40 Myths About the Catholic Church–The Catholics Added Books to the Bible

To deal with this popular myth, we have to look at a little history.  In the early days of the Church, there was no Bible.  Everything was handed on by word-of-mouth.  Because the early Christians generally believed that Jesus was coming back sooner rather than later, nobody saw the need to write anything down.  As time passed the folks decided that maybe there should be some written documentation of Jesus’ life.  Unfortunately, many of the people who wrote about Jesus and His Church weren’t divinely inspired, kind of like bloggers today.

The Bible as we know it today is a collection of those writings that were divinely inspired.  This includes both Old Testament and New Testament books.  The books in question are all from the Old Testament.  It was the Catholic Council of Hippo in 393 A.D. that decided which books to include.  Without getting into a long-winded dissertation on what books came from where, suffice it to say that the Council of Trent confirmed the canon with the seven so-called deutercanonical books in 1543.    The seven books are:

  • Tobit
  • Judith
  • Part of Esther
  • Wisdom
  • Sirach
  • Baruch
  • Part of Daniel
  • 1 Maccabees
  • 2 Maccabees

Since it was the Catholic Church that originally declared what books make up the Bible, it’s hard to see how anyone could think the Church added books.  The fact is that the Church added all the books.  So, what happened?

It’s fairly simple.  The books in question didn’t support some of Martin Luther’s ideas.  So, when he published his protestant Bible he left them out.  It was the protestants who changed the books of the Bible, not the Catholics.  Biblical scholars can point out any number of New Testament passages that cite the seven books in question.  James Akin gives an excellent explanation of all this in his article, Defending the Deuterocanonicals.    I recommend it to anyone looking for a more in-depth explanation.

Remember that it wasn’t until 500 years ago that any of this became an issue.  From 393 A.D. until the 1500s, there was no question of what books belonged in the Bible.  It was those wacky protestants, particularly Martin Luther, who started the kerfuffle.

Coming up…Why do we need all those “man-made” rules?  Isn’t the Bible enough?

40 Myths About the Catholic Church–Catholics Don’t Read the Bible

bibleFirst a disclaimer, SOME Catholics don’t read the Bible.  Neither do some protestants.  Some Jews don’t read the Torah and some Muslims don’t read the Koran.  But a blanket statement that Catholics don’t read God’s inspired word is just wrong.

One thing that makes it appear that we are Bible-less is that we don’t bring our Bibles to mass.  Unlike many protestant denominations, the Church provides us with a handy book called a “missalette” that contains all the Scripture readings for each week.  All we have to do is to open the book to today’s date and there’s all you need.  Many protestant churches, on the other hand, expect their members to tote their Bible with them to church.  Then the preacher will tell them where to turn in the Good Book to follow along with him.

So, when a non-Catholic brother or sister accuses you of not knowing “chapter and verse” he or she may be right.  But it doesn’t mean you don’t know the Bible, it just means that you don’t know which book is where.  I think we all know the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  We probably also know that Acts of the Apostles comes right after John.  But most of us don’t know the order of Paul’s letters and we sure don’t know where to find all those Old Testament books, especially since we have seven more than they do.  (More on this in a future post.)

I remember growing up in the Baptist church that it was considered a real milestone when you learned to name all the books of the Old and New Testaments in order.  It was an important skill to learn because when Pastor Bob tells you to turn to the third chapter of First Corinthians you’d better be quick about it.  If not, he’ll go on without you.

As far as day-to-day reading of Scripture goes, the Church encourages us to spend as much time at it as we can.  Whether you do or not is up to you.

Another rap you may hear on the Church is that she used to chain the Bibles down in the Church.  That one’s actually true.  But here’s the deal.  Before Gutenberg invented movable type all Bibles were copied by hand.  It took a very long time and a local church was lucky to have one.  They couldn’t just be left lying around where someone might steal them.  The other thing is that most people couldn’t read.  If you can’t read you really don’t need a Bible (or any other book).  Remember that Gutenberg and Martin Luther came along at about the same time, so the Churches that were chaining down the Bibles were Catholic Churches because in those days Catholic meant Christian and Christian meant Catholic.

