Sources for Apologetics (Adam Eve Discussion)

I wasn’t quite sure where to put this, and it didn’t seem to belong in Sacred Scripture where the Adam & Eve thread is currently residing.

Anyway one of the commentators objected to my reference to Valentin Tomberg and noted that she prefers to only debate with reference to scripture, CCC, and official commentary (which I understood her to mean Church Fathers, Doctors and approved biblical commentary in a Catholic Bible, such as the commentaries in the Haydock-Challoner DR Bible).

I basically agree with her approach, yet I find that there are at least two modern authors (there may be others of which I’m unaware, but would be interested in discovering) that though they hold some heterodox positions (or rather one holds some heterodox positions and the other was an Anglican) have enough unofficial Church support to be useful in scriptural discussions. Others may disagree and of course are free to discount or ignore me should I ever mention them.

In the first case, the hard case, (Valentin Tomberg), there is one noted historical precedent where the Church has considered someone who has held heterodox opinions to be authoritative - Origen is a Father of the Church but is known to have held at least two heterodox positions (it is unclear if he recanted one or both before death). I is my understanding, that it is because he held those positions that he was never Sainted, but despite those two positions, his devotion to the Church, encomiums from other Fathers, and his otherwise very well reasoned orthodox positions were sufficient to overlook those two points of heterodoxy. Tomberg similarly was known for his devotion to the Church, both Blessed John Paul II and His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI were known to have read Tomberg, and as Cardinal Ratzinger permitted the publication of Tomberg’s primary work in Russia, there are other noted Catholic supporters of his main work, including Hans Urs von Balthasar who wrote the epilogue. None of this is official support, but it is, for me, sufficient recognition that Tomberg’s hermeneutics has real value.

C.S. Lewis is simpler, I know of at least one Catholic seminary that offers classes in C.S. Lewis’ Christian apologetics (I suspect others but am not up for an exhaustive search) and there are of course numerous articles by other Catholics viewing C.S. Lewis positively.

In both cases there are problems that aren’t found in the preferred sources, so I readily acknowledge that using either as an ‘authority’ in a scriptural discussion requires some prudence, but I am unwilling to abandon either of them merely because they aren’t perfect authorities.

/Long Musing

Which brings up the other issue: which is that I find it least one source of authority: the CCC, severely lacking for indepth discussion. Reading the CCC I am reminding of nothing other than my notes for Law School exams back when I was at law school. A succinct description of all necessary topics, sub-topics, and sub-sub-topics, with the focus on “black-letter law” that despite trying to be as succinct as possible ends up hundreds of pages long because of the subject matter (I exaggerate, my contract outline wasn’t that bad 35-40 pages tops, then again I had to write 6 or 7 major outlines over that first year… so all told a couple of hundred pages). All of which leaves very little room for nuance. So I find the CCC has the same peculiarity (for me at least) of being authoritative on the subject but in most cases not very illuminating. Much like my contract outline, useful for passing an exam in Contracts, not so much for the actual practice of Law.

Frankly, it wasn’t until I started looking at actual commentaries that anything started really connecting. The Internet has brought a lot of bad things, but some good things as well: I do not have the the funds to spend hundreds of dollars on translated commentary but online you can find the original douay, glossa ordinaria (and Latin Dictionaries, and google translate), S. Aquinas, etc. All of which are both authoritative and illuminating on their subject.

The point of the long aside, is that there really needs to be a “modern Glossa” bringing together the CCC, the Fathers, Doctors and other appropriate commentators in one (multi-volume work). I want to read the CCC in context of the verse and in context with other noted commentators (Fathers, Doctors, and etc.). Then we get 1. Verse 2. Basic Teaching on Verse (CCC) 3. Nuance and Deep Exegesis (Commentators). And who knows, maybe we can even sneak in C.S. Lewis and Tomberg where appropriate :wink: Anyway, just my two cents.

This seems to be a very well-thought out post, and some of it seems to be a bit over my head. I’m not sure I can follow all the directions it takes. But I do have a few thoughts:

You said, “Origen is a Father of the Church but is known to have held at least two heterodox positions” – I think Origen is counted as an “Ecclesiastical Writer” and not a Church Father. Source

Re: the old Glossa, that is currently being translated into English at

Re: a new Glossa, based on modern faithful Catholic sources and maybe a few helpful others, yes, that could be useful. A few things come to mind: the Navarre Bible and Commentary is a multi-volume work based on the Catechism and the writings of St. Josemaria Escriva, but it’s not like the Glossa because it inserts a bunch of original material too. The Haydock Bible Commentary is more like the Glossa because it inserts very little original material, but it’s not exactly modern, having been produced before the two latest ecumenical councils. The thing that fits the bill perhaps the closest is the Vatican’s own bibliaclerus resource:

As described by the Congregation for the Clergy, Biblia Clerus “offers Sacred Scripture, its interpretation in light of Sacred Tradition and the teachings of the Magisterium, with appropriate theological commentary and exegesis. ] The downloadable version allows you to connect Sacred Scripture to the complete works of many Doctors of the Church, Councils, Encyclicals, teachings of the Popes, Catechisms, as well as commentaries from secular literature, etc.”

