“Unigenitus” (1713) vs. Personal Bible Study?

“Unigenitus” (1713) vs. Personal Bible Study? May 14, 2021

+ Other Supposed “Anti-Bible” Catholic Proclamations & Analogies to Calvinist “Dogmatism” at the Synod of Dort

An anti-Catholic Protestant blog called Evangelical Miscellanies produced a lengthy article entitled, “Was the Bible Forbidden by the Roman Church?” (5-10-21). Presently, I shall be dealing with the portion (in blue below) having to do with  Unigenitus: the 1713 Apostolic Constitution issued by Pope Clement XI. See also my previous replies to this one article:

Did Pope Innocent III Forbid the Bible in 1199? (+ Does the Bible Itself Teach That it Should be Read Without Need of Any Authoritative Interpretation?) [5-11-21]

Did Medieval Catholicism Forbid All Vernacular Bibles? [5-11-21]

Council of Trent: Anti-Bible or Anti-Bad Bible Translations? [5-12-21]


Pope Clement XI (1713 A.D.):

“Unigenitus,” Sept. 8, 1713, Errors of Paschasius Quesnel:

79. It is useful and necessary at all times, in all places, and for every kind of person, to study and to know the spirit, the piety, and the mysteries of Sacred Scripture.

80. The reading of Sacred Scripture is for all.

81. The sacred obscurity of the Word of God is no reason for the laity to dispense themselves from reading it.

82. The Lord’s Day ought to be sanctified by Christians with readings of pious works and above all of the Holy Scriptures. It is harmful for a Christian to wish to withdraw from this reading.

83. It is an illusion to persuade oneself that knowledge of the mysteries of religion should not be communicated to women by the reading of Sacred Scriptures. Not from the simplicity of women, but from the proud knowledge of men has arisen the abuse of the Scriptures and have heresies been born.

84. To snatch away from the hands of Christians the New Testament, or to hold it closed against them by taking away from them the means of understanding it, is to close for them the mouth of Christ.

85. To forbid Christians to read Sacred Scripture, especially the Gospels, is to forbid the use of light to the sons of light, and to cause them to suffer a kind of excommunication.

Declared and condemned as false, captious, evil-sounding, offensive to pious ears, scandalous, pernicious, rash, injurious to the Church and her practice, insulting not only to the Church but also the secular powers seditious, impious, blasphemous, suspected of heresy, and smacking of heresy itself, and, besides, favoring heretics and heresies, and also schisms, erroneous, close to heresy, many times condemned, and finally heretical, clearly renewing many heresies respectively and most especially those which are contained in the infamous propositions of Jansen, and indeed accepted in that sense in which these have been condemned.

Innocent XIII 1721-1724 Benedict XIII 1724-1730 Clement XII 1730-1740

(Denzinger, The Sources of Catholic Dogma, trans. Roy J. Deferrari, [Loreto Publications], from the Thirtieth Edition of Henry Denzinger’s Enchiridion Symbolorum, [Herder & Co., Freiburg, 1954], #1429-1435, 1451, pp. 352, 354). Ecclesiastical approbation: [“Nihil Obstat,” Dominic Hughes, O.P. Censor Deputatus, “Imprimatur,” April 25, 1955, Patric A. O’Boyle, Archbishop of Washington]. Here

Catholic apologist Jimmy Akin did a wonderful analysis of this encyclical with regard to the Bible in 2012:

The important thing to understand is Unigenitus fits into a genre of papal documents that list and condemn various propositions proposed by a particular author or authors. This kind of document lists a bunch of propositions, typically drawn from the work of a single author, and then issues a condemnation of one type or another as a warning to the faithful. . . .

But not all propositions are problematic in the same way, and so you have to look at the specific condemnations that are applied to them. . . .

[E]ach proposition condemned in Unigenitus falls under at least one of these censures. It may fall under more than one, but it falls under at least one. Some are false. Some are captious. Some are evil-sounding. Some are offensive to pious ears. Some may be false and captious. Etc.

But, except for previously condemned propositions regarding Jansenism, the document doesn’t attempt to say which censures apply to which propositions. . . .

The . . . censures do not even mean that the proposition is false. They merely mean that the proposition is at least suspect (evil-sounding), at least badly phrased (offensive to pious ears), or at least unproved and potentially dangerous (rash).

