Friday, July 18, 2014


My comments first: Is there more to this and what about Catholics locally who have used her for the basis of their Scripture Study? I have never used her materials, but I do know of some Macon Catholics who have. I wonder if they then joined "Called to Action?" Just wondering!

A religious educator with decades of experience, hired to write Scripture commentaries for a liturgy training sourcebook, had her writing pulled from the book after the publisher learned that she had presented a workshop at a Call To Action conference.
Liturgy Training Publications, owned by the Chicago archdiocese, had hired Margaret Nutting Ralph to write short daily Scripture commentaries for its Sourcebook for Sundays, Seasons, and Weekdays 2015, a resource for lectors.
Ralph had previously written marginal notes and commentaries on Sunday Lectionary readings for the Advent, Lent and Easter seasons for Liturgy Training Publications' 2011 and 2013 Workbook for Lectors, Gospel Readers, and Proclaimers of the Word.
But in January, Ralph was informed in a letter from the publishing house's director, John Thomas, that her work would not be used.
"Our archdiocesan censor has requested that we withhold the Scripture Commentaries that you wrote," the letter stated. "The request was made because of your recent presentation at Call to Action."
07-04-2014_women-today.jpgThere's more to NCR than what you read online. Subscribe today!
Call To Action is a Chicago-based lay organization that works for progressive reform of the Catholic church.
Thomas' Jan. 30 letter to Ralph pointed out that Liturgy Training Publications "retains copyright and ownership of the commentaries per the work for hire contract," and that the publisher "will keep them on file in the event that we are able to publish them at some time in the future."
Ralph, author of Why the Catholic Church Must Change: A Necessary Conversation, presented a workshop at the November 2013 Call To Action conference on how to be a biblical contextualist as opposed to a biblical literalist.
Ralph told NCR in a telephone interview April 17 that the presentation aimed at answering two questions: "If we're faithful to the Catholic church, which teaches us to be nourished and ruled by Scripture, and to interpret Scripture as contextualists, can we continue to use Scripture in the way it has been used in regard to some contemporary issues?" and "How do we interpret Scripture as contextualists?"
Ralph gave the presentation twice. She told NCR that she and her audience discussed Dei Verbum (a Second Vatican Council document that focuses on Scripture and divine revelation), homosexuality and contraception. They also spent a very short time on women's ordination, she said.
After she received the letter, she emailed Thomas and asked to speak with the decision-makers. Thomas arranged for a conference call in February with Ralph, Thomas and Fr. Robert Tuzik, a Chicago priest.
Ralph said she wasn't told if Tuzik was the one who decided to censor her work. She said that Thomas told her he could not reveal a censor's identity to censored authors. According to Ralph, Thomas told her at the beginning of the call that the decision was not up for discussion.
"I would simply receive an explanation. The decision was firm," Ralph said in an email toNCR.
"The priest told me that refusing to publish my commentaries was called for because he wanted to avoid any public perception that the Archdiocese of Chicago is not firm on doctrine, especially the doctrine against women's ordination," she wrote. "He explained that by accepting an invitation to speak at Call To Action, even though my topic was on how to be a biblical contextualist, I had 'passively supported this unorthodox group's whole agenda.' "
In the phone interview with NCR, Ralph elaborated: "He kept bringing up women's ordination over and over and over. And I said my talk was about being a biblical contextualist -- it wasn't about challenging the church on women's ordination. ... He just felt that my name shouldn't be associated with any publication that was diocesan-sponsored because it would make the diocese appear weak on doctrine."
Ralph, who served as secretary of educational ministries for the diocese of Lexington, Ky., for 16 years, said she told Tuzik that she understood the importance of doctrine, and that she could not use her position within the church to say anything contrary to church teaching.
"So we're not having an argument here about whether or not a censor should protect the Catholic church from teachings that aren't faithful representations of what the church teaches," Ralph told NCR. "But the commentaries were [faithful to church teaching]. What [was] censored had nothing to do with the issue that he was so concerned about, had absolutely nothing to do with true doctrine and, particularly, the Catholic church's posture on the ordination of women."
NCR asked Tuzik and Thomas for comment. Each responded with similar, short email messages saying this was a personnel issue upon which they could not comment.
Ralph sent a letter in late March to Chicago Cardinal Francis George, summarizing the event and pleading her case. She received a typed card acknowledging that the office had received her correspondence and forwarded it to the cardinal. No name was included, just "Office of the Archbishop, Archdiocese of Chicago."
[Mick Forgey is an NCR Bertelsen editorial intern. His email address]


Gene said...

