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Sean wrote:

Hi, guys —

In paragraph 100 in the CCC it says,

"The task of interpreting the Word of God authentically has been entrusted solely to the Magisterium of the Church, that is, to the Pope and to the bishops in communion with him."

  • So, if the Pope and Bishops can only authentically interpret the Scriptures objectively then how does that help us?

Here's an example:

My Priest is in good standing with the Church, his bishop, and the Pope, etc., and he preaches to us, and guides us ... but if I understand paragraph 100 of the Catechism, his teachings would not be objective, but subjective.

My point is, we have thousands of good priests, and hundreds of millions of good laity, but we are all are subjective to our own understanding, because only the Pope and Bishops can be objective.

  • What hope is there for us when we read either the Scriptures or the Catechism?

We can read either one, but I sense we are not able to understand it objectively.

  • How are we held responsible for the proper understanding of any teaching?

You can say, if we follow our priests and bishops, then we will be in good standing, but each priest, bishop and Pope, for that matter, may view the same issue differently.

  • Who is right?

Now I personally, do not believe in paragraph 100 at all and have asked this same question to a host of priests and four bishops and received as many different answers as the people I have interviewed, proving there is subjective understanding for all of us!


  { If only the Pope and bishops with him can interpret the Word of God how does this help us? }

Mike replied:

Hi Shawn,

There are two keys to understanding paragraph 100 correctly.

The first is, as Catholics, when we hear the term "the Word of God", we don't automatically think solely of the Scriptures.

We think of both the Oral Tradition that has been passed down to us by the Apostles to our current bishops along with the written Scriptures that the Church canonized in 382 A.D. in the Council of Rome.

The second key is knowing there are relatively few passages compared to all the passages in the Bible, that the Church requires a correct interpretation for. If you read the Scriptures at any Bible Study, you are more than welcome to draw from the Scriptures any interpretation you wish, as long as your interpretation does not contradict any doctrinal teachings of the Church.

As to the objectivity or subjectivity of an interpretation. The objectivity is restricted to those few passages that the Church says we must believe a certain way, while the rest of the Scriptures can be interpreted subjectively as we study the Scriptures ourselves.

The Church isn't being mean by limiting what you can believe. No, the Church is safeguarding key Church teachings that are Biblically manifested in the Scriptures.

I suggest you re-read paragraphs 75-99 and 109-114. Like the Scriptures, we can't take one paragraph of the Catechism and read it independently of the surrounding paragraphs.

Hope this helps,


Sean replied:

Thank you Mike!


John replied:

Sean —

No one said only the Pope and bishops in union with the Pope can authentically interpret the Scriptures.

First of all, interpretation even by the Pope and said bishops must be done in the light of our Sacred Tradition that gave us the Scriptures. We have wonderful biblical scholars that interpret the Scriptures all the time and we, as believers, have the Holy Spirit.

What we believe is that only the Pope and bishops in union with him collectively (not individually) can definitively interpret the Scriptures and define doctrine that is binding on the faithful.

That said, any interpretation we put on a text, can't contradict the Teaching of Holy Mother Church but not every text gives us a doctrine. The Church has said very few texts mean "this" and only "this". The Church relies on the Scriptures and Sacred Tradition to discern and apply Teaching. She does so infallibly because the Holy Spirit protects the Pope and Magisterium from Teaching error.

There is big difference between that and your understand of proper Biblical interpretation.


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