If you’ve ever studied a Catholic Bible you’ve probably noticed that there are a lot of footnotes; a lot of explanations.  That’s because the Bible, like any other book is open to interpretation.  Printed words (like this post) may be read more than one way.  Plus, unless you read Greek or Hebrew, the Bible that you’re reading is translated from its original language.

So, to make sure that people were following an accurate translation, and that they were getting the proper interpretation of the Scriptures, the Church preferred that the people got their scripture at mass, not from some weird translation.  Yes, at one time some translations of the Bible were on the Church’s list of banned books.  These were inaccurate translations usually missing those seven books I talked about earlier.

So, it’s too late to make this long story short, but I’ll wrap it up by saying that yes, Virginia, Catholics are encouraged to read the Bible.  Some may be more faithful readers than others, but most of us read it and enjoy it.  Even if we don’t read the book ourselves, over the course of a three year cycle, regular attendees will have the entire Bible read to them at mass.

Coming up:  About those seven books.

40 Myths About the Catholic Church–Papal Infallibility

“You Catholics say that the Pope is ‘infallible’.  That means he’s never wrong, right?”

Since the Holy Father is very much in the news right now, I thought I’d start this series by clearing up some myths about the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of Saint Peter, the Pope.  Most people, non-Catholics included, have heard that the Pope is infallible, but they probably don’t understand what that means.  To answer the question above, it doesn’t mean that he’s never wrong, that he can’t sin, or anything like that.

Here’s an example.  If the current Pontiff, Benedict XVI, were to say to you that he’s sure that Germany is going to win the World Cup, don’t run out and bet the mortgage.  Like any loyal German, he wants Germany to win.  He believes they can win.  But he has no more ability to pick winners of sporting events than you or I do.  In fact, given his workload, you and I may be more capable of doing the research needed in picking a winner than he is.

The doctrine of Papal Infallibility was officially declared to be doctrine by the first Vatican Council (1869-70), but it was recognized from the very beginning of the Church.  It’s not like popes run around the Vatican making infallible proclamations.  In fact the most recent case of the Pope speaking infallibly, or ex cathedra (Latin for ‘from the chair’) was in 1950 when Pius XII declared the Assumption of Mary to be an article of faith which must be believed by all Catholics.

Bishops can also speak ex cathedra, but not all by themselves.  All the bishops, speaking in common with the Bishop of Rome may make infallible statements.  The best example would be Church councils where the Church speaks with one voice.  Infallibility only applies when the Church speaks on matters of faith and morals.  When the Bishops are gathered in council and they all agree to order out for pizza, that’s not infallibility, it’s just a bunch of hungry guys.

Here’s what Vatican I said:  “Therefore, faithfully adhering to the tradition received from the beginning of the Christian faith, to the glory of God our savior, for the exaltation of the Catholic religion and for the salvation of the Christian people, with the approval of the Sacred Council, we teach and define as a divinely revealed dogma that when the Roman Pontiff speaks EX CATHEDRA, that is, when, in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church, he possesses, by the divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, that infallibility which the divine Redeemer willed his Church to enjoy in defining doctrine concerning faith or morals. Therefore, such definitions of the Roman Pontiff are of themselves, and not by the consent of the Church, irreformable.”

Like I said, you can count the number of ex cathedra statements made by all the Popes over the last 2,000 years on your fingers.  Well maybe you’ll have to use a couple of toes, but the point stands.  Examples of Popes speaking infallibly are few and far between.  The last officially acknowledged example being the 1950 declaration of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin.

 

John Paul II made a pretty definitive statement on the all-male priesthood (Ordinatio Sacerdotalis).  But the Church says that he was just restating something that everybody already knew.

This whole concept can get pretty deep, too deep for a short blog post.  Suffice it to say that the Pope isn’t immune to making mistakes on every day things.  He’s also not incapable of committing sin.  But when he says something ex cathedra, we all have to believe it. But remember, it’s been more than 60 years since it happened so it’s not something that’s going to happen every day.

I’m going to give you some links to other material on this subject that might shed more light on it for you.  Like I said, this short post isn’t intended to give you a full understanding of the whole matter, but just to whet your whistle to learn more.

Thanks for reading!

Catholic Answers on Papal Infallibility

Ask a Franciscan–How Many Infallible Teachings?

Jimmy Akin:  Two Instances Of Papal Infallibility?