Without going through each individual censure in detail, it is clear that many of them are rather limited in their meaning and do not imply that a proposition is utterly false–just that there is something problematic with it. It may even express a partial truth, but do so in a way that is badly phrased or otherwise deserving of a warning to the faithful. . . .

79. It is useful and necessary at all times, in all places, and for every kind of person, to study and to know the spirit, the piety, and the mysteries of Sacred Scripture.

 The most problematic word that Quesnel put in this proposition is “necessary.” Is it really necessary that at all times, in all places that every kind of person study the mysteries of Sacred Scripture? . . .

Similar problems replicate if we focus on the word useful. Is it really useful at all times, in all places, for every type of person? What about those not prepared?

It seems to me, thus, that the concern with this proposition is quite likely–as the reader puts it–“we are worried about people reading and getting a wrong view so don’t read without proper preparation.”

It does not seem to be “We reject the idea of individual study of Scripture since Scripture is unclear.” If a person has proper preparation (has a proper grounding in the faith, isn’t going to leap to heretical conclusions, is well informed about the methods of Scripture interpretation, etc.) then what would be wrong with him studying on his own? Certainly the rejection of the proposition as in some way problematic does not entail such a conclusion–a conclusion that the Church has never maintained.

80. The reading of Sacred Scripture is for all.

 This seems to be objectionable on the same grounds as the previous proposition. Again: What about those unprepared for individual study?

81. The sacred obscurity of the Word of God is no reason for the laity to dispense themselves from reading it.

The rejection of this statement seems to be intended to protect the faithful from the having to shoulder the burden of studying the Scriptures on their own in spite of the obscurity that God wished the Scriptures to have. In other words, it’s okay for a person to say, “By God’s providence the Scriptures are not as clear as I would need them to be to study them on my own. I’m in the position of the Ethiopian eunuch, who can’t discern important points on his own, without guidance. The fact that the Scriptures contain this level of mystery is a reason for me not to do Bible study without guidance.” . . .

82. The Lord’s Day ought to be sanctified by Christians with readings of pious works and above all of the Holy Scriptures. It is harmful for a Christian to wish to withdraw from this reading.

The rejection of this statement seems to have the same motive as the former. It seems to be intended to protect Christians from the idea it is “harmful” if they feel the need to say, “I am not prepared to do unguided Scripture study on Sundays; therefore, I wish to withdraw from doing so. I will stick with listening to the readings in Church and the explanations provided by the pastors of the Church and other qualified to expound them.”

83. It is an illusion to persuade oneself that knowledge of the mysteries of religion should not be communicated to women by the reading of Sacred Scriptures. Not from the simplicity of women, but from the proud knowledge of men has arisen the abuse of the Scriptures and have heresies been born.

This seems to be concerned to protect the rights of women to make the same objections discussed in the previous two propositions. . . .

84. To snatch away from the hands of Christians the New Testament, or to hold it closed against them by taking away from them the means of understanding it, is to close for them the mouth of Christ.

Earlier we referenced a censure of some propositions as “captious.” This term means, roughly, uncharitably fault-finding. In other words, being unfair to those you are criticizing by a spiteful and fault-finding attitude. In other words, being hypercritical and hostile.

I could easily see this proposition as being captious.

It characterizes the Church as “snatch[ing] away from the hands of Christians the New Testament.” . . .

85. To forbid Christians to read Sacred Scripture, especially the Gospels, is to forbid the use of light to the sons of light, and to cause them to suffer a kind of excommunication.

This one also seems to be captious. . . .

The overall phrasing is hostile and contentious and seems, again, to  be casting the non-endorsement of universal, unguided Scripture study in the worst possible light.

Yet there are good reason for not endorsing universal, unguided Scripture study. Some people are simply not prepared for it.

I can thus see how this would be classified as captious, evil-sounding, offensive to pious ears, and other similar things. . . .

It also seems to me that they [the above propositions] do not add up to a rejection of individual Scripture study for those who are properly prepared for this. They are merely rejecting the idea that unguided Scripture study should be universally engaged in by all Christians, regardless of their level of preparation, and Christians are not at fault if they do not feel themselves prepared to undertake this task and are content to learn the Scriptures under ecclesiastical guidance.

His entire article is a goldmine of information and is required reading for anyone seeking an orthodox Catholic understanding of this papal document.

