Second, the theological language of the new documents is sometimes sloppy and prone to ambiguous interpretation. Take the famous example of Dei Verbum 11, which states that the Bible "teaches, without error that truth which God wanted put into the sacred writings for the sake of our salvation."
- Pope Leo XIII, Providentissimus Deus, no. 20f: “It is absolutely wrong and forbidden either to narrow inspiration to certain parts only of Sacred Scripture or to admit that the sacred writer has erred... For all the books which the Church receives as Sacred and Canonical are written wholly and entirely, with all their parts, at the dictation of the Holy Ghost; and so far is it from being possible that any error can coexist with inspiration, that inspiration not only is essentially incompatible with error, but excludes and rejects it as absolutely and necessarily as it is impossible that God Himself, the Supreme Truth, can utter that which is not True. This is the ancient and unchanging Faith of the Church... [T]hose who maintain that an error is possible in any genuine passage of the sacred writings, either pervert the Catholic notion of inspiration, or make God the author of such error.”
- Pope St. Pius X, Lamentabili Sane, no. 11, condemns the following proposition: “Divine inspiration does not extend to all of Sacred Scriptures so that it renders its parts, each and every one, free from every error.”
- Pope Benedict XV, Spiritus Paraclitus, no. 13: “[T]he immunity of Scripture from error or deception is necessarily bound up with its Divine inspiration and supreme authority.”
- Ibid., no. 19, condemns the following proposition: “[T]he effects of inspiration - namely, absolute truth and immunity from error - are to be restricted to that primary or religious element.”
- Ibid., no. 21: He also teaches that Divine inspiration extends to every part of the Bible without the slightest exception, and that no error can occur in the inspired text.
- Pope Pius XII, Divino Afflante Spiritu, no. 3: “It is absolutely wrong and forbidden either to narrow inspiration to certain parts only of Sacred Scripture or to admit that the sacred writer has erred.”
- Pius XII, Humani Generis, no. 22, condemns the following proposition: “[I]mmunity from error extends only to those parts of the Bible that treat of God or of moral and religious matters.”
- Vatican Council I, Sess. III, cap. ii, DE REV: “The Books of the Old and New Testament, whole and entire, with all their parts, as enumerated in the Decree of the same Council (Trent) and in the ancient Latin Vulgate, are to be received as Sacred and Canonical. And the Church holds them as Sacred and Canonical not because, having been composed by human industry, they were afterwards approved by her Authority; nor only because they contain revelation without errors, but because, having been written under the Inspiration of the Holy Ghost, they have God for their Author.”
So we see how a look at Tradition and pre-Vatican II Magisterial statements (all of them wonderfully concise and precise) we can easily get a proper interpretation of Dei Verbum 11: that the Bible is immune from error in everything it says, and everything it says God wanted there for the sake of our salvation. This is the constant Tradition of the Church. An interpretation other than this would be a radical break with Tradition and constitute a change in the Church's dogma, which is impossible. Finally, if even that is not enough to convince the die-hard fans of modernism, the Council Fathers let it be known how they intended this phrase to be interpreted by referencing in its footnote various writings of St. Augustine, all of which endorse the total inerrancy of Scripture.
Tradition has been and always shall be the most sure norm for interpreting the Church's current teaching. Regarding Tradition, let us remember the famous quote of G.K. Chesterton: "Tradition means giving a vote to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about" (Orthodoxy, 4).