free will turn away from Christ and finally be lost? What about the relationship of faith to good works? What about the connection between salvation and the sacraments? Should babies be baptized? And how many sacraments are there? Some Anglicans or Anglo-Catholics would go as far as the Council of Trent on the sacraments, while others are as far away from Catholic teaching as Baptists are from the Orthodox. On worship and moral teaching, there is much disagreement among Protestants. There is no set "order of worship" among Protestant churches, and there are contradictory positions on the basic moral issues of the day (abortion, contraception, homosexuality, divorce and re-marriage, and many other issues).

So from this brief assessment, the Catholic Church can be shown to be more unified officially (I stress the official position since that is what counts when we are comparing "ecclesial systems") in these four areas (Church and authority, salvation, worship, and morality) than the many Protestant churches -- some sources claim there are over 20,000 individual Protestant denominations and sects (two such sources are the United Nations Information Center Statistics and the World Christian Encyclopedia).

(3) Demonstrate that you picked the "true" church from among all the other "true" churches that say you can rightly understand the Bible and church history without their help, such as the Eastern Orthodox church, the Watchtower Society, Mormonism, and every other cult that exists (remember, you can't use private judgment for this since you are fallible).

The answer to this one is similar to my answer to number (1). I was born and raised a Catholic, been one my whole life. So I did not have to pick and choose among the different religions who offer similar claims. And I have never really doubted the truth of the Catholic faith. Later I did learn how to defend my faith (with the help of Catholic Answers and others), and learned the differences among the many Protestant churches, the Eastern Orthodox, and the pseudo-Christian groups, but I have never had to "pick" among the churches and religions that claim to offer Christian truth since I was born and raised Catholic.

Again, a convert to the Catholic faith might be in a better position to answer this one.

Yes, I am indeed fallible but my knowledge and recognition that the Catholic Church is infallible is as certain as my knowledge and recognition that God and Christ is infallible. If you are saying I have to be infallible to know the Catholic Church is infallible, then likewise you would have to be infallible to know that God is infallible. That the Catholic Church is the true Church, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church founded by Jesus Christ is as certain and clear on historical grounds as the bodily Resurrection of Christ. When you convert to Eastern Orthodoxy, then we can discuss the minor differences between the Orthodox and Catholics.

(4) Tell us what the Roman Catholic position is on the Inerrancy of the Bible--does it contain errors or not?

Depends on what you mean by "errors." I assume you do not mean errors in the translation or transmission of the text of the Bible, since it is clear there have been bad translations or printing errors in the past (whether Catholic or Protestant Bibles) and copyist errors that have crept into the present text (although scholars can reconstruct the original biblical text to a high degree). If Eric means the official Catholic position on the scope or extent of biblical inerrancy, he was actually answered on this question over three years ago (June 1996) in a series of posts I made to James White's old Sola Scriptura Email list. Here is how I responded then:

BIBLICAL INERRANCY -- Eric Svendsen 5/22/96

ES> Lets start with one issue--the extent of inerrancy of Scripture. If the Catholics can satisfactorily defend unity on this issue, then perhaps we can explore more areas.

ES> Most of the more popular Catholic apologists understand this statement [from Vatican II Dei Verbum 11] to include all of Scripture, and that all of Scripture is without error for the sake of our salvation.....

ES> Is this a monolithic belief of Catholicism? Hardly. Raymond Brown (perhaps the top Catholic scholar of our time) believes (as do all in the moderate camp of Catholicism) that the phrase for the sake of our salvation limits the scope of inerrancy to ONLY those writings that deal directly with issues of salvation--all the rest of Scripture is prone to error. Who is right? Catholic Answers (and followers) or Raymond Brown (and his ilk)?

This shows an appalling lack of understanding of what the Catholic Church officially teaches. There is no "moderate camp" on this issue -- there is only the "true camp." How do we know what the true camp is?

On biblical inerrancy, Raymond Brown might be a good theologian and Bible scholar, but he does not speak for the Catholic Church OFFICIALLY. The Popes and Councils (Magisterium) do. I will be challenging Eric Svendsen or anyone later to produce evidence that there is OFFICIAL disagreement on this issue from Catholic Magisterial sources.

If someone wants to find out what the Catholic Church believes OFFICIALLY on inerrancy, we don't go to Raymond Brown or Catholic Answers -- although the latter is certainly a big help, see the article in This Rock "The Truth of Scripture" (Jan 1994) by C. Lattey, SJ -- we go to the Magisterial documents that spell it out. Several popes have written encyclicals that speak to the issue, Leo XIII in Providentissimus Deus, Benedict XV in Spiritus Paraclitus, Pius XII in Divino Afflante Spiritu (all three of these are referenced in Vatican II Dei Verbum) and there is a section on Scripture and inerrancy in the Catechism of the Catholic Church which reads as follows --

107. The inspired books TEACH THE TRUTH. "Since therefore ALL that the inspired authors or sacred writers AFFIRM should be regarded as affirmed by the Holy Spirit, we must acknowledge that the books of Scripture firmly, faithfully, and WITHOUT ERROR teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the Sacred Scriptures." [Vatican II DV 11]

136. God is the author of Sacred Scripture because he inspired its human authors; he acts in them and by means of them. He thus gives assurance that their writings teach WITHOUT ERROR his saving truth [cf. DV 11].

It is that simple. The Catechism does not limit this to "faith and morals" only. The phrase "for the sake of our salvation" cannot be understood that way. If you want to get more specific, go to the above papal encyclicals. Pope Leo XIII wrote over 100 years ago --

"The Catholic interpreter, although he should show that those facts of natural science which investigators affirm to be now quite certain are not contrary to the Scripture rightly explained, must nevertheless always bear in mind, that much which has been held as proved certain [in natural science] has afterwards been called in question and rejected. And if writers on physics travel outside the boundaries of their own branch, and carry their erroneous teaching into the domain of philosophy, let them be handed over to philosophers for refutation.