You do remember that I have warned about this woman on this blog a number of times. You do remember that she is the author that Ignotus chose for his Bible study groups and whom he has praised and defended. Just saying'...

Rood Screen said...

If she is being dismissed simply because she spoke to this heretical group, then I disagree with the decision. Dialogue is supposed to be the hallmark of our ecclesial era. However, if she publicly espoused heresy herself, then this is a very good decision that should be duplicated in other institutions of the Church.

Rood Screen said...

Gene, you're some kind of prophet!

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

There have been questions about her orthodoxy. Normally "Call to Action" does not seek speakers that support the Magisterium. In Nebraska "call to action" members are excommunicated as they have cut themselves off from the full communion of the Church more so than Protestants. And yes a certain Macon pastor used her for his summer bible study which was well attended. I don't know and did not hear of any actual heresy taught in that class.

Gene said...

The basic philosophy of Ralph, and progressives in general, and those who use her and support her is this: We have got to find a subtle way to get the people out of this "pie in the sky" mentality and their silly and primitive belief in Jesus as the Son off God and living forever in Heaven so they can be re-educated into creating a good society on earth, since that is the only real hope. So, the people need to get with promoting abortion, gay marriage, birth control, homosexual acts in the street at noon, forced sex with animals and children, hating the rich, promoting minorities and foreign invaders, and creating a global paradise where anyone can have sex with anyone or anything they like.

Rood Screen said...

If a group within the Communist Party USA began advocating free markets and an end to state control of the economy, would the group be allowed to remain in good standing with the party? Or, if a group of hunters and other avid meat-eaters joined PETA, promoting barbecue festivals, would that group be tolerated? I think it's time for the Church to learn some lessons from the Communist Party and PETA.

Pater Ignotus said...

Pin/Gene - You stated that you found nothing wrong with Ralph's book "A Walk Through the New Testament."

Good Father, no heresy, actual or otherwise, was taught in the Summer Scripture Series in which I used her book.

I've used her books in the past and will continue to do so.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Well, that's downright nutty, I mean, Nutting!

Gene said...

I certainly do not remember saying I found nothing wrong with her book, Ignotus. If I did, it was before I paid closer attention after reading some of her other stuff. BTW, as you well know through being so good at it, you do not have to outright teach heresy if it is everywhere between the lines of the materials you use and the approaches you take…as in what you say and do not say…what you are openly willing to proclaim and what you think it is a trap to proclaim.

Marc said...

Why not use a Catholic saint's writings for a Scripture study? There are plenty available so that there really is no need to use something like this.

Gene said...

"I've used her books in the past and will continue to do so." LOL! Just another Ignotus in your face, nanananabooboo. Vat II poster child.

Pater Ignotus said...

Marc - Dr. Ralph writes for a contemporary audience in a style that is more effective for adults today. I am not aware of any of the commentaries by the Saints that were written. As most Scripture commentators do, she approaches the Scriptures through the Historical/Critical lens. I don't know that any of the Saints used that methodology.

Wipo of Mainz said...

What does one understand by 'Lectors, Gospel Readers and Proclaimers of the Word'?

A Lector is an instituted minister, who must be male. A Deacon may proclaim the Gospel at Mass, and this may involve singing it, in Latin if necessary. If he is unable or unwilling to do so, he is not eligible for ordination, in my opinion, although some bishops think otherwise.

A 'Proclaimer of the Word' would appear to be someone who likes the sound of his or her voice and thinks he or she has the right to harangue the rest of us. Sorry, 'Proclaimer' you can go and do to yourself that which on a Catholic blog I cannot specify.

Marc said...

To me, the fact that no saint employed the historical-critical methodology, aspects of which have been expressly condemned by the popes, is indicative of its not being a very good methodology for use in this sort of class.

So, do you think that this method is of particular relevance for today's adults, as you imply? And, if so, why? How is it "more effective," as you say?

Pater Ignotus said...

Addendum - "...that were written in that format."

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Pope Benedict is more modern than Nutting and His Holiness clearly puts the Historical critical method on its place. Nutting is clearly stuck in the. 1970's hermeneutic and the manipulation of Scripture to promote the ideologies of that day. The HC method tends to year down personal faith rather than build it up which is its goal to make way for post Catholicism a la the Anglican Communion. Make no mistake about that!

