I’m currently reading through the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It’s a great way to learn what the Church actually teaches rather than what it supposedly teaches (or doesn’t teach). Too often we hear inaccurate things about Catholicism from people that either misunderstand Church teachings or deliberately distort those teachings. It is always best to go directly to the source rather than rely on hearsay. It is particularly dangerous to rely on sources that obviously oppose the Church, since such information is likely to be tainted in favor of the opposition.
As I read through the Catechism, I intend to post thoughts and reflections on certain topics that impress me the most. Here is my first Catechism reflection about Scripture:
Why am reading the Catechism instead of the Bible? Actually, I am reading the Bible. That is one of the things about the Catechism that I find impressive. It is very rooted in Scripture and refers to it often in support of the Church teachings. It is, in effect, a Bible study.
One of the things Catholics often get accused of is not studying Scripture. There are even folks who believe that Catholics are not allowed to read the Bible. Most Catholics may not be able to quote memorized Scripture chapter and verse. However, if they are faithfully attending church they will hear nearly the entire Bible read to them over a three year period. The Mass itself is loaded with Scriptural references. All it takes is listening. If you go to Mass and actually pay attention, you will be studying the Bible. The problem isn’t the Mass. The problem is people not paying attention.
So, does that mean that the Catholic Church doesn’t want Catholics to read the Bible at home? No. The opposite is true. Paragraph 133 in the Catechism says, “The Church forcefully and specifically exhorts all the Christian faithful to learn the surpassing knowledge of Jesus Christ by frequent reading of the divine Scriptures. Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.” That is the teaching of the Catholic Church. Read and study your Bibles, Catholics!
Now, the fact that many Catholics would rather watch television or play video games than read their Bibles says nothing about Church teaching. The fact that many Catholics leave Catholicism for other churches out of a desire to study the Bible also says nothing about Church teaching. What it says is that Catholics need to wake up and learn what their Church actually teaches and then follow the teaching.
Catholics also need to stop letting non-Catholics teach them about their own faith. Think about it. How many non-Catholic Christians are going to tell a Catholic to study the Bible because the Catholic Church says they should? Not likely. Non-Catholic Christians are typically going to say, “Hey, you Catholics don’t know the Bible and you don’t study the Bible, so come to my church where we study the Bible all the time.” Imagine what would happen if every Catholic could respond with, “What do you mean? We hear the Bible at every Mass. The Church also exhorts us to study the Bible! I don’t need to leave Catholicism to study the Bible! I already go to a Bible study!”
Catholics, if your parish doesn’t have a decent Bible study, then either start one or find a parish that has one. No more excuses. Just because many non-Catholic churches have thriving Bible studies does not mean that they are teaching what is right and accurate. Catholics may need to work on developing better Bible studies, but that does not mean the Catholic Church does not have the truth to teach. It simply means that this is an area where Catholics need some improvement. So, let’s do it. It’s time we started inviting non-Catholics to our Bible studies so that they can learn all about the fullness of the Christian Faith found in the Catholic Church. Of course, it certainly helps if we ourselves know about that fullness and what it means.
Originally, the liturgy or the Mass was designed for illiterate people as a tool to help them understand scripture. I attend a Lutheran church that uses a similar liturgy–it’s a wonderful thing if you understand it is totally a reflection of the life of Christ.
Thanks for that, Outlaw. Stained glass and other artwork told the biblical stories to the illiterate as well. Way back when, there might only be one very expensive Bible for the entire congregation, if they were so blessed to have one (which is why they were often chained or locked up). Now we have mostly literate people and tons of Bibles. No reason not to read and study the Scriptures. Every reason to appreciate the connections between Scripture, Sacred Tradition and Church teaching.
You should also check out Luther’s Small Catechism. It’s certainly based on the Roman Catholic Catechism but has a distinctly Protestant flavor:)
Tom you are an excellent writer & I really enjoy reading insight to your thoughts on being a Catholic. I have Luther’s Small Catechism ‘ I carry it with me all the time. It was given to me last year by my daughter. It’s full of wonderful teachings.
Thank you, Mary. That’s very kind of you to say.