The Dual Profile of the Church

Jun 28th, 2012 | By | Category: Blog Posts

Recently, I wrote about the Bible and the Catholic Church. I was motivated in order to address two matters that those considering the Catholic Church as the Church established by Christ might have: 1. that the Church encourages the faithful to read and reflect on the Bible; and 2. that the Church, because of the Magisterium, actually brings a deepened vitality to Bible reading. We answered the former by demonstrating that the Church in her documents through the ages, including three Papal Encyclicals, encourages a deep and intimate engagement with the Bible on the part of the faithful. We answered the latter by explaining the Church’s criteria for interpreting the Sacred Scriptures. We also provided a brief example from the biblical story of David and Goliath to demonstrate how the Church’s hermeneutic deepens our understanding and application of the Bible.

In this post, I want to develop further the proposal that the Church deepens our understanding of Scripture and, in the process, I hope to demonstrate that the Church cannot be reduced exclusively to an institutional structure by discussing the Church’s dual profile. In our day and age, we have become very familiar with the term “profile” due to the prolific rise of social networking sites on the internet. Long before the advent of such sites, the Church had a profile — in fact, the Church has a dual profile that helps us discover who the Church is and what she is called to do. This dual profile of the Church refers to both her Marian (Mary) and Petrine (Peter) dimensions. Blessed John Paul II said that, “this link between the two profiles of the Church, the Marian and the Petrine, is profound and complementary” (Address to the Roman Curia, December 22, 1987). Pope Benedict XVI, at his first Consistory in 2006, said to the newly created Cardinals, “You above all, dear new Cardinals, what great sustenance you can receive for your mission as the eminent “Senate” of Peter’s Successor! This providential circumstance helps us to consider today’s event, which emphasizes the Petrine principle of the Church, in the light of the other principle, the Marian one, which is even more fundamental” (Homily for the Feast of the Annunciation, March 25, 2006).

What does it mean to speak of this dual profile that both Blessed John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI refer? Simply, that the Marian profile refers to the Church as she is concerning her discipleship in all its facets (Mother, Bride, Disciple). The Petrine profile refers to the Church’s institutional structure and order, as well as her divinely appointed role as Teacher (the Magisterial authority). These twin profiles are complementary, with the Marian dimension being more fundamental. In other words, the Popes are saying that the Petrine serves the Marian and not the other way around. So how does a discussion about this dual profile deepen one’s Biblical reflection? It does so because these dual profiles flow forth from the wellspring of the Scriptural story.

We shall begin by looking at the Marian profile. The Second Vatican Council writes in reference to the Blessed Mother:

By reason of the gift and role of her divine motherhood, by which she is united with her Son, the Redeemer, and with her unique graces and functions, the Blessed Virgin is also intimately united to the Church. As St. Ambrose taught, “the Mother of God is a type of the Church in the order of faith, charity, and perfect union with Christ. For in the mystery of the Church, which is itself rightly called mother and virgin, the Blessed Virgin stands out in eminent and singular fashion as exemplar both of virgin and mother” (Lumen Gentium #63).

Many non-Catholics believe that too much talk about Mary and the Church obscures the Person and work of Jesus Christ. Non-Catholics might ask, “Why did the Council write such things about Mary?” To put it simply, the Scriptural story compels the Church to write such things about Mary. Blessed John Paul II wrote, “The affirmation of the central place of Christ cannot therefore be separated from the recognition of the role played by his Most Holy Mother. Veneration of her, when properly understood, can in no way take away from ‘the dignity and efficacy of Christ the one Mediator.’ Mary in fact constantly points to her Divine Son and she is proposed to all believers as the model of faith which is put into practice” (Tertio Millennio Adveniente #43). Mary is proposed, says the Pope, as the model of faith which is put into practice. Let us turn to the Scriptures to see how this proposal is made.

