Pope Gregory VII quote

Can anyone tell me if this is an accurate quote of Pope Gregory VII?

“That it has pleased God to make Holy Scripture obscure in certain places lest, if it were perfectly clear to all, it might be vulgarized and subjected to disrespect or be so misunderstood by people of limited intelligence as to lead them into error.” (In response to the request made in 1079 by Vratislaus, duke of Bohemia, seeking permission to use Slavonic in local church services.)

I came across this in an Awake magazine (of course no reference to any document given) as “evidence” the Church wanted to keep the bible from the people.

Strikes me that the end of it sounds a little like 2 Peter 3:16

Of course while they mention the Gutenberg Bible in the article, it escapes them that this was an edition of the Vulgate complete with the deuteros.

It’s hard to verify the quote without a more complete citation.

It is also possible the fuller context of what Gregory said would change the way one interprets the statement.

Further, Gregory definitely wasn’t writing in English. So there is the additional issue of whether or not the translation is accurate.

In any case, even if we assume the quote is genuine, the context clear, and that the translation is perfect, I don’t see how the quote can be used to say the Catholic Church was trying to keep the Bible from the masses. To me, it is speaking about the fact that there are passages in Scripture that are difficult to understand – which is true. There are many difficult passages in Scripture. In that sense, the quote is really saying that this obscurity is a good thing because otherwise people might more easily assume they know exactly what a passage means when they really do not.

2 Peter 3:16
Matthew 13:13
Matthew 13:34
Mark 4:11

:slight_smile:

“That it has pleased God to make Holy Scripture obscure in certain places lest, if it were perfectly clear to all, it might be vulgarized and subjected to disrespect or be so misunderstood by people of limited intelligence as to lead them into error.”

In response to the request made in 1079 by Vratislaus, duke of Bohemia, seeking permission to use Slavonic in local church services.

*Awake! *magazine December 2011, page 7; They Tried to Keep God’s Word From the Masses.

wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/102011443

Awake! is a publication of the JW. The premise seems to be that the Church would not allow vernacular translation so that the clergy could maintain their power over the laity.

Yes - that is the article I was reading. In general, the circular reasoning astounds me.

  1. The Church, whose members were the ones making copies of the Bible, were the ones trying to keep the Bible from the people.
  2. The Church, who was in sole possession of the Bible, knowing the beliefs it taught were not in the Bible, continued to make copies of the Bible.

The quote appears to be accurate. Pope Gregory VII agreed with those who felt that Latin was a sacred language and were suspicious of change. He therefore tried to stop the circulation of the Slovenic version called for 200 years earlier.

His actual reason for trying to stop it is clear within the statement. Lay people were often quite uneducated at the time. There was a legitimate concern that some of these people would have significant trouble interpreting the Scriptures for themselves.

Even today the same concern was addressed in the document Dei Verbum:

“It devolves on sacred bishops “who have the apostolic teaching”(7) to give the faithful entrusted to them suitable instruction in the right use of the divine books, especially the New Testament and above all the Gospels. This can be done through translations of the sacred texts, which are to be provided with the necessary and really adequate explanations so that the children of the Church may safely and profitably become conversant with the Sacred Scriptures and be penetrated with their spirit.”

Notice the emphasis on instruction and explanations. And the reason: So that the children of the Lord may SAFELY and PROFITABLY come to know the scripture.

The Catechism lays out these principles:

V. SACRED SCRIPTURE IN THE LIFE OF THE CHURCH

131 "And such is the force and power of the Word of God that it can serve the Church as her support and vigor, and the children of the Church as strength for their faith, food for the soul, and a pure and lasting fount of spiritual life."109 Hence "access to Sacred Scripture ought to be open wide to the Christian faithful."110

132 "Therefore, the study of the sacred page should be the very soul of sacred theology. The ministry of the Word, too - pastoral preaching, catechetics and all forms of Christian instruction, among which the liturgical homily should hold pride of place - is healthily nourished and thrives in holiness through the Word of Scripture."111

133 The Church "forcefully and specifically exhorts all the Christian faithful. . . to learn the surpassing knowledge of Jesus Christ, by frequent reading of the divine Scriptures. Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.112

The Church at the time of Gregory VII was concerned with the authority of the Pope. Because of the Church’s ties with the State and royalty the position had lost prestige. As leader of the Church this made the Pope somewhat impotent since quite often the people looked to their rulers on religious matters. Gregory was attempting to regain the importance of the papacy which it had lost. He wished for the laity to rely on the Church for guidance. Maintaining the traditional Latin translation would help in this cause.

Additionally, the Church had been dealing with many heresies. There was a legitimate fear that the unprepared people reading the Bible could fall into heresy through false interpretation of the scripture. Thus, it was his determination to keep the more “secret” Latin which had to be interpreted by the Church.

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