INSPIRATION INCOMPATIBLE WITH ERROR

"The principles here laid down will apply to cognate SCIENCES, and especially to HISTORY. It is a lamentable fact that there are many who with great labour carry out and publish investigations, on the monuments of antiquity, the manners and institutions of nations and other illustrative subjects, and whose chief purpose in all this is too often to find MISTAKES in the sacred writings and so to shake and weaken their authority. Some of these writers display not only extreme hostility but the greatest unfairness; in their eyes a profane book or ancient document is accepted without hesitation, whilst the Scripture, if they only find in it a suspicion of ERROR, is set down with the slightest possible discussion as quite untrustworthy.

"It is true, no doubt, that copyists have made mistakes in the text of the Bible; this question, when it arises should be carefully considered on its merits, and the fact not too easily admitted, but only in those passages where the proof is clear. It may also happen that the sense of a passage remains ambiguous, and in this case good hermeneutical methods will greatly assist in clearing up the obscurity.

"BUT IT IS ABSOLUTELY WRONG AND FORBIDDEN, EITHER TO NARROW INSPIRATION TO CERTAIN PARTS ONLY OF HOLY SCRIPTURE, OR TO ADMIT THAT THE SACRED WRITER HAS ERRED. For the system of those who, in order to rid themselves of these difficulties, do not hesitate to concede that divine inspiration regards the things of FAITH AND MORALS, AND NOTHING BEYOND, because (as they WRONGLY think) in a question of the truth or falsehood of a passage, we should consider not so much what God has said as the reason and purpose which He had in mind in saying it -- THIS SYSTEM CANNOT BE TOLERATED.

"For all the books which the Church receives as sacred and canonical, are written wholly and entirely, with all their parts, at the dictation of the Holy Ghost; and so far is it from being POSSIBLE THAT ANY ERROR CAN CO-EXIST WITH INSPIRATION, THAT INSPIRATION NOT ONLY IS ESSENTIALLY INCOMPATIBLE WITH ERROR, BUT EXCLUDES AND REJECTS IT AS ABSOLUTELY AND NECESSARILY AS IT IS IMPOSSIBLE THAT GOD HIMSELF, the supreme Truth, can utter that which is NOT TRUE.

"This is the ancient and unchanging faith of the Church, solemnly defined in the Councils of Florence and of Trent, and finally confirmed and more expressly formulated by the Council of the Vatican [i.e. Vatican I which Leo XIII then cites]."

"Hence, because the Holy Ghost employed men as His instruments, we CANNOT therefore say that it was these inspired instruments who, perchance, have FALLEN INTO ERROR, and not the primary Author. For, by supernatural power, He so moved and impelled them to write -- He was so present to them -- that the things which He ordered, and those only, they, first, rightly understood, then willed faithfully to write down, and finally expressed in apt words and with INFALLIBLE TRUTH. Otherwise, it could NOT be said that He was the Author of the ENTIRE Scripture. Such has always been the persuasion of the Fathers [St. Augustine and Pope St. Gregory the Great are then cited].

"It follows that those who maintain that an ERROR IS POSSIBLE IN ANY GENUINE PASSAGE of the sacred writings, either PERVERT the Catholic notion of inspiration, or make God the AUTHOR of such error. And so emphatically were all the Fathers and Doctors agreed that the divine writings, as left by the hagiographers, are FREE FROM ALL ERROR, that they laboured earnestly, with no less skill than reverence, to reconcile with each other those numerous passages which seem at variance -- the very passages which in great measure have been taken up by the "higher criticism"; for they were UNANIMOUS in laying it down, that those writings, in their ENTIRETY and in ALL THEIR PARTS were equally from the afflatus of Almighty God, and that God, speaking by the sacred writers, could not set down anything BUT WHAT WAS TRUE. [St. Augustine (Ep 82:1) to St. Jerome is cited]."

POPE LEO XIII from Providentissimus Deus (Nov 18, 1893) addressed "To our Venerable brethren, all Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops, and Bishops of the Catholic World, in Grace and Communion with the Apostolic See" (cited in intro to the New American Catholic Edition)

The New Catholic Encyclopedia gives the official Catholic position --

"Christian antiquity, in its prayer, preaching and theological writing, universally recognized that the writings of the OT and NT were the work of the Holy Spirit and were all equally the word of God. It was the UNANIMOUS teaching of the Fathers that the Sacred Scriptures were FREE FROM ALL ERROR AND FROM ALL CONTRADICTION."

"The inerrancy of Scripture has been the CONSTANT teaching of the Fathers, theologians, and recent Popes in their encyclicals on Biblical studies." [Leo XIII, Benedict XV, Pius XII, are given]

(NCE [1967], Volume 2 under "Bible II", pages 382, 384)

Evangelicals accept this has always been the OFFICIAL Catholic position.

In A General Introduction to the Bible (Moody, 1986), Norm Geisler and William Nix quote another major Evangelical scholar, Carl F. H. Henry, regarding the Catholic teaching on biblical inerrancy --

"Throughout its long medieval influence, the Roman church therefore promoted the doctrine of Scriptural inerrancy and OPPOSED notions of a limited inerrancy restricted to faith and morals." (page 128)

In Roman Catholics and Evangelicals (Baker, 1995), Geisler and Ralph Mackenzie speak to this very issue in an appendix. The phrase "for the sake of our salvation" is relocated in the Flannery edition of Vatican II (DV 11) and is the preferred translation among traditional Catholics. Some liberals have misunderstood the Abbot translation to teach a restriction but that is their fault. Geisler/Mackenzie state --

"We have examined this problem at length to prove a point that some evangelicals overlook in their zeal to refute Roman Catholics. The official position of traditional Roman Catholicism concerning the authority of Holy Writ is that everything Scripture asserts is asserted by God, and since God cannot assert falsehood, everything Scripture asserts is automatically inerrant (see chap 1). Just as we would take offense if someone confused the theological position of Henry Emerson Fosdick with that of B. B. Warfield, so we should realize that Hans Kung is informed by a different theological impulse than, say, Cardinal Ratzinger." (page 469)

[A footnote reads: "We are indebted to James Akin, staff member of Catholic Answers, for insights concerning this issue" so maybe Mr. Akin would like to elaborate on the above.]