Rood Screen said...


The term "lector" also refers to those males and females who function in this capacity.

Anonymous said...

First time posting here, Fr. McDonald. Thank you so much for bringing this information to the www.

Yes, MN-R is a proponent of the novel historical-critical method of biblical exegesis. (yes, BXVI *did* say it does have its uses)

She is also a disciple of Fr. Raymond Brown (+RIP) who also was very centered on the H-C method.

In the introduction to his first volume of "Jesus of Nazareth", Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI laments the *exclusive* or *over-use* of this method of exegesis.

In the excellent book titled "Covenant and Communion: The Biblical Theology of Pope Benedict XVI", Dr. Scott Hahn gives *copious* quotes from Cardinal Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI on the H-C method. This book is worth its weight in gold.

See it here:

For those who may want to know more about Fr. Brown's exegesis using the H-C method, the book "The New Biblical Theorists" by Msgr. George Kelly is worth the effort to read and keep for referencing.

See it here:

Sorry for the length, Fr. McDonald. I thought some of your "regulars" could use some of the information. :^)

Catechist Kevin Lents

Православный физик said...

Both reader and lector seem to be used interchangeably in the English speaking world. (Even if there's a technical definition of the latter).

As far as the HC has its uses, but we shouldn't over rely on it.

Personally, I much prefer reading St John Chrysostom's sermons and commentaries versus anything modern :)

Pater Ignotus said...

Marc - Can you cite where, aspects of the historical-critical method "have been expressly condemned by the popes"?

Good Father - Any methodology employed in understanding/interpreting Sacred Scripture can be misused. Pope Benedict has given ample praise for the value of the H/C methodology, while warning of its misuse.

Marc said...

Off the top of my head, I can think of:

Syllabus of Errors of Pius IX

Pope Pius X, Motu Proprio Praestantia Scripturae

I could probably come up with more upon further research, but I am not inclined to do so right now because I am busy working on social justice.

Rood Screen said...

Joe Potillor,

You're right, but I would like ot add that "lector" is really no more technical that "reader". The official English translation for the rite of installation into the ministry of reader refers to the ministry as "reader", not lector. Similarly, the distinctions between "Holy Ghost/Holy Spirit", "Unction of the Sick/Anointing of the Sick", "Holy Bible/Sacred Scriptures", etc. have no canonical significance. They are merely legacies of the forced marriage between the Norman Romance and the Anglo-Saxon Germanic languages.

John Nolan said...


Whatever the English translation may be, to confuse lay readers with instituted lectors is akin to calling extraordinary monsters Eucharistic Ministers. The fact that it is a deliberate obfuscation in both instances does not justify it - quite the opposite in fact.

George said...


Commentaries on the Bible

The top part of the web page lists Jewish Commentaries

the Saints such as St. Ambrose St. John Chrysostom, St Augustine, St Aquinas etc

Alexandrian school,Antiochene school etc.
If you click on the saints name you get more detailed information.

II. Patristic
III. Medieval

Marc said...

George, did you mean to direct your comment to me? I think I missed something. Sorry.

George said...


You mentioned earlier about using a Catholic saint's writings for a Scripture study.

Thought I would include a link which names the most prominent ones who have written commentaries.

Marc said...

George, sorry. It's been a long week!

Those are good ones! I'm sure there are even more too. Heck I have several on my phone here with my iPieta App!

George said...

IPieta app? I'll have to get that one if there is an Android version.

Marc said...

There is an Android version, which is what I have. I also has the iPad version. I like this app because it has the Traditional calendar and all the commentaries, bibles, writings of saints, prayers, etc. that you could ever need.

Anonymous said...

I am always suspicious of someone who goes to the press to bring attention to themselves when they feel wronged by the Church or a Church organization. It seems to fly in the face of humility. Taking an issue public often brings scorn upon the Church, because the story is often portrayed as the oppressive unyielding Church against the solitary innocent worker who is being victimized. But by complaining to NCR, I think Ms. Ralph shows herself to be the exact kind of "progressive" Fr. Tuzik suspects she is, one he wisely wants to head off at the pass, so to speak, before she can bring more damage to the Church. I bet this ain't his first rodeo. :-)

Pater Ignotus said...

Marc - The Syllabus of Errors does not condemn the Historical-Critical Method of interpreting/understanding Scripture.

