Reply to Some of My Online Critics

In this post, I reply to some of my online critics, those who dismiss my work without regard for its theological content.

Medjugorje

One of the ways that some commentators dismiss my body of work in theology is by simply stating that I am a supporter of the private revelations at Medjugorje. They seem to think that their peers will accept this as a legitimate argument against any or all of my theological positions. Apparently, among some groups of Catholics online, Medjugorje is considered thoroughly discredited. So anyone who piously believes that the Blessed Virgin Mary appears there is treated as worthy of contempt, or at least unworthy of respect. But does this attitude make sense in the light of faith and reason?

Millions of Catholics have visited Medjugorje, in the pious belief that Mary appears there. Bishops, priests, deacons, and religious have visited the town, and many of them continue to believe in the apparitions and messages there. It is said that Pope Saint John Paul II believed in Medjugorje. Is it really true that anyone who believes in Medjugorje is to be treated as if he could not possibly have a correct opinion on any matter in theology? Are all the priests who believe in Medjugorje to be ignored or rejected?

This proposal to dismiss any argument or conclusion that I offer on matters of faith, morals, and salvation, merely because I believe in Medjugorje, is absurd. What if the Church eventually approves of Medjugorje? Will Her teachings then be treated with disregard due to this decision?

What do you suppose Jesus would say about this attitude among some Catholics? Here’s what He did say:

[Mark]
{9:35} And taking a child, he set him in their midst. And when he had embraced him, he said to them:
{9:36} “Whoever receives one such child in my name, receives me. And whoever receives me, receives not me, but him who sent me.”
{9:37} John responded to him by saying, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name; he does not follow us, and so we prohibited him.”
{9:38} But Jesus said: “Do not prohibit him. For there is no one who can act with virtue in my name and soon speak evil about me.
{9:39} For whoever is not against you is for you.
{9:40} For whoever, in my name, will give you a cup of water to drink, because you belong to Christ: Amen I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.

John says that a particular person “does not follow us”, therefore they tried to prohibit him from doing good. But Christ rejects that idea. The implication for the topic at hand is that you cannot dismiss someone’s theological position merely because they do not agree with you about Medjugorje or about the Latin Mass or about some other topic. Each theological argument stands on its own merits.

Conservative theologians have insights that could benefit liberal Catholics, and liberal theologians have insights that could benefit conservative Catholics. Protestant, Orthodox, and Jewish theologians all have insights to offer to Catholics. We should not dismiss someone’s work in theology because “he does not follow us”. And this is also true when it is one Catholic theologian (myself) speaking to other conservative Catholics.

How narrow is your view of the Faith that you would exclude from any consideration at all the work of a fellow Catholic whose view of the Faith is quite close to your own? And it is not just me. Traditionalist Catholics have a strong tendency to ignore or reject the work of non-traditionalist, but still conservative theologians. They wish to ignore everyone outside of their own little group.

Eschatology

A similar approach in the wholesale dismissal of my theological conclusions begins by criticizing my work in eschatology. They assert that my dates for predicted events have been wrong in the past — which is true. But then they conclude that my work in every other area of theology is therefore unreliable.

First, I must ask: Is eschatology not a legitimate field of theology? If you say it is not, then how do you explain the many eschatological passages in both the Old and New Testaments, including Jesus’ eschatological discourse? And how do you explain the book of Revelation, an entire book of the Bible dedicated to eschatology? Obviously, it is a legitimate area of theological inquiry.

Second, I must ask: Am I expected to be infallible, in my work in eschatology (or any other field)? It simply does not follow that, if I err in the field of eschatology — which everyone admits is highly speculative — that my work on every other topic is to be dismissed.

Bible Translation

This next method for dismissing my theological conclusions, without regard to the content of the theological argument, is strange and sad. They point out that I have translated the Bible. And that fact is treated as if it is to my dishonor, even to such an extent that all my work in theology is thereby discredited. I am literally ridiculed and denigrated, by other Catholics, for translating the Word of God from the Latin Vulgate into English. I’m at a loss to explain why these persons, who spend a great deal of time talking about religion online, seem to think it is an obvious grave error to translate the Word of God.

Does the Most Holy Trinity object to the work of translating the Bible, as if it were against one of the Ten Commandments? Does translating the Bible conflict with the love of God above all else, and the love of neighbor as self? But these critics have no regard for the will of God. In their many discussions on a wide range of questions in religion, God is rarely mentioned, and He does not seem to be the basis for any of their claims on faith and morals.

I worked nearly every day for just over 5 years translating the entire Pope Sixtus V and Pope Clement VIII Latin Bible into English. I also produced my own edit of the Clementine Vulgate. And I placed my translation of the Bible into the public domain, so that anyone could make use of this version of the Word of God as they saw fit to do.

