Should Catholics Read Scriptures?


On one hand, they seem great for evaneglizing and learning…

…on the other hand…

You have this:

Here are the relevant condemned propositions:

  1. It is useful and necessary at all times, in all places, and for every kind of person, to study and to know the spirit, the piety, and the mysteries of Sacred Scripture.

  2. The reading of Sacred Scripture is for all.

  3. The sacred obscurity of the Word of God is no reason for the laity to dispense themselves from reading it.

  4. The Lord’s Day ought to be sanctified by Christians with readings of pious works and above all of the Holy Scriptures. It is harmful for a Christian to wish to withdraw from this reading.

  5. It is an illusion to persuade oneself that knowledge of the mysteries of religion should not be communicated to women by the reading of Sacred Scriptures. Not from the simplicity of women, but from the proud knowledge of men has arisen the abuse of the Scriptures and have heresies been born.

  6. To snatch away from the hands of Christians the New Testament, or to hold it closed against them by taking away from them the means of understanding it, is to close for them the mouth of Christ.

  7. To forbid Christians to read Sacred Scripture, especially the Gospels, is to forbid the use of light to the sons of light, and to cause them to suffer a kind of excommunication.

  8. To snatch from the simple people this consolation of joining their voice to the voice of the whole Church is a custom contrary to the apostolic practice and to the intention of God.


Dogmatic Constitution issued by Pope Clement XI on Sept. 8, 1713

So should Catholics read scriptures if they are lay people?

CERTAINLY, they should not read translations not directly approved by the Church. Right??


Except the Church actually encourages the faithful to read the Bible. In fact, your quote from Clement IX seems to say the exact opposite of what you seem to be saying that it says. He’s not discouraging scripture reading - on the contrary, he’s saying that Christians should be able to read the scriptures and that not allowing them to do so is to be condemed. Regardless, the encouragement for scripture study extends to all the faithful, including laity, though it is especially encouraged for the clergy and those in teaching roles (catechists, lectors/readers, etc.).

The following is directly from the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on Divine Revelation:


Pope Clement was correcting the errors taught by Paschasius Quesnel, who was a Jansenist.


Of course! Why shouldn’t Catholics read scripture?


It is a good thing for someone who is educated in and firmly established in the faith to reading Sacred Scripture but, being that “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword” (Hebrews 4:12), it is not the sort of thing you really want “the ignorant and unstable” playing with without proper supervision lest their misunderstanding of it lead “to their own destruction.” (2 Peter 3:16) I think that’s why most of those propositions were condemned.


St. Jerome firmly insists that ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.


If the church doesn’t want us reading the Bible why is there a plenary indulgence attached to it?


Much harm has been done by Martin Luther’s INTERPRETATION of scriptures,
and as mentioned, by Pasquier Quesnel, a Jansenist who wrote HIS commentary
on the New Testament. If we freely interpret scripture w/o considering Church
doctrine and teachings, we can fall into erroneous thinking, and fall from grace!
The BEST interpretation of Scriptures is based on FORMED conscience(based
on the magisterium) AND love(agape).


This was a recent indulgence. What about past condemnations? Such as the propositions in the OP that were condemned (they are apparently being condemned by the pope, not supported by him).


Pope Francis just told the Swiss Guard to arm themselves with the Bible and the rosary.
St. Pope John Paul II encouraged the reciting of a scriptural passage before each decade of the rosary. That is how I pray the rosary.
Absolutely read scripture. It is part of the daily Mass. It is part of the Liturgy of the Hours, the prayer of the Church. While the LOTH is primarily prayed by those in religious life, the laity are encouraged to incorporate it into their prayer life as well.
Most of the prayers that we as Catholics pray come from Scripture.


Re: theological statements being condemned –

They’re usually not condemned if there isn’t already a problem. The problem is usually with the sort of crazy people, occultists, and weird academics who take everything on the Internet wrong, so you should read these condemnations in that spirit.

For example, the OP lists a condemnation of the proposition that (I paraphrase) “It’s always a good time to read the Bible.” You should then ask yourself when a crazy person would think it was a good time to read the Bible.

At the top of his lungs, at three in the morning, next to a house full of babies who are easy to wake?

As part of a magic spell to try to take over the world?

During sex with prostitutes, as a prelude to murdering them? (There’s probably an episode of Law and Order:SVU about that…)

In the middle of a fire, instead of passing the water buckets or trying to escape?

The next thing is to do historical research about exactly what was going on, and what the crazier theologians were teaching. You will probably find out a great deal about human nature that will both profit you and make you sad. You will also probably be quite supportive of the Pope’s ban at that point!

Of course, it would be handy if lists of banned propositions had always included the reasons why they were banned, but the historical fact is that a lot of folks are more interested in reading explanations for loopholes than for education. Usually it was the job of local priests and bishops to explain what was going on, if there was a local problem with any particular banned proposition.

In this particular case, the problem wasn’t with reading the Bible; it was with saying that it was always good to read the Bible. The Bible itself says that “to everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven,” so it’s not anti-Bible to say that you have to use good sense on picking your time and place.