The article, “Was the Bible Forbidden by the Roman Church?” goes on to list other supposedly “anti-biblical” decrees of the Catholic Church. The same errors already dealt with in this and my three previous papers continue to be the false guiding principle of the interpretation of these documents. Primary among these is the continuing inability (or unwillingness) to distinguish between the Bible and “unauthorized” Bible translations, as well as neglect of the necessary element of authoritative interpretation in line with the teachings of Christianity from the beginning.

As a result of (among other things) utterly unguided biblical interpretation and a “Bible alone” (apart from received doctrinal orthodoxy) mentality, many heretical cults sprung up in the 19th and 20th centuries, teaching many scurrilous doctrines (including, especially, a denial of the Holy Trinity and deity / divinity of Christ) that our Protestant brethren join us in vigorously condemning:

Jehovah’s Witnesses: 1870

Mormonism: 1820

Christian Science: 1875

The Way International: 1942

Christadelphians: 1848

Hence, further Catholic decrees listed in the article take note of these dangerous factors again and again (and I am only citing from what the critical article itself provided):

Ubi Primum: Encyclical of Pope Leo XII (1824) criticized Bible societies that are characterized by “Rejecting the traditions of the holy Fathers” and Bible versions that are “mistranslated”: leading to “distorted interpretation of Christ’s gospel” and “a gospel of men”, or even “of the devil”. Vernacular translations were not totally opposed. Rather, what was objected to was such translations issued “wholesale and without distinction” which “on account of human rashness cause more harm than good.”

Traditi Humilitati: Encyclical of Pope Pius VIII (1829) warned, not about all Bibles or Bible readings, but rather, specifically “those who publish the Bible with new interpretations contrary to the Church’s laws” who “skillfully distort the meaning by their own interpretation.” Citing Trent, it recommended that “translations of the Bible into the vernacular” ought “not be permitted without the approval of the Apostolic See and further required that they be published with commentaries from the Fathers.”

This allowed received orthodoxy to be the guiding factor of proper biblical interpretation. Proverbs 22:28 expressed the same notion: “Remove not the ancient landmark which your fathers have set” (RSV). Pope Pius VIII was rightly concerned with the sort of man who “might twist the sacred Scriptures to his own opinion, or to an opinion contrary to that of the Church or the popes” and who would “endanger the sacred teachings.”

Likewise, Inter Praecipuas, the Encyclical of Pope Gregory XVI (1844) was critical of “biblical societies” insofar as they “invite everyone to read” Holy Scripture “unguided.” he cites St. Jerome, who complained that this made Bible interpretation “common to babbling old women and crazy old men and verbose sophists.” As would be expected, the document condemns those who would “dare to explain and interpret the divine writings contrary to the tradition of the Fathers or the interpretation of the Catholic Church.”

Of course, the Calvinists did (and do) exactly the same thing. They would never allow public teaching (purportedly or actually backed up by the Bible), that would run contrary to their five distinctive doctrines of “TULIP” (total depravity / unconditional election / limited atonement / irresistible grace / perseverance of the saints).  Calvinists even had their own councils and “excommunication” of sorts: foremost of which was the Synod of Dort in 1618-1619. Its canons read scarcely any differently (in their “dogmatism”) from Catholic Tridentine and papal decrees, condemning scores of beliefs of fellow Protestants (Arminians) which differ from Calvinism’s late innovations and traditions of men (both sides of course appealing to Scripture with regard to all their beliefs). And so these canons conclude:

And so this is the clear, simple, and straightforward explanation of the orthodox teaching on the five articles in dispute in the Netherlands, as well as the rejection of the errors by which the Dutch churches have for some time been disturbed. This explanation and rejection the Synod declares to be derived from God’s Word and in agreement with the confessions of the Reformed churches. Hence it clearly appears that those of whom one could hardly expect it have shown no truth, equity, and charity at all in wishing to make the public believe:

