Hi Danny. Thanks for writing. The Catholic Church does indeed
forbid the laity from interpreting scripture. Below is the information you
requested. This is where we "got that"?
Catholic Catechism, Part I, Section I, Chapter 2, Article 2,
The task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of
God, whether in its written form or in the form of Tradition, has
been entrusted to the living teaching office of the Church
alone. Its authority in this matter is exercised in the name
of Jesus Christ." This means that the task of interpretation has been
entrusted to the bishops in communion with the successor of Peter, the Bishop
The following are excerpts from the "Protestantism" entry in the
Catholic Encyclopedia. It criticizes the Protestant practice of private
interpretation of Scripture.
Again, it is illogical to base faith upon the private
interpretation of a book. For faith consists in submitting; private
interpretation consists in judging. In faith by hearing the last word rests
with the teacher; in private judgment it rests with the reader, who submits
the dead text of Scripture to a kind of post-mortem examination and delivers a
verdict without appeal.... Private judgment is fatal to the
theological virtue of faith....
The open Bible and the open mind on its interpretation are rather a
lure to entice the masses...
The first limitation imposed on the application of private judgment
is the incapacity of most men to judge for themselves on matters above their
The 16th century Council of Trent (1546 AD) forbade publication and
interpretation of the Scriptures except by those to whom Rome had issued a
Decree from the Council of Trent:
"Furthermore, in order to restrain petulant spirits, it (Trent) decrees,
that no one, relying on his own skill, shall - in all matters
of faith, and of morals pertaining to the edification of Christian doctrine -
wresting the sacred Scripture to his own senses, presume to interpret
the said sacred Scripture contrary to that sense which Holy mother
Church - whose it is to judge of the true sense and interpretation of the holy
Scriptures - hath held and doth hold; or even contrary to the unanimous
consent of the Fathers; even though such interpretations were never (intended)
to be at any time published. Contraveners shall be made known by their
Ordinaries, and be punished with the penalties by law
In a recent general letter to Roman Catholic bishops from current pope,
John Paul II, included the following admonition:
"Moreover, one should not underestimate the danger inherent in seeking to
derive the truth of Sacred Scripture from the use of one method alone,
ignoring the need for a more comprehensive exegesis which enables the exegete,
together with the whole Church, to arrive at the full sense of the
By the 19th century, no fewer than six different popes ruled against all
efforts aimed at making the Scriptures available to the general public.
Pius VII said that the "indiscriminate distribution of Bibles in native
languages produced more harm than benefits...and was eminently dangerous to
souls. Gregory XVI was vehemently opposed to making the Scriptures freely
available to all people. Leo XIII in 1897 forbade the publication or
reading of Scriptures in native languages.
It has always been the goal of the Catholic Church to keep the Bible out of
the hands of the laity. Wycliffe was excommunicated from the Church for
translating the Bible into English in 1382, as was Tyndale, for his English
translation. Translations of the Bible into native languages were at one
time burned by the Catholic Church to keep them out of the hands of the
laity. The Church knows that, if people read the Word of God,
it will expose their twisting of scripture and their heretical
teachings. They therefore forbid their followers from doing so.