The Syllabus condemns certain errors that may have been reached by Scripture scholars using the H/C method, but the method is not condemned.

An analogy: An legal authority may sanction (condemn) a person for being in a place that is off limits. That does not equate to a sanction (condemnation) of the route that person took to get to that place.

Were it true that the Historical-Critical Method was "condemned," then you are asking us to believe that your judgment is superior to that of the popes and bishops, not to mention the Scripture scholars and the Pontifical Biblical Commission, who have used and praised the Historical-Critical Method.

I haven't looked at Praestantia Scripturae, but I suspect you make the same error regarding that document.

Marc said...

Pater, let me point out very clearly for everyone your dishonesty in this conversation:

I said, "the historical-critical methodology, aspects of which have been expressly condemned by the popes. . ."

You said, "Can you cite where, aspects of the historical-critical method 'have been expressly condemned by the popes'?"

I provided two sources off the top of my head.

You said, "The Syllabus of Errors does not condemn the Historical-Critical Method of interpreting/understanding Scripture. The Syllabus condemns certain errors that may have been reached by Scripture scholars using the H/C method, but the method is not condemned."

Then, you went on arguing as if you'd shown I was in "error" about my claim (without even so much as "looking at" one of my two cited sources). Of course, I am completely correct in my assertion. And anyone reading what you wrote can even see that conceded that I was correct before you tried to, once again, attempting to belittle me by arguing against a straw man.

So, here we are. You are wrong, again. You have been condescending about it, again. I'm guessing that, as usual, instead of admitting it and apologizing you'll have something patronizing to say, again. So go ahead and parse through what I wrote and bring all your linguistic tricks to bear to show how you're right and I'm wrong, again.

Pater Ignotus said...

Marc - So what "aspects" of the HC method have been condemned?

Marc said...

I note further, Pater, that you have failed to answer the simple questions asked yesterday at 12:11. I assume you chose to dodge those questions because you are afraid of answering publicly. And that's the real reason we find ourselves in this side conversation.

Marc said...

The ones discussed in those documents I cited.

Pater Ignotus said...

Marc - Are these the parts of the Syllabus of Errors that you maintain are condemnations of certain aspects of the HC Method?

5. Divine revelation is imperfect, and therefore subject to a continual and indefinite progress, corresponding with the advancement of human reason.


7. prophecies and miracles set forth and recorded in the Sacred Scriptures are the fiction of poets, and the mysteries of the Christian faith the result of philosophical investigations. In the books of the Old and the New Testament there are contained mythical inventions, and Jesus Christ is Himself a myth.

If they are, please say so. If here are others, please indicate them by number.

Pater Ignotus said...

Marc - There are a variety of reasons why a Scripture commentary written for the contemporary adult is more effective than that written for another purpose in a much earlier time.

◦Adults are self-directed learners.

◦Adults challenge new information.
For adult students skepticism is part of the path to learning. It’s not just expected; it’s encouraged. The way that adults learn best is by challenging new ideas, comparing them to preconceived notions, life lessons, and other information, thereby cementing the new information into their minds.

◦Adults pursue education with immediate application and relevance.

◦Adults accept responsibility for their own learning. How adults learn is how adults live—according to their responsibility.

There are numerous other reasons why a study guide for the Scriptures, written with these facts in mind, is preferable to using a commentary that was not intended for adult education in the 21st century.

While those commentaries are useful, their purpose is not that of authors who write for today's adult audiences.

George said...

Pater Ignotus:

"7. prophecies and miracles set forth and recorded in the Sacred Scriptures are the fiction of poets...and Jesus Christ is Himself a myth"

These are the conclusions reached by those who have taken the Historical-Critical method to the extreme. Is is a tool and like any tool it can be dangerous in the wrong hands. From the Historical Critical method you can end up with the HYSTERICAL-Critical method!

Pater Ignotus said...

George - Any method of interpretation can be taken to the extreme. This danger is not unique to the HC method.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Apart from academic counting of angels on a pen's head, what purpose does the H/C serve in bringing people closer to the Risen Lord or does it deconstruct the Jesus of Faith reigning now and tern Him into a historical figure to be dissected like a Frog?

Gene said...

The fundamental problem with most of the HC weasels is that they begin with a premise of unbelief. It is that simple.Gene

Anonymous said...

Beware the man with the simple answer.

Gene said...

Anonymous, I can provide you with a much more complex history and explanation of the issue, but it should not be necessary. Unbelief is unbelief...doesn't much matter which philosophy or methodology it is based upon. What are the premises of your own unbelief?

