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I heard something odd today….. April 15, 2010

Posted by Tantumblogo in Basics, General Catholic, silliness.

….I won’t say where, but I heard a local priest say “Protestants have been studying the Bible for alot longer than Catholics have.”

Hmmm.  I’m not sure how the priest arrived at that statement.  First, protestant churches have been around less than 1/4 the time the Catholic Church has.  Second, the Catholic Church compiled the Bible.  Third, every major Catholic dogma is taken directly from Scripture.  Fourth, how many doctors of the Church and others who base their work deeply in Scripture (St. John Crysostom, St. Thomas Acquinas, St. Basil, St. Terese of Avila, Thomas a Kempis, soon to St. John Henry Newman, etc. ad infinitum) do there have to be before the Church is considered to have cracked open the good book? 

Now, this was sort of an off the cuff remark during the Homily, but it’s a strange statement, even if it’s a misstatement.  I know there are some who state that Catholics were discouraged from reading the Bible prior to, say, 1960 or so.  That may have been the experience of some Catholics, but the Church never taught that.  Pope Leo XIII exhorted the faithful to read the Bible, and even gave a partial indulgence (actually, at the time, it was 300 years off of Purgatory!) to those who would read the Bible for 15 minutes a day. 

Vatican II certainly helped highlight the fact that the Catholic Church is THE Bible based Church.  I think it is great to emphasize Scripture – I read the Bible daily*.  But I think it’s important to make clear that the Church has always been based on Holy Scripture and all the great theology and literally endless spirituality and devotions of the Church are Biblically based.   And I pray the priest I heard today does not think that there is an pre-whatever council Church and a post-whatever council Church.  There is one Church.

* A note on reading scripture.  If you’re trying to figure out the context for a Bible quote you’re presented with, say, from a protestant trying to “prove” the fallacies of the Church, or even trying to make sense of a Gospel reading, always read 10-15 verses before the quoted Scripture, and 10-15 after.  This will put the quote in context and almost invariably refute the claim the protestant may be attempting to make.  It can also help contextualize the readings during The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, in case you’re ever wondering who said what to whom after, say, a Gospel reading at Mass. 

Dominus vobiscum!


1. Bob Mangieri - April 16, 2010

Both you and the priest are correct. The greatest Bible scholars have been Catholics, but when you talk about the person in the pew the Protestants have more Bible knowledge than Catholics do. Put any church educated Protestant youth against a Catholic and the Protestant will be more aware of what is in the Bible and where to find it.

tantamergo - April 16, 2010

I do not disagree that Catholic formation has been very sadly lacking, and that this poor formation has grown more pronounced over the last several decades. And, I have been told that in the more distant past there was a tendency in the Church to……not emphasize the study of Scripture adequately. I imagine that was the case in many places. Very many Catholics today do not read Scripture, but that is different from saying the Church doesn’t emphasize it. I’m not sure where that notion got started, but I know that alot of Catholics just don’t read the Bible.

I still found the statement that we both heard rather startling. I think it was an unintentional misstatement, but I want to let fellow Catholics know that the Church has an incredibly rich Bible scholarship, and that scholarship continues to grow through the efforts of people like Dr. Scott Hahn, Mark Shea, John Salza, Patrick Madrid, Pope Benedict and many others. I think some Catholics are almost intimidated by the Bible, or think reading the Bible is a ‘protestant thing.’ Nothing could be further from the truth. I highly encourage all Catholics to read the Bible, and for a great resource on how the Bible forms the major tenets of our faith, read John Salza’s The Biblical Basis for the Catholic Faith. You can get it here

And thanks for your comment.

Rev. Clifford G. Smith - April 16, 2010

Why do you immediately assume that what I preach will be in error most of the time? I am a college graduate with more than 12 years of graduate study and three graduate degrees. As a priest and a Catholic I spend in excess of 12 hours a week studying Scripture and theology.