Geisler/Mackenzie also cite St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, and Pope Leo XIII to show this "limited inerrancy" view has never been the official Catholic position. That false idea "is contrary to the whole of the Catholic tradition up to modern times" (page 29-30).

So I am challenging Eric Svendsen or anyone to show me where this "limited inerrancy restricted to faith and morals only" idea is the OFFICIAL Catholic position. If this cannot be done, then it must be admitted that Catholics OFFICIALLY agree on "the extent of inerrancy." If you won't admit this, then please produce the evidence to the contrary from the OFFICIAL sources -- papal encyclicals, Councils, Catechisms.

END OF RESPONSE (dated June 6, 1996)

Finally, helpful articles in the NCE are on the Pontifical Biblical Commission (vol 11, page 551ff), Providentissimus Deus of Pope Leo XIII (vol 11, page 922f), Spiritus Paraclitus of Pope Benedict XV (vol 13, page 611f), Divino Afflante Spiritu of Pope Pius XII (vol 4, page 925f), and Bible VII (vol 2, page 513ff on papal teaching and inerrancy).

The full text of these papal encyclicals can be found here:

Leo XIII (Nov 18, 1893) Providentissimus Deus (The Most Provident God)

Benedict XV (Sept 15, 1920) Spiritus Paraclitus (The Paraclete Spirit)

Pius XII (Sept 30, 1943) Divino Afflante Spiritu (Under the Inspiration of the Divine Spirit)

(5) Tell us what the Roman Catholic position is on Predestination--is it the position of Augustine? Scotus? Molina? Aquinas?

This is a more complex issue and indeed some of the minute details have not been defined simply because Predestination itself will always remain a mystery. We cannot know the mind of God completely on this just as we cannot comprehend the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. While we can "explain" the issue to some extent, and the Church can and has excluded heretical notions and errors on these beliefs, we cannot fathom the depths of such beliefs since these are only known fully by God Himself (Rom 11:33f).

Given that distinction however, there have been "limits" on what Predestination is and is not as defined by the Catholic Church, and these are found in such works as Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma by Ludwig Ott (which refers to the relevant theologians, Councils and Popes, and the heresies that were opposed) as well as some helpful articles in the NCE -- I would recommend the ones on Predestination in Catholic theology (vol 11, page 714ff), Predestination in non-Catholic theology (vol 11, page 719ff), Free Will and Grace (vol 6, page 93f), Free Will and Providence (vol 6, page 94f), Luis de Molina (vol 9, page 1010f), Molinism (vol 9, page 1011ff), and Banez and Banezianism (vol 2, page 48ff).

The main "controversy" over the minute details of Predestination between Catholics occurred in the later sixteenth century with the Molinists (after the Spanish Jesuit theologian Luis de Molina) and the Banezians (after the Spanish Dominican theologian Domingo Banez) who emphasized different aspects of the issue. Much farther apart in their beliefs, the debate in non-Catholic or Protestant theology is between the Calvinists (after the Protestant Reformer John Calvin, whose theology affected later Reformed and Presbyterians, some Baptists) and the later Arminians (after Jacobus Arminius whose theology affected the Methodists, Pentecostals, some Baptists, and others).

Rather than give a whole history of the doctrine of Predestination I will state what the Catholic Church has officially defined on grace, free will and Predestination (see Ludwig Ott, page 219-249):

There is a supernatural intervention of God in the faculties of the soul, which precedes the free act of the will. (De fide)

There is a supernatural influence of God in the faculties of the soul which coincides in time with man's free act of will. (De fide)

For every salutary act internal supernatural grace of God (gratia elevans) is absolutely necessary. (De fide)

Internal supernatural grace is absolutely necessary for the beginning of faith and of salvation. (De fide)

Without the special help of God the justified cannot persevere to the end in justification. (De fide)

Grace cannot be merited by natural works either de condigno or de congruo. (De fide)

God, by His Eternal Resolve of Will, has predetermined certain men to eternal blessedness. (De fide)

God, by His Eternal Resolve of Will, predestines certain men, on account of their foreseen sins, to eternal rejection. (De fide)

The human will remains free under the influence of efficacious grace, which is not irresistible. (De fide)

There is a grace which is truly sufficient and yet remains inefficacious (gratia vere et mere sufficiens). (De fide)

This defines the "basic" position of the Catholic Church on grace and Predestination. The NCE in the article on Predestination defines the teaching of the Church giving references to Denzinger (which is a standard source for Catholic dogma) as the following:

God predestines no one to evil. (Denz 1567)

He wills, on the contrary, the salvation of all men. (Denz 623)

Christ did not die solely for the predestined or the faithful. (Denz 2005, 2304, 2430)

There is a grace that is truly sufficient and that is a true gift of God. (Denz 2306)

The grace of conversion is offered to sinners. (Denz 1542)

They only are deprived of it who, failing in their duty, refuse it; this is something which God permits but of which He is by no means the cause. (Denz 1556, 1567, 2866)

Against the various forms of predestinationism offered by Protestants in the sixteenth century, the Church teaches (taken from the NCE):

(1) God sincerely wills the salvation of all men and thus makes the fulfillment of His precepts possible for all; (2) There is neither predestination to evil as a final end nor predestination to any evil deed in particular; (3) Christ died for all men without exception; (4) Nevertheless, God has decreed from all eternity to inflict eternal punishment for the sin of final impenitence, which He has foreseen for all eternity -- He is by no means the cause of the impenitence, but merely permits it.

