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How to Answer Protestants Forum: Catholics and the Bible

by Catherine Frakas 30 Aug 2002

Catholics and the Bible QUESTION from Rev. Deacon Gerald A. Foley August 11, 2001 Will you as succinctly as possible answer the following question directed to me by a former Fundamentalist Christian, now a Catholic convert:
What is the reason for the bad press the Catholic Church has had regarding its so-called historic restrictions on the publications and reading of Sacred Scripture? Why did the Church keep such close watch over the Sacred Texts-and was this in the true interests of the Catholic people prior to the Protestant Revolt of the fifteenth century? Thank you for your response!

ANSWER by Mr. Troy Martz on August 13, 2001 Dear Deacon Foley:
Thank you for your question, it points out how little understanding most people (many Catholics included) of history. I find it amazing that Fundamentalists act like they are the only ones who have ever read the Scriptures and no one else can understand the Scriptures.
The bad press you mention comes from distortions of the truth (and some outright lies) spread by anti-Catholic bigots who have forgotten that they are supposed to act like Christians. There are three basic accusations, most of the the Catholic Church hates the Scripture rumors are based on one of these distortions:
The Catholic Church Burned Bibles On the face of it, this can seem like a very anti-Bible thing to say about the Church. The reality is that this is true -- but not the whole story. Shortly after the invention of the printing press there appeared numerous translations and printings of the Bible. The problem was that many had either misprints (SpellCheck hadn't been invented yet), or misinterpretations. The Catholic Church took and always has taken her responsibility to guard the Deposit of Faith (Scripture included) very seriously. The faithful laity had a right to UNTAINTED Scriptures and the Church was justly vigilant in protecting the Faith.
The Catholic Church Chained Bibles to Churches This is another of the half-truths meant to demean the Church. The truth is that before the days of printing presses, a single complete Bible could cost the equivalent of $50,000. It took a monk over a year to hand copy the text, and then add the cost of expensive vellum (lamb's skin sheets), ink and bindings. Often, a village would save for years to purchase a Bible for their use. Theives found that stealing the Bible was easy money. Thus, villages would chain the Bible to a stand in the Church to prevent theft. So yes, Bibles were chained to Churches, but it was precisely so that all of the people could read the Scriptures.
The Catholic Church Prevented the Translation of the Bible out of Latin The story goes like this: the Protestant Reformers were successful because they provided common people access to Bibles in their own languages. This one isn't even a half-truth -- it is an outright lie that is easily disproven. There are in existance a number of actual copies of venacular Bibles (in English, German, French, etc) from at least 100 years before Martin Luther was born. The Church originally translated the text of Scripture from Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek into Latin precisely because most literate people could read Latin.
Again, by presenting only part of the story, those who claim to be Bible Christians try to use implications and ommissions to slander the Church. They should be ashamed of themselves!
For more information, see Where We Got the Bible Our Debt to the Catholic Church, by the Right Rev. Henry G. Graham from TAN Publishing. This little book give a well documented discussion on English translations of Scripture. The link provided will take you to We are an affiliate of CatholicStore. Thus if you use this link and buy this book, the Legion of St. Michael will receive a commission. This is one way to help support this apostolate
Remember, the Church was guided by the Holy Spirit to write the Sacred Texts (through the Apostles), infallably select which texts were indeed Scripture (The Gospel of Luke is, that of Thomas is not), collect and preserve those Scriptures through nearly 2000 years. This is our family Book and we should never be afraid of what it says but seek to understand Scripture in the Light of the Church. I find it extremely arrogant of those whose denominations aren't even 100 years old to tell us we don't understand Scripture. If it weren't for the Catholic Church, there would be no Bible for them to build their churches upon.
Pax Christi, Troy Martz
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