Can We the Laity Interpret Scripture?

 
Jesus Christ Among the Doctors of the Law

They say that we laity cannot interpret Scripture—according to a priest’s opinion—since this is the same thing that our Protestant brothers do, and the Church is the only one that can do so.

We went to Mass at 6:30 pm on Saturday 08/17/13, and it so happened that Mass was being celebrated by a newly arrived auxiliary priest who came to our community, as is frequently the case. However, his conduct before the ministers of communion, acolytes, and audience was highly cavalier, arrogant, and pretentious.

A sense of hostility and abuse of authority could be felt from the celebrating priest. Everyone present could see it and feel it, but like always…the priest has the authority and no one dare call him on it. His attitude in front of the altar was very offensive, as he didn’t stop making facial expressions and gestures insinuating a kind of abuse in authority and supremacy before the laity. Perhaps because we the laity can’t interpret the Bible?

And here we have the most inhospitable thing about his attitude and of his poor, miserable evangelical teaching. The prophet Daniel in his day would say: Iniquity emerged in Babylon from the elders and judges who guided the people of Israel.

The biblical verse of Matthew 10, 34-36 corresponding to that weekend, says that Jesus Christ has not come to bring peace but war, and that in a family two will go against three and vice versa, the mother will go against her daughter, the father against his son, etc., that is to say, they would all be divided, according to the verse.

Immediately beginning his arrogant speech, the first thing he said was that this verse was a difficult one to understand. However, what this verse in fact wanted to show us—he continued—was that God is with us, and that this is the most important thing. The priest washed his hands saying that interpreting the Bible was the sole right of only the Bishops and Pope, and that the interpretation of the Bible was not proper to us; it is the sole prerogative of the Magisterium of the Church, said the priest.

He said that if we interpret Scripture on our own, we would be doing the same thing that Protestants do, that is, freely interpreting whatever.

Immediately, it could be felt how the priest assumed his authority and immersed himself in his arrogance, which he imposed before the pulpit. To say that we cannot interpret Scripture is truly an absolute ignorance from this priest, and at the same time it is a hateful response to Protestantism. For our priests don’t realize that disparaging Protestants engenders more hatred, and it means not realizing that for the grand majority of Protestants throughout the world, their mass exodus is due in no small part to the ignorance and irresponsibility of our corrupt and ignorant Catholic priests—who continually let down the laity in the Church—which is why they abandon Catholicism.

Was it too much to ask for this priest to give a bit of religious instruction? Was it too much to give some simple reasons and explanations stemming from the vast teaching of the Church with the aim of helping and loving the community in need of Christ, instead of demonstrating abuse of power and hypocrisy.

We are sure that if during this Mass there was a layman unsure of his/her religion, we assure you that after such an arrogant and abusive response from this priest, this definitely could have caused such a layman to change religions, crossing over to Protestantism.

For a priest to not know what Scripture teaches is unheard-of, especially one as simple as Matthew 10, 34-36. For a priest to ignore what Scripture teaches is to violate the Divine Law and the norms of the priesthood in the Church, which orders that priests must give testimony of wisdom and maturity in their teaching.

Even in the New Testament, our Lord Jesus Christ teaches them with his example that they must be bearers of his Spirit and his eternal priesthood. The priest must set the example of holiness and doctrinal knowledge in order to instruct the multitudes. The priest must be proficient in order to instruct and demonstrate virtues and divine wisdom for those in need.

If still not convinced, however, you may turn to the II Vatican Council documents, and you will discover the responsibilities and obligations of the presbyters and priests in the Church.

During the homily, the priest claimed that no one in the Church could interpret Scripture but only the Bishops, the Pope, or the Magisterium of the Church.

Well we are going to give, not one, but many examples to these priests who say such atrocities and only dedicate themselves to kicking laymen out of the Church.