Since the Middle Ages, and especially with the Reformation, the Church discouraged reading the Bible by the laity, unless it was the Latin Vulgate, and tied to the commentaries of the Church Fathers. Bible reading was encouraged only for clerics and academics. In fact, the Council of Trent put all Bible translations into the vernacular on the List of Forbidden Books, in response to the proliferation of vernacular versions by protestants made widely available by the invention of the printing press. The Douay-Rheims English version from the 16th century was quietly winked at … forbidden by the letter of the law but actually a quite good translation from the Vulgate. It was the only semi-approved Scripture in English until the 20th Century.

Between the high illiteracy prior to the 1800’s among average Catholics and the lack of a reading knowledge of Latin for those who were literate, it is quite accurate to say that Catholics were discourage from reading the Bible. The first authorized Catholic translations of Sacred Scripture into the vernacular did not appear until the 1950-60’s … the encouragement for the laity to read the Bible began primarily under Pope Pius XII in the 1940’s. It has only been in the past 40-50 years that Catholics have been encouraged to read the Bible.

2. tantamergo - April 16, 2010

I’m sorry, my studies of the subject indicate differently from you. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, vernacular versions of the Bible first appeared in Germany in the eighth century, in France and some other countries in the 12th, and in other countries in the 13th. In the 1500s in Italy, there were dozens of vernacular editions of the Bible, and there were versions in Spain by 1487 that had the approval of the Inquisition. Prior to the first protestant Bible appearing, there were 198 editions of the Bible in the vernacular, and all approved by the Church (Where We Got the Bible, http://www.catholiccompany.com/catholic-gifts/3330331/Where-We-Got-Bible-Our-Debt-to-Catholic-Church/?category=1451&aid=583). This data strongly suggests that even if there was some official Church prohibition on reading the Bible, it wasn’t enforced, and many must have been studying Scripture.

I have a Douay-Rheims at hand right now. It fortunately contains a reprinting of Pope Leo XIIIs encyclical Providentissimus Deus (1893), where that good Pope discusses at length how Catholics should read and interpret the Bible. I was wrong on the indulgences, however, which are of course still in effect: if one reads a Gospel for 15 minutes, the indulgence is partial, but if one reads the Bible for 15 minutes daily for a month, the indulgence is plenary. Pope Benedict XV echoed these sentiments in 1920 in Spiritus Paraclitus. These encyclicals indicate to me and many others a greater emphasis on Scripture reading than some attribute to the Church at that time.

It’s important to remember that during this time, from 400 – well into the 1600s, few people were educated enough to be literate. Those that were educated to the point of literacy, however, would also be able to read Latin. In fact, they often learned to read and write Latin before their mother tongue, as Latin was the lingua franca of those times. That the Church continued to promote the use of Latin in the Bible is hardly surprising, it is the language of the Church, it was the language of government and commerce, and it was a language anyone with an education in any country would be able to read. Nevertheless, there were many vernacular versions of the Bible as stated above. Illiteracy was just as much a problem for protestants as it was for Catholics in the Reformation period, but they did not write their bibles in the vernacular to reach a wider audience so much as to differentiate themselves from Rome.

Fr. Smith, I would add gently that someone with multiple degrees and years of post graduate education would recognize that an appeal to authority is a logical fallacy. I would also add that simply because I am a lay person does not mean that I am incapable of researching and developing reasonably well formed and supported opinions on subjects related to the Church. And, your education does not instantly make you an irrefutable expert on every subject. In fact, if you would perhaps read and research some of what I have said above, you might find that I may have some valid points.