The Gospel of Luke, especially in three passages (1:26-56, 2:15-19, 2:33-35), provides the paradigm that proposes Mary as the model of faith. It must be said that Mary’s faith, while proposed for our emulation, is supremely unique to her (e.g., to her alone can it be said “Mother of God”). In the first passage, we read of Mary’s response to the words of the angel Gabriel, “let it be to me according to your word” (vs. 38). Mary’s “Yes” to the angel’s words models for us what our response should be to God’s call in our lives. Mary wants to do God’s will and her response demonstrates this. It must also be stressed that this “Yes” to God involved great risk for Mary, as Father Raniero Cantalamessa, the preacher to the Papal household pointed out, “to whom could she explain what had taken place within her?” (Mary: Mirror of the Church, pg. 41). Our “Yes” to God also involves risk. After her encounter with the angel, Mary, we are told, went in haste to her cousin Elizabeth, who was pregnant with John the Baptist. Elizabeth rejoiced at Mary’s arrival, exclaiming, “why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (vs. 43). Mary, in her womb, brought Elizabeth’s Lord, the Son of God and the Son of Mary. As Blessed John Paul reflected, “It was in her (Mary’s) womb that the Word became flesh!” (Tertio Millennio Adveniente #43). We too, as followers of Christ, bring Christ to others. It is our calling to make Christ known to others, in word and deed. Elizabeth added these words to her praise for Mary, “when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy” (vs. 44). Mary was the first evangelist, if you will. She heralded Christ to Elizabeth and John the Baptist. It was John’s mission to prepare the way of the Lord, to make Him known to the people. It was from the sound of Mary’s voice that John was introduced to Jesus. We too, as followers of Christ, are called to introduce and herald Christ to others.

Elizabeth continued in her words to Mary saying she is, “blessed” because Mary “believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord” (vs. 45). Mary trusted the promise spoken to her by the Lord and we, who follow Christ, are called to do the same, as James tells us (1:6-7). These words of Elizabeth produce within Mary her great song of praise, the Magnificat (1:46-55). Mary’s soul magnifies the Lord because Mary is very much aware of her low estate. These words of Mary anticipate John the Baptist’s own confession, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). Mary is great because she is fully aware of her dependence upon God. Her blessedness is tied up in the fact that she knows that apart from God she is nothing. Mary manifests a trait that is present in the piety of the saints: the more holy one becomes, the more one is made aware of their dependence upon God. We too are called to recognize our utter dependence upon the Lord. Many saints, from St. Augustine of Hippo, to St. Theresa of Avila, to St. John Vianney, have said that the key to the Christian life is humility. Peter commands, “humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that in due time he may exalt you” (1 Peter 5:6). Pope Benedict XVI describes what it means to follow Christ, “Conversion to Christ, believing in the Gospel, ultimately means this: to exit the illusion of self-sufficiency in order to discover and accept one’s own need – the need of others and God . . . humility is required to accept that I need Another to free me from ‘what is mine,’ to give me gratuitously ‘what is His’ (Message for Lent 2010).

Luke describes Mary as one who kept the things said of her Son pondering them in her heart (2:19, 51). Mary contemplated what was said of her Son and her Lord. She was not passive in what was happening in her life, rather she entered into the mystery and pondered it. We too must allow the things concerning Christ to percolate within us and this happens by mediating upon and pondering Christ and His life. This, in fact, is what the Rosary is all about: looking at the life of Jesus through the eyes of Mary, contemplating the beauty of Christ (Blessed John Paul II, Rosarium Virginis Mariae). St. Paul exhorts the followers of Christ to set their minds on things above (Col. 3:1-2) and to let the word of Christ dwell in them richly (Col. 3:16). As Mary did, we must also do, keeping within our hearts the things concerning Jesus Christ that we might ponder those things and live out those things in our lives.

