Monday, May 31, 2010

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, Citing my Sources, the Bible, and All That

"It ain't so much the things we don't know that get us into trouble. It's the things we know that just ain't so." That statement, or a paraphrase of it, has been attributed to:My guess is that Aristotle heard it from Plato, and that Plato picked it up from Socrates, who - - - and so on, back through the millinnia.

The current English-language version is a neat little aphorism, expressing the idea that people are very capable of mistaking assumptions for facts.

Which is why I cite my sources - and am careful about the sources I cite.

Everybody Knows About Those Catholics

Doing research for another post, I ran into this gem of vox populi1:
"Why aren't Catholics allowed to read the bible for themselves when we have Holy Spirit to help us interpret?"
Yahoo!® Answers

"Best Answer - Chosen by Voters
"They are part of an evil religion which does not have the Holy Spirit.

"Pastor Art

"3 years ago

"30% 3 Votes
I'm familiar with the notion that Catholicism is
  • Evil
  • Anti-Bible
  • Anti-Christian
  • Evil, I tell you!
From the looks of it, this - ah, spirit-filled - view of Catholicism isn't limited to America. The same Q & A - coming at it from a different direction - starts with "Gelöste Frage" and shows the same "Best Answer:" plus readers' comments.

What's interesting to me are the comments on that (revelation?) by "Pastor Art" - many of them are in conversational English. Here are the ones at the top of the list. I've included the dates associated with the comments, although they may not be the date on which the comment was made:
"Debra M. Wishing Peace To All

"Mitglied seit:
"20.April 2006...

"...Update: We do read the Bible. We have for quite a while.
"Darn! I guess I better go find someone who wants these 10 Bibles we have in my house.
"vor 3 Jahren"

"Mitglied seit:
"16.Mai 2007...

"...Why can't you?
"Who says you can't?
"I am Catholic and I do by myself."

"Mitglied seit:
"04.September 2006...

"You need to stop getting your 'information' from the chick tracts, son.

"We are not forbidden to read the Bible, or anything else for that matter. Come join my 5 year Bible School- see how much we read the Bible.

"Go to a Mass, every single day of the week, and hear at least 3 Bible readings a day."

"Pastor art...that title is a joke - you are spreading lies and are not of Christ at all."
"Millie by Millie

"Mitglied seit:
"10.April 2007...

"...Catholics are not encourage to read the Bible, but is not forbidden either. The Watchtower Society expressly forbids to the Jehovah Witnesses to read the Bible by themselves, UNLESS the Jehovah Witnesses use the publications of the Watchtower Society as the only possible interpretation of what they read."
(Yahoo!® Answers)

Sometimes What You Hear About 'Those Catholics' is True - Sort of

I'd have to check on this, but I think that SpiritRoaming made a factual error. There have been times, during the almost-2,000 years that the Catholic Church has been around, when some books were "forbidden." "Prohibited" would probably be a better translation of "index librorum prohibitorum."

You'll find quite a few statements about the 'list of forbidden books' online. Some of them are - 'imaginative' would be a nice way to put it.

Oddly enough, the index of prohibited books actually exists. Or existed.

There's a reference to the index librorum prohibitorum on page 69 of an issue of Acta Sanctae Sedis 1897-98. That's on the website, by the way. Acta Sanctae Sedis is:
"A Roman monthly publication containing the principal public documents issued by the Pope, directly or through the Roman Congregations. It was begun in 1865, under the title of 'Acta Sanctæ Sedis in compendium redacta etc.', and was declared, 23 May, 1904, an organ of the Holy See to the extent that all documents printed in it are 'authentic and official'."
(Catholic Encyclopedia, via New Advent)
Since I couldn't find anything more recent - or in English - about the i. l. p., I picked up the phone and had a short talk about it with a local Catholic deacon. I realize that he isn't even close to being the highest authority in the Catholic Church: but I know him personally, and have learned that what he knows is verifiable - and that he knows what he doesn't know.