Jesus Christ’s coming to this world was as a result of the sins in humanity, and in his day, the hypocrisy of the Church, or Israelite people, or better said—the priests at the time, were so corrupted that they interpreted God’s law in their own way. This is why our Lord Jesus Christ dares to tell the Pharisees like so: Hypocrites; Isaiah rightly prophesied about you when he said, “This nation honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. They worship me in vain, for they teach doctrines that are precepts of men.”

Moreover, in this verse from Matthew, Jesus teaches us that the coming of the Kingdom of the Heavens would not be valued by everyone, and this would produce division. So when someone in a family receives Christ and accepts the divine life, the rest of the family will be opposed. Consequently, there’s discord and division.

Jesus Christ has come to bring salvation to the world and to the families, without obligating anyone, however. Thus, Christ is very clear, without deception or beating around the bush; he says that his teaching will not be accepted by everyone, and those who accept it are disparaged—in the same way that Christ was disparaged and martyred by his own Israelite people or by his own Church at the time.

In order to not look bad in front of his audience, our priest preferred to hide the evangelical truth, since he’s one of those priests little learned in doctrine. He chose to tell everyone the lie that Jesus Christ loves us all, and that he’s here with all of us when Jesus didn’t say absolutely anything with respect to this in this particular biblical verse.

It’s perfectly clear that this priest needs to go back to the seminary and reeducate himself since he doesn’t know anything about his own religion.

Evidently, this priest is completely ignorant, and it was obvious that he didn’t even know what the Magisterium of the Church means. He used this word to indicate that the interpretation of the Scriptures may only come from the authority of priests and Bishops, but in reality the word Magisterium means something else; it means teaching, so truly this priest didn’t know what he was saying. This priest is one of those that corrupts the multitudes and intimidates them with his arrogant and conceited character, abusing from his authority and cassock.

There’s nothing in the Church which says—or that Jesus may have indicated—that Scripture can only be interpreted by the Clergy. It’s one thing to say that the magisterium was left as a deposit of the faith of God’s people, or his Church, and that God assigned Peter to be in charge of his flock. It’s quite another thing to say that no layman can or must not interpret Scripture.

It seems this priest didn’t watch his tongue. The Apostle James would say—and rightly so—that all wild beasts, birds, reptiles and marine animals can be tamed and, in fact, have been tamed by humans; yet there’s no man that has been able to tame the tongue. It is a turbulent evil; it is full of deadly poison.

Reading and interpreting Scripture has been part of Christian history, and the Scriptures are inspired by God; only by God may they be interpreted correctly.

Therefore, this priest was somehow able to sidestep the fact that Jesus Christ has come to deliver the promise of the Father to us, which had been announced by the prophet Isaiah: “I shall pour water over the thirsty ground, torrents over dry land. I shall pour my spirit over your lineage, my blessing upon your descendants. They will grow amongst weeds like poplars adjacent to streams of water. One will say, ‘I am from Yahweh,’ and the other will carry the name of Jacob.”

The prophet Joel announced that we would receive the Spirit of God in abundance and that our children would have visions in our time. Moreover, the Lord almighty prophesied by way of Ezequiel’s mouth: “I shall give them a single heart, and I will place within them a new spirit. I shall remove from their flesh their heart of stone and in its place put one of flesh so that they may walk in accordance with my precepts, observe my norms, and put them into practice. Thus, in doing so, they will be my people and I their God.”

That priest forgot that we the laity are the people of God and carry with us the Spirit of God, and that with our Baptism we receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit: Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety, and Fear of God.

He forgot that with the sacrament of confirmation, the sacrament of the Eucharist, and with the ascetic practice of many good deeds, we perfect and sanctify ourselves in the likeness of Christ our owner and Lord.

It’s unbelievable for a priest not to know that the gifts of wisdom, understanding, and knowledge are exclusively and solely for understanding and interpreting the Scriptures and the Will of God. God gives these gifts to whomever his wishes. God gives what he pleases to whomever he wants to, whether it’s to an insignificant layman, an Indian, a simple pastor, or any vagabond belittled by the Church or by the Clergy. God shows his strength in the weak—according to the Apostle Paul—and even in that which is despicable for the world, not excluding even what is despicable for the arrogant and corrupt priests of our day.