You will also notice that despite everything, the Pope also didn’t make any explicit rules on when it was a good time to read the Bible. There are some strands of Judaism that teach that you should never pray in the bathroom, for instance; but Catholicism gives us the freedom of the children of God, and leaves it to our own prudence to determine.

So that’s how you’re supposed to understand this stuff. It’s not about Ban Everything; it’s about Stop the Madness without stopping anything we might need later, or going overboard and saying things that aren’t true.


I agree w/ the above statement, but would also add that
it is ALWAYS good to pray, “Pray unceasingly”!!!


The list of bans is far more specific than your examples. Your examples are your own creation and are not explicitly or implicitly mentioned in the actual text of the bans. They seem pretty straightforward to me. How about you address the actual bans mentioned and not make unrelated or inapplicable examples and paraphrases of the bans?


Thanks for all the answers. You are all very helpful in explaining things. :slight_smile:

I am convinced we should read the Bible.

But I still dont understand why “Bible societies” were condemned a lot in the 1800s and 1700s, and reading translations not approved by the Holy See was banned totally.

Why did they do that? :confused:



It’s not really that confusing. More often than not, “Bible societies” were Protestant Bible studies (such as exist today) which read the Bible without the teachings of the Magisterium of the Church. That, actually, is the danger when it comes to reading the Bible, and why most good Catholic Bible translations, regardless of language, have footnotes which attempt to explain the Church’s teachings with regard to specific passages (unfortunately, the New American Bible’s footnotes, well, leave a lot to be desired, even though the translation itself is decent - but that’s a story that’s been beaten to death on multiple threads). Also, many translations not approved by the Holy See were composed with the intent to undermine Church teachings or by making sure different things were emphasized (such as “red-letter” editions).

As such, it’s not so much reading the Bible that was discouraged (ever since the Bible was compiled, and even beforehand, reading the Bible has been encouraged for all Catholics who have had the luxury to be able to read - and be able to own a Bible - both of which were very few and far between for most of the Church’s history). It was the reading of the Bible without understanding the teachings of the Magisterium to guide one’s reading that was discouraged, because without understanding the teachings of the Magisterium regarding what the Bible taught, it is quite possible to justify just about any position a person has on any issue by emphasizing certain passages in the Bible while deemphasizing other passages. For example, during the pre-Civil War period, both abolitionists and pro-slavery Americans used the Bible to justify their positions on slavery. Today, both the Westboro Baptist Church and Christians who champion “marriage equality” use the Bible to justify their positions on homosexuality and same-sex “marriage”. How? By focusing on certain passages and not paying attention to others.

In truth, the Church has never liked slavery (and condemned it on many occasions) - and in the New Testament, Paul kind of skirts around the issue, acknowledging it as an institution that exists, but teaching that, under God, there is no difference between a slave and a citizen, and that if a Christian owned Christian slaves, they should treat them not as slaves, but as brothers.

As for homosexuality, while homosexual relations are condemned, we are taught to love sinners even though we despise their sins. And that’s what the Bible, when read in context and in keeping the teachinigs of the Magesterium in mind, teaches.


I agree with powerofk, I once bought the Expositor’s Bible which
is full of red letter comments by Jimmy Swaggart! This was before
I was received into the Catholic Church.


In the 70’s I was in my late teens, I came to understand what Jesus did accept that His death was for my sins. (in Protestant terms perhaps, I was born again. Not sure what the proper term is in the Catholic realm). I started reading the Bible and it became very real to me that the Scripture was contained in the Mass. I was really excited to go to Mass and realize “I read that in the the Bible.” My faith was renewed by the Word of God. However, with that I had questions about Catholic doctrine that were asked by my non-Catholic friends. When I asked those in the Catholic church (don’t remember if it was the priest, teachers, etc.) I was told that I shouldn’t read the Bible and that I should just trust what the Church says and that I shouldn’t be asking questions. I was never given answers to my questions which were real and sincere. That began my journey away from the Catholic Church. My thinking was, “If I am not allowed read the Bible and ask questions, what are they hiding?”

That was almost 40 years ago. This year I begin inquiring into the same questions I asked as a teenager and got answers through another forum that is geared to those seeking answers and not being condemned or put down for asking them. I have now come back to the Catholic Church.

Do I regret leaving? Not really. I learned much from my journey. I gained a love for Scripture. I have a better understanding some of the teachings of the Catholic Church I met my husband (who was also raised Catholic). Together we renewed our vows in the Catholic Church. :slight_smile:

I still have my Protestant Bible and I have my Catholic Bible. I do not see a difference in them other than the exclusion of certain books. I do not see as some say that “Protestant Bibles are anti-Catholic.” I have seen that it is a matter of interpretation of the person and generally with the predisposition he or she may have in connection with the denomination they where they were taught.


‘The Catechism of the Catholic Church’ lays it out plainly for all to see:

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 font for spiritual life.” Hence “access to Sacred Scripture ought to be open wide to the Christian faithful.”

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.’


Pope Francis passed out small pocket size Gospels with Acts to many people.
I ordered a copy and its really very nice. On the back is his picture and it says
Take it Read it.

" We can bring the Gospel to others only if it has made a deep impact in our lives."
~ Pope Francis, 10 April 2015


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