DO CATHOLICS READ THE BIBLE?

Often you hear members of Protestant denominations refer to their branch of Christianity as "Bible-Believing" ostensibly to differentiate themselves from the rest of Christianity. Reaching back to the days of Martin Luther and John Zwingli, we find one of the pillars upon which Protestantism is built to be Sola Scriptura - Scripture Alone. For an explanation of this doctrine, see "What is the Pillar and Foundation of Truth?" The implication of "Bible Believing" is that other churches - especially the Catholic Church - are not "Bible Believing."  In fact, it has long been alleged that Catholics are not permitted by the Church to read the Bible on their own.

Nothing could be further from the truth! In the Catholic Church's own words, she affirms the inerrant nature of Scripture, "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." [
Catechism of Catholic Church, Para 103] And the Catholic Church exhorts all Catholics to read the Scriptures: "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.'"[Catechism of Catholic Church, Para 143]

How often does the Church encourage the faithful to read Scripture? In a typical Protestant Church, the norm is the Sunday Sermon (sometimes another on Wednesday, daily private reading, and Bible Study. The Catholic Church provides every day of the week at Mass: a passage from the Old or New Testament, a Psalm, a passage from the Gospels, a homily on the Scripture readings, the Mass itself which is composed to a large extent of Scripture. In addition, Catholics recite the Liturgy of the Hours. Morning and Evening Prayers alone each consist of three Psalms or canticles and a reading from Scripture.

In addition, the faithful are encouraged to read the Scriptures privately through the grant of an indulgence: "A partial indulgence is granted to the faithful, who with the veneration due 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]

In most Protestant churches, the pastor may select the Scripture to be read or incorporated into his sermon. Each day, the Catholic Church reads the same passages of Scripture in every Catholic Church on earth. The selection of Sunday readings follows a three-year cycle while daily readings follow a two-year cycle. In the course of the entire three-year cycle (including the two-year daily cycle), Catholics hear at Mass about 14% of the Old Testament and about 72% of the New Testament. [Lectionary Statistics, The Roman Catholic Lectionary Website] Some Protestant denominations have adopted the Catholic Lectionary.

When it comes right down to it, it doesn't matter how often you read the Scripture if you lack sure guidance on its interpretation. The result of private interpretation is the fracturing of the Church which has been the hallmark of Protestantism since the days of Martin Luther. The Catholic Church has always taught from the beginning that the Scriptures are not to be subject to individual interpretation. "Know this first of all, that there is no prophecy of scripture that is a matter of personal interpretation" [
2 Peter 1:20] The job of interpreting Scripture is that of the Holy Spirit action through the Catholic Church particularly through the bishops. The bishops miter has two tails in the back that remind us of the two sources of Divine Revelation, Scripture and Apostolic Tradition, and of the bishops' role in the Magisterium, the teaching authority of the Catholic Church.