[[N.B. In these paragraphs, you'll meet Carpe Diem, that is, Polycarp, a severly autistic nephew of Cardinal Fidele. We enter a scene in which Father Alexamenos' friend, don Hash, is getting himself into deep trouble with some Cardinals of the Roman Curia. He's realizing that he needs to save the life of Father Alexamenos. These paragraphs should spike the interest of some of the more academic biblical scholars among the readership. Yikes!]]
Carpe Diem walked into the room, his clothes inside out and back to front, shoes untied, and wearing a helmet. He rarely banged his head against walls until he was too dazed to continue, but wearing a helmet was part of him. He offered the last of a box of chocolate to any takers, though he gave the chocolate to don Hash, who had taken the time to answer his questions. Don Hash was horrified to see that the nails of Carpe Diem’s fingers had been chewed down to their roots.
“The rules are… I can’t believe I’m saying this…” said don Hash, hesitating, thinking of Saint Lawrence while thanking Carpe Diem, who then left, flapping his hands as he so often did. “Saint Robert Bellarmine’s rules might have seemed to him to establish in a textual critical manner the words of Scripture in the way dogmatically insisted upon by the Council of Trent, but which, at the same time, surely seemed to him also to have the benefit of appeasing the so-called Reformers. But Trent was not followed and the Protestants couldn’t have cared less about anything Bellarmine did. His double-edged damage control, if accepted by the Church, would have to become a habit, a virtue, a ‘policy’… almost making of itself revealed Truth, manipulating Sacred Scripture as it did. Such a policy fears the authority of the Holy Father, effectively claiming that the only sources of infallibility are the temporary hypotheses of scientific methodology. For him, only science, artificially cut off from the Faith, could be the basis for the Magisterial discernment of what Sacred Scripture is in its extension, its books, sentences, phrases, words and letters. Bellarmine could not think of any other aid to judge whether one ancient manuscript was correct and another not. He ignored the fact that if a Scripture passage was consistently used in the Liturgy, though in Latin, that is how the Church could find the words of the original language manuscripts. Yet, this was the very discernment desired by the Fathers of Trent. If Bellarmine’s double-edged damage control succeeded, there would have been a new inquisition in which burning truth – as that which is not expedient to ecumenical unity – would be rewarded.”
“What on earth are you talking about?” demanded Cardinal Froben.
“Wake up and smell the smoke!” exclaimed Cardinal Fidèle. “Satan’s smouldering fires come to us even in the bella figura of angels of light. In controversy with Galileo, Bellarmine opened the windows to let in what he thought was the fresh air of Scripture choking science. He would have come close to suffocating the Church and the world – not because Scripture cannot help to purify the desire to breathe in scientific knowledge – but because his politically correct, overly-literal approach to Scripture attacked faith and science.”
“The bitter irony is overwhelming,” said Cardinal Elzevir.
“Dear Lord…” said don Hash into the dead silence of the room, staring into the last flames of the fire. He was certain that Bellarmine could not have been more mistaken. He asked Christ out loud: “Would I so easily be the one to light the fire, burning your saints at the stake?”
It was Cardinal Fidèle who answered: “I do not know the answer to that, yet, but, in this case, you have seen through the devil’s own work. The Holy See is necessarily the devil’s playpen.”
Don Hash was full of questions, but Cardinal Fidèle slipped the paper from don Hash’s hands, saying, “Explain what Bellarmine wanted to do, Hash.”
Don Hash didn’t know if he was being manipulated into criticizing a saint to the point of burning the truth. He silently asked the Lord for help, and then said aloud, “It seems that Bellarmine treated the Vulgate not as a textual critical measure to be used for the discovery of the original words in the original language manuscripts – as much as this is possible – as Trent had envisioned it, but merely as something ‘precious’, which could be disregarded for little reason.”
“Go on,” said Cardinal Fidèle.
“The Council Fathers of Trent knew that they didn’t have a textually critically established Bible, not for the Latin manuscripts for the Vulgate, nor the original language manuscripts in Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic,” continued don Hash, who then repeated: “They knew that God would not abandon His Church, and judged that if one could establish the consistency of the usage of the Latin Vulgate in, for instance, the Liturgy, then one could use that more accessible source as a measure for the original language manuscripts, coming up with an exemplar of the inspired Scriptures: lex orandi lex credendi, the law of praying is the law of believing. The Scriptures were written in a lived Tradition of Faith taking its life in the liturgy.
Cardinal Francisco began to understand that, now for so many years, the abomination was where it should not be. He had thrown the pearls to the swine, who also went by the name Catholic, who were trampling upon the pearls, and turning on the members of the Body of Christ.
Don Hash continued: “Bellarmine was distracted, I suppose, by pastoral problems and administration, becoming embroiled in problems that were extraneous to his expertise. He didn’t have the time to understand the importance of methodology, thinking that it was all a matter of how many manuscripts – though with respect given to those of antiquity – instead of it being a matter of the Vulgate also being of service in the discovery of the textual critical extension of the words of the original language manuscripts. Bellarmine’s was a pseudo-science, for so many of the decisions about which words belonged in Scripture are, in the end, otherwise arbitrary along the lines of Cardinal Froben’s Prinzip der Prinzipienlosigkeit…”
“I’ve got a saint with me,” said Cardinal Froben. “Where did you say Bellarmine’s tomb is?”
