Thursday, April 22, 2010

Romans and Roman Catholicism

I was at Fatima Shrine with a friend who is the RC chaplain at our school, and we were browsing the bookstore. I picked up a commentary on St. Paul's epistle to the Romans. It was the typical mix of Federal Vision & New Pauline Perspective / N.T. Wright stuff, which is fine - I don't have any knowledge of Greek so I can't argue on exegesis really. I just think its annoying because at key points in the text they just throw things in like "but Trent declared the verse can't mean that". I laughed and asked my friend if Scott Hahn (a co-author of the book) knew the difference between a commentary and a catechism.

I feel very confused when I read Romans now, its almost funny if it wasn't so tragic. I can't even see the text. I can't say "oh so that's what St. Paul meant", I just see polemical impositions from the 16th or 20th centuries. I see Luther, Calvin, Trent/Augustine, Wright, and Hahn/Shepherd.

When I observe newcomers to the scriptures reading Romans I am amazed at how confused they are, and how little they get out of it. Coming from a Protestant background, this book is sort of seen as encompassing all of Christianity. When I was 16 I asked my mom if our church believed in Jesus or Paul because I had been taught - in quasi-Reformed style - that Jesus taught moral obligations to show people the impossibility of keeping the law, and Paul revealed the true nature of salvation, by faith alone.

As a Catholic, the situation is much more nuanced. It's like: faith alone IF it's with love... BUT also the sacraments should come in there somewhere... BUT if they don't then they can be received by desire... UNLESS you have imperfect contrition... BUT even perfect contrition is not incompatible with imperfect contrition, etc, etc.

In the end, I hope the Lord opens my eyes and helps me to read Romans, as well as the whole of the scriptures, but then again perhaps such a thing is impossible, and we Roman Catholics are right after all in saying that scripture can only be read in a Tradition.


  1. what really helped me appreciate Paul was reading Adrienne von Speyr's commentary on Ephesians. I'm thinking of re-reading her little book, The Victory of Love, which is a commentary on Romans 8.

  2. I remember reading a post of yours from her commentary and quite liking it.