This is why the Prophet Isaiah says, “I have occasioned a chance meeting with those that didn’t ask for me; I have let myself be found by those that weren’t looking for me.” But more still, it didn’t even cross this priest’s mind the fact that we the Laity are the Church or Holy People of the Lord Jesus Christ. He practically told us that the Church was only them—the Priests.

And if that alone weren’t enough, Jesus Christ himself—in the Gospel of St. John—reproaches the Jews telling them to investigate the Scriptures given that they believe these contain eternal life; for they give testimony of Me (Jn 5, 39). Jesus Christ guides us to the reading and interpretation of Scripture, as it gives testimony of Him. Never mind the fact that the Church nowadays fosters and promotes reading Scripture as a community or as a family and in order to search for the message of salvation for the laity nowadays.

The II Vatican Council says, “The Holy Synod insistently recommends to all the faithful the assiduous reading of Scripture in order to obtain the supreme knowledge of Jesus Christ (Phil. 3, 8), since to not know Scripture is to not know Christ. Eagerly turn to the text itself, the Liturgy—so full of the language of God, spiritual reading, or other institutions as well, or other means by which said purpose may be organized throughout with the approval or initiative of the Pastors of the Church.

How then could this priest teach us such a tremendous aberration?

Today, it is very clear that there are infinitely many false interpretations of the Scriptures. We cannot deny that nowadays anyone can write their own Bible and interpret whatever they want in their own way, so to a certain extent, it’s true what the priest was referring to. Unfortunately, however, the regrettable mistake was that he also disparaged the laity in the Church and condemned us to be excluded from the Church—going against the liberty God has of giving his sons what he wants to and in accordance to his eternal plans—imposing his supremacy or leadership as absolute authority.

Dear reader, it is very frustrating to have priests that don’t understand the Church’s doctrine, and being in the position they’re in, feel as if they were some aggressive feudal lords. The Lord God almighty mentions in the Old Testament how abominable these acts are to Him, and he also mentions the punishment that God has in store for those priests that disparage him, not to mention all the teachings from our Lord Jesus Christ which condemn all those who don’t do his will.

Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord” will enter the Kingdom of the Heavens but only he who does the will of my celestial Father. Many will tell me on that Day, “Lord, Lord didn’t we prophesy in your name, and in your name expel demons, and in your name work many miracles? And then I shall pronounce unto them, “I never knew you; away from me, agents of iniquity!” (Mt 7, 21-23).

We’d like to hide the sun with our finger, but it’s impossible. These errors happen on a daily basis, and everyone in the Church covers them up. Everyone prefers to remain silent rather than correct our priests and help them be better. Our priests must understand the necessity in being merciful with others—something which Christ has ordered us to do, that is, we must all show mercy to those in need, especially our priests who are obligated to do so first and foremost.

If we want to rectify the errors in the Church, we must first begin by recognizing them, and then we must amend them without fail. For, if we do not amend or rectify them, it is useless to recognize them, and unfortunately, this is the Church’s problem today.

We the laity also have the duty and responsibility of preparing ourselves to better know our doctrine and live according to our Lord Jesus Christ’s law; it’s not only the obligation of the priests and presbyters in the Church.

We the laity also have the responsibility of helping the Lord’s ministers so that they can exercise their ministry according to the will of Christ our Lord and owner of his Church. But how can we help them in the Church? Well, quite simple to answer…by obtaining instruction in order to become proficient laymen and loyal soldiers of Christ, in accordance with the responsibility that we have since the day we received the Sacrament of Confirmation—something we have not yet given perfect fulfillment to.

We continue dreaming that someday the Church could change, but despite everything tomorrow will be a different day.

Blessings and may the peace of Christ the Lord be with you.
We the laity can interpret the Bible, as long as we receive instruction on the Church’s doctrine and are loyal to Christ, living a holy or sacramental life filled with the Holy Spirit.

Best regards from your lowly brother Jesé Retoño,
Editorial Piedrecita.
Translation by León Jesuita.