Are Catholics encouraged to read the Bible?

Now here on CA, I have found Catholics that seem to know scripture forward, back, inside-out - so please no offense - you guys (and gals) are good.

Coming from a Baptist background to possibly back to the Catholic Church (was baptized Catholic, first communion, RCIA and confirmation) I have noticed one thing - I can’t ever recall someone asking me to read my Bible? Pastor, deacon, CCD teacher. I may be forgetting if it happened, but it sure was not common at best.

Pretty much everything I learned about Christianity came from protestant teaching. As I am getting in to the Catholic Church and talking to several CCD teachers they openly admit they are not comfortable as they don’t know much, and neither does the DRE.

I recently asked our local priest after mass, when he prays that “my sacrifice and yours be made an acceptable offering”, what the “yours” part of the sacrifice was. He had no idea or answer. If you pray without knowing what you are praying, is that not vein repetition?

I am wondering, in practice I don’t see Catholics encouraged to read scripture, and as I go up the ladder it’s not looking better.

Every post is from a Catholic source

for nearly four centuries the Catholic Church as effectively discourage the reading of the Bible

From the US Conference of Catholic Bishops…e-readings.cfm
"Once the printing press was invented, the most commonly printed book was the Bible, but this still did not make Bible-reading a Catholic’s common practice. Up until the mid-twentieth Century, the custom of reading the Bible and interpreting it for oneself was a hallmark of the Protestant churches springing up in Europe after the Reformation. Protestants rejected the authority of the Pope and of the Church and showed it by saying people could read and interpret the Bible for themselves. Catholics meanwhile were discouraged from reading Scripture. "

The Catholic Church has effectively deprecated the value of the Bible
.From Catholic city
“Of course, there is an old tradition among lay Catholics of not reading the Bible. Prior to the Protestant Reformation, this non-reading was a natural byproduct of the fact that the vast majority of lay Catholics were illiterate. Besides, such Bibles as were available were written in Latin, not the vernacular languages. And then, once the Reformation took place, Bible-reading took on the color of being a distinctively Protestant thing, therefore something faithful Catholics should avoid. Protestants, after all, appealed to the authority of the Bible to challenge the authority of the pope and the bishops, and when they read the Bible they came to certain theological conclusions that conflicted with Catholic doctrine.** Reading the Bible was dangerous for Catholics.”**

In the long period from the Council of Trent to Vatican II, a period of approximately four centuries, the Catholic Church adopted a highly defensive mode of being. There were two great intellectual dangers to the Faith – first the Protestant danger and then the secularist danger that stemmed from the Enlightenment. The Index of Prohibited Books was created to defend Catholics against these dangers.** Of course, it was impossible to put the Bible on the Index, since the Bible, according to Catholic teaching, was the inspired Word of God. But if the Bible couldn’t be banned, at least Catholics could be effectively discouraged from reading it. **
There were several ways of doing this:◦A strong emphasis on Natural Religion had the effect of depreciating the value of Revelation generally.
A strong emphasis on Tradition as a second source of Divine Revelation had the effect of depreciating the value of the Bible.
Secondhand narrations of biblical stories, instead of moving Catholics to consult the original sources (the Bible itself), more often gave them the impression that it was not necessary to examine the Bible.
◦Catholics were told that they must not read Protestant translations of the Bible (e.g., the Authorized Version); if they insisted on reading the Bible, they must read properly annotated Catholic translations.
◦Some gentle ridicule directed at the Biblicism of our “separated brethren” taught Catholics to shy away from the Bible.
In general, Catholics were seldom seriously encouraged by their priests and nuns to search the Scriptures.

