the vanishing bible

By Diogenes (articles ) | Nov 19, 2004

As noted earlier, Richard Sklba recently expressed concern to his brother bishops that over-exposure to the evangelists can give Catholics an "evangelical" slant. No unseemly evangelism intrudes on Sklba's own book on the early prophets, Words of Warning, Dreams of Hope, wherein, e.g., the dates are tagged B.C.E. ("before the common era") rather than B.C. ("before Christ"). B.C.E dates, you see, are 70% more accurate.

I was reminded in this connection of an excellent article by Prof. James Hitchcock, in which he explains how it happened that the considerable Catholic hunger for Sacred Scripture was exploited so as to undercut the very reasons that gave birth to it. An excerpt:

Well-meaning, not highly educated Catholics who eagerly joined bible-study groups after the Council not uncommonly found their inherited faith shaken, as they were invited -- by group leaders and by written materials -- to scrutinize Catholic teachings and practices sceptically and to measure them against the New Testament in classical Protestant fashion, a scrutiny which usually seemed to work to the Church's disadvantage. Although this was not their original intention, many people became liberal Catholics through the medium of Bible study. (Thus liberal Catholics are quick to ask, for example, "Where does the New Testament condemn homosexuality?" or "Where does it say that women cannot be ordained priests?")

Such attitudes would be defensible if they rested on an unwavering confidence in Scripture as the revealed Word of God. However, Catholic Bible study after the Council also moved towards a liberal Protestant scepticism towards the Scripture itself, so that in a way it became irrelevant what the Bible might or might not say about a particular question, since it is naive and obscurantist to assume that the Scripture in some direct way constitutes the Word of God.

In effect liberals first used the Bible to "deconstruct" the teachings of the Church, then in turn "deconstructed" the Bible itself. The result -- intended by some, stumbled into by others -- was to eliminate all objective source of religious authority, leaving the individual as the ultimate judge of authentic belief.

The entire article -- it's not long -- repays a careful reading. It's an open question whether a new initiative to encourage Bible-reading would ultimately strengthen faith, or would be hijacked by the familiar summer-workshop-apparat and used to advance its own agenda. As Hitchcock points out, the institutional precedents are not reassuring:

In the final and most astonishing irony, modern biblical scholarship is unable to explain why the Bible should be studied at all, except as an important historical document, or why it should be accorded any unusual respect. Only the Church can justify this, but it has been precisely the rule of modern scholarship to exclude the Church from any meaningful capacity to interpret Scripture. Thus, if it continues on its present well-worn path, even moderate biblical scholarship will continue to contribute to the undermining of the Bible’s influence over human hearts and minds, not exactly what was intended when Catholics of thirty years ago were urged to make themselves more biblical

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  • Posted by: - Nov. 20, 2004 2:13 PM ET USA

    The only document turned away at the USCCB Fall Conference was on the subject of the bible. The bandit who rose to worry about cost was ABP Pilarcyk who does not make his clever moves without purpose. Across the nation, the local diocesan teaching authority discredits the authenticity of scripture. These entities do not want to be interfered with by a document which may restate Vatican II, Dei Verbum, no 19: "Holy Mother Church has firmly and with absolute constancy maintained and continues to maintain that the four Gospels just named, whose historicity she unhesitatingly affirms faithfully hand on what Jesus, The Son of God while he lived among men, really did and taught for their eternal salvation, until the day he was taken up" The fraudalent scenario that elected Weakland to oppose the Vatican on Liturgy was also alarming. The Left exudes foul aromas. mfb

  • Posted by: - Nov. 19, 2004 11:04 PM ET USA

    Altarboy, CCC 103 "For this reason the Church has always venerated the Scriptures as she venerates the Lord's Body. She never ceases to present to the faithful the bread of life, taken from the one table of God's Word and Christ's Body." And also, CCC 133 "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."'"

  • Posted by: - Nov. 19, 2004 9:13 PM ET USA

    Is there one among us who is willing to stake his or her salvation on "sola scriptura" (scripture alone), or faith, reason and tradition? If there is one among us who has the answer, let him step forward. The Bible and Holy Mother Church says we are to work our our salvation with fear and trembling of heart. That means reading the Bible, listening to the Church, praying, giving thanks, going to confession and Mass afterward, observing the other sacraments, and leaving the rest up to God.

