Monday, August 2, 2010

The Teaching Authority of the Catholic Church

Radio Replies Second Volume:

477. Rome's claim to interpretative authority, based on an obviously doctored text of the Bible can only appeal to those who have not heard the voice of the true Shepherd.

It used to be the Protestant tradition that the Catholic religion is opposed to the Bible. Now when a man has that fixed idea firmly embedded in his mind, he gets a shock when he hears the Bible quoted in favor of Catholicism. The stronger the texts are, the greater his shock. But some people never dream that they may have been laboring under a delusion. They refuse to entertain the idea that they have been wrong all their lives. The texts quoted seem to point to Catholicism all right, but to them it simply cannot be true. So they seek an excuse for not believing what they cannot refute. Every text which seems to favor Catholicism cannot mean what it says, but must obviously be "doctored." And they are so sure that they alone are truly guided by God that anyone impressed by the case for the Catholic religion must be regarded as not having heard the voice of the true Shepherd!

478. Other Churches claim to have given the Bible equal study, and claim equal value for their interpretation.

Since no non-Catholic Churches claim to be infallible, but admit their constant liability to error, they cannot even claim equal value for their interpretations. Moreover, apart from their divergence from the Catholic interpretation, they differ amongst themselves. That would not be, had they all equally arrived at the correct sense of the Bible. As a matter of fact, all practically nullify the claims of each as a reliable guide to the meaning of Scripture.

479. Protestantism and Catholicism are founded on the same basic principles, their differences being due to different interpretations of the Bible.

They are not founded on the same basic principles. In basic principles they are diametrically opposed. What is the basic principle of Protestantism? It is belief in what one thinks the Bible to mean. If a man thinks the Bible to support this or that doctrine, then it surely does so; for he cannot imagine that he might be wrong. He makes an act of faith in his own judgment. But the Catholic basic principle is very different. Instead of deciding for himself what is or is not the teaching of Christ, the Catholic is taught that teaching by the Catholic Church. He knows that his own judgment is quite likely to be wrong, but that the Catholic Church cannot be wrong. How different are the basic principles of the two religions can be judged from results. For the Protestant principle leads to endless diversity, while the Catholic principle leads to a world-wide and international unity.

480. But the Catholic believes in the Catholic Church because he thinks the Bible supports it.

That is not so. The Bible does support it, of course. But even if he never saw a Bible, the Catholic would have sufficient ground for his judgment. He knows that the Catholic priest does not preach merely his own opinions, as does the Protestant minister. He knows that his Church is not a particular sect, but a vast united universal Apostolic Church, whose history shows the allegiance of innumerable saints and martyrs. And such a Church is impossible to account for by merely human forces. It is God's work on the very face of it. Merely human institutions have always tended to fluctuation, change, and disintegration. Empires have crumbled. No human being can get even one nation to agree, say, on political matters. How could a mere man persuade over 400 millions drawn from all nations to agree on religious matters — millions who differ on almost every other conceivable subject? The Catholic has reasonable grounds for his acceptance of the Church as the teacher of mankind in religious matters; and he submits to her authoritative teaching in matters of faith and morals, rather than decide for himself what the Bible must mean.

481. My point is, since Protestantism and Catholicism differ as to what the Bible means, who is to say which is right?

On Protestant principles, there is no one who could do so. And that is the basic fallacy of Protestantism. It offers no certainty, and can offer no certainty, as to what God does really teach. Yet it is essential that in so grave a matter we should have certainty. The Catholic Church alone can give it.

482. If you quote the Bible, the Protestant will quote the Bible; so we are back to our point of view of the Bible, and there is no means of deciding the issue.

For a Catholic the issue does not depend on the Bible, even though the Bible does corroborate Catholicism. No Protestant can prove his beliefs from the Bible, or even that they ought to be proved from the Bible. You say that Protestants cannot prove their position, and that Catholics cannot prove theirs. It's a matter of conjecture and opinion. Protestants may be right or Catholics may be right. Neither has proof, and we must be content to do without proof. I admit that that is the logical result of the Protestant principles on which you argue; and for that reason Protestantism must end in uncertainty and doubt. That in itself should be enough to prove that it cannot be the religion of Christ.

483. How will the problem be solved?

Only by abandoning the Protestant principle of personal and private judgment, and accepting the doctrines taught clearly and definitely by the Catholic Church. She is the only tribunal in the world with authority from God to teach all nations, and endowed with infallibility in order that she may not lead men into error. And for two thousand years she has both fulfilled and proved her mission under the protection and guidance of the Holy Ghost.

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