Did you know that Catholic Churches used to chain their Bibles to their churches?
And that the Council of Trent forbade Catholics from reading the Bible?
Not until the last 40-50 years was a Catholic allowed to read the Bible!
Okay, so these are some of the accusations that I've heard regarding the Catholic Church and the Bible. I love the Catholic Church and I love Scripture, so I don't love these accusations. Actually, in kind of a twisted way, I do like them because they fascinate me.
I haven't done extensive research, but I am pretty sure that it is true that Catholics chained their Bibles to their pulpits. That sounds horrible given our current culture, and the accusation is then made that Catholics were trying to prevent the guy in the pew from really getting to read what was being said. The implication is that this gives the priests more power to teach whatever they or the pope wants without having to deal with Joe Smith's questions about what Scripture actually says.
Let's look at the culture at the time that they did this. There was no printing press, so each Bible had to be meticulously copied by hand. Scriptures were regarded as precious, and this was shown in part through "gilding" the Bible, so it often had a fair amount of gold in the pages of Scripture. There were those that wanted to steal these large, heavy books for the gold. Further, Bibles were not cheap or easy to come by. If you lost one, you were not going to be able to get a new one quickly. In chaining Bibles to the churches, they were not trying to keep Scripture away from the people, but were rather trying to preserve it for everyone.
And I recently got to read a rant about how the Council of Trent forbade Catholics from reading the Bible, put the Bible on a list of forbidden books, and made it a mortal sin for Catholics to read the Bible. The conclusion was that Catholics were not able to read the Bible until Vatican II.
I am equal parts annoyed and amused at the rant, because it is so over the top. I just read some of the documents from the Council of Trent regarding this. If you would like to check them out, they are here and here. The Council did not forbid Scripture, it forbade certain translations of Scripture, especially translations that were being done in a hurried and sloppy manner and without appropriate accountability. Yes, it did have a low view of vernacular translations of the Bible. Not because it wanted to keep people from reading Scripture in their own language, but because they wanted to keep people from reading incorrect translations of Scripture. Yes, it did say that reading books from the forbidden list did constitute a mortal sin, but not that reading Scripture itself from a credible translation was a mortal sin.
And therefore, I would submit that perhaps the charges against Catholics in history regarding the Scriptures are not so heinous. In fact, given that they were done out of such high regard for the purity of Scripture, perhaps there was even a certain nobility in their actions, whether or not you strictly agree with their methods. Personally I do agree, but then we all know my bias!
***I saw this over at Dawn's. I thought it sounded like fun, but I honestly don't plan ahead enough to usually participate in things like this. It turns out that the post that I happened to write today fits in well with the theme, so I'll link up. Head over there if you would like to see some other things that Catholics have to say about the basics of our faith.