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February 17, 2004

A Question about Catholicism

Bill has already blogged about this, and Lee Anne posted my reply at her site, but in case any of you haven't already chimed in, here is a request for loving and honest input. You can direct answers here, to Lee Anne, or to Bill.
-----Original Message-----
Anyway, someone asked whether Catholics do Bible study and the leader
replied that they don't, that they do catechism. Can you explain to me the
difference between the two? I get the distinct impression from reading
Catholic blogs that you indeed do Bible study (e.g., you guys, Mark Shea,
Amy Welborn).
My friend and I are concerned because sometimes these discussions turn into
Catholic-bashing sessions, and as former Catholics ourselves we don't like
to see our brothers and sisters unfairly beaten up for their differences.
She and I both feel hurt, but we don't know how to present a case against
it. I realize I am pretty ecumenical about many things, but I think we are
all going to be a little surprised when we look around us in heaven.

Many, many thanks for your answer.

Grace and peace,
Lee Anne
My answer follows:

Lee Anne - Catholics definitely do Bible study, plus we study the Catechism because it is the authentic compendium of how the Bible has been interpreted by the Church through the ages. I became a Catholic at least partly through Bible study.
A catechism is actually a question and answer formatted learning tool. Catechisms have been used not just by Catholics but by many other faith traditions (as well as in secular institutions) to reinforce teaching - much as memorization of Bible verses is done.
Additionally, every observant Catholic listens to at least 4 selections from Scripture being read or proclaimed every Sunday at Mass. There is a reading from the Old Testament, a Psalm, a reading from one of the Epistles or the Acts, and a reading from one of the 4 Gospels. Also, the priest is MANDATED to preach from at least one of the Bible readings for that day (I admit that sometimes the connection is rather tenuous). The effect is that every Mass with a homily (that is to say pretty much every Mass) is a teaching on a bit of Scripture. The priest can't easily avoid teaching on a bit of scripture by picking and choosing.
Much of the language of the set prayers of the Mass are taken directly from the Bible - the words of consecration, the prayers of the priest and people, etc. An interesting challenge is to take the outline of the Liturgy of the Eucharist and find the Biblical sources for all the language! So Catholics love the Bible, too, and study it as well.
There are many Catholics who don't read the Bible as much as the church recommends that they do - but I imagine one could say the same about many Protestants.
Lee Anne - I suggest that you spend the $5 on a small copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church - and if some one starts bashing Catholics on any issue, look up what the CCC actually says on that issue and also if the CCC makes reference to biblical sources as well as the other historical sources.
Hope this helps.
Oh - another interesting thing - there are many Christians who don't believe that Catholics are Christian - but every Catholic acknowledges that all who are baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost are Christian. Catholics just think that other Christians are missing some of the bits of truth. I, and most Catholics with whom I associate, are content to leave the judgment of the belief of others to the Mercy of God.

Posted by alicia at February 17, 2004 7:52 PM

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I thought your answer nicely balanced, by the way.

Posted by: William Luse at February 18, 2004 2:54 AM

Thanks so much, Alicia. You and Bill are the greatest. Where would I find a copy of the CCC? Should I just wander in some Catholic church and ask to buy one? Or are there Catholic bookstores? I'm sorry to be so ignorant!!

Posted by: Lee Anne Millinger at February 18, 2004 10:10 AM

Catholic Exchange
is a great resource for some of that kind of stuff. You will notice on the front page also a link to some Catholic scripture study. This week, Galations. and here is a link for the online CCC. But I still recommend investing in the $5 paperback version.

Posted by: alicia at February 18, 2004 12:30 PM