Pater Ignotus said...

Good Father - HC does what all other methodologies of interpreting/understanding Scripture do - it helps us understand more clearly the Divine Revelation contained in the words of Holy Writ. Better understanding of Jesus can result in deeper love and appreciation for Him.

As to your futile attempt to make HC look bad by comparing it to dissecting a frog, here's what dissection does:

1. It teaches respect for the organism being dissected.

2. It teaches respect for the marvelous complexity of living organisms, giving one a deeper respect for life in general.

3. It develops skills of observation and comparison.

4. It reveals the shared structures and processes of different organisms.

5. It demystifies the organism being studies.

As to your reference to counting the number of angels on the head of a pin, everyone knows that it's not the number of angels that matter, but the style of dance they are engaged in.

And remembernthat the question "How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?" originated as a way of mocking the scholasticism of Duns Scotus and St. Thomas Aquinas.

Gene said...

"We murder to dissect. " Wordsworth

Gene said...

Ignotus, Unfortunately, one cannot dissect a frog in his context and milieu...a pond. Neither can one understand "frogness" through dissection. There is a mystery to frogness, just as their is a spirit or atmosphere around a pond. These are intangibles not subject to dissection or analysis.

To those of you who are not Ignotus, I strongly recommend Martin Kahler's book, written early in the last century, "The So-Called Historical Jesus and the Biblical Christ." I'm betting Pope Benedict had a heavily underlined copy. The short message is this: any "historical Jesus" we might find through our dissection and analysis is nothing more than a Christ of the flesh...just like Ignotus' frog.

Pater Ignotus said...

Pin/Gene - No one suggested that a frog could be dissected in its context and milieu. So what?

We read and interpret Scripture out of its milieu. We are not first century Christians living on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, nor are we Jews living in 1300-1200 BC, the time of Moses.

While I cannot discover "frogness" through dissecting one example of the species, I can learn a great deal about the physiology of frogs, their environment, their eating habits, their reproductive systems, etc.

Pater Ignotus said...

I would recommend "The Interpretation of Scripture: In Defense of the Historical-Critical Method" by Fr. Joseph Fitzmyer, SJ

"The book seeks to establish the properly oriented use of the historical-critical method as the mode of ascertaining the sense of the written Word of God.
Pastors, preachers, students in biblical disciplines, and scholars will appreciate the discussion of the role of the Bible in Catholic life since Vatican Council II, the discussion that the Biblical Commission devoted to the historical truth of the Gospels, the relation of the historical-critical method of interpreting Scripture to the life of the Church, and a serious discussion of the "senses" of Scripture. The book ends with a tribute to Raymond E. Brown, SS, as a renowned representative of biblical interpretation.

Unique aspects of this collection of essays:
- Emphasis on the historical-critical method that is often impugned today
- Recalling of a Scripture controversy in Rome because of this methodology
- Importance of proper biblical interpretation in life of the Church.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Fitzmeyer and Brown were a part of their age and are dead, gone and passé. A new post H/C era is under way and thanks be to Pope Benedict. He rocks !

Gene said...

Ignotus, Every time you open your mouth or give a reference your true colors shine through. You are nothing but an artful dodger, playing a game and having fun thinking you are so slick. What a pitiful man you must be.

Pater Ignotus said...

Pin/Gene - Yes, you have found me out. I read world-renowned Scripture scholars who have served the Church on the Pontifical Biblical Commission, who have taught for decades in Catholic colleges and universities, who have helped millions of people understand more clearly the Revelation contained in Holy Writ!

Guilty as charged!

Shall we review YOUR "true colors"?

Gene said...

Ignotus, LOL! You want to measure Biblical theology appendages? I bet I can p*ss farther than you can! You READ renowned scholars, I sat in the classroom and lecture room with them and took notes. Leander Keck, James Crenshaw, Walter Harrelson, Oscar Cullman, and a few others. My true colors have long been on display on this blog. You are a chameleon.

Gene said...

One of those renowned Biblical scholars under whom I studied had this to say regarding the difference of approach between the so-called "Historical/Critical" crowd and the Biblical Theology scholars/believers:

"Those of us who believe and seek understanding, when confronted with the Biblical accounts and miracles, begin with the question, 'how can this be?' The historical/critical school begins with the statement, "This cannot be." Therein lies the difference.