MYTH: Catholics don’t care about the Bible

If you have ever given credence to this oft-repeated (and IMHO slanderous) myth, you should view a Mass on YouTube or, better yet, attend one in person.  It is absolutely saturated with Scripture!

love-bible

Below is the official position of the Roman Catholic Church, as presented in the Catechism promulgated by St. John Paul II when he was our pope.

catechism-sacred-scripture

12 Comments

Filed under Catholic Church, Christianity, Pope John Paul II

12 responses to “MYTH: Catholics don’t care about the Bible

  1. chrissythehyphenated

    The following exchange is copied from my Facebook page, where I cross-posted the above.

    COMMENT: I think the statement goes back several centuries when Catholics were not allowed to have Bibles (i am old and don’t remember dates but can find ’em if you want ’em). Wasn’t one of the big items out of Vatican II the encouragement for Catholics to read the Bible for themselves?

    MY REPLY: Yes, Vatican II (1962-1965) changed the Church’s attitude toward the laity (non-clergy) reading the Bible at home. But so far as I experienced, Catholic homes often had at least one family Bible where they wrote down births, baptisms, marriages, deaths, etc.

    My mother (born 1914) was raised in the pre-Vatican II church and had all Catholic schooling. One day, when I was in college, I gave her a little souvenir New Testament from the World’s Fair where she and Pop went on their honeymoon. She leafed through and said delightedly, “Oh look! Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. They’re in the same order as the song.”

    I was STUNNED and asked, “Haven’t you ever READ the Bible?!”

    “Oh no,” she replied. “We weren’t supposed to because we’d get the interpretation wrong.”

    It makes sense when you consider how little education people had before the 20th c. It was a really big deal when the first member of an immigrant family graduated high school. (My mother was that person in her family.) In the next generation, it was college.

    Before widespread literacy and the invention of the printing press, everybody learned their Bible orally and visually. This is also how Jesus taught. Yes, Bibles were chained to the pulpits, but that’s because they were hand written and cost more than a peasant would earn in a lifetime. Stained glass windows were a poor man’s Bible. Scripture was read and explained at every Mass and has been since the first century.

    While memory verses have never been a part of Catholic culture, we learned the stories and memorized prayers and the catechism. My mom could still recite the Baltimore Catechism she’d learned for her Confirmation. Who is God? God is the Supreme Being. Etc.

    The Protestant Revolution put Bibles into the hands of people who had no training in the original languages, translation issues, history, or exegesis. Protestant leaders told everyone the Holy Spirit would enlighten them personally as to the true meaning of Scripture. Clearly, that isn’t true, else we wouldn’t now have tens of thousands of denominations teaching conflicting interpretation while each claims to have THE correct interpretation.

    It has been the teaching of the Church from the earliest days that the Holy Spirit enlightens the CHURCH, not the individual, about the true meaning of what Jesus taught. After the Ascension, the Apostles were the final authority, then for some years after, this task fell to those who had been taught personally by an Apostle. St. Polycarp was the last of the latter; he was martyred in the middle of the 2d century.

    At that time, all the writings we now have in the Bible were extant, but there were other writings as well. There was a body of writings — like the four Gospels — that everyone accepted as Scripture. There were also some that nobody accepted. But there were some in the middle — e.g., Revelation, Hebrews, Shepherd of Hermas, The Didache — that some said yes and others said no. The official canon of the Bible was the result of years of Church leaders talking and praying about this, until they reached a consensus and set the canon in stone.

    I was a kid when Vatican II happened, so while I have early memories of the Latin Mass, my religious education classes came after. The priest who ran my youth group told me to get my own Bible and read it. (I graduated from high school in 1972.) I still have that one (NAB) though I now use the NABRE for daily study and meditation. The Church gave each of my kids her own Bible in 6th grade, the year when their catechesis was focused entirely on Bible study. And my girls are now introducing their own kids to Scripture with children’s books and DVDs.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I was raised Evangelical Protestant, by parents who were strongly anti-Catholic, and I went to a Protestant school (nominally non-denominational, but in reality it was mostly Calvinist). We did a LOT of Bible verse memorization, both in school and in Sunday School (and later on in youth group), and we had Bible verse saydowns (like a spelling bee, only you’re reciting Scripture rather than spelling). I frequently won the saydowns, because back then I had a really good memory (you’d never know it now). We also had what were called “Sword Drills,” where the teacher would shout out a reference and the students would race to see who would be first to find it in the Bible. (I wasn’t so good at those, speed not being my strong suit, but I sometimes won when surrounded by other students who were even slower.) In other words, we had it pounded into our little heads constantly that we should know as much of the Bible by heart as possible, and be able to find ANY verse in the Bible within a few seconds.