3. Rev. Clifford G. Smith - April 16, 2010

Besides the above, wishing to repress that temerity, by which the words and sentences of sacred Scripture are turned and twisted to all sorts of profane uses, to wit, to things scurrilous, fabulous, vain, to flatteries, detractions, superstitions, impious and diabolical incantations, sorceries, and defamatory libels; (the Synod) commands and enjoins, for the doing away with this kind of irreverence and contempt, and that no one may hence forth dare in any way to apply the words of sacred Scripture to these and such like purposes; that all men of this description, profaners and violators of the word of God, be by the bishops restrained by the penalties of law, and others of their own appointment.

tantamergo - April 19, 2010

I want to get back to the original statement that caused me to comment, but before I do, I’d like to remind you that I haven’t commented on this blog about anything said in Mass by a priest but twice before, and by you, only once. Yes, I have strong concerns about some of the speakers that come into various parishes in the area, but that is a different matter. While we have had discussions on other topics in the past, those have been private. I have also praised you on at least an equal number of occasions, both publically and privately.

Now, the original statement was “Catholics haven’t been studying Scripture for nearly as long as protestants have.” As an apologist for the Faith, a statement like that makes my job much more difficult. To a protestant, especially an evangelical, that statement will be interpreted as “The Catholic Church is not based on Scripture,” which we know is completely false. If you had said, “Catholics don’t know the Bible as well as evangelical protestants,” or, “Catholic laity and even some clergy don’t study Scripture nearly enough,” I would have agreed wholeheartedly. But the statement, the way it was worded, seemed to me to be stating that the Church, as a whole, hasn’t been studying Scripture for as long as protestanst have. Your explanations since then have provided some context for your comments, and I think you were trying to encourage the laity to read the Bible more, which I think is great.

With regard to the statements of various Councils, I think the interpretation of their ‘prohibitions’ on reading Scripture are being taken beyond their intended scope. Most of those strident prohibitions were intended to combat heresies that were spreading rapidly and were based primarily on poor interpretations of Scripture. Seen in this light, and taking into account the very poorly educated populations at the time, these prohibitions can make some sense. I do note that these prohibitions are contradicted by evidence in Where We Got the Bible. The prohibitions of the 1918 Code of Canon Law read to me as nothing of the sort, but are merely the reflections of a time when the Church was far more serious about reviewing and approving literature about the faith, and reserved to itself the power to approve any publication including Sacred Scripture. I don’t view the 1918 Code of Canon Law as being contradictory to Leo XIII exhortations to the faithful to read the Bible, but as a protective measure to insure the quality of the work and its adherence to Catholic dogma.

I think Mr. Mangieri has probably summed up the issue best. I still feel that your original statement was overly broad, but you are largely correct to claim that most Catholics do not sufficiently study Scripture.

4. Rev. Clifford G. Smith - April 16, 2010

Sorry, the last got disconnected:

Although the Church never issued a general prohibition that made the reading of the Bible in the vernacular unlawful, it did at various time lay down certain conditions regarding the matter, which had to be observed by the faithful, so that they might not wrest the Scriptures to their own destruction. It was not until the Albigenses, the Wyclifites, and later on the Protestants, issued editions of the Bible that bristled with mistranslations, and the most arbitrary changes of the original text, that the Church made stringent regulations in regard to the reading of the Scriptures. These regulations did not make Bible reading unlawful, but required that only approved editions, well supplied with explanatory notes taken from the writings of the Early Fathers, should be used. In this matter, as in so many others, Protestants failed to distinguish between the actions of the Church and the actions of the Provincial Synods. It is indeed true that the Synod of Toulouse, in 1229, the Synod of Tarragona, 1233, and the Synod of Oxford, in 1408, issued formal prohibitions against the reading of the Bible by the laity, but these prohibitions had only a local application, and were revoked as soon as the danger that threatened the faith in these localities had passed. The Church’s legislation in the matter of Bible reading was never prohibitive, but only tended to the enactment of such restrictions as the common good evidently required.

The Council of Trent (1545-1564) placed the Bible on its list of prohibited books, and forbade any person to read the Bible without a license from a Roman Catholic bishop or inquisitor. The Council added these words: “That if any one shall dare to read or keep in his possession that book, without such a license, he shall not receive absolution till he has given it up to his ordinary.”
Rome’s attempt to keep the Bible from men has continued to recent times. Pope Pius VII (1800-1823) denounced the Bible Society and expressed shock at the circulation of the Scriptures. Pius VII said, “It is evidence from experience, that the holy Scriptures, when circulated in the vulgar tongue, have, through the temerity of men, produced more harm than benefit.” Pope Leo XII called the Protestant Bible the “Gospel of the Devil” in an encyclical letter of 1824. Pope Gregory XVI (1831-1846) railed “against the publication, distribution, reading, and possession of books of the holy Scriptures translated into the vulgar tongue.” Pope Leo XII, in January 1850, condemned the Bible Societies and admitted the fact that the distribution of Scripture has “long been condemned by the holy chair.”

The Council of Toulouse, which met in November of 1229, about the time of the crusade against the Albigensians, set up a special ecclesiastical tribunal, or court, known as the Inquisition (Lat. inquisitio, an inquiry), to search out and try heretics. Twenty of the forty-five articles decreed by the Council dealt with heretics and heresy. It ruled in part:
Canon 1. We appoint, therefore, that the archbishops and bishops shall swear in one priest, and two or three laymen of good report, or more if they think fit, in every parish, both in and out of cities, who shall diligently, faithfully, and frequently seek out the heretics in those parishes, by searching all houses and subterranean chambers which lie under suspicion. And looking out for appendages or outbuildings, in the roofs themselves, or any other kind of hiding places, all which we direct to be destroyed.
Canon 6. Directs that the house in which any heretic shall be found shall be destroyed.
Canon 14. We prohibit also that the laity should be permitted to have the books of the Old or New Testament; unless anyone from motive of devotion should wish to have the Psalter or the Breviary for divine offices or the hours of the blessed Virgin; but we most strictly forbid their having any translation of these books.

The Council of Tarragona of 1234, in its second canon, ruled that:
“No one may possess the books of the Old and New Testaments in the Romance language, and if anyone possesses them he must turn them over to the local bishop within eight days after promulgation of this decree, so that they may be burned lest, be he a cleric or a layman, he be suspected until he is cleared of all suspicion.”
Pope Pius IV had a list of the forbidden books compiled and officially prohibited them in the Index of Trent (Index Librorum Prohibitorum) of 1559. This is an excerpt:
Rule I
All books which were condemned prior to 1515 by popes or ecumenical councils, and are not listed in this Index, are to stand condemned in the original fashion.
Rule II
Books of arch-heretics – those who after 1515 have invented or incited heresy or who have been or still are heads and leaders of heretics, such as Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, Hubmaier, Schwenckfeld, and the like — whatever their name, title or argumentation — are prohibited without exception. As far as other heretics are concerned, only those books are condemned without exception which deal ex professo with religion. Others will be permitted after Catholic theologians have examined and approved them by the order of bishops and inquisitors. Likewise, Catholic books written by those who subsequently fell into heresy or by those who after their lapse returned into the bosom of the Church can be permitted after approval by a theological faculty or the inquisition.
Rule III
Translations of older works, including the church fathers, made by condemned authors, are permitted if they contain nothing against sound doctrine. However, translations of books of the Old Testament may be allowed by the judgment of bishops for the use of learned and pious men only. These translations are to elucidate the Vulgate so that Sacred Scripture can be understood, but they are not to be considered as a sacred text. Translations of the New Testament made by authors of the first sections in this Index are not to be used at all, since too little usefulness and too much danger attends such reading.
Rule IV
Since experience teaches that, if the reading of the Holy Bible in the vernacular is permitted generally without discrimination, more damage than advantage will result because of the boldness of men, the judgment of bishops and inquisitors is to serve as guide in this regard. Bishops and inquisitors may, in accord with the counsel of the local priest and confessor, allow Catholic translations of the Bible to be read by those of whom they realize that such reading will not lead to the detriment but to the increase of faith and piety. The permission is to be given in writing. Whoever reads or has such a translation in his possession without this permission cannot be absolved from his sins until he has turned in these Bibles …
Rule VI
Books in the vernacular dealing with the controversies between Catholics and the heretics of our time are not to be generally permitted, but are to be handled in the same way as Bible translations. …

From the encyclical TRADITI HUMILITATI of Pope Pius VIII, May 24, 1829
5. We must also be wary of those who publish the Bible with new interpretations contrary to the Church’s laws. They skillfully distort the meaning by their own interpretation. They print the Bibles in the vernacular and, absorbing an incredible expense, offer them free even to the uneducated. Furthermore, the Bibles are rarely without perverse little inserts to insure that the reader imbibes their lethal poison instead of the saving water of salvation. Long ago the Apostolic See warned about this serious hazard to the faith and drew up a list of the authors of these pernicious notions. The rules of this Index were published by the Council of Trent;[8] the ordinance required that translations of the Bible into the vernacular not be permitted without the approval of the Apostolic See and further required that they be published with commentaries from the Fathers. The sacred Synod of Trent had decreed[9] in order to restrain impudent characters, that no one, relying on his own prudence in matters of faith and of conduct which concerns Christian doctrine, might twist the sacred Scriptures to his own opinion, or to an opinion contrary to that of the Church or the popes. Though such machinations against the Catholic faith had been assailed long ago by these canonical proscriptions, Our recent predecessors made a special effort to check these spreading evils.[10] With these arms may you too strive to fight the battles of the Lord which endanger the sacred teachings, lest this deadly virus spread in your flock.

THE 1918 CODE OF CANON LAW On Censorship And Prohibiting Books
The previous Code of Canon Law, quoted here, went into effect in 1918, and was superceded in 1983:
(boldface numbers are paragraph numbers, the Canon numbers are in parenthesis)
Censorship and Prohibition of Books.
1227. The Church has the right to rule that Catholics shall not publish any books unless they have first been subjected to the approval of the Church, and to forbid for a good reason the faithful to read certain books, no matter by whom they are published.
 The rules of this title concerning books are to be applied also to daily papers, periodicals, and any other publication, unless the contrary is clear from the Canons. (Canon 1384).
Censorship of Books.
1128. Without previous ecclesiastical approval even laymen are not allowed to publish:
 1. the books of Holy Scripture, or annotations and commentaries of the same;
 2. books treating of Sacred Scripture, theology, Church history, Canon Law, natural theology, ethics, and other sciences concerning religion and morals. Furthermore, prayer books, pamphlets and books of devotion, of religious teaching, either moral, ascetic, or mystic, and any writing in general in which there is anything that has a special bearing on religion or morality;
 3. sacred images reproduced in any manner, either with or without prayers.
 The permission to publish books and images spoken of in this Canon may be given either by the proper Ordinary of the author, or by the Ordinary of the place where they are published, or by the Ordinary of the place where they are printed; if, however, any one of the Ordinaries who has a right to give approval refuses it, the author cannot ask of another unless he informs him of the refusal of the Ordinary first requested.
 The religious must, moreover, first obtain permission from their major superior. (Canon 1385.)
1234. Translations of the Holy Scriptures in the vernacular languages may not be published unless they are either approved by the Holy See, or they are published, under the the supervision of the bishop, with annotations chiefly taken from the holy Fathers of the Church and learned Catholic writers. (Canon 1391.)
1241. The prohibition of books has this effect that the forbidden books may not without permission be published, read, retained, sold, nor translated into another language, nor made known to others in any way.
 The book which has in any way been forbidden may not again be published except after the demanded corrections have been made and the authority which forbade the book, or his superior, or successor, has given permission. (Canon 1398.)
1242. By the very law are forbidden:
 1. editions of the original text, or of ancient Catholic versions, of the Sacred Scriptures, also of the Oriental Church, published by non-Catholics; likewise any translation in any language made or published by them;
 2. books of any writers defending heresy or schism, or tending in any way to undermine the foundations of religion;
 3. books which purposely fight against religion and good morals;
 4. books of any non-Catholic treating professedly of religion unless it is certain that nothing is contained therein against the Catholic faith;
 5. books on the holy Scriptures or on religious subjects which have been published without the permission required by Canons 1385, § 1, nn. 1, and 1391; books and leaflets which bring an account of new apparitions, revelations, visions, prophecies, miracles, or introduce new devotions even though under the pretext that they are private; if these books, etc., are published against the rules of the Canons;
 6. books which attack or ridicule any of the Catholic dogmas, books which defend errors condemned by the Holy See, or which disparage Divine worship, or tend to undermine ecclesiastical discipline, or which purposely insult the ecclesiastical hierarchy, or the clerical and religious states; … (Canon 1399.)
Source: THE NEW CANON LAW, A commentary and Summary of the New Code of Canon Law, by Rev. Stanislaus Woywod, O.F.M., Published and Copyright, 1918, by Joseph F. Wagner, New York, pages 282-289.

Trent decree on Sacred Books/Scripture: Besides the above, wishing to repress that temerity, by which the words and sentences of sacred Scripture are turned and twisted to all sorts of profane uses, to wit, to things scurrilous, fabulous, vain, to flatteries, detractions, superstitions, impious and diabolical incantations, sorceries, and defamatory libels; (the Synod) commands and enjoins, for the doing away with this kind of irreverence and contempt, and that no one may hence forth dare in any way to apply the words of sacred Scripture to these and such like purposes; that all men of this description, profaners and violators of the word of God, be by the bishops restrained by the penalties of law, and others of their own appointment.

tantamergo - April 16, 2010

My first reply wasn’t finished when I published it the first time. It seems you may have refuted already some of what I had to say. I don’t have time to read your whole comment now, I have to go meet my wife for lunch. I’ll try to reply after that.

5. Rev. Clifford G. Smith - April 16, 2010

As rich and important as the Dogmatic Constitution on Sacred Scripture (Dei Verbum) of the Second Vatican Council is, the impetus must be credited to Pope Pius XII, whose 1943 encyclical, Divino Afflante Spiritu, encouraged a return to the original texts in Greek and Hebrew, and a better understanding of the context of the writings in their own time and culture, and he urged Catholic bishops throughout the world to initiate biblical studies for the laity.

6. Toby Marks - April 18, 2010

This is an interesting discussion. I can’t help but think, though, that those prohibitions have to be understood in the light of their historical, social, and political contexts. If one grants the Protestant assertion that lay reading of the Scriptures was not really popularized until the Reformation, does that not tend to back up the Church’s view at the time that such a thing would only lead to confusion and division? Out of curiosity, does anyone know what has been the historical attitude of the Eastern Churches on this matter?

In any event, I don’t dispute “the Priest’s” take in his homily. These days, though, especially among the younger generations, he may be playing on a bit of a stereotype. However, for both Protestants and Catholics, there is more to knowing your Bible than just being able to spout off chapter and verse. Unless Scripture is something understood and lived in the light of the True Faith, one will be “ever learning, and never attaining to the knowledge of the truth”.

7. dallas - April 18, 2010

… very interesting discussion!
as regards ‘more to knowing your Bible than just being able to spout off chapter and verse’ I’ve heard it said that Protestants study the menu while Catholics enjoy the meal…

8. Mary - April 19, 2010

I do agree that Catholics should be reading and studying the bible much more than we do.

However, do protestants really read and study the bible? I have personally experienced times when protestants spout out scripture and verse, but they don’t really know the bible. They know the memorized verses, that’s it. I believe if they really studied the bible, they would find the truth in the Church. So many people have been converted to Catholicism by studying the bible and going back to the works of the early Church Fathers.

The Reverend Smith references several events. In the discussion on the Council of Trent, the ban of the Bible Society is mentioned. This purpose of this society was to translate, publish, and distribute bibles.

The Council of Trent issued condemnations on what it defined as Protestant heresies and defined Church teachings. It didn’t ban people from reading the bible, but from interpreting differently than the Mother Church, as seen in this quote from the Council:

“Furthermore, in order to restrain petulant spirits, it [the Council of Trent] decrees that no one, relying on his own skill, shall,—in matters of faith, and of morals pertaining to the edification of Christian doctrine,—wresting the sacred Scriptures to his own senses, presume to interpret the said sacred Scripture contrary to that sense which holy Mother Church—to whom it belongs to judge of the true sense and interpretation of the Holy Scriptures—hath held and doth hold; or even contrary to the unanimous consent of the Fathers; even though such interpretations were never (intended) to be at any time published. Contraveners shall be made known by their Ordinaries and be punished with the penalties by law established.”

The 1918 CCC topics discuss the publication of sacred scripture and prayers, not the prohibition of reading of the bible.

The same with TRADITI HUMILITATI of Pope Pius VIII, May 24, 1829
5. We must also be wary of those who publish the Bible with new interpretations contrary to the Church’s laws…

The Catholic Church was and still does try to prevent misinterpretations in the bible, and mis-printings. One famous mis-printing is when the protestant bible was changed to read ‘justification by faith ALONE’. One simple word changed their meaning (note Catholics believe, and note referenced many times throughout the bible that we are ‘justified by faith AND works’.)

The concern is that the original statement that protestants have been studying the bible alot longer makes it appear as if they should be the experts on the bible, that we should listen to them; that I disagree with. Protestants didn’t exist at the time of the writing and assembling of the bible and didn’t exist for quite some time afterward.

The bible was an inspired work, and the stories especially of Jesus in the New Testament are Truths and according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church 126, are to be taken as historical events that did occur, that the Church unhesitatingly affirms, faithfully hand on what Jesus, the Son of God, while he lived among men, really did and taught for their eternal salvation. We cannot, as the protestants did, change the text or meaning of the bible.

I pray that Catholics do read the bible more and are better able and more willing to defend the Truths held in the bible and in the Catholic Church.

9. Steve Kellmeyer - April 19, 2010

1) The Church never opposed the translation of the Bible into the vernacular. As the quotes provided above demonstrate, She VERY MUCH opposed INACCURATE translations of the Bible or INACCURATE FOOTNOTING of Bibles to be promulgated to the laity.

2) This was not considered a huge problem prior to the invention of the printing press, since literacy was an expensive skill. Before the printing press, one book could cost as much to produce as the building it resided in. Ancient and medieval people were illiterate then for the same reason people today don’t know how to fly helicopters – the technology exists, but it was too expensive and cumbersome for 99% of the population to learn.

The Church taught literacy to her own ordained members precisely because this highly esoteric skill was necessary to priests and bishops. It should be noted that the concern about literacy and heresy was well-placed. Nearly EVERY major heresy of the Church prior to the invention of the printing press was started by a literate priest or bishop.

3) The US was a highly literate nation primarily because it was colonized AFTER the printing press was invented (1453 vs. 1492). The printing press drove the price of books down to 2% of their former cost within a couple of decades of its introduction. It made literacy a skill cheap enough to be worth learning.

As the Church recognized, it also made heresy a skill easily acquired. Cheap printing meant bad translations with bad footnotes abounded.

Indeed, Luther’s heresy (an Augustinian priest with a Ph.D. in Catholic theology who studied Scripture for hours each day, btw – what a great shield his learning and study was for him in re right understanding, eh?) could not have been accomplished without the printing press, which spread the pamphlets he wrote and spread of literacy among the peasants who read them.

Protestants, especially Reform Protestants who recognize NO sacraments, require literacy to maintain and promulgate their heresies. The Eastern American seaboard was populated by Protestants (i.e., ,literate people).

Conversely, to be Catholic, one needs only to maintain breath in one’s body. Catholic life has always been, first and foremost, centered around sacraments, not literacy. As the quotes above indicate, most of the prohibitions against laity having access to Scripture PRIOR to the printing press were very local and temporary in order to deal with local circumstances.

The more blanket prohibitions all came AFTER the printing press had made it easier to get a heretical translation than a decent one. Oddly enough, we face the same problem in the US today, with many gender-neutraled Scripture translations available, but very few accurate translations, despite the vaunted “return to the sources.”

America was populated by literate heretics who left behind great masses of illiterate but faithful Catholics.

4) Prior to the post-1940’s discoveries of ancient scrolls, the most accurate and most ancient source of Scripture was the Latin Vulgate of the Catholic Church. It was based in ancient sources accessible by Jerome but not accessible to us. The OT was definitely older than the oldest known OT Codex then extant, the Masoretic text from roughly the 7th c. It should be noted that much of the form criticism and historico-critical method developed to deal with the OT came from an anti-Catholic, Enlightenment driven impetus in late 1800’s Germany. It was specifically designed to be anti-Semitic and anti-Catholic. The rabbis of the time even called it “the higher anti-Semitism.”

That’s why the Church condemned it.

5) Following the discovery of these ancient texts, Divino Afflante Spiritus indicated that these texts should be considered authentic texts for study. Lots of people think DAS was a break with tradition.

It wasn’t.

6) As someone who has done apologetics with Protestants for the last 20 years, I can affirm that Protestants DO NOT know Scripture better than Catholics. Some of them can quote chapter and verse better, but even there, most Protestants are lacking.

This is not necessarily a useful skill. Chapters were added in the 12th c., verses were added in the 15thc. Both are traditions of men. The ancients knew nothing of chapters and verses.

Most Catholics can quote Scripture the same way St. Paul does in the letter to the Hebrews: “As it is written, somewhere in Scripture.” That is really all that is sufficient.

7) Finally, St. Jerome said, “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” St. Jerome did NOT say “Knowledge of Scripture is knowledge of Christ.”

The first statement is true, the second is not necessarily true. Luther knew Scripture. So did Photius, Arius, Nestorius and a host of other major heretics. I am a history student. I was, at one time in my life, able to quote Marx extensively because I had studied him. That didn’t make me a Marxist. There’s a difference between knowing something and understanding it.

As a Protestant convert to the Faith once told me, “Steve, I read the whole of Scripture three times, cover to cover. But I never understood it until I became a Catholic.”

In Conclusion:

No, it is not the case that Protestants know Scripture better than Catholics. Protestants know how to quote the Scriptures, but even the devil can do that. The illiterate peasant woman who, out of love for Christ and detestation for her own sins and weakness, goes to Confession every Saturday and receives Jesus every Sunday knows Scripture better than any layman, priest or bishop who studies a dozen hours a week, but holds heresy in his heart. Arius and Nestorius would happily explain this to us, if they could.

I’m not calling anyone a heretic here.
I’m just pointing out that it is materially false to say that the Church has taught that laity should not read Scripture.

She’s never taught such a thing.
She HAS taught that the laity should not read books that pretend to be Scripture but aren’t.

Can I hear an AMEN?

Steve Kellmeyer - April 19, 2010

I hit SEND too quickly:
Correction 1) America was populated by literate heretics who left behind great masses of illiterate but faithful Catholics IN EUROPE. Europe was not largely illiterate because she was Catholic, she was largely illiterate in comparison to the US because – like any startup company – the US didn’t have the legacy tail to maintain. The Church had to teach a continent of people how to read.

A subset of those who already knew how to read populated the US. Thus, the US started out much more highly literate than any nation on earth ever was. We have taken care of that by dropping our own literacy rate to below that of other civilized countries.

Correction 2) There is a difference between knowing something and BELIEVING it. I can know Marxist theory, but that doesn’t make me a Marxist because I would have to believe it, too.

I don’t.

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