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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

  • The blog header depicts an important and yet mis-understood New Testament scene, Jesus flogging the money-changers out of the temple. I selected it because the faith that gives us consolation can also make us very uncomfortable. Both Divine Mercy and Divine Justice meet in Jesus. Priests are ministers of reconciliation, but never at the cost of truth. In or out of season, we must be courageous in preaching and living out the Gospel of Life. The title of my blog is a play on words, not Flogger Priest but Blogger Priest.

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Sola Scriptura?

Catholics poorly educated in their faith and non-Catholics filled with prejudices, often prejudge the Catholic faith or difficult issues of our discipleship. Such biases, reinforced by others with grievances, are often hard to overcome– no matter how clearly they are shown to be wrong. The matter of “sola scriptura” is a case in point. Can a believer in Christ interpret the Bible without any help from anyone else and without any Magisterium of the Church? While the fundamentalist might distort Scripture by citing isolated verses against Catholic positions; any Scriptures shown to challenge them are dismissed as irrelevant or misinterpreted, no matter how the full context of the teaching is intelligently explained. They are blind to the fact that they have made themselves or their favorite minister into their own private Magisterium– the final authority. They ridicule others holding the same view of “sola scriptura” who interpret the Scriptures differently than they do. Despite the thousands of fragments into which Protestantism has fallen, they insist that there is no NEED for a genuine teaching authority safeguarded by the Holy Spirit in the Church. They violate salvation history by denying that the Church came into being prior to the completion of the Scriptural canon and the composition of the New Testament. Facts do not matter to them unless they are “their” facts. The living tradition and the authority of the Church have always had a part to play in regard to the formation and the truths of Scripture. Just as they reject a teaching authority and are blind to their own claims to infallible interpretation, so too are they hesitant to admit their own church traditions, even if they are only a generation or so old. The “sola scriptura” Christians view the Bible as emerging from some vacuum in time to be picked up later by men who themselves would form churches. This contradicts the fact that Jesus himself said that he was going to found a Church and that he was going to appoint his apostles, with Peter at the head, as its shepherds. Their contradictions to this do not wash. No Catholic Church, no Christian Bible! It is as simple as that, and yet, they still refuse to believe.

False is their view that all personal interpretation of the Bible is forbidden to Catholics. Catholic Christians will often search the Bible for personal edification and for the voice of God in their lives. What the Church holds is that an individual’s interpretation must not contradict a text that has a universally accepted interpretation in the Church, such as regarding the identity or nature of Christ and the means of our salvation, etc. Accompanied by good footnotes and commentaries, the Catholic reader can make great personal use of the Scriptures.

When trounced by a Catholic who really knows the Bible, the anti-Catholic bigot will resort to name-calling. Upon this very topic, I have witnessed their categorization of God’s Church as “the Roman whore” and as a “prostitute.” Since St. Paul tells us that husbands should love their wives as Christ has loved the Church, I suppose the derogatory language ultimately targets Christ, no matter whether they know this or not. How would any husband feel to have his wife degraded in this manner? Do they not fear judgment? Failing at any coherent dialogue, the anti-Catholic will tell so-called honest men and women to run for their lives. In other words, even conversation with knowledgeable Catholics is unwarranted compromise. Instead, they seek out the gullible and the intellectually ill-equipped who can be easily maneuvered into their camp. One anti-Catholic author advises Protestants to avoid the Catholic Church and her emissaries as one would the “bubonic plague” and that otherwise, “AIDs and death” might await them.

After urging avoidance, they have the audacity to say that the Catholic Church refuses to allow people to use the brains God gave them. The next big lie is that the Church forbad Catholics to read the Bible. The truth is, that long before these anti-Catholic bible Christians or their founders came into existence, the Church had to contend with heresy and the Protestant reformation. Some of these flawed bible texts, even the fundamentalists today would reject. The Church did not ban the Bible; rather, she wanted to insure that Catholics read bibles that were accurate and complete. This is the truth upon the matter. Popes have urged believers to approach the Scriptures with real humility and to invoke the Spirit of truth. The Scriptures confirm the claims of the Catholic Church and that of our fathers in faith. This point is also quickly verifiable; however, anti-Catholic critics will have none of it. Indeed they argue the opposite is true. Again, the argument will move from the issues to an attack on the institution and those who speak for her. Thus, someone of my likes would be dubbed “poisoned by his pride” and the Church denounced as a “monstrous entity” which “enslaves the souls of men” in preparation for hell. As you can see, they do not exactly like us. They reduce the Gospel to a propaganda program of hatred and misinformation.

For more such reading, contact me about getting my book, DEFENDING THE CATHOLIC FAITH.