From the Catholic News Agency:
Pope Benedict addressed representatives of the Pontifical Biblical Commission following their plenary assembly and said that a correct understanding of Scripture does not come from "the individualistic illusion that biblical texts can be better understood outside the community of believers" but rather rises from the Tradition of the Church."The individualistic illusion." That's really something, isn't it? By 'something', I, of course, mean 'something out of 1984.' Or, perhaps, 'something out of the more frightening chapters of the history of the Church.'
There was a time when the Church hierarchy, as leaders of what can most accurately be called an 'oppressive theocracy', felt it pertinent to ban reading of the scripture under the guise of preventing heresy. This made sense, of course, because the Bible contains little support for things like the death penalty, holy wars, or even the idea of purgatory (which was, in my opinion, little more than an excuse for the Church to make money selling indulgences). So, in her infinite wisdom, the Church made possession or translation of the Bible by lay people illegal.
From The Church Council of Toulouse in 1229 AD:
We prohibit also that the laity shouldFrom The Church Council of Tarragona in 1234 AD:
not be permitted to have the books of the Old or
New Testament; we most strictly forbid their having
any translation of these books.
No one may possess the books of the OldThis is history. This is what the Church used to be.
and New Testaments, and if anyone possesses
them he must turn them over to the local bishop
within eight days, so that they may be burned...
I believe quite vehemently that the Catholic Church has, ultimately, benefited from the advent of protestantism. As opposing views on Christianity moved from heretical to commonplace, and as the Church's political power waned, they were forced to re-asses their roll. No longer did they run the western world. As such, it became time for them to actually become a religion. Granted, this took longer than would seem reasonable, but change is slow. That said, the Catholic Church now is undoubtedly an entirely different entity than she was in the thirteenth century... but not if Pope Nazipants has anything to say about it.
Before Nazipants, the Church's opinion on birth control had gotten to a point where it was almost never stated. It became an unspoken issue of personal morality, and was no longer perceived as dogmatic. When Nazipants gained power, however, he made sure the world knew that God hates condoms. Because sperm is magical. Not that there's any scriptural precedent for that, but only the Church knows how to interpret the Bible, so I guess they must have read something I missed.
Before Nazipants, the Church reformed the structure of Sunday worship into something that could be understood by the Masses. No more minimally-participatory Latin droning for us Catholics, oh no. Now we have minimally-participatory droning in our native tongues (I mock it, but it was a big step for the Church from irrelevant medieval political institution to an actual viable religion). When Nazipants gained power, however, he decided to play buddy-buddy with the Society of Pope Pius X, who are known not only for their opposition to Vatican II, but their antisemitism. Now, there's nothing in the Bible that says anything about Latin Mass, nor is there anything in there that justifies racism (not in the New Testament, anyway), but only the Church knows how to interpret the Bible, so I guess they must have read something I missed.
Before Nazipants, the Church condemned all kinds of murder, from abortion* to genocide. Gone were the days of Church-sanctioned executions, replaced by letters from the Pope written to world leaders, asking them to abolish the death penalty. When Nazipants gained power, however, he elevated abortion to the level of "worst kind of murder ever" (in a clear attempt to attack the position of women in western society), and declared the death penalty a political matter, not to be interfered with by the Church. Now, the Bible says not to kill pretty clearly, but nowhere in there does it define a hierarchy of the worst kinds of killing, but only the Church knows how to interpret the Bible, so I guess they must have read something I missed.
(I might also add that a religion who prays to a man who died becuase of the death penalty should probably think about universally opposing it. Just sayin'.)
I realize the Bible is a challenging document. So much of what's in there is downright morally repugnant; the God portrayed in the Old Testament is a psychopathic, murderous, insecure, angry monster, whereas the God portrayed in the New Testament is kind, loving, and forgiving; there are verses in there that directly contradict each other, with no indication as to which is correct; the translations will always be questionable, as modern language is a very different entity from the ancient languages of these texts. All of this makes the Bible a difficult thing to interpret, and I believe that asking for help in reading the text is often quite necessary and important. It's also important to remember, however, that every single possible interpretation of the Bible comes with an agenda, including and especially the Catholic Church's (which, I've noticed, is also not uniform).
So, is the Bible a document that can only be understood through the ancient, slowly-changing teachings of the Catholic Church? Absolutely not. Every single person, Catholic or not, has a right to read whatever they want from the Scripture. And we all have a right not to have dogma shoved down our throats by a Pope who wants nothing more to command the Holy Roman Empire. Sorry, Benedict, but you were born a few centuries too late.
Matthew 23:1-15 says:
Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: "The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy loads and put them on men's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.Woe to you, Pope Nazipants, you hypocrite! WTFWJD?
"Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them 'Rabbi.'
"But you are not to be called 'Rabbi,' for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth 'father,' for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called 'teacher,' for you have one Teacher, the Christ. The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men's faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.
"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.
*I just want to specify that while the Catholic Church considers abortion to be murder, and I am technically a Catholic, I do not consider the kind of abortions that are carried out by responsible medical practitioners to be murder. I've written a letter to my Archbishop, but apparently this is not enough to get me excommunicated.