I hope that’s helpful. I still think a New Glossa would be really cool, as long as it pulled from faithful modern Catholic authors and commentaries.

My apologies, it’s a rambling post and on review I would cut it down tremendously, but there’s no ability to edit after the fact.

The thing that fits the bill perhaps the closest is the Vatican’s own bibliaclerus resource:

Thanks, this is interesting.

I hope that’s helpful. I still think a New Glossa would be really cool, as long as it pulled from faithful modern Catholic authors and commentaries.

I agree!

You don’t quite state what you expect that the CCC should be, although you seem disappointed that it’s a “succinct description of all necessary topics, sub-topics, and sub-sub-topics” that “ends up hundreds of pages long because of the subject matter” but which “leaves very little room for nuance”; thus, while you perceive it to be “useful for passing an exam”, it does not seem useful to you for “the actual practice” of the faith. That’s an odd outlook on the CCC. It would be interesting to read what you think the CCC should be…

In any case, I would encourage you to read the apostolic letters which act as prefaces to the CCC. In them, John Paul II identifies that the CCC is primarily directed toward bishops, to be used as an “authentic reference text for teaching catholic doctrine and particularly for preparing local catechisms” and is “meant to encourage and assist in the writing of new local catechisms.”

Given its primary audience, then, it comes as no surprise that it make many assumptions: it does not presume that its readers are unfamiliar with theological terminology and concepts, and therefore, it does not attempt basic definitions and explanations. It uses theological jargon unabashedly, since it expects that it is already understood. And, it does not provide exhaustive treatments of its subject matter – although it does provide citations and references, in order to allow its readers to follow up on the Scripture and ecclesiastical writers upon which its descriptions are based.

If one seeks something more ‘readable’, then, I would suggest the USCCB’s “U.S. Catholic Catechism for Adults”. It does exactly what JPII expected – it used the CCC in order to develop a local catechism for adults in the U.S. and which is useful as “an aid and a guide for deepening faith”, “a resource for RCIA and the ongoing catechesis of adults”, as well as “for those who wish to become acquainted with Catholicism”, and an “invitation for all the faithful to continue growing in the understanding of Jesus Christ and his saving love” (USCCA, xxiv). In addition, an earlier document, The Teaching of Christ, by Cardinal Donald Wuerl, is one that many have found useful. However, all of these belong in the genre of ‘catechism’, and are not intended to be the ‘glossa’ for which you seek. :shrug:

Well, actually, there is a period – I think it’s 15 or 20 minutes – from the time you hit ‘submit’ that you’re able to edit or delete your post… :wink:

I do not find the CCC to be either inspiring or illuminating; compare, if you will, any section of the CCC and any section from any Epistle of Paul, Gospel or Psalm; or, more pointedly, commentary from a Doctor or Father of the Church.

I understand and appreciate its purpose (as you noted it says it right there in the opening: a reference for Bishops). The CCC is primarily intended for Bishops, who had already themselves been exposed to the inspiring and illuminating primary source material (the writings of the Doctors and Fathers, the Scripture itself, and teachings of the Magisterium). Human memory is limited, so given the breadth of the subject matter, a digest is a perfectly appropriate tool for a Bishop or Priest or other theologically well-educated person (such as the trained Apologists that answer question on the Ask an Apologist forum) to refer to when some member of his flock has a question on a subject, or when he himself wants a quick reminder as to some point of faith. Given the quick reminder from the CCC, the Bishop or Priest can then, if he deems it necessary based on his pre-existing familiarity with the underlying inspired and illuminating source material, refer directly to appropriate source material to “fill in” the gaps of the CCC. I made the legal comparison, because this is exactly what goes on in legal research, you might initially reference a digest of black-letter law to get the gist of a topic, and while some questions will be answered by the BLL, in the usual case you’ll find it necessary go to the primary sources (the caselaw) to get the particulars appropriate to the legal question at hand.