  • Posted by: JoePip - Nov. 19, 2004 7:19 PM ET USA

    The Bible isn't Vanishing,Protestants understand their bible (as per their Misinterpetation)even though its missing a few books.The Bible is more important than most Catholics know.(To study the Bible we Catholics must Come together not go with protestant groups) Most don't know the relationship between the book of Revelation and the Holy Mass,Heaven is Truely on earth during the Re-presentation of the Holy Mass.Read Dr. Scott Hanh's book "The Lamb's Supper".Live Bible Like,not protesting.

  • Posted by: - Nov. 19, 2004 6:30 PM ET USA

    Dan W's recommendation is very good. Jeff Cavins provides a great, overarching place to start Bible study. But, I missed something. One of the three tasks assigned to Bishops is to teach. If they even made a luke warm attempt at this I don't believe there would be any problems. Instead, most of them act like CEOs of private geographical domains and answerable to no one. Their serfs are not the money lined mushrooms they have been treating them as.

  • Posted by: Fatimabeliever - Nov. 19, 2004 4:12 PM ET USA

    First came the Apostle's Creed, then the Bible. Recommend to them to read a lot more of the Book of Revelation because it all boils down to answering to God. Jesus said he who see Me sees God and what did God say about Sodomy? What did God say to Eve (and Adam) for not obeying Him? Modern Women think being Priest will help when all it will do is make the Church all female and males will feel why bother, the women will do it.

  • Posted by: - Nov. 19, 2004 2:33 PM ET USA

    Reading Scripture is not just reading words, it's immersing oneself in an experience that is totally Christ-like. I believe it was Joshua Abraham Heschel who said that the Bible was not man's book about God, but God's book about man. One doesn't "read" the Bible as if it was a joirney through scholarly explications. One is "read" by the Bible. And Church law itself is simply not an adequate substitute. Even less is the hodge-podge of academics ranging from the truly scholarly to the insane

  • Posted by: Fatimabeliever - Nov. 19, 2004 2:05 PM ET USA

    Recommend to them that they put a lot more of their studies into the Book of Revelation to John (The Apocalypse) because it all boils down to facing God? And the answers to their questions: Jesus says that he who see Me sees God. So, what did God call Sodomy? What did God do to Eve (and Adam) for not obeying Him? There are some Modern Women who think being a Priest is their right but forget Jesus didn't ordain women. They prefer to act like Eve making the Church all female and no males.

  • Posted by: - Nov. 19, 2004 1:26 PM ET USA

    Interesting that the Southern bishops want more Bible while the Northern ones want less or none. I've been in Catholic churches North and South. The ones in the North have a definite liberal Protestant influence. The ones in the South have an evangelical/fundamentalist influence about them. Still, generally speaking, Southerners are much more serious about their religion. So, with a good Catholic Bible study you get good results. In the North you get disasters like the Diocese of Saginaw, et al.

  • Posted by: - Nov. 19, 2004 11:51 AM ET USA

    Altar Boy - you're correct that Mass attendance is more important than Bible Study. (For what could be greater than receiving the Eucharist?) However, it's also true that "Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." (St. Jerome) Be careful saying we don't "need" Bible Study. A comprehensive Scripture study can be a wonderful tool to help us learn our faith. It need not be viewed as a competition to the CCC. One great feature of the Cavins study - it frequently references the CCC!

  • Posted by: - Nov. 19, 2004 11:01 AM ET USA

    iacomus: I HIGHLY recommend the Great Adventure Bible Study - by Jeff Cavins. (see It looks like just what you're looking for. Our church is offering it - and my wife and I are growing in leaps and bounds of our understanding of God's work throughout salvation history. The only drawback is, if your church isn't offering it, you need to buy the audio/videotapes. But they're worth every penny! God bless,

  • Posted by: - Nov. 19, 2004 10:58 AM ET USA

    When one relies, as the Protestants do, solely on Scripture to define their faith, then Bible study is exceedingly important. If a Protestant doesn’t know his or her church’s particular interpretation of the Bible, he or she doesn’t know their faith. (Ditto for the LDS and their book.) Catholics don’t need Bible study, for the authentic revelation is fully explained in the CCC and from the pulpit—and that’s why, for Catholics, church attendance is much more important than Bible study.

  • Posted by: - Nov. 19, 2004 8:57 AM ET USA

    This commentary prompts the question: is there a Church-interpreted (orthodox) scripture study? I'm familiar with the Navarre Bible and the Ignatius Study Bible series, but neither is a comprehensive, Old-to-New, unified study. Can anyone recommend an authentically Catholic work?