Sunday, December 26, 2010

Did the Catholic Church forbid Bible reading

“Did the Catholic Church forbid Bible reading, or to what scope and degree?”

While the accusations of censure of the Bible are sometimes exaggerated, and while Roman Catholicism did print Bibles in the common (“vulgar”) tongue, and among other encouragements, Pius VI. in his letter to Martini, the author of a translation of the Bible into Italian, commended its printing and reading, yet for much of her history she evidences that it did not place a priority upon personal Biblical literacy among the laity, including by requiring permission to do so, or more rarely, an outright ban in some places.

Historical view:

It is indisputable that in Apostolic times the Old Testament was commonly read (John v, 47; Acts viii, 28; xvii, 11; II Tim. iii, 15). Roman Catholics admit that this reading was not restricted in the first centuries, in spite of its abuse by Gnostics and other heretics. On the contrary, the reading of Scripture was urged (Justin Martyr, xliv, ANF, i, 177-178; Jerome, Adv. libros Rufini, i, 9, NPNF, 2d ser., iii, 487); and Pamphilus, the friend of Eusebius, kept copies of Scripture to furnish to those who desired them. Chrysostom attached considerable importance to the reading of Scripture on the part of the laity and denounced the error that it was to be permitted only to monks and priests (De Lazaro concio, iii, MPG, xlviii, 992; Hom. ii in Matt., MPG, lvii, 30, NPNF, 2d ser., x, 13). He insisted upon access being given to the entire Bible, or at least to the New Testament (Hom. ix in Col., MPG, lxii, 361, NPNF, xiii, 301). The women also, who were always at home, were diligently to read the Bible (Hom. xxxv on Gen. xii, MPG, liii, 323). Jerome recommended the reading and studying of Scripture on the part of the women (Epist., cxxviii, 3, MPL, xxii, 1098, NPNF, 2d ser., vi, 259; Epist., lxxix, 9, MPG, xxii, 730-731, NPNF, 2d ser., vi, 167). The translations of the Bible, Augustine considered a blessed means of propagating the Word of God among the nations (De doctr. christ., ii, 5, NPNF, 1st ser., ii, 536); Gregory I recommended the reading of the Bible without placing any limitations on it (Hom. iii in Ezek., MPL, lxxvi, 968).

The Middle Ages:

Owing to lack of culture among the Germanic and Romanic peoples, there was for a long time no thought of restricting access to the Bible there. Translations of Biblical books into German began only in the Carolingian period and were not originally intended for the laity. Nevertheless the people were anxious to have the divine service and the Scripture lessons read in the vernacular. John VIII in 880 permitted, after the reading of the Latin gospel, a translation into Slavonic; but Gregory VII, in a letter to Duke Vratislav of Bohemia in 1080 characterized the custom as unwise, bold, and forbidden (Epist., vii, 11; P. Jaff�, BRG, ii, 392 sqq.). This was a formal prohibition, not of Bible reading in general, but of divine service in the vernacular.

With the appearance, in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, of the Albigenses and Waldenses, who appealed to the Bible in all their disputes with the Church, the hierarchy was furnished with a reason for shutting up the Word of God. (Philip Schaff, Bible reading by the laity, restrictions on. The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, Vol. II: Basilica – Chambers)

“There was far more extensive and continuous use of Scriptures in the public service of the early Church than there is among us.” (Addis and Arnold, Catholic Dictionary, The Catholic Publication Society, 1887, page 509)
Our present convenient compendiums -- the Missal, Breviary, and so on were formed only at the end of a long evolution. In the first period (lasting perhaps till about the fourth century) there were no books except the Bible, from which lesons were read and Psalms were sung. Nothing was written, because nothing was fixed. [Catholic Encyclopedia, 15 Volume Special Edition under the auspices of the Knights of Columbus Catholic Truth Committee, The Encyclopedia Press Inc., New York, 1913, Volume 9, page 296]

Through most of the fourth century, the controversy with the Arians had turned upon Scripture, and appeals to past authority were few. [Catholic Encyclopedia, 15 Volume Special Edition under the auspices of the Knights of Columbus Catholic Truth Committee, The Encyclopedia Press Inc., New York, 1913, Volume 6, page 2]
Books of the sacred scriptures cannot be published unless the Apostolic See or the conference of bishops has approved them. For the publication of their translations into the vernacular, it is also required that they be approved by the same authority and provided with necessary and sufficient annotations (Canon 825 §1).