  • that the teaching of the Reformed churches on predestination and on the points associated with it by its very nature and tendency draws the minds of people away from all godliness and religion, is an opiate of the flesh and the devil, and is a stronghold where Satan lies in wait for all people, wounds most of them, and fatally pierces many of them with the arrows of both despair and self-assurance;
  • that this teaching makes God the author of sin, unjust, a tyrant, and a hypocrite; and is nothing but a refurbished Stoicism, Manicheism, Libertinism, and Turkism*;
  • that this teaching makes people carnally self-assured, since it persuades them that nothing endangers the salvation of the elect, no matter how they live, so that they may commit the most outrageous crimes with self-assurance; and that on the other hand nothing is of use to the reprobate for salvation even if they have truly performed all the works of the saints;
  • that this teaching means that God predestined and created, by the bare and unqualified choice of his will, without the least regard or consideration of any sin, the greatest part of the world to eternal condemnation; that in the same manner in which election is the source and cause of faith and good works, reprobation is the cause of unbelief and ungodliness; that many infant children of believers are snatched in their innocence from their mothers’ breasts and cruelly cast into hell so that neither the blood of Christ nor their baptism nor the prayers of the church at their baptism can be of any use to them; and very many other slanderous accusations of this kind which the Reformed churches not only disavow but even denounce with their whole heart.

Therefore this Synod of Dort in the name of the Lord pleads with all who devoutly call on the name of our Savior Jesus Christ to form their judgment about the faith of the Reformed churches, not on the basis of false accusations gathered from here or there, or even on the basis of the personal statements of a number of ancient and modern authorities—statements which are also often either quoted out of context or misquoted and twisted to convey a different meaning—but on the basis of the churches’ own official confessions and of the present explanation of the orthodox teaching which has been endorsed by the unanimous consent of the members of the whole Synod, one and all.

Moreover, the Synod earnestly warns the false accusers themselves to consider how heavy a judgment of God awaits those who give false testimony against so many churches and their confessions, trouble the consciences of the weak, and seek to prejudice the minds of many against the fellowship of true believers.

My my! Now how is that any different from what the Catholic Church has done (and with far less historical pedigree and patristic support)? They declare that the Bible teaches certain things and that all good Christians (i.e., Calvinists) must abide by this received interpretation of them, determined by the authoritative / not to be doubted “Reformed” Confessions and Creeds.

Those who don’t do so, in honest disagreement, are condemned and considered to be out of the fold and holding false theological opinions that are dangerous to souls. It’s all the same sort of thing, yet Calvinist anti-Catholics condemn Catholics when they do it, even while they do exactly the same thing from their own denominational perspective. Double standards rule the day!

The same Synod of Dort also approved of “an official Dutch Bible translation (the Statenvertaling, i.e. Translation of the States or, the Dutch Authorized Version) from the original languages that would be completed in 1637″ which “would remain the standard translation in Protestant churches for more than three centuries” [Wikipedia, “Synod of Dort”]. This is quite similar to the status of the Authorized / King James Version (1611) in English Protestantism. It even utilized the same (now antiquated) Textus Receptus manuscript for the New Testament.

Again, how is this a whit different from Catholics believing in an “authorized” Catholic translation (for many centuries, the Latin Vulgate translated by St. Jerome) and warning against other ones that deviated from it? There is no fundamental or essential difference here in the principles. They’re exactly the same. Both parties were “pro-Bible” but “anti-unauthorized Bibles.”

The Catholic Church (like the Calvinists) believes that there is such a thing as “orthodoxy” and a received sacred tradition of Christianity that has been passed down by the apostles (and that this is inseparable from biblical exegesis and interpretation). And so Pope Leo XIII wrote in Providentissimus Deus (1893):

God has delivered the Holy Scriptures to the Church, and that in reading and making use of His Word, they must follow the Church as their guide and their teacher. St. Irenaeus long since laid down, that where the charismata of God were, there the truth was to be learnt, and that Holy Scripture was safely interpreted by those who had the Apostolic succession. His teaching, and that of other Holy Fathers, is taken up by the Council of the Vatican, which, in renewing the decree of Trent declares its “mind” to be this – that “in things of faith and morals, belonging to the building up of Christian doctrine, that is to be considered the true sense of Holy Scripture which has been held and is held by our Holy Mother the Church, whose place it is to judge of the true sense and interpretation of the Scriptures; and therefore that it is permitted to no one to interpret Holy Scripture against such sense or also against the unanimous agreement of the Fathers.” By this most wise decree the Church by no means prevents or restrains the pursuit of Biblical science, but rather protects it from error, and largely assists its real progress. A wide field is still left open to the private student, in which his hermeneutical skill may display itself with signal effect and to the advantage of the Church. . . .

