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Catholic Faith
Vol. 2 - #6, Nov / Dec 1996

by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.

Q.  How are we to understand St. Paul’s teaching that wives are to be submissive to their husbands (Eph. 5:22-24) and women are to keep silent in the church (I Cor 14:34)? Is it true that some of the writings attributed to St. Paul were actually not written by him? —S.K.M., Oregon

A.  First of all, what we have in the New Testament today are the writings of St. Paul. They were either written or dictated by him. So-called scholars who question St. Paul’s authorship of the writings attributed to him in the New Testament are simply mistaken.

When St. Paul says that wives are to be submissive to their husbands, he means it. Someone in the family must have the final authority. The problem is not whether wives should obey their husbands. The problem is that modern feminism claims, with Karl Marx, that the family with the husband as head of the family is a slavery which men had invented in order to dominate women. St. Paul makes it clear that husbands are to love their wives. St. Ignatius Loyola wrote that it is not hard to obey when we love the one whom we obey. The word “submissive” does not mean what feminists claim it means. It is rather the loving acceptance of someone in authority for the good of the family.

You also ask how we should understand St. Paul’s statement that women are to keep silent in church. The primary meaning of these words is St. Paul’s intention to highlight Christ’s teaching about Church authority being conferred on men. It is basically the same issue that feminism raises about women not being ordained to the priesthood. Not so well known is the rise of feminism in the Roman Empire. At root is the natural competitiveness between the two genders which modern paganism has exploited, but which Christianity has replaced with mutual selfless charity, as taught by Christ and here applied by St. Paul.

Q.  What are the rights and responsibilities of a godparent?  —T.H., Nebraska

A.  According to the Code of Canon Law the godparent is to be an adult who, “together with the parents will help the baptized to lead a Christian life in harmony with baptism, and to fulfill faithfully the obligations connected with it” (Canon 872).

The Church’s tradition teaches that the obligation of a godparent is serious. He or she is gravely bound to cooperate with the parents to insure that the godchild is raised in the Catholic faith and fulfills the obligations expected of a believing Catholic. When the parents neglect their duty in this regard, the godparents must do everything possible to provide their godchild with the necessary Catholic training needed to live a life consistent with the Church’s teachings. In our day, many godparents do not recognize the gravity of this obligation. Their responsibility for the Catholic upbringing of their godchild continues through life. Of course the godparents are to exercise great charity and prudence and respect for the rights of the parents. Nevertheless the godparents’ responsibility remains.

Q.  I understand that a commission of the Church revised St. Jerome’s Vulgate (translation of the Bible). What is the difference between the old Vulgate of St. Jerome and the new Vulgate? —F.X., Washington D.C.

A.  In 1984 Pope John Paul II established the Pontifical Commission for the Revision and Emendation of the Vulgate. The purpose of this commission is to trace the manuscript history of the Vulgate back to St. Jerome. The original Vulgate was issued in 410 A.D. under the authority of Pope St. Damasus I. Since the original Vulgate was finished, manuscript copyists and publishers have made their share of mistakes. The purpose of the Vulgate Commission is to correct these mistakes through the use of manuscript editions to insure as perfect a text of the Vulgate as possible.

Your question is, “What is the difference between the old Vulgate of St. Jerome and the new Vulgate?” There is no significant difference. There are only typographical and copyists’ errors which are corrected from a previously published edition of the Vulgate. The number of these corrections is small and they do not affect the substance of the old Vulgate. In fact, the whole purpose of the commission is to get back to the original Vulgate of St. Jerome.

Catholic Faith
Vol. 2 - #6, Nov / Dec 1996, pp. 37-38

Copyright © 1996 by Inter Mirifica
No reproductions shall be made without prior written permission

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