March 18, 1994
VATICAN CITY (AP) -- A new Vatican document on how to interpret the Bible condemns the fundamentalist approach as distorting, dangerous and possibly leading to racism.
The 130-page document, presented Friday, is the Roman Catholic Church's latest commentary on trends in Biblical study. Some of its language is unusually harsh, reflecting the challenge that fundamentalism poses to the church.
"Without saying as much in so many words, fundamentalism actually invites people to a kind of intellectual suicide," said the document, written by the Pontifical Biblical Commission.
"The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church" also takes a dim view of the feminist and liberation theology approaches to studying scripture, although it says those methods -- along with semiotic and psychoanalytical approaches -- can contribute some understanding of the Bible.
The publication affirms the validity of studying biblical texts from historical and literary points of view, as long as scholars do not lose sight of the Bible as a document of faith and God's word.
The commission authors saved their harshest language for Christian fundamentalist denominations, which have been posing a growing challenge to the church, particularly in Latin America. The document grants that fundamentalists, who take the words of the Bible as literal truths, are right to "insist on the divine inspiration of the Bible" and certain "biblical truths."
But that's about all it gives the fundamentalist approach.
"Its relying upon a non-critical reading of certain texts of the Bible serves to reinforce political ideas and social attitudes that are marked by prejudices -- racism, for example -- quite contrary to the Christian gospel," the pamphlet says.
"The fundamentalist approach is dangerous, for it is attractive to people who look to the Bible for ready answers to the problems of life."
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