Boy Bishops and Dei Verbum at 50


I have two new pieces at the National Catholic Register:

Last week’s history column was about The Peculiar Christmas Custom of the Boy Bishops:

One of the stranger corners of medieval celebration was the installation of the Boy Bishop. The practice is often blended with the much-condemned Feast of Fools, and indeed there was overlap between the two. The Feast of Fools had different start days in different places, but traditionally began on the Feast of the Circumcision (January 1st). It was a time of disorder. Some historians attempt to trace it back to the upending of social conventions and role-switching during the Roman festival of Saturnalia. It’s possible we see in the Feast of Fools a dimly recalled folk memory of such a practice, and just as possible that it merely speaks to a natural human need for role reversal that echoes down to the 20th century in traditions like Sadie Hawkins Day. It may have functioned as a pressure valve for a hierarchical social order in which everyone had a role to play among the estates of man. It also had solid scriptural grounding in Matthew 20:26: “the first shall be last and the last shall be first.”

Read more.

And today, my retrospective on Dei Verbum, considered the finest document produced at Vatican II, went up:

Of all the documents to come out of the Second Vatican Council, Dei Verbum (The Word of God) is one of the most respected. Philosopher Germain Grisez called it the highlight of the Council. Cardinal Avery Dulles said it “stands among the principal accomplishments of the Council.” Scott Hahn calls it “a remarkable development — a positive, constructive, integral, holistic approach to the ways that God reveals himself.” The future Pope Benedict XVI had a hand in its creation and deepened and developed its major points over decades of analysis and official documents.

Officially called the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, it emerged from a difficult period in Catholic theology and Scripture scholarship and addressed the problem of the anti-Modernism debates by reaching beyond Modernism, past the First Vatican Council and back to the Council of Trent and the early Church Fathers to recover an understanding of revelation that had become encrusted over the years. It reoriented the Church’s understanding of Scripture and Tradition and inaugurated a new period of Bible study and a return to the original sources.

Read more.