Appeared in Spring 1997, Vol. XXIII, No. 1

September 1995 marked the seventy-fifth anniversary of a highly significant document of the Catholic Church’s Magisterium: the encyclical letter Spiritus Paraclitus, issued by Pope Benedict XV on September 15, 1920, to mark the 1500th anniversary of the death of the greatest Scripture scholar of the ancient Church, St. Jerome.1 The Pontiff took advantage of that landmark centenary for laying down in this encyclical further norms and guidelines for exegetes, a quarter-century after the promulgation of the great magna carta of modern Catholic biblical studies, Leo XIII’s encyclical Providentissimus Deus (November 18, 1893).1

The Catholic press made little if any mention of the anniversary of Spiritus Paraclitus, which in truth is now an almost forgotten encyclical. Indeed, on the rare occasions when it is remembered at all by today’s most prominent scripture scholars, the context usually appears to be one of disdain for its doctrine and regret for its allegedly negative effect on biblical scholarship. For instance, Fr. Joseph A. Fitzmyer, in a recently published commentary on the 1993 document of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, feels it appropriate to express quite the opposite of gratitude for Spiritus Paraclitus.

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