A Guide for the Perplexed

The Bible As Moral Teacher

The acrimonious debate that churned through the Catholic community this past spring over Notre Dame’s invitation to President Barack Obama has quieted down—note the warm reception Pope Benedict offered the president and his family in July, and the Vatican’s words of praise for Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize. Still, the roots of the debate remain deep. Should the Catholic Church in this country maintain a staunch prophetic stance on fundamental moral issues, without compromise or even dialogue with those who hold different views? Or does our Catholic heritage invite us to engage people of goodwill who may have significantly different moral perspectives?

In 2008, the Pontifical Biblical Commission published a major statement, The Bible and Morality: Biblical Roots of Christian Conduct, that addresses this debate. The 235-page text, six years in the making, has received little notice, mainly because the Vatican press, for financial reasons, has so far published few copies of the English version and provided scant publicity. That is really too bad, because it is an excellent statement on a complex topic timely both for biblical scholarship and for today’s Catholic community. (Full disclosure: I am a member of the commission, one of nineteen international colleagues who worked on the project.) Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger served as president of the commission through most of the text’s formulation, presiding over virtually all its working sessions with a light and...

To read the rest of this article please login or become a subscriber.

About the Author

Donald Senior, CP, is president of the Catholic Theological Union at Chicago. He was appointed by Pope John Paul II to the Pontifical Biblical Commission.