I translated the Bible because I believed that the Church and the world could benefit greatly from a new Catholic translation, made in accord with Vatican translation guidelines, based on the Latin scriptural tradition, not the Hebrew and Greek — a translation which avoids the modern errors of inclusive language, loose rephrasing, and the omission of words, phrases, and entire verses based on scholarly textual analysis. Most modern translations are loose “dynamic” translations, and they have become more and more loose as time has passed. So the Church needed a translation from Latin, in modern English, based on a more traditional approach to Bible translation: more literal, more devout, with due regard given to the Catholic understanding of the text.

Every translation of the Bible is subject to temperate scholarly criticism. For translators and editors do not work under inspiration. But this denigration of my Bible translation is not based on the content of the work. It is based solely on the fact that I translated the Bible. They are not saying that my translation is too literal, or too loose, or that it should have been based on the Hebrew and Greek, or any other criticism.

How is this objectionable? Maybe they are upset that, in theological controversies online, I have a body of work to back-up my arguments, including a translation of the Bible. They wish to dismiss that work because it indicates that I have a good understanding of Scripture, and they themselves have no similar work. Or maybe they filled with pride in their own understanding of Catholicism, and so they don’t want to acknowledge that someone else may have understood Scripture or theology better than they do.

Not a Theologian

Another common excuse that some online commentators use to dismiss my work in theology, or to denigrate any particular theological conclusion with which they disagree, is to assert that I am “not a theologian”. Essentially, what they are saying is “do not give any consideration to his theological arguments, because he is not a theologian.”

The problem with this claim is that these same persons spend very much time and effort, over the course of many years, posting their own answers to theological questions online, and trying to convince everyone to listen to them. In effect, they are saying: “Don’t listen to Ron Conte because he is not a theologian. Listen to me instead.” OK, but are you a theologian, even in your own eyes? No? Then why should anyone listen to you?

It is a ridiculous hypocrisy for these persons to tell people to disregard my theological conclusions because they don’t consider me to be a theologian, while trying to convince everyone to listen to their theological conclusions on the same topic. If you think that Catholics should only learn theology from theologians, and you do not meet your own definition of theologian, how is it that you are expect your fellow Catholics to learn from you?

But as my readers know, I assert that I am a Roman Catholic theologian. I have a bachelor’s degree in theology and philosophy (a double major) from Boston College. I have written and published over 3 dozen books and booklets theology, including substantial work in the fields of moral theology, salvation theology, Mariology, eschatology, and Biblical chronology. I’ve translated the entire Latin Vulgate Bible into English. And I’ve been writing theology for many years. What is my definition of a theologian? A theologian is someone who writes a theology on continuing basis and who has a substantial body of work in theology.

I think that these critics are anxious to classify me as “not a theologian” because they have no body of work in theology of their own. My work in theology supports my theological conclusions. Many of my online theological arguments are further supported by a more lengthy treatise on the same topic in my books and booklets of theology. My online opponents have no such works.

Sometimes my critics propose that a person is only a theologian if he or she meets certain criteria. But I can always point to persons who do not meet those criteria, yet who are widely considered to be theologians. This type of proposal is disingenuous. They seek a simple way to dismiss certain theological conclusions without having to deal with the argument supporting those conclusions. They seek an audience that will listen to their views, without giving any substantial consideration to any contrary views on the subject.

Jesus

What would Jesus and Mary say about all this? So often in online discussions, Catholics seem to forget about Jesus and Mary, they seem to forget about God entirely. For example, I’ve participated in many online discussions of Catholic ethics, yet few commentators mention God or Jesus. And what they do say does not reference God at all. They propose their own understanding of right and wrong, with no basis in Church teaching or the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And the same thing happens with other topics in religion. How can so many people call themselves Christian, and give so small a role to Christ in their conversations about Christianity? How can Catholics spend so much time discussing Catholicism online, and give so small a role to the teaching authority of the Catholic Church?

[Matthew]
{5:19} Therefore, whoever will have loosened one of the least of these commandments, and have taught men so, shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever will have done and taught these, such a one shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
{5:20} For I say to you, that unless your justice has surpassed that of the scribes and the Pharisees you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.

[John]
{14:23} Jesus responded and said to him: “If anyone loves me, he shall keep my word. And my Father will love him, and we will come to him, and we will make our dwelling place with him.
{14:24} Whoever does not love me, does not keep not my words. And the word that you have heard is not of me, but it is of the Father who sent me.
{14:25} These things I have spoken to you, while abiding with you.
{14:26} But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will suggest to you everything whatsoever that I have said to you.

by
Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

Please take a look at this list of my books and booklets, and see if any topic interests you.

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