Last night, as I was driving home from our church group meeting, I had the radio tuned to the local Catholic station and I heard some listeners call in with two questions that were very similar to those I’ve heard from several other Catholic talk shows lately. I’ll paraphrase the questions, give the priests’ responses, and then add my own commentary.
Reading the Bible
Caller #1: Hello, Father. I would like to start reading the Bible but I don’t know where to start. Do you have any advice on which book of the Bible I should begin with?
Priest: Hello. I am glad you desire to read Scripture. You should probably choose one of the Gospels to begin with and go from there.
Commentary: I was a Catholic for twenty-seven years and went through twelve years of Catholic education but never read the Bible at school or at home. Catholics hear snippets of Scripture during mass but their church never really encouraged personal Bible reading. The VAST majority of Roman Catholics have little or no hands-on Bible knowledge. They know several Bible stories but not the Bible in total and how the Gospel of God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone is woven throughout. Praise the Lord that some Catholics desire to read God’s Word. When they read Scripture they’ll discover many of the things taught by their church can’t be found in God’s Word. Many will discover salvation is NOT by sacramental grace and merit and will understand why the Catholic clergy would prefer that the laity not read God’s Word on their own. Many of the Catholics who call in inquiring about reading the Bible sound as if they’re older. I’m saddened that personal Bible reading and study was not encouraged and even discouraged for so long by a “church” but I praise the Lord that the Holy Spirit is moving people to look into God’s Word for themselves.
Fallible or Infallible?
Caller #2: Hi Father. I’m very concerned about this current “Amoris Laetitia” controversy. The church has always taught that divorced Catholics who remarried without an annulment could not receive the Blessed Sacrament because they were living in an ongoing adulterous relationship, but pope Francis’ “Amoris Laetitia” apostolic exhortation seems to enable bishops and priests to decide whether they should allow communion to remarrieds on an individual basis. So, is it a mortal sin to remarry after a divorce as the church has always taught previously or isn’t it?
Priest: Thanks for your question. Yes, there appears to be some ambiguity around “Amoris Laetitia.” Different bishops are interpreting it differently. Some say communion is still prohibited to remarried Catholics while others say communion may be allowed on a case-by-case evaluation. No doubt the debate will continue for some time. The bottom line for Catholics regarding “Amoris” is the document encourages pastors and remarried Catholics to come together and to use the occasion as a teaching moment so that the church may minister to the individual/s and guide them in living their life in accordance with God’s will. I hope that answers your question.
Caller #2: ?????
Commentary: Catholic apologists claim the teaching of the church is symbolized by a stool with the three legs comprised of Scripture, tradition, and the magisterium (the pope and bishops in their teaching office) and that each is equally inspired. They state only the magisterium is capable of correctly interpreting Scripture through the leading of the Holy Spirit. So how can pope Francis issue an ambiguous apostolic exhortation that seems to abrogate previous infallible papal teaching on the prohibition of communion for remarrieds?
Let’s be candid. Francis was faced with a growing number of divorced and remarried Catholics who were disaffected by the church’s policy of denial of communion and were dropping away. It’s a staggering problem for the church. The ambiguously worded “Amoris Laetitia” declaration opens the door to allowing communion to remarrieds without officially reversing dogma that was always considered infallible and irreversible. Traditional Catholics are deeply troubled by this vague pronouncement (buried in a footnote) which invalidates infallible dogmatic teaching. Catholics have always claimed their church is led by a pope who is infallible in matters of faith and morals. But what are they to do when their current infallible pope in effect reverses the teaching of previous infallible popes? Catholic radio talk show priests have a tough time explaining this one to concerned callers.
The boys down at Catholic Answers would never admit to it but what we have here is a pope bowing to pragmatism over fidelity to infallible doctrine.