Carpe Diem walked into the room and started pacing from one corner to the other, listening intently, though not understanding anything he heard. He wanted to repeat something.
Don Hash asked, “Why entrust Revelation to decisions based on, as you said, what is merely ‘traditional’, pastoral, liturgical, apologetic, sociological, organizational, cultural, political, geographical, psychological, intellectual, attitudinal or even economic? Even the Nestle-Aland Greek edition of the New Testament was produced like this. It’s pseudo-science.”
“So, what is to be done with Bellarmine’s work… in practical terms?” asked Cardinal Fidèle.
“When Monsignor Sens arrives, Bellarmine’s work is to be burned,” said don Hash with intensity. “It is better to burn than to be burned. Why should it destroy people’s Faith?”
“I see you are eager to set fire to a saint. Is Bellarmine not like Saint Lawrence, your patron saint, who was burned to death?” asked Cardinal Fidèle, objecting with false pretense.
“Not in the least,” said don Hash. “I’m certain that Bellarmine was wrong, however great a saint he was. He simply didn’t know what he was doing. It is not Bellarmine himself that I would burn, please God, just his work. I repeat that what he did would do great harm to the Church.”
“So, you wouldn’t burn him?” asked Cardinal Fidèle.
“No, please God,” repeated don Hash.
“What if the Pope commanded you to burn him or be burned yourself?” persisted the Prelate. The other Cardinals thought this was quite humourous, since it all seemed hypothetical. Don Hash did not answer. To don Hash, he said, “The fire is almost out,” handing the paper to him. “Before burning anything substantial, like someone from America, try burning the paper in your hands.”
Just then, the doorbell rang and Cardinal Fidèle motioned with his eyes for don Hash to open the door of his apartment. Monsignor Sens, who walked in as if he were under a cloud of suspicion, was ushered into the study. Carpe Diem stopped his pacing so that he could stare intently at the new arrival. Cardinal Fidèle said, expectantly, “You’ve gained quite a bit of weight, Sens.”
Monsignor Sens stopped dead at the entrance to the study. His boss, Cardinal Elzevir, was clearly upset at his presence. “Get over it, Elzevir,” said Cardinal Fidèle. “Invite him in.”
“Sens,” said Cardinal Elzevir with severity. “It seems you have divided loyalties.”
“Oh! Isn’t it wonderful Georg! Maria has returned from the Abbey!” exclaimed Carpe Diem on behalf of Cardinals Elzevir and Fidèle, quoting the envious Baroness in The Sound of Music. Carpe Diem’s interruptions were triggered by his brain’s emotional associations.
Monsignor Sens involuntarily stepped back. “Elzevir!” exclaimed Cardinal Fidèle.
After a moment, the Cardinal Secretary of State calmly said, “Very well… Come forward.”
“Maria has returned!” repeated Carpe Diem, now twirling a piece of string above his eyes.
“Give Sens the paper, Hash,” instructed Cardinal Fidèle.
Monsignor Sens walked to don Hash and took it from him. Before he looked at it, Cardinal Fidèle said, “Throw it on the embers, Sens.” He did, and, after some seconds, it burst into flame.
Monsignor Sens removed his winter coat and gave it to don Hash, who immediately dropped it on the floor. The top of Monsignor Sens’ cassock was not buttoned, revealing the cause of his sudden weight gain, a large tome of obvious antiquity. He held it out to his superior, the Cardinal Secretary of State, who took it from him with some force. “Stand back, Sens, and clear these things off the coffee-table.” Cardinal Elzevir then opened the volume. The other Cardinals leaned over while Cardinal Elzevir read the ornate title page dedicated to Popes Damasus, Paul III, Sixtus V, Clement VIII and Paul V. He turned the folios one by one. Following the title page was a list of the same directions which Cardinal Fidèle had just asked Monsignor Sens to burn. The following pages listed the Greek and Latin manuscripts used for his new redaction, only some of which had been consulted through the Vatican’s Apostolic Library. The rest of the volume contained Bellarmine’s own pseudo-revised version of the Latin Vulgate along with the pseudo-revised Greek text on facing pages. Each chapter concluded with textual critical notes as damage control appeasing those worried about the Latin text.
“It could have been the jewel of the Counter-Reformation,” said don Hash.
“Now, Hash,” said Cardinal Fidèle, “turn to John, chapter eight. What do you find there?”
Don Hash had been on the edge of his chair, straining to see the volume on the low table. He immediately traversed the few paces and went down on his knees. He turned the volume around. It was almost three quarters of a metre wide when opened. He turned to the first pages, and then to the Gospel of John. “It’s what I don’t find there,” replied don Hash. “There’s no mulier adultera. Even Bellarmine had the adulterous woman stoned to death, right out of the text, completely against everything Trent dogmatically indicated. Bellamine should have burned at the stake…”
“My, my… aren’t you easy to agitate?” taunted Cardinal Fidèle. “Would you burn a canonized saint just so easily? I wonder what you would do with someone who wasn’t canonized, at least because he wasn’t dead… yet. Now, Hash, Continue reading