Later in chapter 2, Luke records for us the words of Simeon, the great man of faith, to Mary about her child and how the events of His life will impact her, “and a sword will pierce through your own soul also” (vs. 35). Blessed John Paul II spoke of this as something like a second Annunciation for Mary, in which she is told that her obedience of faith will be lived in suffering (Redemptoris Mater #16). The words to Mary will find their fulfillment in a deeply profound way at Calvary, when she witnesses with her own eyes the death of her Son. As followers of Christ, we too are called to share in the sufferings of Christ, as St. Paul reminds us (Rom. 8:17, Phil. 3:10, Col. 1:24, 2 Tim. 3:12). In fact, our suffering is so deeply united to Christ that Christ Himself could say to Saul (Paul), “why do you persecute Me?” (Acts 9:4). Like Mary, our sufferings are not in vain, but in some mysterious way are taken up into the sufferings of Christ and help bring about the redemption of His people (Col. 1:24).

While there are so many other things that can be discussed about Mary from Luke’s Gospel (e.g., the connection between the Ark of the Covenant in 2nd Samuel 6 and Mary’s visit to Elizabeth, Daughter Zion, Spouse of the Holy Spirit, etc.), there is one last story in the Gospels where we see Mary’s faith on display. John records for us the wedding at Cana (2:1-12), in which we learn of Mary making a request to her Son. We also learn of Mary telling the servants at the wedding to do whatever her Son tells them to do. As followers of Christ we must do whatever Christ tells us to do and we must be willing to tell others to do the same. As Christians, our liberation in Christ is found in our communion with Christ and His Church. Thus, we must be obedient to Christ’s word to us and we must be obedient to share His word with others. Mary was bold in her faith, making a request of her Son on behalf of others, and telling others to follow her Son’s words.

One can see how the Scriptural story describes Mary as the model of faith for all believers. She manifests what it means to follow Jesus Christ. And this is what the Church means when she speaks of her “Marian Profile.” This leads us to turn our attention to the other profile we mentioned, the Petrine profile. Before we discuss the Petrine profile, it is important that we recognize that some people erroneously think that the term “Church” only refers to the hierarchy. The Vatican reporter John Allen calls this “purple ecclesiology,” which is the view that what really matters in the Church is the hierarchy. Allen rightly rejects such a notion as wrong-headed. He tells a rather amusing story about the Blessed John Henry Newman, who, when asked what he thought of the laity, replied “Well, we’d look awfully silly without them.” In fact, the Church proposes very clearly that the term “Church” cannot be reduced to the hierarchy alone. The laity, it is said, “are in the front line of Church life . . . they in particular ought to have an ever-clearer consciousness not only of belonging to the Church, but of being the Church, . . . the community of the faithful on earth under the leadership of the Pope, the common Head, and of the bishops in communion with him. They are the Church.” (#899). The Church is the entire people of God: clergy, those in religious life and the laity, and yes, also the saints in heaven and the souls in purgatory.

So what does it mean to speak of the Petrine profile of the Church? To what does this phrase refer? It refers to the Church’s magisterial authority as manifested in the hierarchy. This profile pertains to the Church’s institutional structure given to her by her Founder, the Lord Jesus Christ. The Church is founded upon Peter and the Apostles. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

When Christ instituted the Twelve, “he constituted [them] in the form of a college or permanent assembly, at the head of which he placed Peter, chosen from among them.” Just as “by the Lord’s institution, St. Peter and the rest of the apostles constitute a single apostolic college, so in like fashion the Roman Pontiff, Peter’s successor, and the bishops, the successors of the apostles, are related with and united to one another. (#880)

The purpose of this Petrine foundation is to serve and assist the faithful as they seek to live out the faith as disciples. In fact, the very first description given about the Church’s hierarchical authority states, “the sacramental nature of ecclesial ministry is its character as service . . . ministers are ‘slaves of Christ’ . . . the word and grace of which they are ministers are not their own, but are given to them by Christ for the sake of others” (#876). The ministerial priesthood is at the service of the common priesthood (#1547). The authority given to the clergy, especially the Bishops in communion with the Pope, is given to serve and not be served, just as it was with Jesus Christ, who said, “I am among you as one who serves” (Luke 22:27).

The charism of infallibility is given by Christ to the Magisterium to assist the faithful in seeking to live out the faith as disciples.