[S]eeing that the same God is the author both of the Sacred Books and of the doctrine committed to the Church, it is clearly impossible that any teaching can by legitimate means be extracted from the former, which shall in any respect be at variance with the latter. Hence it follows that all interpretation is foolish and false which either makes the sacred writers disagree one with another, or is opposed to the doctrine of the Church. The Professor of Holy Scripture, therefore, amongst other recommendations, must be well acquainted with the whole circle of Theology and deeply read in the commentaries of the Holy Fathers and Doctors, and other interpreters of mark. This is inculcated by St. Jerome, and still more frequently by St. Augustine, who thus justly complains: “If there is no branch of teaching, however humble and easy to learn, which does not require a master, what can be a greater sign of rashness and pride than to refuse to study the Books of the divine mysteries by the help of those who have interpreted them?” . . . the Holy Fathers, We say, are of supreme authority, whenever they all interpret in one and the same manner any text of the Bible, as pertaining to the doctrine of faith or morals; for their unanimity clearly evinces that such interpretation has come down from the Apostles as a matter of Catholic faith. The opinion of the Fathers is also of very great weight when they treat of these matters in their capacity of doctors, unofficially; not only because they excel in their knowledge of revealed doctrine and in their acquaintance with many things which are useful in understanding the apostolic Books, but because they are men of eminent sanctity and of ardent zeal for the truth, on whom God has bestowed a more ample measure of His light. Wherefore the expositor should make it his duty to follow their footsteps with all reverence, and to use their labours with intelligent appreciation. (section 14)

But back to the Calvinist article in question. In citing Inter Praecipuas (Pope Gregory XVI, 1844), the author was careful to only cite things that at first glance appear to support his agenda of showing that the Catholic Church is supposedly opposed to the Bible itself. And so he cites from sections 1, 4, 11, and 12, out of 16 sections. It’s the time-honored anti-Catholic methodology of selective citation, out-of-context, with the intention of leaving a particular misleading impression on readers (predominantly of the sort who are eager and willing to sop up any “gossipy” slanders of the Catholic Church).

It’s true that one can’t cite everything all the time, but still one must guard against an incomplete or inaccurate presentation. It’s why oaths that witnesses take in court include a willingness to tell “the whole truth.” Here are, then, some of the other portions that were deliberately omitted from the article I am critiquing:

2. But you know the aim of these societies. In his sacred writings, Peter, after praising the letters of Paul, warns that in these epistles “certain things are difficult to understand, which the unlearned and the unstable distort just as they do the rest of the Scriptures, which also leads to their destruction.” He adds at once, “Since you know this beforehand, be on your guard lest, carried away by the error of the foolish, you fall away from your own steadfastness.” [2] Hence it is clear to you that even from the first ages of Christianity this was a skill appropriate for heretics. Having repudiated the given word of God and rejected the authority of the Catholic Church, they either interpolate “by artifice” into the Scriptures or pervert “its meaning through interpretation.”[3] Nor finally are you ignorant of the diligence and knowledge required to faithfully translate into another language the words of the Lord. In the many translations from the biblical societies, serious errors are easily inserted by the great number of translators, either through ignorance or deception. These errors, because of the very number and variety of translations, are long hidden and hence lead the faithful astray. It is of little concern to these societies if men reading their vernacular Bibles fall into error. They are concerned primarily that the reader becomes accustomed to judging for himself the meaning of the books of Scripture, to scorning divine tradition preserved by the Catholic Church in the teaching of the Fathers, and to repudiating the very authority of the Church.

3. For this end the same biblical societies never cease to slander the Church and this Chair of Peter as if We have tried to keep the knowledge of sacred Scripture from the faithful. However, We have documents clearly detailing the singular zeal which the Supreme Pontiffs and bishops in recent times have used to instruct the Catholic people more thoroughly in the word of God, both as it exists in writing and in tradition. The decrees of the Council of Trent even commanded the bishops to see to it that “the sacred Scriptures and the divine law” are preached more frequently in the dioceses. [4] In expanding the provisions of the Lateran Council, [5] they order that in each church, either cathedral or collegiate in the cities and better known towns, individuals able to explain and interpret sacred Scripture must be obtained. [6] Later action was taken in many provincial synods [7]concerning the establishment of an ecclesiastical benefice according to the norms of articles sanctioned by the Council of Trent, [8] and about readings to be given publicly to the clergy and also to the people by a canonical theologian. . . .