Papal Infallibility – EWTN.com

40 Myths About the Catholic Church

Last year during Lent I published a series of posts on 40 Reasons Why It’s Cool to be Catholic.  It was part of my Lenten penance and if you read all 40 of them, then I suppose it was part of your penance too.  I’m continually surprised when WordPress tells me that people are still reading those posts nearly a year later.  I remember from my secular blogging days that people love lists, so I guess the one-post-per-day format for Lent must have been a success.

“Here’s the thing.  Today is Ash Wednesday and I have a decision to make.  Should I try it again?  If so, what forty things can I write about that people will find interesting, keeping in mind that I’m going to have to keep it up for six weeks?
This Monday, when our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI announced his intention to retire at the end of this month, I noticed that the Catholic-bashers came out in full force.  I also noticed that the justification for their hatred of all things Catholic has little or no basis in fact.  As our beloved Bishop Fulton Sheen once said, “No one hates the Catholic Church,  But millions of people hate what they think the Catholic Church is.”  (This is a paraphrase because I don’t have the exact quote in front of me, but it’s basically what he said.)

There is so much misinformation out there about Catholics, even among Catholics themselves, that I think this will be a timely and useful series.  I hope you agree.  If you don’t, feel free to comment.  After constructive criticism is why God gave us the “delete” button.  (Just kidding.)  I enjoy the conversation and appreciate the opportunity to learn something.

Stay tuned.

A Pope Retires

benedict eucharistI’ve been watching today as the “experts” come out of the woodwork with their commentaries on Benedict XVI‘s retirement.  It’s amazing how many Kresgin wannabe’s think they can read the man’s mind.  “He’s retiring because the job’s too hard.”  “He’s retiring because of the child abuse scandal.” How about this:  The man is 85 years old!  He’s suffering from the effects of old age.  He wants to spend his remaining time on earth getting ready for the life to come.  I’d like to suggest that the so-called experts get back to us when they’re 85 and let us know if they still want to hold a 24-hour a day job.

The logical next step is for the pundits to make their predictions about who the Cardinals will select to replace Benedict.  It’s amazing how many people think they have some insight on how 120 or so men from all over the world are going to vote.  The common denominator of almost all popes has been that everyone was surprised that they were chosen.  Stop wasting your time trying to predict what the Holy Spirit is going to do!  You’ll just look foolish.

The next big issue is whether the new Pontiff will be “liberal” or “conservative”.  This drives me crazy!  This isn’t politics.  This is the Church created by Jesus Christ more than 2,000 years ago.  When it comes to the teachings of the Church there is no such thing as liberal or conservative.  As  Catholics we have two choices.  We either accept everything the Church teaches or we don’t.  If we choose not to accept 100% of what She teaches, we’re not “liberals”, we’re heretics.  If we choose to override Jesus’ teachings, Jesus’ Church, then we’re trying to make ourselves gods and what that leads to isn’t going to be pretty.

One of those things that we must accept as Catholics is that the Holy Spirit will guide our Cardinals in making the correct choice.  As my son pointed out on facebook today, the Catholic-bashers are already making their presence known.  This (the Pope’s resignation) is just one more excuse for them to hurl their anti-Catholic venom in our direction.  These people are so blinded by hate for what they think the Catholic Church teaches, that they’ll completely miss the  beauty and dignity of the replacement process.  I feel sorry for them.

This is a time of great challenges and great opportunities for the Church.  In the weeks ahead the Cardinals are going to get together and decide who our next Holy Father will be.  Instead of wasting our time reading and listening to people who haven’t the faintest idea what they’re talking about, how about you and I spend some  time on our knees asking the Holy Spirit to guide our Cardinals in making the best choice.  Pray, too, that Benedict XVI will live the remainder of his earthly life in peace, tranquility, and good health.  And pray that whoever the new Pope may be, that we will have the grace and wisdom to listen to what he has to say and give him the respect that his holy office deserves.

Blessed John Paul II, pray for us.

What’s Wrong with the Church?

Good question.  Depending on who y0u ask you’ll hear “nothing” or “everything” or somewhere in between..  I guess I fall into that in between grouping.  As far as the teachings of the Church, Jesus guaranteed us that the she would be free from error.  In matters of faith and morals the Church is always right.

