Monday, February 28, 2011
Why Does the Catholic Church Discourage Bible Reading?
It should first be established, as a matter of historical fact, that the Catholic Church compiled the Canon of Scripture at the Councils of Hippo (393) and Carthage (397). The Douay–Rheims was translated before the King James Version, and the Gutenberg Bible (the first printed Bible) was Catholic. And we can't forget the very important work of Stephen Langton, Cardinal Archbishop of Canterbury, who created the first Bible with chapters and numbered verses. I think it was best summed up by Martin Luther himself, who wrote in his Commentary on St. John: "We are compelled to concede to the Papists that they have the Word of God, that we received it from them, and that without them we should have no knowledge of it at all."
If the Catholic Church discourages Bible reading, then there are millions of Catholics that aren't aware of it. In fact, there would be over 1 billion Catholics that aren't aware of it, because Catholics read more Scripture than most Protestant ecclesial communities. For example, every Catholic Church in the world will be reading the following for Sunday, March 6th: Deuteronomy 11:18, 26-28, 32; Psalms 31:2-3, 3-4, 17, 25; Romans 3:21-25, 28; Matthew 7:21-27. These are the readings that every Catholic Church will read this Sunday During the Liturgy of the Word. This does not include the various Biblical phrases found littered throughout the Mass, such as "Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and [I shall] be healed" (Matthew 8:8); The Lord's Prayer (our Father); or the Holy, Holy, Holy (Isaiah 6:3, Revelation 4:8). Those three are just a few examples of Scripture versus that are sprinkled within the Mass. So, from a purely numerical point-of-view, the Catholic Church encourages the reading of the Bible. So much so, in fact, that she has incorporated Scripture as an integral part of her Mass and Liturgy.
Catholic devotions are also Gospel centered. The Rosary comes largely from the Bible. The Hail Mary comes from Luke 1:28 and 1:42. Each decade of the Rosary begins with an Our Father (Lord's Prayer). All but 2 of the 15 traditional Mysteries (2 of the 20 in regards to all the Mysteries) are solidly based on Scripture. The Bible doesn't just have to be presented in word format, though. The Catholic Church has constantly proclaimed Scripture through the use of artwork and stained glass windows. Previous to wide-spread literacy, these would have been the second most common means of learning Scripture.
The question of why the Catholic Church discourages Bible reading is a baseless one. We hear Scripture read every Sunday, we see the Bible presented in dozens of ways in every Church building, and the Catholic Church has always stressed the importance of personal Bible reading and of personal interpretation (as long as that interpretation is not heretical... like any Church would do).
Well, what are your thoughts?