The Catholic dictionary states that, “In early times the Bible was read freely by the lay people...New dangers came in during the Middle Ages...To meet those evils, the Council of Toulouse (1229) and Terragona, (1234) [local councils], forbade the laity to read the vernacular translations of the Bible. Toulouse was in response to the Albigensian heresy, and it is understood that when the Albigensian problem disappeared, so did the force of their order, which never affected more than southern France.

Council of Toulouse, 1229, Canon 14: "We prohibit the permission of the books of the Old and New Testament to laymen, except perhaps they might desire to have the Psalter, or some Breviary for the divine service, or the Hours of the blessed Virgin Mary, for devotion; expressly forbidding their having the other parts of the Bible translated into the vulgar tongue" (Pierre Allix, Ecclesiastical History of Ancient Churches of the Albigenses, published in Oxford at the Clarendon Press in 1821, reprinted in USA in 1989 by Church History Research & Archives, P.O. Box 38, Dayton Ohio, 45449, p. 213).

Pius IV required bishops to refuse lay persons leave to read even Catholic versions of Scripture unless their confessors or parish priests judged that such reading was likely to prove beneficial.” (Catholic Dictionary, Addis and Arnold, 1887, page 82).

The Bull Unigenitus, published at Rome, September 8, 1713, as part of its censure of the propositions of Jansenism*, condemned the following:

79. It is useful and necessary at all times, in all places, and for every kind of person, to study and to know the spirit, the piety, and the mysteries of Sacred Scripture.

80. The reading of Sacred Scripture is for all.

81. The sacred obscurity of the Word of God is no reason for the laity to dispense themselves from reading it.
82. The Lord's Day ought to be sanctified by Christians with readings of pious works and above all of the Holy Scriptures. It is harmful for a Christian to wish to withdraw from this reading.

83. It is an illusion to persuade oneself that knowledge of the mysteries of religion should not be communicated to women by the reading of Sacred Scriptures. Not from the simplicity of women, but from the proud knowledge of men has arisen the abuse of the Scriptures and have heresies been born.

84. To snatch away from the hands of Christians the New Testament, or to hold it closed against them by taking away from them the means of understanding it, is to close for them the mouth of Christ.

85. To forbid Christians to read Sacred Scripture, especially the Gospels, is to forbid the use of light to the sons of light, and to cause them to suffer a kind of excommunication.
INNOCENT XIII 1721-1724 BENEDICT XIII 1724-1730 CLEMENT XII 1730-174)

The Council of Trent did allow reading of Scripture, but apparently only after a license in writing was obtained from the proper ecclesiastical authority:

Session XXV: Rule IV of the Ten Rules Concerning Prohibited Books Drawn Up by The Fathers Chosen by the Council of Trent and Approved by Pope Pius:

Since it is clear from experience that if the Sacred Books are permitted everywhere and without discrimination in the vernacular, there will by reason of the boldness of men arise therefrom more harm than good, the matter is in this respect left to the judgment of the bishop or inquisitor, who may with the advice of the pastor or confessor permit the reading of the Sacred Books translated into the vernacular by Catholic authors to those who they know will derive from such reading no harm but rather an increase of faith and piety, which permission they must have in writing. Those, however, who presume to read or possess them without such permission may not receive absolution from their sins till they have handed over to the ordinary. Bookdealers who sell or in any way supply Bibles written in the vernacular to anyone who has not this permission, shall lose the price of the books, which is to be applied by the bishop to pious purposes, and in keeping with the nature of the crime they shall be subject to other penalties which are left to the judgment of the same bishop. Regulars who have not the permission of their superiors may not read or purchase them. H. J. Schroeder, Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent: Original Text with English Translation (St. Louis: B. Herder Book Co., 1955), p. 274-75.

Between 1567 and 1773, not a single edition of an Italian-language Bible was printed anywhere in the Italian peninsula." “When English Roman Catholics created their first English biblical translation in exile at Douai and Reims, it was not for ordinary folk to read, but for priests to use as a polemical weapon.—the explicit purpose which the 1582 title-page and preface of the Reims New Testament proclaimed. Only the Jansenists of early seventeenth-century France came to have a more positive and generous attitude to promoting Bible-reading among Catholics" (Oxford University professor Diarmaid MacCulloch, The Reformation: A History, 2003, p. 406; p. 585.)
Douai-Rheims New Testament [verbose] Introduction, excerpts:

Which translation we do not for all that publish, upon erroneous opinion of necessity, that the Holy Scriptures should always be in our mother tongue, or that they ought, or were ordained by God, to be read impartially by all,..but upon special consideration of the present time, state, and condition of our country, unto which diverse things are either necessary or profitable and medicinable now that otherwise, in the peace of the Church, were neither much requisite, nor perchance wholly tolerable.

More excerpts:

In our own country, notwithstanding the Latin tongue was ever (to use Venerable Bede's words) common to all the provinces of the same for meditation or study of Scriptures, and no vulgar translation commonly used or employed by the multitude, yet they were extant in English even before the troubles that Wycliffe and his followers raised in our Church,..

Which causeth the Holy Church not to forbid utterly any Catholic translation, though she allow not the publishing or reading of any absolutely and without exception or limitation, knowing by her Divine and most sincere wisdom, how, where, when, and to whom these her Master's and Spouse's gifts are to be bestowed to the most good of the faithful,

Providentissimus deus on the study of Holy Scripture Encyclical of Pope Leo XIII , November 18, 1893, states,
6. It is in this that the watchful care of the Church shines forth conspicuously. By admirable laws and regulations, she has always shown herself solicitous that "the celestial treasure of the Sacred Books, so bountifully bestowed upon man by the Holy Spirit, should not lie neglected."25 She has prescribed that a considerable portion of them shall be read and piously reflected upon by all her ministers in the daily office of the sacred psalmody. She has ordered that in Cathedral Churches, in monasteries, and in other convents in which study can conveniently be pursued, they shall be expounded and interpreted by capable men; and she has strictly commanded that her children shall be fed with the saving words of the Gospel at least on Sundays and solemn feasts.26 Moreover, it is owing to the wisdom and exertions of the Church that there has always been continued from century to century that cultivation of Holy Scripture which has been so remarkable and has borne such ample fruit.

23. In order that all these endeavors and exertions may really prove advantageous to the cause of the Bible, let scholars keep steadfastly to the principles which We have in this Letter laid down. Let them loyally hold that God, the Creator and Ruler of all things, is also the Author of the Scriptures -- and that therefore nothing can be proved either by physical science or archaeology which can really contradict the Scriptures. If, then, apparent contradiction be met with, every effort should be made to remove it.

However, while this encyclical was partly motivated by the rise of the historical-critical method of analyzing Scripture, which impugns its authority, yet liberal scholarship reigns in Roman Catholicism, in which historical accounts are relegated to being fables and folk tales, such is seen in the NAB, along with other problems and gender inclusive language.

Protestant translations of the Bible were not the only books to be banned. The Index of Prohibited Books was first published in 1544, and the Inquisition in Rome prepared the first Roman Index, issued by Paul IV in 1559. It contained more than a thousand interdictions divided into three classes: authors, all of whose works were to be prohibited;

“The defense against Protestantism always remained a major pre-occupation of Roman censors. Protection of the political and juridical rights and privileges of the church, the pope, and the hierarchy also find a notable echo in the Index. Thus, writings favoring Gallicanism and those advocating the right of civil authorities to intervene in ecclesiastical affairs appear prominently, alongside polemical works dealing with the political intervention of the Holy See, such as during its conflict with the Republic of Venice in 1606–1607, or the oath of loyalty in England during the pontificate of Paul V (1605–1621).”
INTER PRAECIPUAS (On Biblical Societies) of Pope Gregory XVI declared:

1. Among the special schemes with which non-Catholics plot against the adherents of Catholic truth to turn their minds away from the faith, the biblical societies are prominent. They were first established in England and have spread far and wide so that We now see them as an army on the march, conspiring to publish in great numbers copies of the books of divine Scripture. These are translated into all kinds of vernacular languages for dissemination without discrimination among both Christians and infidels. Then the biblical societies invite everyone to read them unguided.

In the many translations from the biblical societies, serious errors are easily inserted by the great number of translators, either through ignorance or deception. These errors, because of the very number and variety of translations, are long hidden and hence lead the faithful astray...

3. For this end the same biblical societies never cease to slander the Church and this Chair of Peter as if We have tried to keep the knowledge of sacred Scripture from the faithful. However, We have documents clearly detailing the singular zeal which the Supreme Pontiffs and bishops in recent times have used to instruct the Catholic people more thoroughly in the word of God, both as it exists in writing and in tradition.

5. ..the school of Jansenius. Borrowing the tactics of the Lutherans and Calvinists, they rebuked the Apostolic See on the grounds that because the reading of the Scriptures for all the faithful, at all times and places, was useful and necessary, it therefore could not be forbidden anyone by any authority...

11. Therefore, taking counsel with a number of Cardinals, and weighing the whole matter seriously and in good time, We have decided to send this letter to all of you. We again condemn all the above-mentioned biblical societies of which our predecessors disapproved. We specifically condemn the new one called Christian League founded last year in New York and other societies of the same kind, if they have already joined with it or do so in the future. Therefore let it be known to all that anyone who joins one of these societies, or aids it, or favors it in any way will be guilty of a grievous crime. Besides We confirm and renew by Our apostolic authority the prescriptions listed and published long ago concerning the publication, dissemination, reading, and possession of vernacular translations of sacred Scriptures.

Pope Benedict XV wrote in his encyclical Spiritus Paraclitus of 1920: "A partial indulgence is granted to the faithful who, with the veneration due the divine Word, make a spiritual reading from the Sacred Scriptures. A plenary indulgence is granted if this reading is continued for at least one half an hour."

Since Vatican a marked difference in the Roman Catholic attitude toward general Bible reading became evident.
At mid-century the Scripture were read in Latin at Mass. There were few selections from the Old Testament, and a rather small number of New Testament passages dominated..Since Vatican 2..the Old Testament is very prominent and almost the entire New represented...At mid-century study of Bible texts was not an integral part of the priary or secondary school curriculum. At best, the Bible was conveyed through summaries of the texts...Now the texts of the Bible form the primary resource for Catholic religious education at all levels. (The Catholic Study Bible, Oxford University Press, 1990, p. RG16)

"A partial indulgence is granted to the faithful, who with the veneration due to the divine word make a spiritual reading from Sacred Scripture. A plenary indulgence is granted, if this reading is continued for at least one half an hour." (Enchiridion of Indulgences. Authorized English edition. 1969. Catholic Book Publishers. New York. Page 68. # 50)
*a distinct movement within the Catholic Church from the 16th to 18th centuries. It opposed Pelagianism (and semi-Pelagianism), and what is saw as the "relaxed morality" of Jesuitism and its frequent communion, and it followers identified themselves as rigorous followers of Augustinism, and it thus shared some tenets of Calvinism (though its pious Catholic founder, Jansen, rejected the doctrine of assurance). Its key conflict with Roman Catholic soteriology is that it denies the role of free will in the acceptance and use of grace.

The Bull condemns 101 propositions which are taken verbatim from the last (and enlarged edition of Pasquier Quesnel's book entitled Abrégé de la morale de l'Evangile ("Morality of the Gospel, Abridged") , first published 1671. The work was approved by the French bishop of Châlons-sur-Marne, and the last edition of 1693 was highly recommended by the new bishop of Châlons, Gaston-Louis de Noailles.

Pope Clement XI condemned it in a brief, July 13, 1708 ,but Noailles, who had become Archbishop of Paris and cardinal, was not prepared to withdraw his approbation of it. This resulted in the Pope issuing the Bull Unigenitus, and later the Bull "Pastoralis officii" on 28 Aug., 1718, excommunicating all that refused to accept the Bull "Unigenitus," as Noailles, who did withdraw his approval of Morality of the Gospel, worked to prevent unconditional acceptance of the Bull "Unigenitus," but relented shortly before his death.

The 101 propositions were overall “Declared and condemned as false, captious, evil-sounding, offensive to pious ears, scandalous, pernicious, rash, injurious to the Church and her practice, insulting not only to the Church but also the secular powers seditious, impious, blasphemous, suspected of heresy, and smacking of heresy itself, and, besides, favoring heretics and heresies, and also schisms, erroneous, close to heresy, many times condemned, and finally heretical, clearly renewing many heresies respectively and most especially those which are contained in the infamous propositions of Jansen, and indeed accepted in that sense in which these have been condemned.”

Among the condemned propositions were that: grace works with omnipotence and is irresistible; without grace man can only commit sin; Christ died for the elect only; every love that is not supernatural is evil; without supernatural love there can be no hope in God, no obedience to His law, no good work, no prayer, no merit, no religion; the prayer of the sinner and his other good acts performed out of fear of punishment are only new sins, etc.

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