What is wrong with the Church is the people in it, especially those who call themselves Catholic but can’t walk the talk.  Case in point, our local Jesuit University, Saint Louis U.  It’s been common knowledge here in Saint Louis that SLU lost its Catholic identity years ago.  In fact, to get public funds for its sports palace, the board of the school publicly declared that it isn’t Catholic.  Separation of Church and state and all that.

The school has a history of harboring not just non-Catholic thought but even anti-Catholic thought.  During election season you could see “Obama/Biden” signs prominently displayed in dorm room windows.  The current president, Father Lawrence Biondi (who’s in a heap of trouble himself with students and faculty) engaged in a very public spat with the Archbishop over whether the university could sell its hospital to a secular organization.  They did.

But their latest move takes the cake.  In honor of Black History Month the university has invited Toure (only one name?) to be its keynote speaker.  You may have heard of this guy.  He’s a commentator on MSNBC and recently said “Thank God for abortion.”  He said that abortion saved him. Yeah, that’s the guy we want speaking at our university.

How is the average Catholic, especially the young Catholic going to learn to respect Church teaching when institutions of higher learning who proudly wave the Catholic flag when they want money, flaunt everything the Church stands for.  SLU isn’t the first.  Remember when Notre Dame gave an honorary doctorate to the most pro-abortion president in history?  Remember when Georgetown covered up the crucifix so as not to offend that same president?

I don’t want to get on too much of a rant here,, but I think it’s high time that our bishops use their authority and put a stop to this nonsense.  The people responsible for these atrocities should be relieved of their duties or some of these so-called Cathoilic schools should be punished.  Maybe a stern warning for first offenders would be appropriate with no second chance.  Maybe we should stop funding these schools and see what happens.  Sadly true Catholic higher learning is getting very hard to find.

 

MSNBC HOST: ‘I THANK GOD AND COUNTRY…ABORTION WAS THERE TO SAVE ME

Toure says “Thank God for Abortion”

SLU Honors Black History Month : Saint Louis University : SLUwww.slu.eduThis year’s keynote speaker will be journalist and author Touré, who will discuss “How Racism Functions Today and Ways to Deal with it to Get Success.”

4th Sunday of Ordinary Time—Love

4th Sunday of Ordinary Time

I have no official statistics, but based on my own experience I’d say that at least two out of three couples choose our second reading today from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians for their wedding ceremony.  And, why not?  It’s the ultimate definition of the word “love”.  But if you read Paul’s letter in context, he’s not writing about married love, or even male/female love.

 

Our reading today is the third in a series from the 14th Chapter of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians.  Remember, two weeks ago we learned that the community was divided.  The people were arguing with one another about who had the greatest spiritual gifts.  “My gift of healing is greater than your gift of prophesy!”  “No my gift of discernment is better than either of your gifts.”  And on and on.

 

Paul reminded them that each gift came from God and that no gift is more important than any other. That was verse 4-11 of the 12th chapter of Paul’s first letter to them.

 

Then last week we read verses 12-30.  Still trying to get them to stop arguing Paul uses the analogy of the body.  Each part of the body makes its special contribution.  The hand isn’t better than the foot and the eye isn’t greater than the ear.  All of the parts have to work together.  If any part suffers, the whole body suffers.  “If one part is honored, all parts share its joy.”

 

In our reading today, Paul wraps up the series by telling them that there is one thing greater than any of the other spiritual gifts and that’s love.

 

In spite of the fact that this is such a popular wedding reading, the kind of love Paul describes isn’t necessarily married love, though the definition fits the love between a man and wife perfectly.  But, notice that Paul doesn’t say anything about holding hands, or sending flowers, or spending the rest of your life with the same person following the sacrament of marriage.

 

No, he’s talking about the kind of love that we’re all supposed to have for one another.  Remember that Jesus told us in the 15th Chapter of John’s Gospel that the greatest love of all is to lay down one’s life for his friends.  He gives us His two great commandments:  Love God and love your neighbor as yourself.  In this passage Paul tells us what Jesus meant.

 

“If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.”   When I was in high school I was in the band.  I was a drummer.  We used gongs and cymbals for marches and big dramatic music.  When we played a ballad or a love song, we put the cymbals away.  Cymbals were loud.  They were noisy.  They only played one single note and that note was always brash and emphatic.  When you play the piano, you tickle the ivories.  You toodle a flute.  You stroke a violin.  But you beat a drum.  Gongs resound and cymbals clash.

