Every Catholic has been aware of the fact that Marian devotion and piety have declined drastically in some of the Western nations since the close of the 2nd Vatican Council - contrary to the intentions of the Conciliar Fathers who gave the faithful the most magnificent exposition of Marian doctrine in the history of the Church. Much of the blame for this sorry state of affairs is due to the false teachings and attitudes of faithless theologians. Take, for example, the recent book "What Are They Saying About Mary?" (Paulist Press, 1984) by a certain Anthony J. Tambasco, an assistant professor of theology at Georgetown University . Therein we are treated to his "new insights" within a "renewed and renewing Church" which is said to give us a Christology and Mariology "from below." One is tempted to agree "Yes, indeed, from below," that is, from the very pit of hell.
Let us see what Mr. Tambasco teaches us as the verdict of "contemporary theology" in his obvious bias against "new titles and privileges that would tend to further distinguish Mary from the rest of creation." The framework of his presentation is clearly a rehash of the older Modernism which posed a radical distinction between the "Jesus of history" and the "Christ of Faith". Like older Modernists, Tambasco believes that the Gospels are not historically accurate. He writes:
- "Many of the definite claims of Jesus, e.g., to divinity, are not so much biographical reports from the earthly Jesus as theological statements of the risen Jesus retrojected into the public life." (page 14)
- "it seems likely that He (Jesus) did not consciously know of His divinity until death and resurrection." (page 14)
According to Tambasco, if we can not be sure of the historical details of Our Lord's life, we are even less sure of the historical facts concerning Our Blessed Mother. Following in the wake of unbelieving or skeptical scholars (of the Raymond Brown vintage) utilizing an Historical-Critical Method (taken to excess), Tambasco affirms: "We have in the quest for the historical Mary a parallel but exacerbated version of the problem of searching for the historical Jesus." (page 15)
Our author's "Christology from below" concludes to the following heresies:
- "If it makes sense to develop a Christology 'from below' and to conclude that even Jesus did not have full insight into His divinity until His Resurrection, then it makes sense to develop a Mariology 'from below' which would have to assume that Mary could not know more than Jesus during the public life... Mary did not learn of the divinity of her Son until after His resurrection." (page 18)
- As to the virginal conception of Our Divine Lord, our author follows Raymond Brown in alleging that Scripture leaves its "historicity an open question". (page 20)
- Similarly, the perpetual Virginity of Our Lady may only be a "theological symbol." (page 22-23)
- Tambasco repeatedly affirms his conviction that the texts of Holy Scripture "convey her (Mary's) attitudes, but not necessarily the actual events." (page 27)
- "We recognize that the Annunciation and Visitation scenes may be symbolic stories, as may be Cana and the description of Mary at Calvary." (page 30)
- The height of Tambasco's blasphemy and insolence directed against the traditional Catholic understanding of the written Word of God is reached when he gives credence to the suggestion that the Evangelist Mark tells the story (3:20-21) "in which Jesus' family (including Mary?) thought He was crazy." (page 27)
Tambasco repeatedly expresses his own disbelief in the historicity and inerrancy of Holy Scripture. He attributes the Church's "high estimate of Mary" to later theological interpretations and dogmatic definitions which would constitute a falsification of the real meaning of the Scriptural texts. Thus, there results an unbridgeable gap between biblical exegesis and the Church's dogmatic theology.
- There is much that deserves refutation in this bizarre book - including his comments on Original Sin (pages 49-51)
- and his sympathy for the "many theologians and exegetes (who) wonder if it is legitimate to divide a person into body and soul". (page. 52)
- But perhaps enough has been shown to indicate the faulty premises for the author's view that Marian devotion and piety in the post-conciliar Church have been "rightly reduced to a minor role' " (page 71)
- Not for him is "Marian triumphalism"; he rather rejoices in the feminist aberrations of such dissenters as Rosemary Reuther, Elizabeth Schussler-Fiorenza, Mary Daly, and Andrew Greeley (see page 78).
This is a wicked book. Fortunately, it lacks an Imprimatur. Nevertheless, it is calculated to do harm to those unacquainted with the inroads a virulent neo-Modemism continues to make in our day. As an example of "current theology", it constitutes a menace to the faith of the Catholic People of God.