Next, our article cites Qui Pluribus (1846), an Encyclical of Pope Pius IX. It condemns not all vernacular versions of the Bible (approved versions of which the Church had sanctioned for many centuries), but those of a particular nature:

. . . vernacular translations, which infringe the holy rules of the Church. The commentaries which are included often contain perverse explanations; so, having rejected divine tradition, the doctrine of the Fathers and the authority of the Catholic Church, they all interpret the words of the Lord by their own private judgment, thereby perverting their meaning. As a result, they fall into the greatest errors.

Our article, alas, cites only two sections (13 and 14) out of 37. Here are some other portions:

10. This consideration too clarifies the great error of those others as well who boldly venture to explain and interpret the words of God by their own judgment, misusing their reason and holding the opinion that these words are like a human work. God Himself has set up a living authority to establish and teach the true and legitimate meaning of His heavenly revelation. This authority judges infallibly all disputes which concern matters of faith and morals, lest the faithful be swirled around by every wind of doctrine which springs from the evilness of men in encompassing error. And this living infallible authority is active only in that Church which was built by Christ the Lord upon Peter, the head of the entire Church, leader and shepherd, whose faith He promised would never fail. This Church has had an unbroken line of succession from Peter himself; these legitimate pontiffs are the heirs and defenders of the same teaching, rank, office and power. And the Church is where Peter is, [5] and Peter speaks in the Roman Pontiff, [6] living at all times in his successors and making judgment, [7] providing the truth of the faith to those who seek it. [8] The divine words therefore mean what this Roman See of the most blessed Peter holds and has held.

11. For this mother and teacher [9] of all the churches has always preserved entire and unharmed the faith entrusted to it by Christ the Lord. Furthermore, it has taught it to the faithful, showing all men truth and the path of salvation. Since all priesthood originates in this church, [10] the entire substance of the Christian religion resides there also. [11] The leadership of the Apostolic See has always been active, [12] and therefore because of its preeminent authority, the whole Church must agree with it. The faithful who live in every place constitute the whole Church. [13] Whoever does not gather with this Church scatters. [14] . . .

15. Also perverse is the shocking theory that it makes no difference to which religion one belongs, a theory which is greatly at variance even with reason. By means of this theory, those crafty men remove all distinction between virtue and vice, truth and error, honorable and vile action. They pretend that men can gain eternal salvation by the practice of any religion, as if there could ever be any sharing between justice and iniquity, any collaboration between light and darkness, or any agreement between Christ and Belial. . . .

21. . . . Therefore, never stop preaching the Gospel, so that the Christian people may grow in the knowledge of God by being daily better versed in the most holy precepts of the Christian law . . .

24. . . . You must examine with greater diligence the morals and the knowledge of men who are entrusted with the care and guidance of souls, that they may be eager to continuously feed and assist the people entrusted to them by the administration of the sacraments, the preaching of God’s word and the example of good works. . . .

25. . . . The word of God, which was uttered for the salvation of souls, is living, efficacious and more piercing than a two-edged sword. [24] So that it may not prove to be unfruitful through the fault of its ministers, never cease, venerable brothers, from encouraging the preachers of this divine word to carry out most religiously the ministry of the Gospel. . . .

Next, the article cites Nostis Et Nobiscum (1849), another Encyclical of Pope Pius IX. It opposes “impious pamphlets, newspapers and leaflets which are full of lies, calumnies and seduction” as well as vernacular translations which “infringe the Church’s rules” and therefore are “subverted and most daringly twisted to yield a vile meaning.”

It reminds readers that “no man, relying on his own wisdom, is able to claim the privilege of rashly twisting the scriptures to his own meaning in opposition to the meaning which holy mother Church holds and has held.” Of course, that (like all of the above Catholic proclamations and warnings) is no different from what Holy Scripture itself says about its own authority, and Church authority (e.g., Acts 16:4; 1 Tim 3:15), and that of sacred tradition (e.g., 2 Thess 2:15; 3:6):

Jude 3 (RSV) . . . contend for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.

Acts 16:4 As they went on their way through the cities, they delivered to them for observance the decisions which had been reached by the apostles and elders who were at Jerusalem.

Romans 16:17 I appeal to you, brethren, to take note of those who create dissensions and difficulties, in opposition to the doctrine which you have been taught; avoid them.

