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QuestForTruth wrote:

Hi guys,

First, I would like to thank you for your time and your help.

I would like to start by saying this truly is not a buckshot email but a quest for the truth!
I was raised believing that the Bible is the sole authority for the New Testament church.

  • Do Catholics believe that the Bible is the sole authority?
  • And if so, how come there are so many different rituals and things the Catholic religion does that I can't find in the Bible?

I have been on the computer and in my Bible for the past hour trying to find where it says to:

  • confess your sins to the priest
  • pray to Mary
  • and, the other rituals

and I'm not seeing anything. I want to be following God's Will but I do believe the Bible is the sole authority. I believe that if God wanted us to know it, He would have put it in His Word to leave with us. I am really confused.

If you could please give me some verses for these and some of the other Catholic beliefs I would truly appreciate it!

Thanks so much,

Yours in Christ,

QuestForTruth

  { If Catholics believe the Bible is the sole authority, why can't I find these teachings? }

John replied:

Dear QuestForTruth —

Thanks for your question.

You've answered the question yourself when you say:
I believe that if God wanted us to know it, He would have put it in His Word to leave with us.

Using your own logic, if the Bible were the sole authority for the New Testament Church, the Bible itself would say so. Just as important, if not more, one of the Books of the Bible within the inspired text, would clearly spell out which books belong in the Bible.

Nevertheless, the Bible tells us neither of these two things.

Yes, the Bible does say that all Scripture is inspired and profitable. Paul wrote that to Timothy,
(2 Timothy 3:15-17), but in context, Paul was talking about the Scriptures that Timothy had been schooled in. In other words, Paul was talking about the Old Testament Scriptures, so if Paul was saying the Scriptures were the only rule of faith, he was only referring to the Old Testament Scriptures and therefore we should pay no attention to the New Testament ones. What Paul was saying is that all Scripture is inspired. To that, the Catholic Church says Amen!!!

The Bible instead teaches that the Church itself is the final authority. Again, Saint Paul writes to Timothy:

If I am delayed, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the Church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth.

(1 Timothy 3:15 (RSV))

We also see in several Gospel passages that Jesus gave the His Church authority to bind and loose. (See Matthew, chapters 16 and 18). In these text, Jesus is talking directly to the Apostles. The phrase bind and loose is a Jewish expression from the day that meant make decisions.

In the Gospel of John, the Apostles were promised that the Holy Spirit would lead and guide them in all things, reminding them of what He taught. These Apostles left successors. These successors eventually came to be called Bishops. Of those, Peter was chief of the Apostles, the first Pope, followed by his successors. For that reason, the Bishops in union with the Pope are the final authority for the New Testament Church.

That said, the Pope and bishops are limited by Divine Revelation which is the Word of God. The Word of God is found in the Bible and in Apostolic Tradition.

Again, quoting St. Paul:

So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.

(2 Thessalonians 2:15)

So according to Paul the Word is transmitted by word of mouth from generation to generation as well as by written form; which is precisely how we got the Bible to begin with. The list of books did not come floating down from Heaven.

For almost 400 years we didn't have an official list of books. It was not until 382 A.D. that a Council of the Roman Catholic Church in Rome started the process guided by the Holy Spirit of defining a canon, a word that means measuring rod. This is how we got the Bible as we know it today.  In subsequent decades at the Councils of Hippo in Carthage, the same Catholic Church ratified the list again. So the only reason you have a Bible to read is because the Catholic Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, preserved it, and discerned the list of books.

All of our liturgies and rituals are filled with the Scripture. Oh, we may not turn to chapter and verse, but all our liturgical prayers and ceremonies are based on the Scriptures. The Holy Mass makes present the Divine Liturgy taking place in Heaven as recorded in Revelation, chapters 4 and 5.

The Bible is a Catholic Book my friend and therefore the Catholic Church has the authority to interpret it.

Some 60 years before we had an official Bible, the Church met to define the Trinity in 325 A.D. and by the way, you won't find either the term Trinity or the definition of the Trinity in the Bible. It took a Council of the Church to define the Trinity as:

  • Three Persons
  • each fully God
  • One in Substance and One God.

It took the Church to define who Jesus Christ is:

  • One Divine Person with two distinct natures,
  • one Human and one Divine, hypostatically fused.
  • Jesus Christ is the God-Man fully Human and fully Divine.

This is basic Christology, accepted by Protestants, (including Bible Christians), Orthodox Christians and, of course, Catholics. We all accept this, (with few exceptions), but you won't find this anywhere in the Bible.

The Church had to seek Apostolic Tradition: that which had been handed down from Bishop to Bishop, in order to discern and define these truths.

You see, if you accept the New Testament, you are automatically accepting a Catholic Teaching because it was the Church who gave you the New Testament that you are reading.

Sure, the books were written earlier but for centuries all kinds of books were floating around.

  • Some of them good, but not Scripture.
  • Some of the heretical like the Gospel of Thomas (which the Da Vinci Code is based on).

The only reason a Protestant can say the Da Vinci Code is nonsense is because the Catholic Church lead by the Holy Spirit rejected the Gospel of Thomas.

I hope this helps. If you have more questions and want to continue this dialogue we would be thrilled.

John

Mike replied:

Hi, Quest for Truth —

Thanks for your question.

If you truly are on a Quest for Truth, I would:

I hope this helps,

Mike

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