      It wasn’t until I entered public school that I knew any Roman Catholics my age personally, and I remember being shocked at how Biblically illiterate they were (by my rather lofty standards, obviously). I pretty much came to the conclusion that the RC church didn’t place much emphasis on Biblical literacy. Of course, that did nothing to squelch my lifelong case of Catholic envy, but that’s another story. 🙂

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      • chrissythehyphenated

        It is true that Protestants are much more likely to know where to find a verse than Catholics, but I manage to get along with the Search function at Bible Gateway. 😉

        The focus in Catholic homiletics is what the readings mean and how we can go out and apply those lessons in our daily lives.

        And while it is true that we don’t do verse memorizing, we are not Bible illiterate. Our priests only talk for 7-10 minutes during the “sermon” (we call it a “homily”), but even with such short lessons, they include Bible knowledge.

        E.g., what a Synoptic Gospel is, what order the Gospels were written in, who they were written for, and why those things matter.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I actually prefer the emphasis on what the Scriptures actually mean, and how to apply them, as opposed to just memorizing words on a page. Many many moons ago, I heard someone say something to the effect that the time he could spend memorizing the Scriptures would be better spent putting into practice the things it teaches, and I found myself agreeing. 🙂

          One of the reasons given to us as children for the importance of memorizing Bible verses was that a day would come when we wouldn’t be allowed to have Bibles (this was back during the Cold War, when we all lived in constant danger of a communist takeover of the U.S.) and so we should have as much of the Bible as possible committed to memory. As a child, I had visions of myself locked up in a commie prison someday, trying to remember all the verses I’d memorized. Visiting missionaries told us hair-raising stories about persecution of Christians in other countries, and warning that it could happen to us, so we’d better be prepared.

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          • I never really thought about it this way, but that’s actually not a bad approach. When you read Natan Scharansky and Solzhenitsyn, you can definitely get the idea that memorizing your favorite parts could come in handy in the gulag. With my luck, I’d only be able to remember the depressing parts of Job.

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            • This is where those of us who are music lovers have a big advantage, especially if we spent a lot of time singing in choirs. After learning things like Handel’s Messiah, Haydn’s Creation, Mendelssohn’s Elijah, etc., not to mention all the shorter sacred choral works we sang, we have tons of Scripture committed to memory. When they put me in the gulag, if I can’t remember all the verses I memorized in elementary school, I can just sing through some of my favorite oratorios and anthems and liturgical music and I’ll be fine.

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            • chrissythehyphenated

              LOL I agree. It’s sad how little emphasis is placed on rote memorization. I think it’s good for your brain to learn how to do it. As I mentioned, my mom knew the Baltimore Catechism by heart. For several years now, I’ve been focusing my aging brain on memorizing prayers.

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      • chrissythehyphenated

        I find it sad and frustrating that most of the anti-Catholic rhetoric is wrong, mean-spirited, and spewed by people who have never read a single thing that the Catholic Church actually says about its own teachings.

        I’m trying to make a tiny dent in that here on occasion … maybe open up some minds and hearts, you know?

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        • Chrissy, I’m reading a book by Rodney Stark called Bearing False Witness: Debunking Centuries of Anti-Catholic History, and if you haven’t already read it, I know you would enjoy it. Stark is a Protestant and teaches at a Baptist university, but his commitment to historical truth is absolute, and he is merciless when it comes to those (including his fellow Protestants) who distort church history for any reason.

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          • chrissythehyphenated

            Thanks! I’m delighted to see it is by a Protestant historian. 🙂

            My current read is How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization by Thomas E. Woods. I’ve got 9 copies in my Amazon cart for Christmas giving. The section I’m in now is about the development of true science and how it is the unique child of Catholic culture.

            He has a section about how the individual scientific contributions of other cultures — e.g., Islamic — happened in spite of the religion, whereas true science developed because of Catholicism.

            The passage I just read with breakfast was about how a Medieval Catholic rejected Aristotle’s teaching that the universe had always existed and was in a steady state. Secular scientists preferred that idea to the account given in Genesis, since it ruled out God. Too bad about the Big Bang. ::snork::

            Today, I added Bearing False Witness and also Seven Lies About Catholic History: Infamous Myths about the Church’s Past and How to Answer Them by Diane Moczar to my Amazon cart. They both look like good additions to my library. 🙂

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            • There are many passages in Bearing False Witness that will have you standing up and cheering. Some of it I was aware of (such as the b.s. about “Hitler’s pope,” and some of the exaggerations and fabrications about the Crusades and the Inquisition), but it’s good to have all that information, exhaustively documented, in one place. The depth and breadth of the author’s scholarship is amazing, and the fact that he doesn’t have a dog in this fight makes it even more impressive. His only commitment is to the truth.

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