The mission of the Magisterium is linked to the definitive nature of the covenant established by God with his people in Christ. It is this Magisterium’s task to preserve God’s people from deviations and defections and to guarantee them the objective possibility of professing the true faith without error. Thus, the pastoral duty of the Magisterium is aimed at seeing to it that the People of God abides in the truth that liberates. To fulfill this service, Christ endowed the Church’s shepherds with the charism of infallibility in matters of faith and morals. (CCC #890).

Thus, the Petrine profile, as we can see, is not given so that the hierarchy could lord it over the laity, but that they might serve and bolster the faith of the laity, that they might live out the universal call to holiness expected of all God’s people. Many people have a distrust of authority, including Christians. However, we who name Christ as Lord should not be distrusting toward the Church He has given to us. The faith we possess is not something made or manufactured by us, but something received as a gift. It is not left to us as individual believers, including clergy and those in religious life, to determine what is and what is not fundamental to Catholic faith and practice. In other words, it is not our calling to stand in judgment over the Magisterium but to receive the faith from the Magisterium as coming not from men but from God.

The Scripture records for us the words spoken to Peter at Caesarea Philippi by Jesus in which Simon becomes Peter and is given the keys to the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 16:13-20). A bit later in his Gospel, Matthew tells another story in which the Apostles as a whole are given a share in Peter’s authority to bind and loose (18:18). St. Paul describes the Church as the pillar and bulwark of the truth (1 Tim. 3:15) and Hebrews commands the faithful to obey their leaders (13:17). In Acts 15, we read how the Church, led by Peter, had the authority to act in Christ’s name and with His authority to make a judgment concerning the practice of the faith. They recognized in their decision collaboration between themselves as the Magisterial authority and the Holy Spirit, “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us” (15:28). Thus, we can see from Scripture that the Church is given authority from God to speak and act with God’s own authority. Christ willed to confer upon the Church’s Shepherds a share in His own infallibility in matters of faith and morals (CCC #889-890).

The Church has a faith to hand down which is what tradition really means. Pope Benedict recently reminded us of the responsibility of those who serve the Church in preaching, “We preach not private theories and opinions, but the faith of the Church, whose servants we are” (Homily for The Chrism Mass 2012). The Church can propose this faith with confidence because she relies on the promise of God and not the ingenuity of men. The promise of God is that the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church and it was to Peter that this promise was spoken. Peter would be used by God to protect the Church from the enemy of God and His people, Satan, who prowls about the world seeking the ruin of souls. And this is what the Church means by the Petrine Profile.

We have learned that the Church has a dual profile, Marian and Petrine. And we have learned that both these profiles are fundamental to the Church’s understanding of herself. We also have learned that the Church’s authority, the Magisterium, is given not as an end but as means to help us become more and more conformed to Jesus Christ. Do not be afraid of Mary, do not be afraid of Peter, and do not be afraid of the Church, for the source of each is Christ Himself. Instead let us listen to the words of Mary, “Do whatever He tells you.”

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  1. Great post! Thanks Tom!

  2. Greetings Tom,

    I realize this post of yours isn’t on the topic of Scripture, yet you introduce it with the Roman Catholic Church’s age-long commitment for Scripture to be engaged by “the faithful.” So what is the disconnect regarding this inconsistency:

    We answered the former by demonstrating that the Church in her documents through the ages, including three Papal Encyclicals, encourages a deep and intimate engagement with the Bible on the part of the faithful.

    And this piece of history, the context of which is that the RCC only allowed Scripture in Latin and not in the language of the people?

    Tyndale’s illegal translation was the first of the new English Bibles of the Reformation, and the first to draw directly from Hebrew and Greek texts, and the first to take advantage of the new medium of the print, which allowed for wide distribution. This was taken to be a direct challenge to the hegemony of both the Roman Catholic Church and the English church and state [though denying Papal authority, England was still Roman Catholic theologically]…
    In 1535, Tyndale was arrested and jailed in the castle of Vilvoorde outside Brussels for over a year. In 1536 he was convicted of heresy and executed by strangulation, after which his body was burnt at the stake.

