Friday, December 26, 2008

Maynooth lecturer calls Infancy narratives fictions

A longtime lecturer in Dogmatic Theology at Maynooth, Fr Martin Henry has described the Infancy Narratives of the Gospels as fictions.
The longtime lecturer in Maynooth Pontifical University has, I believe been bamboozeling students for years with Japanese poetry and references to Neitzche.
I see, very appropriately that one of his books are entitled, 'On not understanding God (1997) and another is
Tangents: Essays and Reflections ( 2008).
Very appropriate. In my opinion, Fr Henry is an agnostic who does not believe very much of what the Catholic Church believes. It is a scandal that such a lecturer has been allowed to teach at Maynooth for years.
When people seek why Maynooth turns out such a stream of theological illiterates, they won't have to look far past Fr Henry for an answer.

Madam, - I wonder if Prof Brian Arkins is missing the point of the Nativity stories in the Gospels? The facts he states are not in dispute. But what may be in dispute is his interpretation of the Gospels as a literary genre.

I find Morna Hooker's book Beginnings: Keys that Open the Gospelsmore enlightening than Prof Arkins's array of petits faits vrais on the point of Matthew's and Luke's opening narratives. Of course they are fictions - what else do you expect religious poetry to be? But being fiction isn't the same thing as being fraudulent, false or meaningless - or, worse still, well-meaning. Nor need fictions be without allusion to "real" places and events, though that is not their "point".

The 18th-century champions of the European Enlightenment were reluctant to go beyond the "hard facts" of history - as, curiously enough, are contemporary fundamentalists. Prof Arkins is certainly doing his bit to try to drag little Ireland, kicking and screaming, into the 18th century. But who wants to live in the 18th century? - Yours, etc,


Lecturer in Dogmatic Theology,
St Patrick's College,
Maynooth, Co Kildare.

Irish Times Thursday 24th Dec 08.


  1. I am stunned by your interpretation of the letter in the Irish Times by Fr Henry.

    For me, the fact that at least one academic is prepared to challenge the prevailing tyranny of qualitative/quantitative fact-driven research in academia in so droll a way, was a delight to read.

    Furthermore, in my estimation, it struck a blow for intelligent faith. But you missed the point of the letter completely - doh!

    To suggest that Fr Henry is agnostic, would suggest to me, that you haven't read his books or indeed his recent articles on faith in the Irish News and you have an axe to grind. I've never studied in Maynooth - but I see from your profile that you are a former seminarian from Maynooth - did you fare poorly in his course?!

    This kind of carping and undermining of faith says more about you than the person you attempt to undermine. I am shocked by the many diatribes on your blog - where is Jesus in all this?

    Check out the log in your eye before putting pen to paper. Your blog seems plain nasty and full of petty bickering of the kind which St Paul despised. It is trivial. Why not try to tackle some serious material - it might prove more interesting than your character assasinations.

    I see that you never made it through the seminary.... why not write something positive about those who had the guts and the calling from God to fulfil their vocations and who have persevered in that calling. You got a bite of two cherries. Nice! (Surely that would make you a bit more humble? Pride is a very dangerous thing to the soul.)

    St Maximilian Kolbe pray for us!

  2. It is not my interpretation. Dr Henry calls the infancy narrative accounts 'fictions'. It's in print, and could not be clearer than that.
    On the other matter, I always did very well in Dogma exams and always found him personally charming - so there is no personal antagonism here.
    The important matter which I take up is that a Dogma lecturer in the National seminary, from what he has said and written elsewhere does not appear to believe the basics of the Christian faith. This is a scandal if he is is allowed to continue. - Brian