Produced lazy Catholics

.The Bible-reading habits of Catholics lag far behind those of Evangelical Protestants.
My guess is that many Catholics simply don’t want to do the work. They are content to let Mother Church spoon-feed them. (They want to remain “babes in Christ” who drink “milk,” as Paul says.)
But the “solution” of many Catholics—to not read the Bible at all so as to not be “confused” or "led astray"

and Produced Biblically illiterate Catholics


“Q**: Is one of the goals of this program to promote “biblical literacy” among Catholics, who have often been characterized as being “illiterate” when it comes to Scripture?
Healy: Absolutely! Unfortunately, that description is not far off the mark”**

And the result is:

from the National Catholic Reporter
That** Catholics are leaving to join evangelical churches** because of the church teaching on the Bible is a disgrace.
Too few homilists explain the scriptures to their people.
Few Catholics read the Bible.

The church needs a massive Bible education program. The church needs to acknowledge that understanding the Bible is more important than memorizing the catechism. If we could get Catholics to read the Sunday scripture readings each week before they come to Mass, it would be revolutionary.
If you do not read and pray the scriptures, you are not an adult Christian. Catholics who become evangelicals understand this.

Thank you so much for your reply! I am a struggling Christian. I am here because my wife is a Catholic and I am exploring it.

The deeper I get, the less I am naturally drawn to it, and have to seem to bend my mind to make it work.

I truly appreciate your time in reply. I had trouble with my settings to get private replies, so if you can’t reply let me know and I’ll try to adjust them.

If you don’t reply any, I thank you for your information! God Bless!

I’d say that’s a fair argument.

I was not particularly encouraged to read the Bible, and my mother and other Catholics I knew generally didn’t read it anyway.

There are some good arguments here.

I’d suggest that because the Catholic Church doesn’t stress the Bible alone, it’s not that crucial that we read it, not because we don’t believe it or because it contradicts our doctrines, but because we believe we have the Church and the Holy Spirit to interpret it for us, and consequently we tend to rely on what our leaders teach us. If someone were to read the Bible by themselves without any guidance they might not interpret it the same way as the Church.

If we belonged to some church that claimed that the Bible alone was the final authority, with no interpretation on anyone else’s part, I can see there’d be more emphasis on our reading the Bible.

Plus, as you suggest, some of us are just plain “lazy” in that we aren’t as dedicated to our faith as we should be.

We have always been encouraged to read the Sacred Scriptures but just not to interrupt them to suit ourselves or take certain verses out of context to mean what we want them to mean. Always read in light of Church teaching and guidance. Read the CCC and you will find Scripture reference all the way through it. Scripture is read and goes throughout the Mass every day. If some Catholics do not like Scripture reading, I’m afraid that is their choice, not the teaching of the Church, God Bless, Memaw

“We have **always **been encouraged to read the Sacred Scriptures”

factually ; that is not true
US Conference of Catholic Bishops in post #2 states otherwise

Born and raised Southern Baptist–45 years. I know the Bible inside and out. I’m joining the Catholic Church this Easter so I can help out with the effort to get them up to speed Biblically.

If you are a Biblical expert and have an affinity for the Catholic Church, come on in and join the reformation. :slight_smile:

I have noticed that almost every Catholic apologist I know of started as a Protestant. Many were in seminary or already pastors when they became Catholic. Tim Staples, Jimmy Akin, Peter Kreeft, Mark Shea, Scott Hahn, etc.

I wouldn’t call the National Catholic Reporter “catholic”. They have little in agreement with Catholic teaching and in fact actively promote things against church teaching. They do have the word in their name.

If you want to cite a truly Catholic newspaper than I would encourage you to look at the National Catholic Register instead.

As far as “coming and going”… “joining and leaving”. That is going on in every denomination. Catholicism has many, many converts from the various non-catholic christian denominations. It is far from a one-sided situation.

In as much as Catholics are encouraged to read and study the bible and given that there are many excellent Catholic bible studies available today any Catholic can become more knowledgeable. We do need to keep encouraging.

I won’t deny that clergy may have discouraged, or at least not encouraged, private Scripture reading. And that is wrong.

But I also believe encouraging people to read and decide, by themselves (outside of Tradition) what Scripture means, has an apparent fault too.

