Sometimes anti-Catholics talk as if the Catholic Church is the enemy of the bible. The contrary is true; the bible is the Catholic Church’s book! The late Paulist priest, Fr. Alvin Illig, joked, “It is a shame we never got a copyright on OUR book.” The bible did not suddenly come into existence or out of bondage with Martin Luther. Prior to the invention of the printing press, bibles were produced by hand and could be quite expensive and time consuming to create. For this reason they were often secured in churches with locks and chains. A theft could cost the entire faith community its copy of the Scriptures. Many people were illiterate and thus received their bible instruction through preaching and in religious art. The first book printed with the new technology devised by John Gutenberg was probably the Catholic bible. This was done under the auspices of the Church. Prior to Luther’s German bible in 1534, some 626 bible editions (or portions thereof) were printed in nations where the Catholic Church held sway. Many of these were in the vernacular languages of the day. Today, the lectionary used at Mass insures a wide exposure to Scripture in our worship. There is a papal indulgence available for faithful bible reading. Every Catholic home probably has a bible, or at least, is supposed to have one. The so-called Catholic hostility to the bible during the Middle Ages and later to bible study groups or societies is a deliberate distortion of the facts by anti-Catholics. The Church was not against the bible; rather, she was opposed to faulty and dangerous translations as rendered by the Waldensians, Albigensians, Wycliff and Tyndale. The fact that churchmen may have gone to unnecessary extremes in combating heretical versions of Scripture does not invalidate their overriding concern. Bible societies, just as they can be today, posed a danger in that false interpretations to bible passages were given to proselytize Catholics away from the true faith.
Archive for September, 2008
VATICAN CITY (AP) – Believing that the universe may contain alien life does not contradict a faith in God, the Vatican’s chief astronomer said in an interview.
Of course, an exorcist priest in Rome claimed not long ago that UFOs were of demonic origin. Oops! Are they friend or foe?
What can I say… Halloween is next month!
In the middle decades of our century, an Italian Benedictine monk claimed to have made just such a journey. His name was Father Pellegrino Maria Ernetti. He was a priest and scientist and musicologist, one of the world’s leading authorities on archaic music. He claimed to have yoked the insights of modern physics to the ancient occult knowledge of the astral planes to build, in secret, a time machine–the chronovisor. He asserted that, using the chronovisor as his eyes and ears, he had watched Christ dying on the cross and attended a performance of a now-lost tragedy, Thyestes, by the father of Latin poetry, Quintus Ennius, in Rome in 169 B.C.
In comparison to the fragmentation evident in Protestantism, the uniformity in doctrine as derived from an ultimate teaching authority over Scripture and Tradition has done much to sustain the Catholic faith. There is only one Christian faith– a single flock of Christ– and one shepherd over all. Legend has it that Martin Luther lamented on his deathbed, “My God, what have I done, there are now as many churches as there are heads.” It is sometimes joked that if you get three Protestants together to read the bible, you will get four different opinions. (No offense intended, a Protestant minister told me this!) So much for private interpretation of the Scriptures; it does not work and to suggest that it does is to blaspheme the Holy Spirit and to deny the facts. The abiding unity in faith is proof enough of Catholic claims and would not be possible without divine intervention.
Luke 10:16: “He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me.”
Matthew 16:18: “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death (gates of hell) shall not prevail against it.”
Malachi 2:7: For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and men should seek instruction (law) from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts.
The Holy Spirit has functioned as the very soul of the Catholic Church, insuring the efficacy of the sacraments and the truthfulness of official interpretations of the Word of God and his will for us. Certain Protestants claim an immediate mastery of all Scripture as long as they approach it prayerfully and with care. However, the Holy Spirit is not like a light switch that we can turn immediately off and on. While not utterly invalidating the personal meanings we might find in bible reading, we leave the authoritative renderings to the Magisterium (Pope and bishops in union with him). It is interesting that the fundamentalist Protestant claim makes more a claim upon the Holy Spirit and infallibility than does the Pope, himself. He only offers a declaration after extended investigation and consultation, and even then, after much prayer. Unless it is a matter essential to the faith, he usually does not invoke this authority. Infallible papal declarations are quite rare. The Pope does not make something true; rather, he draws our attention to what we have always believed.
2 Peter 1:20: First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation.
2 Peter 3:16: . . . speaking of this as he does in all his letters. There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures. (regarding Paul’s letters)
Acts 8:30-31: So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “How can I, unless some one guides me?” And he invited Philip to come and sit with him.
These three passages make it evident that the bible cannot explain itself. It is the inspired book of the Church and the Church is its authorized interpreter. The Holy Spirit inspired the bible and it is that same Spirit which safeguards the teaching of the Church regarding the truths of faith and morals. Private interpretation is not absolutely dependable and must be supported by the interpretation given by the Church. Peter argued such about the Old Testament as well as Paul’s letters. Philip explains the Christian understanding of the messiah in Isaiah as referring to our Lord. As representatives of the Church, ministers of the Gospel appointed by Christ, they were authorized to fulfill this role.
Galatians 1:8-9: But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if any one is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed.
These are pretty serious words. Paul is speaking about the early oral tradition of the Church. Paul says that he offers what he himself has received. He speaks as an Apostle of the one true faith, of the one fold of Christ. Sometimes anti-Catholic critics try to use this verse, out of context, against Catholics; however, it will not wash. Like a boomerang it flies back into their faces. They are the ones who discount the role of this oral tradition and the Church that safeguards it. Separated from this living tradition and the true Church, Protestantism has fractured into thousands of sects, each claiming the bible for their own.
2 Timothy 4:3: For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths.
Titus 3:10: As for a man who is factious, after admonishing him once or twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is perverted and sinful; he is self-condemned.
Romans 16:17: I appeal to you, brethren, to take note of those who create dissensions and difficulties, in opposition to the doctrine which you have been taught; avoid them.
2 John 10:11: If any one comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into the house or give him any greeting; for he who greets him shares his wicked work.
This is precisely what happened. Heresies afflicted the Church, almost from the very beginning. Nevertheless, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the Catholic Church has grown stronger in the face of opposition and has defined her beliefs with deeper insights into the Gospel. The breakaway churches have no safeguard to insure their fidelity in the truth. Indeed, people shop around for a church and minister that fits their tastes. Usually, this means a congregation that fails to challenge its people on basic elements of the Good News. Even fundamentalist Protestant churches, so quick to take stands against Catholicism or issues like homosexuality, can be quite liberal on matters like divorce and artificial contraception. As for the topic of abortion, that attacks at the very heart of the mystery we call the incarnation, there is, and more so than not, a deafening silence in most Protestant churches. Some of their teachers go to ridiculous extremes in order to attack the Catholic faith and our practices. One minister maligned priestly celibacy as unnatural and perverted, something that would necessarily lead to all sorts of immorality and abuse of others. Only later did his words return to haunt him when his own child became pregnant and threw his words into his face; after all, she said, “I am just doing what comes natural.” Lost in the debate was the possibility of self-control and the wonderful gift that is celibate love– something praised by St. Paul. It should be said that this same MARRIED minister later got into his own mess of trouble with an adulterous affair. His glass house was shot full of holes! The so-called bible-alone method fails again and again. Without a history and a teaching Church, ministers quickly allow their own pet ideas and ambitions to cloud their proclamation. Some are afraid that the truth will forfeit their congregations, so they change the truth and convince themselves that they are right. Others are as befuddled as those who seek them out for guidance. Liberal Protestantism has taken such a path as far as it can go, straight into agnosticism and a loss of belief altogether. We need to pray for all such lost souls.