Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302
The Best of The Question Box
by Father I.J. Mikulski
(From the January 16, 2014 edition of the Inland Register)
Q. In a discussion about relying on the Bible we came up with questions about who wrote all the books. Itís news to me that the church that uses the Bible most is not always sure about certain writers. Is it so difficult to prove what writers are named?
A. Authorship can be a touchy issue. Over the centuries the church has been aware that not every book attributed to a certain writer was written by that person. In many cases thereís a little wiggle room for discussion.
King David did not write all 150 psalms attributed to him. Moses did not write the entire Pentateuch, since the final section did not appear until 800 years after his death. Were the letters of James, written in perfect Greek, the work of that Galilean peasant whose native tongue was Aramaic? Did Paul write Hebrews, or did he have a ghost writer? It surely doesnít read like Paulís work.
Scripture scholars go about their work like detectives, taking a clue here, a bit of evidence there, matching pieces where they fit, being careful not to jump at conclusions.
First, a man is considered the author if he wrote a book in his own hand. Luke, most likely. Secondly, a man is the author if he dictated his words directly to a stenographer. Third, a man is still the author if he knowingly and thoroughly supplied his ideas to a ghost writer.
Some writings, like the wondrous Book of Wisdom, are anonymous. For a soaring tribute to a soulís immortality, read Wisdom 3 on a quiet evening with your night prayers.
Those are the possibilities. Itís the best we can do. We can debate who wrote what, but in the end we agree all writers were divinely inspired to compose the Word of God among us.
Q. A while back you wrote what you called Expediency Ethics. I lost that someplace. Would or can you please repeat?
A. Of course. Itís Everyoneís Expediency Ethics. It works like this:
ē If itís for your own good, do it but donít get caught.
The beauty of this system of non-morality is that it can be applied to unlimited situations. It works equally well with a little shoplifting, a little income tax evasion, a little infidelity, a little double-dipping, a little stealing because youíre under-paid, or just general hanky-panky. Itís a proven indicator of moral bankruptcy.
Q. I believe most people are good. Most people do good to others too and they help others every chance they get. I donít know about what percentages are always good but that doesnít matter. Do you agree with this from your experience dealing one-on-one?
A. Yes, absolutely. Weíre often lamenting this permissive society, but most people are good people, inclined to spread goodness around. Virtue is a personal habit that leans toward doing good rather than evil, an acquired skill to behave according to established moral principles especially in times of moral challenge.
St. Paul defined three great virtues Ė faith, hope and love Ė and love is the noblest motivation we have. Sooner or later sin brings trouble, but no one has ever regretted being virtuous.
Q. Please explain venial sin. We donít hear much about that because we seem to be losing all sense of sin. What makes a venial sin?
A. Itís a fine word, perfect to define a lesser wrong. Mortal sin and venial sin are simply major and minor sin. Venial is pardonable, allowable, minor indiscretions of youth. Venial sin will not blossom into mortal sin by itself.
From Boswell: ďsuch a venial trifle as pouring milk into his tea on Good Friday.Ē
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