A balance should be conveyed. That we should study Scripture and study what the Church believes and upholds. “Bible Churches” spring up all over and have various interpretations which conflict one another, and in particular the See of Rome. It is not a noble effort to simply start a church, but built or build up a Church in Communion with the Universal Church who has His Body to distribute.

Oh yes, but I do hope you now realize they understand Sacred Scripture in the Catholic context and not in “your own opinion” style. To memorize verses is notable in some ways but to understand the true meaning of them is another, that’s the Catholic difference. God Bless, Memaw

There is no question that many Catholics are poorly catechized. That is one reason why Pope John Paul II published a new Catechism of the Catholic Church. As for as Catholic Bible interpretation, my favorite is the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible. They have one volume for the New Testament and are coming out with volumes on the OT.

I think the onus is on every human on earth to study the Word of the living God. Those who are lazy are like the foolish virgins who didn’t bring oil for their lamps (Matt 25).

2 Timothy 2:15 (DRA)

15 Carefully study to present thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

There are repeated themes in the biblical account. The Hebrew people were God’s chosen, but when their Messiah came, almost all rejected Him. Who was standing at the foot of the cross? Mary, the mother of the LORD, and of us all, and John, the disciple who loved the Lord. The Hebrews/Jews thought themselves favored but they rejected their God. So God included the rest of humanity for salvation. In the second coming of our Lord, who will be ready? Who loves the Lord enough to spend time meditating on His every word? It will be those who will recognize their returning Savior.

Agreed about the Ignatius Bible. :slight_smile: I wish the OT would come out today. lol

Once again we do need to emphasize that the Catholic Church does not believe in Sola Scriptura (nor does the bible itself) nor in self-interpretation. In her wisdom she realizes that it is easy to be lead astray by ones own opinions/interpretations, pulling things out of context etc. etc.

Yes, there was a period of time when Catholics were discouraged, to some extent, from reading the Bible. OTOH, the Bible was in every Church for anyone to read.

What one needs to understand is that a tradition of reading the Bible did not spring up in the Church for 3/4 of its history because Bibles were rare and incredibly expensive, being copied by hand. Once the printing press came into use, there were many versions of the Bible, who knew how accurate?

And we had the example of the Protestants, who were at that point splitting like peas, all through personal interpretation of the Bible, which the Bible tells us St Peter warned against.

What are the important points for Catholics to know about their Faith? The *teachings, *that which Christ came to give us. Inexpensive catechsims so that anyone could learn the truths of their Faith abounded. And those parts of the Bible considered important by the Church were proclaimed every day in the churches at Mass.

Not everyone needs to be a theologian or Bible scholar to be a faithful Catholic. Poor, illiterate souls have become martyrs and saints for Christ.

Funny how Non-Catholics think they know more about our Faith than we do !! Before the Refomation, most people couldn’t read and after the Reformation when more were learning to read (mostly because the Catholic Church and education), the Church didn’t want lay people to get caught up in the “self interpertation” of the Reformers. God Bless, Memaw

Yes. I think the Reformation had a funny impact in some ways. Like a child who moves out to college, or on their own and has a sudden amount of freedom. They don’t realize, yet the responsibility of their choices, and they don’t always keep the important fundamentals (Traditions) they knew from youth.

Biblical literacy for the laity has been a weak point in recent centuries. Catholics have a long tradition of hearing the scripture from the pulpit, and in my experience never developed a strong tradition of the laity reading (less of emphasis on personal interpretation and more learning through the Church) since the printing press, modernization of the printing industry, and higher literacy rates made personal reading easy for the common man. There has also been a negative culture around personal reading of the Bible among Catholics in the late nineteenth and early to mid twentieth century, at least, even if that’s never been an official position the Church.

I don’t say this to defend that culture but just setting some context. However, within the past few decades there has been a revitalization in increasing Biblical literacy among lay Catholics. I think the full fruits of these efforts are still to be seen, but there’s been very encouraging progress that I hope to see continue and expand, and the Vatican has been very vocal about increasing Biblical literacy.

Agree. Well stated.



DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit