09 June, 2009

Did the Church really forbid the reading of the Bible?

This is a response I wrote to someone making claims about the Church prohibiting one from reading Scriptures.

Did the Church really forbid the reading of the Bible?

You are trying to come to conclusions without complete knowledge and with misunderstanding. The Church has the responsibility as the teaching authority given by Christ to protect the deposit of the Sacred Tradition, of which the Bible is a part. It has another responsibility to be the shepherd for those the Holy Spirit brings to faith. The quotes you have listed in your question illustrates the Church doing exactly what Christ commissioned the Church to do which is to halt the distribution and use of heretical interpretations. Authority for interpretation according to the Bible is the Church and not individuals.(2 Peter 1:20)

Another error you make is assuming that most people knew how to read an write in their vernacular language. The fact is that educated people knew how to read and write Latin and it was much more likely that if one read that it was Latin only. There are also great advantages for the Church to have a common language which is Latin. What that meant was that one could travel throughout the world and understand the Mass wherever they were. Today the use of vernacular language to the Church is similar to what happened at the Tower of Babel. It is a hindrance to theological understanding instead of being helpful.

Another error you make is assuming that the vernacular translations that were banned were accurate to the original texts. They were not and many lacked acceptable scholarship. Such heretical texts were sure to cause misunderstandings and cause people to understand the Scriptures incorrectly.

Another error you make is assuming that the culture then is the same as today. There was little difference between Church and state and the lines continued to be blurred. The harsh methods that were used in those days were common place if if we can find the horrendous today. If you remember Calvin murdered so many in Geneva that he got the name the butcher of Geneva. They were murdered for opposing His teachings. Looking back this treatment was wrong even though it was for the right intentions. BTW, the quotes were taken out of context in that you failed to take into account the culture of the era when coming to your conclusions.

Your errors continue in presuming that the Church would forbid anyone from reading the Bible because Catholic doctrines and dogma are contrary to the Church. This is impossible if one trusts and believes in Jesus' teaching. Jesus said that His Church is the enduring Church that is the "pillar and ground of the truth". It was Catholic Christians who wrote the New Testament and the Church that canonized those books that they judged inspired all under the authority given to the Church by Jesus. Since the Church wrote the Bible and canonized it, is it not logical that the Church would, in fact encourage people to read it? Of course and the Church always has; just not heretical interpretations. So, if you really believe that the Church has doctrines and dogmas contrary to the Bible you are in need of further study and the grace of the Holy Spirit to recognize His Church from the book about His Church. Truly the Catholic Church is the only Church with a legitimate claim of being a Bible Church since the NT is about the Church.

As a Catholic, I read your question and see the testimony of the Church in being responsible in its commission by Christ to His Church. The Church is protecting God's Word and shepherding His faithful. We can be further encouraged to know that His Church, the ark for humanity from an evil world, will be the enduring pillar and ground of the truth until He comes again. God bless!

In Christ
Fr. Joseph

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