See also the article on my site Predestination: Calvinism vs. Catholicism

However, as Ludwig Ott points out these definitions do not answer the more specific questions on the minute details such as: How does efficacious grace secure salvation with infallible certainty for the person who receives it? Does this efficacy lie in the grace itself or in the free assent of the human will foreseen by God? Is the grace efficacious by its intrinsic power (per se sive ab intrinseco) or is it efficacious by the free assent of the will (per accidens sive ab extrinseco) ? Is efficacious grace intrinsically different from sufficient grace or only extrinsically different by reason of the free assent of the will? These and other questions were answered in various ways by St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, and the later theologians Luis de Molina (and the Molinists), Domingo Banez (and the Banezians), Francis Suarez (who developed "Congruism"), and the later theologians of the Sorbonne (who developed what is called "syncretism" which is a middle path between the systems).

The later discussion and debate on the minute details of the issue does not contradict the definitions and limitations on Predestination as I have outlined them above on which the various Catholic theologians were agreed. Eric Svendsen seems to be confusing the Protestant "magisterium" (which is basically individual theologians and scholars -- Catholics don't look to them to find defined dogma on a topic), with the official teaching of the Church defined by the Magisterium (the Councils and Bishops in union with the Pope). This is a common mistake I see among Evangelical apologists in their analysis of Catholic teaching.

(6) Tell us what the Roman Catholic position is on interpreting the Genesis account--was there a literal Adam and Eve, or did evolution take place?

Why the dichotomy? There is no necessary problem with the theory of evolution and the existence of a real Adam and Eve as the first man and woman. The issue whether evolution "happened" is a matter for science to discover, not the Church (although there are theologians who are scientists). And since Pope John Paul II approved the theory of evolution (of course not the "materialist" version that removes God altogether) in his Message to Pontifical Academy of Sciences (dated October 22, 1996) and he doesn't see this as a problem with the Genesis account, neither do I. Catholics do not have to accept the Fundamentalist approach to the first chapters of Genesis that is put forward by such groups as the Institute for Creation Research (ICR). The vast majority of scientists would oppose such bad "creationist science."

Again, we should defer science to the scientists, and theology and doctrine to the Church. I don't see science and the Catholic faith as being in conflict since God is ultimately the Master and Creator of both. Now as to whether there was a literal Adam and Eve (which is a separate question from whether evolution happened), there is a consensus and this has been the defined teaching of the Church from the beginning. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

362. The human person, created in the image of God, is a being at once corporeal and spiritual [body and soul]. The biblical account expresses this reality in symbolic language when it affirms that "then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being" [Gen 2:7]. Man, whole and entire, is therefore willed by God.

375. The Church, interpreting the symbolism of biblical language in an authentic way, in the light of the New Testament and Tradition, teaches that our first parents, Adam and Eve, were constituted in an original "state of holiness and justice" [Council of Trent, Denz 1511]. This grace of original holiness was "to share in...divine life" [Vatican II LG 2].

390. 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 [Vatican II GS 13:1] . Revelation gives us the certainty of faith that the whole of human history is marked by the original fault freely committed by our first parents [Council of Trent, Denz 1513; Pope Pius XII Denz 3897; Pope Paul VI AAS 58 (1966), 654].

399. Scripture portrays the tragic consequences of this first disobedience. Adam and Eve immediately lose the grace of original holiness [Rom 3:23]. They become afraid of the God of whom they have conceived a distorted image -- that of a God jealous of his prerogatives [Gen 3:5-10].

404. How did the sin of Adam become the sin of all his descendants? The whole human race is in Adam "as one body of one man" [St. Thomas Aquinas, De Malo 4:1]. By this "unity of the human race" all men are implicated in Adam's sin, as all are implicated in Christ's justice. Still, the transmission of original sin is a mystery that we cannot fully understand. But we do know by Revelation that Adam had received original holiness and justice not for himself alone, but for all human nature. By yielding to the tempter, Adam and Eve committed a personal sin, but this sin affected the human nature that they would then transmit in a fallen state [Council of Trent, Denz 1511-1512]. It is a sin which will be transmitted by propagation to all mankind, that is, by the transmission of a human nature deprived of original holiness and justice. And that is why original sin is called "sin" only in an analogical sense: it is a sin "contracted" and not "committed" -- a state and not an act.

Those are some of the relevant passages from the Catechism on the literal existence of Adam and Eve as "our first parents" which the Fathers, Doctors, and Popes have always affirmed in the Catholic Church. Pope Pius XII who wrote on human origins and science in his 1950 encyclical Humani Generis can be summarized on the subject as follows:

(1) The question of the origin of man's body from pre-existing and living matter is a legitimate matter of inquiry for natural science. Catholics are free to form their own opinions, but they should do so cautiously; they should not confuse fact with conjecture, and they should respect the Church's right to define matters touching on Revelation.

(2) Catholics must believe, however, that the human soul was created immediately by God. Since the soul is a spiritual substance it is not brought into being through transformation of matter, but directly by God, whence the special uniqueness of each person.

(3) All men have descended from an individual, Adam, who has transmitted original sin to all mankind. Catholics may not, therefore, believe in "polygenism," the scientific hypothesis that mankind descended from a group of original humans [that there were many Adams and Eves].

Further, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states on origins and science:

283. The question about the origins of the world and of man has been the object of many scientific studies which have splendidly enriched our knowledge of the age and dimensions of the cosmos, the development of life-forms and the appearance of man. These discoveries invite us to even greater admiration for the greatness of the Creator, prompting us to give him thanks for all his works and for the understanding and wisdom he gives to scholars and researchers....

284. The great interest accorded to these studies is strongly stimulated by a question of another order, which goes beyond the proper domain of the natural sciences. It is not only a question of knowing when and how the universe arose physically, or when man appeared, but rather of discovering the meaning of such an origin....

So the Catechism recognizes there are domains and questions that science can answer, and the domain of religion which deals with such questions as meaning, theology, and Catholic doctrine. There is no necessary conflict between the two since God indeed is the Creator and Ruler of both.