That’s a far cry from what seems to be the case these days where the CCC seems to be being used by laypeople (and I absolutely include myself here and have in past years done exactly this) who have not been exposed to the breadth of primary source material on which the CCC was built, or have been only partially exposed to the primary source material.

And this goes directly to my relatively recent realization that one of the biggest spiritual problems today - that we can thank Luther for - is the belief that the Bible is easy to read, that theology is easy to understand and that answers can always be found in digest form. None of which is true: the Bible is difficult (the Doctors of the Church were the Rocket Scientists of their day), Catholic Theology is hugely complex and at time frankly mysterious and mystical, and answers in a digest are usually (but not always) wanting due to the limitations of the digest form.

All of which is to say the CCC seems fine for its intended purpose for Bishops (and implicitly priests and other theologically informed persons such as trained Apologists) but for those, like myself, who don’t fall into those categories. I almost think it’ be better if the Vatican had kept the CCC for internal use and released a pamphlet 1/10 the size with the “in briefs” compiled together plus a ‘how to pray the rosary’ at the end.

At least the in-briefs admit that the information being passed is brief and incomplete, implicitly suggesting that you speak with one of the clergy at your local Church if you want a better answer, and, more importantly, you’d be able pray the rosary if you didn’t know how (or had forgotten) and ask the Blessed Virgin for guidance (and since this is the internet, that is not meant as either a joke or sarcasm, We’d all be better off if we never opened the CCC and just prayed the rosary regularly).

The CCC has the appearance (to the unwary or uninformed) of completeness but not the actuality and as such at appeals to our nature to prefer simple, quick answers to our questions as opposed to complex, long and convoluted answers. I speak from experience, when I converted I was naïve enough to think that the CCC and a copy of the NAB were sufficient for me to grasp the main tenets of Catholic theology that I hadn’t picked up from RCIA (not a knock on RCIA, given once a week classes for a little under 9 months, there are a lot of limitations on what can be taught).

At the end of the day it is the desire for quick answers that lead to the rise of the Protestants, Sola Scriptura and its accompanying literal interpretations are just means of providing easy answers to what are (as we know) complex questions.

That brings us back to your original question:

What do I think the CCC should be? I think the CCC’s content is fine as-is it just needs a big fat warning on the front page: “This book is meant for the Church’s Bishops and other learned theologians, it’s an incredibly compressed digest of two thousand years of writing and thinking by some of the foremost thinkers of multiple eras and if you’re reading it to get some quick answers to some questions, you’re doing it wrong, you’re better off just asking one of the Priests at your local Church.” IMHO, the CCC is about as appropriate for laypeople as an altar missal (which you can also buy from Amazon), which is to say not at all.

Something like an English Glossa Ordinaria/Much expanded notes and commentaries would be far more appropriate for laypeople like myself wanting to understand the Catholic view of scripture. Where the focus is micro (commentary on individual verses/sections) not macro (guiding theology of Catholic Church), where we’re reading the inspiring and illuminating scripture concomitant with inspiring commentaries as opposed to reading the digest. The Thomas Aquinas Study Bible - which is a mini GO and seems okay but doesn’t have as much older commentary as I’d like - does have commentary drawn from the CCC. That’s certainly a far more appropriate use of the CCC (where the layperson can read the appropriate passages before reading the CCC commentary) for the layperson than giving them the actual CCC.

Yours in Christ

The Vatican actually HAS published such a booklet: it’s called the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and its almost exactly as you described, except it omits a separate section on the Rosary because it’s already discussed in the text in the section on prayer. Check it out, though, you might like it.

Thanks a lot! I’m sure I will. :thumbsup:

Actually I have to correct what I said. The Compendium has most of its information on the Rosary in an appendix in a section called “Common Prayers.” But it appears to me that one would not be able to figure out how to pray the Rosary using that appendix or the main text. It lists the mysteries of the Rosary by their names and includes the days they are commonly prayed on. It also instructs the reader to pray the Memorare after the Rosary and the prayer that starts with “O God, whose only-begotten Son…” but it doesn’t instruct the reader about meditating on the mysteries or about praying the Hail Mary’s and Our Fathers throughout. It does include the text of those prayers in an earlier part of the appendix on common prayers, but it does not mention that those prayers are used in the Rosary, other than the Prayer Concluding the Rosary.

Still, I think it’s basically what you mentioned as something that should be available for average Catholics who are not well-versed in theology, its concepts, and its terms. Here’s the complete text:

For such an audience, the U.S. Catholic Catechism for Adults (the ‘red book’) is a great resource. And, it’s recently been put up on the USCCB site on-line in a flip-book format!

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