About the index librorum prohibitorum: it's a sort of generic term for a Catholic 'black list' of publications that contain (serious) doctrinal errors. Think of them as intellectual land mines. Some folks have the sort of training that lets them disarm mines without blowing themselves up. Others - not so much.

Censorship is Always Bad - Right?

I'm an American, with the usual emotional responses to words like "censorship." On the other hand, I can see reasons for restricting access to some knowledge: like what's the best way to break into the Pentagon's computer network; or the codes to your bank account. In general, though, I think letting people get at information - accurate information - is a good idea.

That said, I can understand why a 'black list' should exist. I'm also a cantankerous, nit-picking old intellectual (in one sense of the word) who insists that ideas make sense - and I made it through American academia with my faith intact. I could probably handle one of those 'forbidden' books. Just the same, I'd like to know that it was blacklisted, while evaluating it.

That's all pretty negative stuff. Much more to the point, the Catholic Church has 'white lists' - books that are certified to be free of doctrinal error, at least. Particularly in older Catholic publications, you'll see "imprimatur" or "nihil obstat" near the front of the book. The Church doesn't give out certification like that all that much now - there's a huge volume of stuff being published, for one thing.

That was Then

But the 'index of forbidden books?' I haven't run into it, apart from historical references - and it's not something that's used, as far as I've experienced, in the Catholic Church in America.

Which isn't to say that there haven't been parishes where, for a time, some reading was restricted. I don't think that's necessarily a good idea - but that's another topic. (January 27, 2009)

If Catholics aren't Supposed to Read the Bible, How Come We're Told to Read the Bible?

(If this part of the post looks really familiar, you've read "If Catholics aren't Supposed to Read the Bible, How Come We're Told to Read the Bible?" (May 31, 2010). I copied this section, and made it into a separate post. Yeah, this Catholic thinks the Bible's that important. Based on what I read in the Catechism, and have been taught.)

The Catechism of the Catholic Church is a pretty good guide for what the Catholic faith is about. Happily, there's an official English translation. Rather early in the book, there's this instruction about Catholics and the Bible:
" 'And such is the force and power of the Word of God that it can serve the Church as her support and vigor and the children of the Church as strength for their faith, food for the soul, and a pure and lasting font of spiritual life.'109 Hence 'access to Sacred Scripture ought to be open wide to the Christian faithful.'110

" 'Therefore, the "study of the sacred page" should be the very soul of sacred theology. The ministry of the Word, too—pastoral preaching, catechetics, and all forms of Christian instruction, among which the liturgical homily should hold pride of place—is healthily nourished and thrives in holiness through the Word of Scripture.'111

" '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." ' 112"
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 131-133)
Why all those footnotes and links? The ones in that excerpt from the Catechism are in the online version - and help the faithful look up who said what, in which resource, and often when.

It's the same reason we have links to passages from the Bible.

Which practicing Catholics are "forcefully and specifically" exhorted to read.

But what would I know? I'm one of those Catholics, and I'm just quoting the official English translation of our Catechism.

I could be lying through my teeth. I know that I'm not - but you wouldn't know that. Unless you follow the links, and see what my sources are.

Which is why I cite my sources - with links, wherever possible.

Of course, the Catechism could be some kind of plot to fool the gullible Catholic laity into thinking we're supposed to read the Bible, when we're not - but I think that's about as likely as the the idea that shape-shifting space-alien lizard people are ruling the world.

About the Holy Spirit

The Catechism has a few words - a chapter-full - to say about the Holy Spirit: I Believe in the Holy Spirit. 'Nuff said.

More-or-less-related posts:
1 "Vox populi, vox dei," is a Latin phrase attributed to Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury, although it looks like he's one of the folks who argued against "voice of the people - voice of God."


Brigid said...

Typo: "I Believe int the Holy Spirit."

The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader

Brian, aka Aluwir, aka Norski said...


Thanks! Fixed it.

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What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.