In our May 1988 issue we reviewed Anthony J. Tambasco's "WHAT ARE THEY SAYING ABOUT MARY?" (Paulist Press, 1984) which was noted to be permeated by a "Christology from below" and a "New Hermeneutic" reviving the Scriptural aberrations of 19th c. liberal Protestants and early 20th c. Modernists. According to Tambasco, an assistant professor of theology at Jesuit Georgetown University, Christ did not know of His divinity until His death and Resurrection, and the Blessed Virgin's own unique privileges and prerogatives as traditionally held and dogmatically defined by the Catholic Church find, in fact, little Scriptural support. All this is because the gospel accounts concerning Our Lord and Our Blessed Mother are later theological constructs whose historical elements are often quite doubtful or even the result of a deliberate re-writing of history with theological glosses. Incidentally, the rehash of Modernist errors found in Tambasco's book are thoroughly ignored in a favorable review carried in the May 1985 issue of the Buffalo diocesan paper, the Western New York Catholic.
Tambasco's views denying the historical truth of accounts related in the Gospels are again set forth in the six tapes of his Video course entitled "In the Time of Jesus" (available with a book of the same name from the Georgetown Institute of Theology). The Video-course is designed for parish adult education classes to show "what modern biblical scholarship has to say concerning, the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith by highlighting the responses of New Testament authors to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus."
And what does "modern biblical scholarship" have to say to post-Vatican II Catholics?
- Namely, that the gospels are not to be considered historically factual but rather "faith proclamations";
- that Christ's recorded miracles were fabricated by the Evangelists;
- that the prophecies attributed to Christ were later inventions of the "Church community";
- that Our Blessed Lord went to the Cross not knowing why, or who He was;
- that the Crucifixion was, in fact, unnecessary;
- that the "old" view of sin and Redemption is too "negative" and needs to be revamped;
- that the Jesus of history did not found a Church,
- that Peter never said to the historical Jesus during His public life, "Thou art the Son of the Living God";
- that it was not possible for the historical Jesus to know that He was God, and
- that any recognition of His own divinity was possible only after the Resurrection and not before;
- that the Resurrection was probably not a physical one;
- that Thomas never really put his hand into the real wound of the Risen Lord; and
- that with regard to the Resurrection, - to quote Tambasco himself - "It wouldn't destroy my faith, if a theologian proved that His body rotted in the grave."
Clearly, Tambasco's "Mariology from below" is grounded in a "Christology from below" that is unabashedly Modernist. As Dr. Fritz Wenisch, a professor of philosophy at the University of Rhode Island, took occasion to observe:
"With many of his statements, Tambasco places himself squarely within the camp of the Modernists who were condemned by St. Pius X in 1907. Since Tambasco writes after Vatican II, he is more properly classified as a 'neo-Modernist'. His methodology reveals not only a very high degree of sloppiness but also a lack of real erudition. His initial principal argument in support of his key thesis that the Gospels could not possibly be meant as historical accounts consists in the observation that the various Gospels differ in how they tell the same event. Thus, he sees contradictions in the Holy Scriptures. He seems ignorant of a whole body of literature which, starting with St. Augustine's "Harmony of the Gospels", tries to show how Gospel passages which are seemingly irreconcilable with one another, can successfully be harmonized."
In conclusion, if someone would dare to deny the inroads that an unbelieving neo- Modernism has made in Catholic University and College circles as well as in parish adult catechesis, he could not do better than to be directed to Anthony J. Tambasco's "What Are they Saying About Mary?" as well as to his Video-course "In the Time of Jesus."
If Tambasco's work represents biblical scholarship "rich with deep thought" (as the reviewer in the 'Western New York Catholic' put it), then the Church is in a worse crisis than previously believed.