159. Faith and science: "...methodical research in all branches of knowledge, provided it is carried out in a truly scientific manner and does not override moral laws, can never conflict with the faith, because the things of the world and the things of faith derive from the same God. The humble and persevering investigator of the secrets of nature is being led, as it were, by the hand of God in spite of himself, for it is God, the conserver of all things, who made them what they are." [Vatican II GS 36:1]

See Pope John Paul II 1996 Message to Pontifical Academy of Sciences

See also the full text of Pope Pius XII 1950 encyclical Humani Generis

Also the Catholic Teaching (Dogma) on Creation and the Fall

(7) Tell us what the Roman Catholic position is on whether or not Jonah was really swallowed by a "great fish."

Here there is no "official" position, and I don't see this as a problem. The question is a matter for biblical scholars and exegetes to debate, and it does not impinge on any doctrine or dogma of the Catholic faith. I see what Eric is driving at since some of the more recent Catholic Bible translations are more "skeptical" about OT history and say this about the Book of Jonah:

"This late date [after the Exile] is warning enough against any interpretation of the book as historical. This is excluded by other arguments as well. There is no trace in Assyrian or biblical documents of a conversion of the king of Nineveh with all his people to the God of Israel. And, though God is indeed master of nature, the successive prodigies here narrated read like a succession of practical jokes played by God on his prophet: the sudden storm, the choice of Jonah by lot, the great fish, the plant growing in a night and withering in a hour; while the whole story is told with undisguised irony quite alien to the writing of history." (New Jerusalem Bible [Doubleday, 1985], Introduction to Jonah, page 1188-9)

Other translations would also "late date" the book (for example, the New American Bible translations edited by Donald Senior and Jean Marie Hiesberger, and published by Oxford University Press, 1990 and 1995), also the New Jerome Biblical Commentary edited by Fr. Raymond Brown takes a more "skeptical" approach toward the book. But this is true of most Protestant commentaries also, although there are more "Evangelical" commentaries that would dissent from that view. On the "great fish" swallowing Jonah, and Jesus using this as an illustration of His burial and Resurrection in the Gospels, the New Jerusalem Bible says:

"In Mt 12:41 and Lk 11:29-32 Jesus was to cite the conversion of the Ninevites as an example of repentance, and Mt 12:40 sees Jonah inside the great fish as a prefiguring of Christ in the tomb. This use of the story of Jonah should not be invoked as a proof of its historicity. Jesus employs the Old Testament story as Christian preachers use the New Testament parables; the intention is the same: to teach by means of well-known illustrations, without implying any opinion as to the historical reality of the facts." (page 1189)

Some of the older and more traditional Catholic biblical commentaries (mostly out of print) would be less "skeptical" in their approach to the miracles and history of the Old Testament. I am certainly no expert myself and it seems most biblical scholars today (whether Catholic or Protestant) take the more "skeptical" or "liberal" approach to interpreting the OT. So while there is no "official" position on the Book of Jonah, this is not important since it does not affect official Catholic doctrine (as found in the Catechism) in the least.

(8) Tell us what the Roman Catholic position is on Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus ("no salvation outside the church"). Is it the view of Vatican II, or the view of every Roman document before Vatican II? Should Protestants and the Eastern Orthodox be embraced as "brothers" (as Vatican II teaches), or should they be eternally condemned as heretics (as all pre-Vatican II documents teach)?

I won't answer this question in too much depth since the suggestion is that there are "contradictions" between Vatican Council II and the previous teaching of the Church. Other Catholic apologists would be more competent than myself to answer this. Leaving aside the missing evidence for such "contradictions" which Eric Svendsen failed to produce, I will simply assert that there is no real conflict between Vatican II and previous teaching, and state the position of the Church as found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church which cites the documents of Vatican II:

"Outside the Church there is no salvation"

846. How are we to understand this affirmation, often repeated by the Church Fathers? [St. Cyprian, Ep 73:21; PL 3:1169; De Unit PL 4:509-536]. Re-formulated positively, it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body:

"Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through Baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it." [Vatican II LG 14; Mk 16:16; Jn 3:5]

847. This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church:

"Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience -- those too may achieve eternal salvation." [Vatican II LG 16; Denz 3866-3872]

The key here is to notice the distinction made of those who "knowing" of the necessity of the Catholic Church for salvation and yet refuse, those are the ones who cannot be saved; and those who "through no fault of their own" do not know Christ's Gospel or His Church "may" have salvation, but even that salvation is mediated by Christ in His Church. Protestants and Eastern Orthodox are indeed embraced as "brothers" in Vatican II (Decree on Ecumenism 3), but they are "separated brethren," Christian brothers who are not in communion with the Holy Father and are therefore separated from the one and only Church of Christ necessary for salvation. That position has not changed. Whether or not someone is ultimately saved or is "eternally condemned" is left up to God, who is the final judge of individual souls. Catholics do not put a limit on God's justice, mercy or grace in salvation, but they do point the way to salvation: through Christ in His Church.

(9) Tell us what the Roman Catholic position is on Vatican II. Was it an infallible ecumenical council? Does it contradict earlier teachings of Rome (as the Traditionalists claim)?

Again, I do not believe there are any real contradictions between the documents of Vatican II or the Catechism based on Vatican II, and previous teachings (yes, some Traditionalists claim there are, but I haven't seen any that can't be reconciled). I myself am not a Traditionalist, and am no expert on them, but I am willing to study the issues they wish to bring up. What is the official Catholic position on Vatican II? The official position is that Vatican II is the twenty-first Ecumenical Council, ratified and confirmed by Popes John XXIII, Paul VI, and now John Paul II. Was it an "infallible" Council? It was as "infallible" as the previous 20 Ecumenical Councils, but granted there are not "definitions" as such in the documents of Vatican II, and no "anathemas" that followed canons or propositions as found in previous Councils. Some suggest Vatican II was merely a "pastoral" Council, but there is plenty of doctrine taught in the Council documents, but indeed much was already previously defined.

The documents of Vatican II have the most comprehensive and beautiful description of the nature and authority of the Catholic Church, which was not defined in such depth before. While every statement in the documents is not "infallible" as such, the Second Vatican Council is Ecumenical and therefore binding and authoritative for all Catholics. How the Council is to be applied and believed by individual Catholics is explained in great depth and beauty in the 800-page and over 2800 paragraphs of the Catechism of the Catholic Church which Pope John Paul II declares "a sure norm for teaching the faith" (on the publication of the Catechism given October 11, 1992 which was the 30th anniversary for the opening of the Second Vatican Council).

(10) Tell us what the Roman Catholic position is on Divine Revelation. Is it all found in Scripture, or is it partly in Scripture and partly in Tradition?

This can be answered by saying "neither" -- Revelation is found all in Scripture and all in Tradition. The formula "partly...partly" was specifically rejected (although debated) at the Council of Trent which adopted the phrase that "these truths and rules are contained in the written books AND in the unwritten traditions" from "the source [not two sources] at once of all saving truth and rules of conduct" being our Lord Jesus Christ and His Apostles (Fourth Session). Later theologians and especially Vatican Council II elaborated on this and taught that divine Revelation comes from "one common source" while there are "two distinct modes of transmission" (Scripture and Tradition) :

80. "Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, then, are bound closely together and communicate one with the other. For both of them, flowing out from the same divine well-spring, come together in some fashion to form one thing and move towards the same goal." [Vatican II DV 9] ....

81. "Sacred Scripture is the speech of God as it is put down in writing under the breath of the Holy Spirit." [DV 9] ..."And [Holy] Tradition transmits in its entirety the Word of God which has been entrusted to the apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit. It transmits it to the successors of the apostles so that, enlightened by the Spirit of truth, they may faithfully preserve, expound, and spread it abroad by their preaching." [DV 9]

82. As a result the Church, to whom the transmission and interpretation of Revelation is entrusted, "does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the holy Scriptures alone. Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honored with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence." [DV 9]

97. "Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture make up a single sacred deposit of the Word of God" [DV 10], in which, as in a mirror, the pilgrim Church contemplates God, the source of all her riches.

(11) Tell us what the Roman Catholic position is on the decisions of the synods of Hippo and Carthage (which lists the books of the canon). Were these infallible "councils"? Where they right in their list of OT books, or was Trent right in its list instead?

The synods or councils of Hippo and Carthage, being provincial or local councils, were not "infallible" councils as such -- but the Old and New Testament biblical canons listed by these councils were accepted and ratified by the Ecumenical Council of Trent. If there are discrepancies on the canon between them, I am not aware of any. Even if there were, it does not matter since the Council of Trent has the final say on the canon for Catholics. In a footnote for the fourth session (on the Canonical Scriptures) in The Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent translated by H.J. Schroeder (Tan Books, 1978), we find the following for earlier canon lists:

Synod of Laodicea (end of fourth century) -- although this one is disputed;

Synod of Rome (382) under Pope Damasus [Denz 84];

Synod of Hippo (393), which the Third Synod of Carthage (397) made its own [Denz 92];

Pope Innocent I in 405 to Exsuperius, bishop of Toulouse [Denz 96];

and Pope Eugene IV in the Council of Florence;

Then follows the statement: "The Tridentine list or decree was the first infallible and effectually promulgated declaration on the Canon of the Holy Scriptures." (Schroeder, page 17, footnote 4)

The same information can be found in a Protestant work like The Canon of Scripture by F.F. Bruce (Intervarsity Press, 1988) showing that Trent merely ratified and confirmed the decisions of earlier councils in its acceptance of the OT deuterocanonical books:

"In 393 a church council held in Augustine's see of Hippo laid down the limits of the canonical books along the lines approved by Augustine himself. The proceedings of this council have been lost but they were summarized in the proceedings of the Third Council of Carthage (397), a provincial council [NPNF, series 2, XIV, page 453f]. These appear to have been the first church councils to make a formal pronouncement on the canon. When they did so, they did not impose any innovation on the churches; they simply endorsed what had become the general consensus of the churches of the west and of the greater part of the east. In 405 Pope Innocent I embodied a list of canonical books in a letter addressed to Exsuperius, bishop of Toulouse; it too included the Apocrypha [Innocent, Ep 6:7 -- what Catholics call the OT deuterocanonical books]. The Sixth Council of Carthage (419) re-enacted the ruling of the Third Council, again with the inclusion of the apocryphal [deuterocanonical] books." (Bruce, page 97)

(12) Tell us what the Roman Catholic position is on the Greek manuscripts of the NT. Are we to trust the Byzantine text-type (as Roman Catholic apologist Bob Sungenis does), or are we to trust the Eclectic text-type (as do almost all of Sungenis' colleagues)?

I trust neither since I don't read Greek. And this one is not a problem. I use several English translations of the Bible to get at the meaning of the text. My main one is the RSV (Catholic Edition), but I also use conservative Protestant translations like the NIV (the OT is of course missing a few books). I leave the actual text and translation of the Bible to the scholars since I am not trained in the original languages, nor do I care to learn the science of textual criticism. If Bob Sungenis prefers the Byzantine text-type, or uses that text in some of his arguments for particular manuscript readings (for example, see Not By Scripture Alone, page 151, footnote 49) I don't see that as a problem.

The official Catholic position on the Greek manuscripts, biblical interpretation and translation in general can be found in the above Encyclicals of Popes Leo XIII, Benedict XV, and Pius XII, also statements from the Pontifical Biblical Commission where they comment on the subject.

(13) Tell us what the Roman Catholic position is on the Eucharist. Is it a "real," bodily presence, or is it a sacramental presence?

The answer is both/and. These do not have to be in opposition: a real, bodily presence of Christ in the Eucharist is a sacramental presence given the Eucharist is a sacrament. These are saying the same thing about the Real Presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament (see the Catechism of the Catholic Church 1322-1419 for the fullness of the Catholic faith on the Eucharist).

The position of the Catholic Church on the Holy Eucharist and the Mass was defined in explicit terms at the Council of Trent (Sessions 13 and 22). See Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma (page 370-415 which covers the Eucharist as Sacrament and Sacrifice) for the following propositions:

The Body and Blood of Jesus Christ are truly, really and substantially present in the Eucharist. (De fide)

Christ becomes present in the Sacrament of the Altar by the transformation of the whole substance of the bread into His Body and of the whole substance of the wine into His Blood. (De fide)

The Accidents of bread and wine continue after the change of the substance. (De fide)

The Body and the Blood of Christ together with His Soul and His Divinity and therefore the Whole Christ are truly present in the Eucharist. (De fide)

The Whole Christ is present under each of the two Species. (De fide)

The Worship of Adoration (latria) must be given to Christ present in the Eucharist. (De fide)

These propositions are sufficient to define the Catholic teaching on the Eucharist against the heresies of the Protestants in the sixteenth century. Now could you please tell me the Protestant position on the Eucharist?

(14) Tell us what the Roman Catholic position is on Transubstantiation. Is this something the church has "always held from the beginning" (as Trent claims), or did this belief develop over time? And for that matter . . .

Again, the answer is both/and. The same can be said of the Holy Trinity, which was "always held from the beginning" (Matthew 28:19) while the terminology used to define the belief "developed over time" (explicitly defined at the Councils of Nicaea, Constantinople, Ephesus, Chalcedon, etc). So the Catholic belief on the Eucharist and Transubstantiation was "always held from the beginning" (Matthew 26:26-28 "This is My Body...This is My Blood" along with John 6:51-58), while the correct terminology used to explicitly define the belief "developed over time." I do not see this as a problem since it is true of so many doctrines of the Christian faith.

For more see This is My Body: Eucharist in the Early Fathers

(15) Tell us what the Roman Catholic position is on the formulation of doctrine. Was the apostolic deposit complete in the first century (as Trent claims), or did doctrine develop over time (as Newman claims)?

Again both/and. There is simply no conflict in saying the "apostolic deposit" (cf. 1 Tim 6:20; 2 Tim 1:13f; Jude 3; etc) was complete after the death of the last apostle (Catechism 66), and that there is development of the correct terminology and language necessary to define Christian doctrine over time (Catechism 85-90). The use of the phrase "formulation of doctrine" requires that doctrine be formulated -- that formulation and explicit definition of Christian doctrine is not found in the New Testament. Eric Svendsen and most Evangelical Protestants would accept such development regarding the Holy Trinity -- that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are "of one substance" and are co-equal and co-eternal divine Persons, while stated implicitly in such biblical texts as Matthew 28:19; 2 Cor 13:14 was explicitly defined as orthodox Christian doctrine for the whole Church at the Council of Nicaea and subsequent Ecumenical Councils. So there is no problem in saying the apostolic deposit of faith was complete at the death of the apostles, and that there is development of Christian doctrine (as Cardinal Newman explained in his classic work on the subject that led to his conversion from Anglicanism).

(16) Tell us what the Roman Catholic position is on how to interpret the Bible. Should we use critical methods such as redaction criticism and form criticism, or were these officially condemned by Pius X's Pascendi Dominici Gregis?

Again, this is a question directed at the "scholar" which I am not. Your average Catholic layman does not need to worry about such things as redaction or form criticism. We'll let the late Fr. Raymond Brown (and those that follow him) discuss these things with the more conservative scholars like the late Fr. William Most (and those who believe as he does). As I said, my main Bible is the RSV (Catholic Edition), and I read it in English and trust the text and translation is accurate. I don't concern myself with biblical criticism (whether redaction or form or textual criticism) except as a hobby to see what the scholars have to say on such issues. They don't affect Catholic doctrine.

The "official" Catholic position on how to interpret the Bible is explained in the Catechism:

The Holy Spirit, Interpreter of Scripture

109. In Sacred Scripture, God speaks to man in a human way. To interpret Scripture correctly, the reader must be attentive to what the human authors truly wanted to affirm and to what God wanted to reveal to us by their words. [Vatican II DV 12:1]

110. In order to discover the sacred author's intention, the reader must take into account the conditions of their time and culture, the literary genres in use at that time, and the modes of feeling, speaking, and narrating then current. "For the fact is that truth is differently presented and expressed in the various types of historical writing, in prophetical and poetical texts, and in other forms of literary expression." [DV 12:2]

111. But since Sacred Scripture is inspired, there is another and no less important principle of correct interpretation, without which Scripture would remain a dead letter. "Sacred Scripture must be read and interpreted in the light of the same Spirit by whom it was written." [DV 12:3]

The Catechism then notes that Vatican Council II indicates three major criteria for interpretation:

(1) Be especially attentive to the content and unity of the whole of Scripture;

(2) Read the Scripture within the living Tradition of the whole Church;

(3) Be attentive to the analogy of faith, which is the coherence of the truths of faith among themselves and within the whole plan of Revelation.

The Catechism then goes on to distinguish between two main senses of Scripture: the literal and the spiritual, with the latter subdivided into the allegorical, moral, and anagogical senses.

119. "It is the task of exegetes to work, according to these rules, toward a better understanding and explanation of the meaning of Sacred Scripture in order that their research may help the Church to form a firmer judgment. For, of course, all that has been said about the manner of interpreting Scripture is ultimately subject to the judgment of the Church which exercises the divinely conferred commission and ministry of watching over and interpreting the Word of God." [DV 12:3]

The Catechism then includes the well-known saying of St. Augustine: "But I would not believe in the Gospel, had not the authority of the Catholic Church already moved me." [Contra epistolam Manichaei 5:6; PL 42:176]

85. "The task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether in its written form or in the form of Tradition, has been entrusted to the living, teaching office of the Church alone. Its authority in this matter is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ." [Vatican II DV 10:2] This means that the task of interpretation has been entrusted to the bishops in communion with the successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome.

The Modernist Crisis

As for the encyclicals Pascendi (Sept 8, 1907) and Lamentabili (July 3, 1907) of Pope St. Pius X, these condemned the errors involved with Modernism at the turn of the 20th century. They were not directed at "redaction" or "form" criticism as such but with the radical heresies of the Modernist crisis such as:

(1) agnosticism, both in natural theology and in the symbolic, nonobjective approach to dogmatic content; (2) vital immanence, an exclusive immanence of the divine and a consequent natural vital evolution of revelation; (3) total emancipation of exegesis from dogma and of political-religious movements from ecclesiastical authority.

