How the Dominicans deal with alternate views
The July-August issue of the Dominican monthly ‘Doctrine and Life‘ is dominated by an editorial and four articles devoted to the sensational publication of another Dominican, Thomas Brodie. This work, “Beyond the quest for the Historical Jesus: Memoir of a Discovery”, recounts the author’s journey to the conviction that Jesus did not exist as a historical character, and that both the Jesus story and the story of St Paul are entirely literary creations.
I found all five pieces in Doctrine and Life entirely fascinating, and an object lesson in how to deal with potentially incendiary ideas in the church. The editorial, by Bernard Treacy O.P., tells us that his order is currently examining Brodie’s book, with a view to issuing a report in due time.
What will happen if, as seems highly likely, the Dominicans judge Brodie’s book to be entirely outside the boundaries of acceptable speculation? Will it require Brodie to recall all copies of the work and to burn them, as has happened on the orders of the CDF to some far less seismic publications? And could it be on the other hand far more sensible to let the publication be, on the grounds that to do otherwise would be to invite headlines about Catholic suppression of sensational truth, and that the eloquence and scholarship of Brodie’s Catholic critics can be depended upon to heal the upset that some Catholics might experience from the book itself, or from reports of it?
As I have so much else to read at present, I don’t intend to buy Brodie’s book. I have considered this issue for many years and am entirely settled to the view that Jesus was both historical and divine. It seems to me that the Dominicans can be left alone to deal with the issue. So should the Redemptorists be left to deal kindly with the comparatively benign cogitations of Tony Flannery. The application of a coercive pressure by a Vatican body indifferent to contemporary standards of elementary justice does far more harm to Catholic truth than those who stray outside its boundaries. The truth itself can be trusted to prevail entirely by virtue of its own truth.