Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Redford and Murphy O'Connor RIP

Last week Canon John Redford died he taught me scripture at the seminary, Fr Jerome Murphy O'Connor a more famous scripture scholar also died. Canon John once amazed me by saying, "Uh, I can read Ugaritic cuniform, there aren't many people in the world who can". Probably Fr Jerome Murphy O'Connor was one of the other few interpreters of the script of the Ugarites.

I owe a lot to Canon John but I shan't praise him here, merely to contrast to Fr Jerome Murphy O'Connor, who being a clan member of my former bishop was invited to give a clergy in service training course. JR could be described as a 'pastoral' scripture scholar and JMO'C an academic one, both loved scripture. Both were drenched in it, it was their life's blood, the air they breathed.

Canon John spent his life using scripture to reveal the glory of the mystery of salvation. He believed Jesus Christ and his promises to the Church, he saw his mission to build up faith, he certainly did not dismiss difficulties proposed by various texts.

JMO'C probably saw himself as a scientist rather than a pastor, I remember in his short course he dealt with the Transfiguration and Resurrection narratives which he dissected, speculating they owed more to the post-Pentecost 'experience' of the early Church rather than to the accurate remembering of the disciples. I remember some of our diocesan clergy being rather shocked and others delighted that they were somehow liberated from belief in an 'over-literal' interpretation of scripture.

I use these two men as a metaphor on the way in scripture or any other subjects can be taught. Moral theology, for example, can be taught, as it was taught me as a way of minimising morality, in style of David Lodge's  'How far can you go' but contrast the magnanimity of Pope John Paul II's teaching on love and sexuality compared to the meanness of say Charles Curran or many other academic 'Catholic' Moral theologians.

Comparing and contrasting Murphy O'Connor and Redford, one seems to address scripture as a phenomena to be studied, as one might study a virus whilst the other saw it as being the source of life.

May they both be given a merciful judgement and see God face to face.


Our Lady of Good Success-pray for us. said...

The last call near enough for any of us. RIP.

How far can you go? Hell or Heaven (and mercifully, purgatory, but maybe not so much if you are Cardinal Marx). Curran 'meanly' accepted homosexual unions!?!
What was JPII's magnanimity? In kabbalah teachings they ascribe the fifth sephira to Isaac because of his magnanimity (his Jupiternarian 'boundlessness') - he allowed idol worshippers to stay in his house etc. - tolerance. Tried reading JPII, even explainers of JPII but it's too much like reading the former Archbishop of Canterbury. You know he gets himself...

Experimental clergy. OI!

I just need a straightforward catechism, please.

Nicolas Bellord said...

In the last year O'Connor stated that we could not know what really went on in the garden of Gethsemanee because all the disciples were asleep so we can dismiss the account. The idea at Christ might have told the disciples what had occurred after his resurrection did not seem to have occurred to O'Connor. Resurrection? I suspect that was another story in his view.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Yes, he is dangerously speculative under the guise of being objectively scientific.

Lynda said...

All Catholic theology is taught in conformity to the Deposit of Faith - otherwise it's not Carholic theology.

GOR said...

As I’ve noted before, the study of theology can be a dangerous thing - made more dangerous by ‘specialists’ who, absorbed in their own studies and speculations, can sow doubt and confusion in the minds of their students.

While one of our goals in this life is to know God (“Know, Love and Serve...” as the old Catechism put it), we need to be conscious of the limits of human intelligence in the face of Divine Omnipotence. We will always only see “as in a glass, darkly” in this life, as St. Paul put it.

Some things have to be accepted on Faith - as people who “have not seen, but believe”. Our Hope is to see Him face to face in the next life when all will be revealed.

There are no shortcuts.

Nicolas Bellord said...

GOR: I recently attended a talk on the Old Testament by a Father John Hemer. His message was that you had to read the Bible with the eyes of faith. Reason and Faith are handmaids. He gave a good example of how the same facts come to be viewed differently according to one's viewpoint. A woman was married for twenty years and believed she was happily married. Her husband went on numerous business trips but always brought her, on return, flowers and an expensive present. One day she discovered that these trips were a cover for adultery. The fact remained that she had had flowers and presents but how differently she then viewed them. She could no longer see them with the eyes of faith as her faith had been betrayed.

Faith is not so much a matter of believing something that seems to be against reason but rather it adds something completely different to something beyond what reason tells us.

GOR said...

Indeed Nicholas, Faith is not against Reason but above it. In our human way we always want to know more, tease everything out and understand it completely – which is not a bad thing in itself - the search for knowledge.

But when it comes to God and the mysteries of our religion we run up against a wall. At some point we have to say: this is as far as we can go and the rest we must accept on faith. Theologians – and mathematicians, in fact – run into this also, which is one reason Pope Benedict frequently admonished theologians to develop humility.

Father Blake mentioned once about how St. Thomas Aquinas stopped writing the Summa after a mystical revelation from God, saying everything he had written was as “so much straw”. Despite having been told by Our Lord: “You have written well about Me, Thomas”, he now realized that it did not even come close to complete knowledge of God.

In St. Teresa of Avila’s “The Interior Castle” she relates that she had once been given a revelation after which she then completely understood the mysteries of the Trinity and the Incarnation. When I read that I thought: “Great, now she can enlighten the rest of us.”

I turned the page expectantly – only to have her say she could not put into words what had been revealed to her…! As the old translation of the Tantum Ergo goes: “Faith for all defects supplying, where the feeble senses fail.”

Nicolas Bellord said...

GOR: Thanks for that. Whenever I hear the words "Sensuum fidei" I think of "Sensuum defectui"! I was interested about what you say about mathematics. I am reading Roger Penrose's "Road to Reality: A complete guide to the laws of the Universe". He keeps on saying to the reader "do not bother trying to understand the maths". He expects us to take it on faith and what I like about him is that he expresses severe doubts about the whole thing. I have set myself the task of trying to understand the maths but I fear that with complex analysis I am up against a brick wall - I cannot help feeling that theology would be much easier. After all a belief in the existence of God seems easier than a belief in the existence of the square root of minus one.

Lynda said...

You don't have an iota!

Supertradmum said...

Father, you were fortunate to have such great scholars for teachers. A dying breed among priests in this age of "pastoral theology"...May God have mercy on their souls and lead them to paradise....

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