Do Catholics Still Follow The Rule of St. Augustine?


Pope Leo XIII responded to those who would push the interpretation of Sacred Scripture beyond what was known using modern theory and thought. His Encyclical PROVIDENTISSIMUS DEUS, ON THE STUDY OF HOLY SCRIPTURE reiterates the rule of St. Augustine “15. But he must not on that account consider that it is forbidden, when just cause exists, to push inquiry and exposition beyond what the Fathers have done; provided he carefully observes the rule so wisely laid down by St. Augustine-not to depart from the literal and obvious sense, except only where reason makes it untenable or necessity requires;(40) a rule to which it is the more necessary to adhere strictly in these times, when the thirst for novelty and unrestrained freedom of thought make the danger of error most real and proximate. “

Do you think Catholics still follow this rule? I think we are losing sight of it from the top on down.


I am guided by the document, Dei Verbum.

ON NOVEMBER 18, 1965



Pope Paul VI doesn’t reiterate or mention the rule. That is concerning to me. It leaves an open door to rely on so called secular “experts”, weather it is in the field of psychology or theoretical “science”, or whatever. In recent years the Church has had non-Christian individuals who worship at the alter of natural “science” on the pontifical academy of “science”. Are these individuals listened to for the interpretation of Sacred Scripture?

Then again Arianism had it’s grips on the Church for many years but here we are in full belief that Jesus Is God.


The subject is way above my level of comprehension and expertise, but in general, I’d think that Augustine could not have possibly been laying down boundaries that applied to all times and places. Nor do I think that the Church has spun out of control.

As the three-volume masterpiece of Pope Benedict XVI illustrates, the Church has taken all criticism into consideration, as it must have and will continue to do, as even as the rule of scripture points, to examine everything and keep what is good.

(I might change my mind at a later time, but for now, I somewhat envy how Judaism developed and has maintained the Talmud as the go-to record of scripture interpretation for a long period of time. The Talmud (“study” of the Torah) in many respects, it is said, is incomplete and leaves off questions for later consideration. In contrast, in the Catholic Church, it seems the whole subject of scripture commentary, in patristic times to begin with, is spotty and fragmentary, what you see is what you get. The project to catalog and make accessible the contents of the Vatican archives reflects hope that more and more existing information will be made available.)


Whether Catholics follow the Rule of St. Augustine is not a matter of a poll.

Dominican, Servite, Mercederian, and Augustinian religious orders all follow the rule of St. Augustine as their way of life and so the answer to the poll is yes.



Providentissimus Deus was written for theologians and scripture scholars. The encyclical calls these “approved and persevering labourers.” Note that they are approved by the Church.

The OP lifted the question from EWTN at where Dr. Geraghty gives the correct answer, “The Popes are the ones to guide you.”



If the Church allows multiple interpretations, including the literal, I will always default to the literal. I am not a Theologian but I know that unless there is just cause for departing from a literal interpretation, there will be meaning and understanding lost. If the Church say we can and should not interpret something literally then there must be just cause for it. But if they free us to interpret something literally but also allow others to adopt a more secular view, you have to ask the question which is correct and what is the impact of believing one way or another. The St. Augustine rule is useful and will keep us from error.

With Arianism the relationship between Christ and man was challenged. Because it challenged Who One of the Individuals in the relationship Is. I believe that a similar strategy from the enemy is underway today, but this time there is an attack on the meaning of who man is. Either way disrupting the meaning of Who Christ Is or the meaning of who man is, the relationship is disrupted. This is most obvious in the attack on human sexuality as pointed out by Pope John Paul II in his Theology of the Body. Today it is at the point where man does not know who he is.

A distortion of the meaning of procreation, the process that brings man into being will result in a distortion of understanding the result of procreation, humanity. Similarly a distortion of the original creation of man to a secular point of view will result in a distortion of the meaning of who man is. Original creation and procreation are linked and they can not be separated. Contempt for the process in either case creation of a human, will always breed contempt for the result, the human being.


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