  3. Hey Jack,

    Thanks for the comment. I know the narrative that plays well is that the Catholic Church kept the Bible from the people, most especially by not translating the Bible into the vernacular. I think you will find the following link very helpful in regards to your comment about Tyndale, and I do hope you read it, so that at the very least you could get a better sense of the history of the Church, the Bible, and translation.

  4. Thank you Tom. This has the nourishing feel of a good sermon and even ends, as it should, with a Christocentric note! A pleasure to read.

    A big part of my journey has been having to swallow that the bible is really a supernatural book. It’s not that I considered it a rulebook like The Code Of Hammurabi, but I did come to view it as so fully plumbed that it was completely closed.
    I came to the conclusion that the Catholic Church is what it claims to be because it seems to be able to handle the scriptures in a way that makes sense with the phenomena of nature. It has answers for the mythology that exists in the world. I can go one of two ways; the bible is a great mythological story amazingly put together or it is the world’s story of itself and it takes a Catholic hermenuetic to get it get it right.


    Please consider this longish quote from John Henry Newman, paying special attention to the last paragraph.


    “Now, the phenomenon, admitted on all hands, is this:—that great portion of what is generally received as Christian truth, is in its rudiments or in its separate parts to be found in heathen philosophies and religions. For instance, the doctrine of a Trinity is found both in the East and in the West; so is the ceremony of washing; so is the rite of sacrifice. The doctrine of the Divine Word is Platonic; the doctrine of the Incarnation is Indian; of a divine kingdom is Judaic; of Angels and demons is Magian; the connexion of sin with the body is Gnostic; celibacy is known to Bonze and Talapoin; a sacerdotal order is Egyptian; the idea of a new birth is Chinese and Eleusinian; belief in sacramental virtue is Pythagorean; and honours to the dead are a polytheism. Such is the general nature of the fact before us; Mr. Milman argues from it,—”These things are in heathenism, therefore they are not Christian:” we, on the contrary, prefer to say, “these things are in Christianity, therefore they are not heathen.” That is, we prefer to say, and we think that Scripture bears us out in saying, that from the beginning the Moral Governor of the world has scattered the seeds of truth far and wide over its extent; that these have variously taken root, and grown up as in the wilderness, wild plants indeed but living; and hence that, as the inferior animals have tokens of an immaterial principle in them, yet have not souls, so the philosophies and religions of men have their life in certain true ideas, though they are not directly divine. What man is amid the brute creation, such is the Church among the schools of the world; and as Adam gave names to the animals about him, so has the Church from the first looked round upon the earth, noting and visiting the doctrines she found there. She began in Chaldea, and then sojourned among the Canaanites, and went down into Egypt, and thence passed into Arabia, till she rested in her own land. Next she encountered the merchants of Tyre, and the wisdom of the East country, and the luxury of Sheba. Then she was carried away to Babylon, and wandered to the schools of Greece. And wherever she went, in trouble or in triumph, still she was a living spirit, the mind and voice of the Most High; “sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them and asking them questions;” claiming to herself what they said rightly, correcting their errors, supplying their defects, completing their beginnings, expanding their surmises, and thus gradually by means of them enlarging the range and refining the sense of her own teaching. So far then from her creed being of doubtful credit because it resembles foreign theologies, we even hold that one special way in which Providence has imparted divine knowledge to us has been by enabling her to draw and collect it together out of the world, and, in this sense, as in others, to suck the milk of the Gentiles and to suck the breast of kings.

    “How far in fact this process has gone, is a question of history; and we believe it has before now been grossly exaggerated and misrepresented by those who, like Mr. Milman, have thought that its existence told against Catholic doctrine; but so little antecedent difficulty have we in the matter, that we could readily grant, unless it were a question of fact not of theory, that Balaam was an Eastern sage, or a Sibyl was inspired, or Solomon learnt of the sons of Mahol, or Moses was a scholar of the Egyptian hierophants. We are not distressed to be told that the doctrine of the angelic host came from Babylon, while we know that they did sing at the Nativity; nor that the vision of a Mediator is in Philo, if in very deed He died for us on Calvary. Nor are we afraid to allow, that, even after His coming, the Church has been a treasure-house, giving forth things old and new, casting the gold of fresh tributaries into her refiner’s fire, or stamping upon her own, as time required it, a deeper impress of her Master’s image.

    “The distinction between these two theories is broad and obvious. The advocates of the one imply that Revelation was a single, entire, solitary act, or nearly so, introducing a certain message; whereas we, who maintain the other, consider that Divine teaching has been in fact, what the analogy of nature would lead us to expect, “at sundry times and in divers manners,” various, complex, progressive, and supplemental of itself. We consider the Christian doctrine, when analyzed, to appear, like the human frame, “fearfully and wonderfully made;” but they think it someone tenet or certain principles given out at one time in their fulness, without gradual enlargement before Christ’s coming or elucidation afterwards. They cast off all that they also find in Pharisee or heathen; we conceive that the Church, like Aaron’s rod, devours the serpents of the magicians. They are ever hunting for a fabulous primitive simplicity; we repose in Catholic fulness.”

  5. Evening Tom(3),

    To the question of whether there were limited translations made in the vulgar tongue before the printing press (and thus not widely distributed) is not the question. Once Tyndale’s translation was widely available due to the printing press, he was arrested and martyred. Why was that the case? And those translations were not allowed in the Roman churches. Why not? Apart from being an academic scholar, how was the ploughboy or common man to actually avail himself of the Scripture in his tongue?

    I had to chuckle at the Cranmer quote, inasmuch as his number one desire and first act as Arch Bishop of the Englis reformation was to get just one English translation of the Bible into each church. When the Catholic Queen Mary took the throne why were those English translations confiscated?


  6. Alicia,

    I’m not clear what your point is. I think Newman is not the strongest voice by which to argue, imho.


  7. Jack,

    You wrote this, “And this piece of history, the context of which is that the RCC only allowed Scripture in Latin and not in the language of the people?”

    And then you wrote this, “To the question of whether there were limited translations made in the vulgar tongue before the printing press (and thus not widely distributed) is not the question.”

    Which, as you can see, are two very different things. The one says that the Church only allowed for the Scripture in Latin, which, you can see from the link you read, is not true, far from it. The other concedes that there were limited translations available in the vulgar tongue of the people. As to the limited translations, if by “limited” you mean that there were only a small number of Bibles available to be read, that, of course, is true, for the simple fact that the printing press was not around and the purchase of such works was not a live option for almost everyone. If by “limited” you mean, only a couple of languages had the Bible in their native tongue, then you should read the following post over Dr. Phil Blosser’s site:

  8. Alicia,

    Thank you for you kind words and for your participation at Called to Communion. Your quote from Blessed John Henry Newman captures it so well, the Church’s story, as recorded in Scripture, is the story that makes sense of the entire history of humanity, and the Church is the divinely given authority to help us navigate its message.

  9. Tom (7).

    “Limited” as in not available to the common man.
    You wrote:
    1.that the Church encourages the faithful to read and reflect on the Bible; and 2. that the Church, because of the Magisterium, actually brings a deepened vitality to Bible reading. We answered the former by demonstrating that the Church in her documents through the ages, including three Papal Encyclicals, encourages a deep and intimate engagement with the Bible on the part of the faithful.

    Clearly the above is what I am addressing. You then bring in evidence of isolated translations, of which weren’t available to the common man. Rather than address the inconsistency between what the Roman Church claims and what it actually has done, you are now trying to make your claim above based on a technicality. But there was a translation here and there over the course of 1000 years!