Colossians 2:6-8 As therefore you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so live in him, [7] rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. [8] See to it that no one makes a prey of you by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ.

2 Thessalonians 2:15 So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.

2 Thessalonians 3:6 Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is living in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us.

1 Timothy 2:4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

1 Timothy 3:15 . . . the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth.

2 Timothy 3:5-8  holding the form of religion but denying the power of it. Avoid such people. [6] For among them are those who make their way into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and swayed by various impulses, [7] who will listen to anybody and can never arrive at a knowledge of the truth. [8] As Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men of corrupt mind and counterfeit faith;

2 Timothy 4:7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

Titus 1:1 Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to further the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth which accords with godliness,

Titus 1:10-15 For there are many insubordinate men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially the circumcision party; [11] they must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for base gain what they have no right to teach. [12] One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” [13] This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, [14] instead of giving heed to Jewish myths or to commands of men who reject the truth. [15] To the pure all things are pure, but to the corrupt and unbelieving nothing is pure; their very minds and consciences are corrupted.

2 John 1:9-11 Any one who goes ahead and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God; he who abides in the doctrine has both the Father and the Son. [10] If any one comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into the house or give him any greeting; [11] for he who greets him shares his wicked work.

Next up on the “chopping block” is Officiorum ac Munerum (1897) by Pope Leo XIII. Non-Catholic Bibles are allowed to be read and used “only to those engaged in theological and biblical studies, provided also that the dogmas of Catholic faith are not impugned in the prolegomena or annotations.” Pope Leo continues: “All versions of the Holy Bible, in any vernacular language, made by non-Catholics are prohibited; . . . Nevertheless, these versions are permitted to students of theological or biblical science, under the conditions laid down above (No. 5).”

It’s the same principle as always. No doubt, the “official” Dutch Bible (discussed above) among Calvinists and Luther’s Bible among Lutherans attained similar status, and other “rivals” were prohibited or allowed (if at all) only in limited circumstances. I showed in an earlier installment how a Catholic translation of the New Testament by Martin Luther’s debate opponent Emser was immediately opposed by (proponent of total individual freedom?) Luther, who urged Lutheran territories to censor and prohibit it. Same principle; the only difference is the particular Bibles approved of and condemned.

Other texts produced by the article express similar sentiments to those already seen over and over in this examination and my earlier three replies. I have shown by now that the analysis is relentlessly wrongheaded and erroneous. It just keeps repeating the same errors based on the same old tired false premises: contrary to both the Bible and even Protestants’ own virtually identical practices.

It is true, on the other hand, that in time the Catholic Church did become much more open to Bible study, reading, and even some non-Catholic translations (with some warnings and stipulations). The emphasis became more positive rather than “negative” in the sense that errors had to be vigorously condemned in order to protect the Catholic flock. It was time for a different approach.

Hence, along those lines we have the famous papal encyclicals Providentissimus Deus (Pope Leo XIII: 1893) and Divino afflante Spiritu (Pope Pius XII: 1943) and many other similar Church documents since then, including the wonderful reflections of Vatican II, the saint-popes (John XXIII, Paul VI, and John Paul II) and the excellent biblical exegesis of Pope Benedict XVI.

Not that I have any importance, but my apostolate is an example of one (among many) that places a huge emphasis on the complete harmony between Catholic doctrine and the Holy Bible. My first book was A Biblical Defense of Catholicism and my blog is called Biblical Evidence for Catholicism. I contend, in more than 3,300 blog papers and fifty books, that Catholic doctrine is consistently and uniquely grounded in and based on the Bible, and more deeply biblical than any form of Protestant doctrine; moreover, that the Protestant rule of faith, sola Scriptura, is both unbiblical and altogether false and self-defeating.

Again (it can never be stressed enough), such a view is not “anti-Bible” at all. It is opposed to the incomplete understanding that only Scripture is an infallible authority. The Catholic Church teaches that the Church and sacred tradition are also infallible and always in harmony with sacred Scripture. That is our “three-legged stool” rule of faith: received from the Bible itself and passed down from the  apostles and Church fathers.


Photo credit: pedro_wroclaw (1-29-21) [PixabayPixabay License]


Summary: Did Pope Clement XI’s “Unigenitus” (1713) forbid Bible reading? No. I also show how other Catholic decrees are not anti-biblical, & that Calvinists similarly criticized “erroneous” works.


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