 

In other words, no matter how great your gifts, if you don’t have love they’re just so much noise.

 

“If I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge, if I have all faith so as to move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.”  He’s telling them that none of their gifts are worth a darn without love.  Even if he “gives away everything he owns, and if he hands his body over so that he may boast, but does not have love he gains nothing.”

 

Now comes the good part.  This is the part that the wedding couples really like.  But think of it as not so much about married love but more about this love that Jesus calls us to have for Him and for our neighbor.  It sounds really good but if you think about it, it’s really hard.

 

“Love is patient.”  If you’re married you know this is true.  Jan and I have been married almost 45 years.  She must be the most patient person on earth.

“Love is kind.”  OK, it’s easy to be kind to your wife or your kids.  It may not be so easy to be kind to the homeless person who asks you for money.  Do they really need it or are the running some kind of scam.  Maybe they want the money to buy booze or drugs.  Maybe when you pull out your wallet they’ll pull out a gun and rob you.  No, kindness to strangers isn’t always easy.

“It is not jealous, it is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude.”  Can any of us really say that we’ve never been jealous, pompous, inflated, or rude?  We may not even mean it.  You may have noticed that I have kind of a dry sense of humor.  Sometimes I say things that I think are funny but that people take the wrong way.  They think I’m being rude.  And frankly, I’ve learned that my being a member of the clergy makes some people think it’s OK to be rude to me.

 

“It does not seek its own interests, Let’s be honest.  Why are we all here today?  We come to mass to praise God and to receive His Body and Blood in the sacrament of the Eucharist.  But why do we do that?  Because we want to go to heaven.  We’re definitely seeking our own interests by coming to mass.  For mass to be really meaningful for us, it has to be in the context of loving God, not in fulfilling an “obligation” so we can get to heaven.

 

[Love] is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.”  Every time I receive the sacrament of reconciliation I have to confess that I have a quick temper;  EVERY TIME!  I confess it and I sincerely mean to be better but then something happens that set me off again.  I think I’ve gotten better, but I’m beginning to wonder, at 64 years old, if I’ll ever master my own temper.

 

“Love never fails.”  Paul goes on to explain how the other gifts will fail. Basically he says that as a grown-up he’s given up childish things.  At present, we can’t see clearly.  We only understand partially.  Someday when we meet God face-to-face we’ll understand it all.  But for the time being “faith, hope and love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

 

So, kudos to the young (and not so young) people who choose this reading on their special day.  I hope and pray that they’ll practice what Paul says in their married lives.  But, Paul is really talking to you and me.  You can give your entire fortune to charity but if you’re doing it for the tax deduction and not because you love your fellow man, it’s a hollow gesture.

 

If I have the gift of prophesy but delight in telling people that bad things are coming, I’m a clashing cymbal.  If I have faith to move mountains but don’t have love…….I’m nothing.

 

Paul doesn’t really say anything in this reading about prayer.  But we know that the greatest thing we can do for our neighbors is to pray for them.  Prayer is our best and most important expression of love.  I mentioned in today’s bulletin that our US Bishops have issued a call to prayer for life, marriage, and religious freedom.  Our secular society and even out government are attacking our core beliefs on these issues.  And it’s not just a “Catholic thing”.  It’s a Christian thing.

 

Abortion, same sex “marriage” and the HHS mandate are critical issues in our today.  Every day we kill thousands of babies in this country and no one raises an eyebrow.  Friday the government issued a so-called compromise on the HHS mandate that changed nothing at all.  It seems like every day we see something in the news that undermines the sacrament of marriage.

 

I don’t think most of us are inclined to join marches or protests.  It’s just not our style.  But we can all pray.  At the bishop’s request, we will be having a monthly holy hour, maybe an even longer period of Eucharistic Adoration every month.  But even if you don’t attend, you can still pray for our country.  Pray for an end to abortion.  Pray for the sanctity of the sacrament of marriage.  Pray that common sense and decency will prevail and religious institutions will not be forced to provide services that violate our beliefs.  Most of all, pray for the courage and the conviction to speak out against evil every chance you get.  And most of all, as Saint Paul tells us, do it with love.