This is not what is involved in responsible Catholic biblical exegesis and criticism. For example, Lamentabili sane exitu lists 65 condemned propositions of Modernism in summary form. The equivalent in recent times would be the radical liberal critics of the so-called "Jesus Seminar" for among the condemned errors are:

(4) Even by dogmatic definitions the Church's Magisterium cannot determine the genuine sense of the Sacred Scriptures.

(9) They display excessive simplicity or ignorance who believe that God is really the author of the Sacred Scriptures.

(11) Divine inspiration does not extend to all of Sacred Scriptures so that it renders its parts, each and every one, free from every error.

(12) If he wishes to apply himself usefully to Biblical studies, the exegete must first put aside all preconceived opinions about the supernatural origins of Sacred Scripture and interpret it the same as any other merely human document.

(19) Heterodox exegetes have expressed the true sense of the Scriptures more faithfully than Catholic exegetes.

(27) The divinity of Jesus Christ is not proved from the Gospels. It is a dogma which the Christian conscience has derived from the notion of the Messiah.

(28) While He was exercising His ministry, Jesus did not speak with the object of teaching He was the Messiah, nor did His miracles tend to prove it.

(29) It is permissible to grant that the Christ of history is far inferior to the Christ Who is the object of faith.

(30) In all the evangelical texts the name "Son of God" is equivalent only to that of "Messiah." It does not in the least way signify that Christ is the true and natural Son of God.

(31) The doctrine concerning Christ taught by Paul, John and the Councils of Nicaea, Ephesus and Chalcedon is not that which Jesus taught but that which the Christian conscience conceived concerning Jesus.

The articles in the NCE on Modernism (vol 9, page 991ff), Pius X (vol 11, page 408ff), Lamentabili (vol 8, page 350), and Pascendi (vol 10, page 1048) contain a brief history and description of Modernism and the Modernist heretics to whom Pope St. Pius X directed his encyclicals. Two more comprehensive books are titled A Variety of Catholic Modernists by Alec R. Vidler (Cambridge Univ Press, 1970) and The Catholic Modernists by Michele Ranchetti (Oxford Univ Press, 1969).

Much freedom was given to Catholic scholars and exegetes with the publication of Divino Afflante Spiritu of Pope Pius XII in 1943. The NCE summarizes the encyclical as follows:

"...the encyclical sets down a scientific program for Biblical studies. It first cites recent discoveries in archeology, ancient history, linguistics, and other technical sciences contributing to a better understanding of the Bible. The Pope encourages the furtherance of the scientific study of the Bible through the investigation and translation of the Biblical texts in their original languages rather than in the traditional Latin Vulgate, and insists upon the importance of textual criticism to obtain the most accurate Biblical texts. He defines the prime task of the Biblical interpreter as the discovery of the literal sense of the Word of God, as intended by the inspired human author....The Pope urges the use of archeology, ancient history, and ancient literature as subsidiary sciences contributing to a better understanding of the Bible. The doctrinal section concludes on the positive note that the scientific method in Scripture studies, having already solved many difficulties of long standing and demonstrated the historical nature of the Bible, still affords promise of the solution of remaining difficulties. The encyclical concludes with an assurance of liberty to Catholic Scripture scholars and with a request that the scholars be judged by all with the utmost charity. In conclusion the Holy Father exhorts bishops, priests, laity, and seminarians to use the Holy Bible for spiritual profit." (NCE, vol 4, page 925)

(17) Tell us what the Roman Catholic position is on the novus ordo mass? Is it binding and infallible? Or is it just an option among other options? Is the Latin mass still valid, or is it merely an accommodation to those who are not inclined to change with the Roman times?

I won't spend too much time on this one since the question appears confused. A Mass or Liturgy is not "infallible" as such, only doctrine and dogma is rightly called "binding and infallible" and can be infallibly defined. Despite what some radical Catholic traditionalists might say, the Magisterium has authorized the Novus Ordo and the Pope celebrates the Novus Ordo so that ends the discussion. It is how Catholics normally celebrate the Liturgy every day, week, or holy day of obligation. The traditional Latin or Tridentine Mass is also still valid and was brought back "by popular demand" in the 1980s by Pope John Paul II himself. The Novus Ordo can even be celebrated in Latin so there are indeed "other options" available. Catholics are free to attend the Mass or Liturgy they prefer.

This was the end of the original challenge, and I'd like my $100,000 as specified above. Thank you.

However, at this point, Eric added a final question after 9/14/99. Here it is:

(18) Did Mary die?

This has not been definitively settled by the Catholic Church. Eric knows this which is why he asks the question. He does not ask, "Was Mary conceived without original sin?" or "Was Mary bodily assumed into heaven?" or "Is Mary the Mother of God (Theotokos)?" or "Was Mary perpetually a virgin?" since he knows the answers to these questions have been officially and infallibly defined by the Church in her Ecumenical Councils and by recent Popes.

Did Mary die? The general view of most Catholic theologians and scholars is that she did, and was then immediately assumed into heaven before her body saw corruption. The definition of the Assumption by Pope Pius XII in Munificentissimus Deus (Nov 1, 1950) leaves the question open: "The Immaculate Mother of God, the ever-Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory." The NCE in an article on the Assumption (vol 1, page 971ff) states:

"The crucial phrase expleto terrestris vitae cursu ["having completed the course of her earthly life"] offers support neither to those who argue that Mary died (the "mortalists") nor to those who say that she did not die (the "immortalists"). While most of the faithful and most of the writers on the subject accept without debate the fact of the death of Mary, it is a subject of controversy among theologians." (NCE, vol 1, page 974-5)

So this issue of Mariology has not been defined. The Catechism likewise states the Assumption as defined dogma (paragraphs 966, 974) but does not answer the further question on Mary's death.

Eric, I have answered your challenge. Now I'd really like my $100,000. Thank you.


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