    Question: For how many years was the Mass spoken only in Latin? For how many years was the reading of Scripture in the Mass only in Latin? For how many years was the Lord’s Prayer only said in Latin? And how was the use of Latin encouraging ” a deep and intimate engagement with the Bible on the part of the faithful” who couldn’t speak Latin? (the vast majority, by the way)

    And upon the advent of the printing press did the Roman Church make translations readily available to all her people? Well, they did print a Bible… 1582 and 1610, yet much of the text of the 1582/1610 bible, however, employed a densely latinate vocabulary, to the extent of being in places unreadable… The Douay Old Testament was then reprinted once in the course of a century, and the Rheims New Testament a few times in the next century. Doesn’t sound like the Church was very earnest or effective in encouraging ” a deep and intimate engagement with the Bible on the part of the faithful.”

    Some English history:
    When Henry became king in 1509, the church in England was as follows:
    Head of the Church: the pope based in Rome.
    Church services: all were held in Latin.
    Prayers: all said in Latin.
    Bible: written in Latin.
    Priests: not allowed to marry

    By the death of Henry in 1547, under Cranmer in the midst of England’s still on-going reformation, the church in England was as follows :
    Head of the Church: the king.
    Church services: held in Latin.
    Prayers: most said in Latin.
    The “Lord’s Prayer” was said in English.
    Bible: written in English.

    Priests: not allowed to marry.

    Notice the first reform Cranmer brought: a reform to address the need for the Bible in the language of the people available in every church. And if the Roman Church was not allowing the use of the common language of the people in the Mass as to Scripture reading and the Bible being used, then I will state again “that the RCC only allowed Scripture in Latin and not in the language of the people.”


  10. Jack,

    I will enclose this link for your pleasure in reading if you are so inclined

    You may disagree with the Church’s reading of the Sacred Text. You may find the Church to be wrong on fundamental matters of the Holy Scriptures. What you may not do is construe your own narrative, and the narrative of others, that seek to portray the Church as the enemy of the Bible who sought to prevent the Bible from being read, learned, or understood by the faithful. The historical fact of the matter is, without the countless monks throughout history, who gave of their lives to copy by hand the Sacred Scriptures, who by candle copied till their hands wore out, there would have been no Bible preserved for you and me. Oh, Jack, the great debt you and I owe to almighty God for those many, many monks of old, who gave their lives to be human copy machines. If the Catholic Church sought to keep the Bible from the world, if the Catholic Church sought to keep the Bible from the common layman, she did a pretty bad job, because she to it that these pages would be copied and copied and copied by her members. She did this for no other reason than to be faithful and safeguard what had been given to her and to what she had been entrusted. I think, instead of attacking her, it might do you good to at least acknowledge that historical fact and be grateful to God for her.

  11. Tom,
    You’ve yet to engage or respond to any of the historical facts I have noted. Let me respond to your objections and appeals.

    You: What you may not do is construe your own narrative, and the narrative of others, that seek to portray the Church as the enemy of the Bible who sought to prevent the Bible from being read, learned, or understood by the faithful

    If the historical record bears out what I’m saying, then why not present an alternative narrative to that of yours? Again, you seem to want to ignore and dismiss anything negative in the record of the Roman magesterium and their mandated direction regarding worship and church practice.

    You: The historical fact of the matter is, without the countless monks throughout history, who gave of their lives to copy by hand the Sacred Scriptures, who by candle copied till their hands wore out, there would have been no Bible preserved for you and me. Oh, Jack, the great debt you and I owe to almighty God for those many, many monks of old, who gave their lives to be human copy machines.

    Indeed and Amen! And we of the Reformed catholic churches gladly own and thankfully acknowledge their sacrifice as part of the catholic church tradition both for our benefit and the benfit of all of Christ’s Church, which we surely identify with and affirm. But to say or intimate that the Papal office (She) was directing them or to offer the presumption that whatever good ocurred in the Church over the centuries, despite the declension of the Roman heiarchy, was somehow to the Vatican’s credit is reading back into history a favorable revision. Those faithful monks were just that, faithful servants of God for the benefit of the Lord’s people that have followed, not for Rome’s resumee.

    I find it quite telling that you assume that I and, by extension, Reformed Protestants are not thankful for the many servants of God who have gone before simply because we take issue with this or that aspect of Papal doctrine and practice which is at variance with that of the early apostolic tradition and Scripture. I’m inclined to suggest, “Thou dost protest to much!”

