Biblical fundamentalism fails the Catholic Church’s vision of Scripture and exegesis because it is anti-science, anti-authorship and ahistorical. As an ideology, fundamentalism rejects any science as a force undermining the Christian faith. The natural sciences refute the ancient cosmology and Creation stories, while historical criticism demonstrates the development of the inspired text, denying their doctrine of strict verbal inspiration, and consequently, of total inerrancy. And so, despite its ability to bear good exegetical fruit, it is rejected from root to tip as valid tools for the biblical fundamentalist.
The Catholic Church, on the other hand, has never rejected the ability of human reason to know truth, affirming reason and faith, being neither rationalist nor fideist. Within this appreciation of human reason, comes the legitimization of the sciences: natural, social, and literary. Historical criticism was rejected initially by the Church in Pope Leo’s encyclical Providentissimus Deus, because it was attached to a “much too intrusively dogmatic liberalism” that was buttressed by rationalism and modernism (IBC: 28). Through Catholic exegetes making careful use of these critical methods, the Church, in freeing the methods from unacceptable presuppositions, fifty years later allowed her exegetes to make use of this criticism wisely in the papal encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu. In her cautious approach to ‘higher criticism’, she was able to avoid many of the abuses of liberal Protestant exegetes that the fundamentalists reacted against so strongly.