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Question
Do you think Catholics should be aware of the latest facts in science, Biblical scholarship and ancient history if they want to know them?
What if these facts endanger their precious faith? Should they test their faith?

Answer
The findings of modern science or history do not threaten the Catholic Faith so it does not matter whether Catholics are aware of them or not.  It is certainly good to be educated--so if Catholics want to learn the different sciences of study history, great.

As for Biblical Scholarship: nothing that Scripture teaches correctly understood threatens the Catholic Faith.  Scripture is like a mirror of Tradition.  What the Church teaches, Scripture teaches and what Scripture teaches the Church teaches.  The idea that the Church universal would teach something outside of the Scriptures was not an issue the early Church had considered.  Certainly individual Church Fathers believed they could err.  Because of this statements from individual fathers cautioning their flocks to make sure what they are teaching is scriptural should not be surprising.  However whether the Church taken as a whole (bishops in union with the pope) would err or teach something outside the Scriptures was not a question that concerned the early Church. That question would not surface until the 1200's and would eventually split the Church in the Reformation with Protestants affirming that it IS possible for the Church to teach something outside the Scriptures and the Catholic Church denying that possibility.

Modern Biblical Scholarship can be a threat to the Catholic Faith because of the presuppositions that govern it.  Modern Biblical Scholarship is riddled with the presuppositions of the enlightenment and thus tends to minimize things like the miracles and try to rationalize them away.  Modern Scholarship also makes too much of the discrepancies in the Gospels missing the Forrest for the trees.  Modern Scholarship also tends to minimize the authority of the Bible and call into question the credibility of Scripture.  To this end it tends to downplay the divine nature of Scripture and exaggerate the human component.  Modern Scholarship tends to dismiss as irreverent the rich tradition of the Church and examines only the literal meaning of the passage.  It either ignores or dismisses as irrelevant the fuller spiritual meaning of Scripture.

Here is an example of what sticks out in my head from my days in one of the seminaries I went to:

The real miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 was that Jesus got the people to share, not that he multiplied loaves and fishes.

That is just one example.  There are many others but this is the one that I remember.  I remember when I was learning this stuff thinking that it was complete garbage.  Why I wondered didn't the Catholic Biblical theologians actually try and defend Scripture?  Why did they align themselves with the liberal scholarship of the Protestants?

The above example I provided is actually quite mild compared to the extreme wing of this type of "scholarship."  Taken to its logical conclusion the resurrection of Jesus becomes a non-historical event, something that never happened. The Resurrection is nothing more than the rise of the Easter Faith in the minds of Christ's followers. This is utter hogwash. As Saint Paul says and I echo: if the Resurrection is not a historical event there is no point to being Catholic and Christian. Our Faith is a joke and Jesus is a clown not worthy of Faith and trust.

In short: we have nothing to fear from discoveries in Science or history, nor Scripture scholarship--provided that they are all properly understood and kept in their proper context.  

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Father Dave Bechtel

Expertise

I am a Catholic priest in good standing and in active ministry in the Diocese of Scranton PA. I can answer most any question about the Catholic Faith, however my area of specialization is Systematic Theology. Systematic Theology is a branch of theology that focuses on the fundamental tenants of the Faith and the Dogmas of the Faith. I have specialization on the Reformation and Catholic vs. Protestant theology/issues and answering Protestant challenges to the Faith.

Experience

I was ordained in June of 2008. Since that time the thrust of my ministry has been specialized. In my first assignment I was an assistant pastor. A year later I was sent to work in education. I spent six (6) years in education and have now assumed my first pastorate. While education was the thrust of my ministry, nevertheless I continued to have a hand in parish ministry, hospital chaplaincy and prison chaplaincy. Now that I am out of education I will obviously be focusing more on parish work than specialized ministry. I have two years of formal Clinical Pastoral Education and prior to ordination I successfully pursued Board Certification for health care ministry through the NACC. My certification needs to be renewed and I plan to seek dual certification in health care ministry (NACC and APC) when I renew my certification. I have a breadth of experience working with Protestant ministers and collaborating with them to achieve the goals of hospital pastoral care and chaplaincy. These ministers run the spectrum from the liberal to the conservative.

Education/Credentials
Bachelors of Science-- University of Scranton PA Masters of Arts Theology--- Saint Mary's Seminary and University Baltimore MD Masters of Divinity--- Saint Charles Borremeo Seminary Philadelphia PA Board Certified Chaplain (up for renewal)

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