    Tom, you have wrongly accused me of “attacking” the Church when all I have done is to point to historical inconsistencies you refuse to consider, let alone respond to. I will say this, you are mirroring quite well the posture of Trent at this juncture.

    May our Lord have mercy upon us…

  12. Jack,

    As I said to you, your comment or rather critique of the Church was not on a point of Papal doctrine, which is one thing, but on the fact that you claimed that the Church did not translate the Bible into the common tongue of the people, or that if the Church did translate it, it was on a very limited basis. Your last comment seems a bit disjointed. On the one hand you say that I have not engaged you on the historical facts that you presented and then on the other hand you concede that without the monks the Bible would not have been preserved for the benefit of the Church. The fact is, if you read the links I provided you would have found that your narrative that the Church did not provide for the Bible in the common tongue is not true. In order for you to keep your narrative you have redefined the relationship of the Monks with the Ecclesial authority of the Church, almost as if the Monks were independent and autonomous from the Institutional structure of the Church. You have redefined the relationship between the religious orders of monks whose gift to the Church was to copy the Scripture and preserve the Bible for the Church and the world and the Pope, in order to maintain the narrative that the Church’s ecclesial structures were the enemies of the Bible and its promulgation. If the Church’s Magisterial authority was opposed to the work of the Monks then, very easily, she could have prevented it but she did not suppress this work, for the simple fact, that the monks were not proto-Protestants, doing their work apart from the blessing and support of Holy Mother Church.

    This post is probably not the best place for this conversation for the simple fact that nothing in my post has to do with this topic. Rather, it has to do with the dual profile of the Church. I do think that the Biblical data presents this dual profile quite well. If you have disagreements with the actual content with the post, I would be glad to engage them. If not, then let’s not continue chasing rabbit trails.

  13. I have a couple comments that seem to fit into this dispute that Jack is engaging in.

    I was having a discussion with my evangelical pastor, and I pointed out that in any liturgical church, one would hear more scripture read on a regular basis, than one hears read in our non-liturgical evangelical church. His reply was that reading the scripture was a necessary thing when the population is largely illiterate. But now in our literate culture, we do not insult the intelligence of people by reading to them. Result – less Bible read in church, not more. That sounds to me like wanting to have it both ways.

    During another conversation with a friend about Eastern Orthodoxy, he mentioned someone stating that she did not need to study doctrine because her (Orthodox) priest could explain it to her. Now, I admit that that is not an ideal to be encouraged. But, however shortsighted that woman’s attitude might be, why is it so problematic? What is the object of our faith? Is our faith in our ability to comprehend God, or is our faith in God himself? If our faith is in God himself, why does it matter how we learn of Him? Our Lord himself tells us that we must have the faith of a child. Being a scholar may be good, but it is not required for entry to the kingdom of heaven.

    I think that it is a bit disingenuous to claim that all priests and bishops of all eras of church history have encouraged personal bible reading and study for the laity. But being able to prove that knowledge was kept from the masses during some periods of history does not prove that the church is an untrustworthy guide. All it proves is that at some points of time, and in some places, the clergy were shortsighted. Clergy are human. Is that such a surprise? Let’s move on.

  14. Tom,
    I agree this isn’t forum to continue this discussion. I do think you are misunderstanding or ignore my point. I did not say the RCC did not “translate” but did not “allow”… Yet I can understand your initial confusion as my words were less than precise. And I have explained the context for this statement of mine as pertaining to what language was or wasn’t allowed by the RCC. The one and only place where the common man was likely to encounter the Bible was in the Latin Mass, and how that measured up with your assertion of Rome’s deep commitment of encouraging engagement with Scriptue among the faithful.

    Btw, I did read your links (although not all of the longest one). I concede entirely that the Bible was translated into different tongues prior to the Reformation, though translations per se weren’t the focus of my response to you. And I agree that the monks were not independent from the Church, nor did the Church oppose their work, things of which I haven’t asserted otherwise.

    Thank you for allowing the back and forth.

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