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God's Self-revelation
By Father Pat McCloskey, O.F.M.


Resources for Bible Study Needed
Latin Mass Desired
Chorbishop? Bishop?
Who was Melchizedek?
Can I Marry a Non-Christian and Remain Catholic?

Q: I am interested in studying the Bible from the Roman Catholic perspective. Can you recommend a translation and a study guide? Does the Catholic Church object to other Christian or Jewish materials for Bible study?

A: Your questions indicate that you realize how important studying the Bible is. According to St. Jerome (345-420), perhaps the most famous Catholic biblical scholar, “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” Although Jesus is God’s most perfect self-revelation, we cannot hope to understand Jesus apart from the Old and New Testaments.

Because of their excellent translations, introductions, footnotes, cross-references and maps, I recommend the Revised New American Bible (Catholic Book Publishing Company) or the New Jerusalem Bible (Doubleday).

The Catholic Study Bible, edited by Donald Senior, Mary Ann Getty, Carroll Stuhlmueller and John Collins (Oxford University Press, 14 maps and more than 2,000 pages) uses the New American Bible translation, gives an overview of each type of biblical writing and provides an introduction for each book of the Bible. It also presents several maps and thematic articles about the Bible.

The Collegeville Bible Commentary, edited by Dianne Bergant, C.S.A., and Robert Karris, O.F.M. (Liturgical Press, 33 maps and 1,301 pages), combines the 36 pamphlets originally published as a series (25 for the Old Testament and 11 for the New Testament). The pamphlets are also still available. I find the companion Collegeville Biblical Timeline to be very helpful.

You can order any of these volumes through the respective publishers or through or 1-800-241-6392.

Our company publishes over 100 books about Scripture. In view of your request, I recommend three especially: Finding Your Bible: A Catholic’s Guide, by Timothy Schehr; The Catholic Bible Study Handbook: A Popular Introduction to Studying Scripture, by Jerome Kodell, O.S.B.; and Pathway to Scripture: A Book-by- Book Guide to the Spiritual Riches of the Bible, by Damasus Winzen.

Our monthly newsletter Scripture From Scratch presents an overview of biblical books, personalities and themes. We also publish CDs, audiotapes and videos on Scripture.

More information about our Scripture resources is available from or 1-800-488-0488.

Orthodox, Protestant or Jewish study guides to the Bible can be helpful, as long as they respect the fact that the Bible was given to a faith community and needs to be understood within that context. Biblical fundamentalists would not agree.

May St. Jerome, whose feast day is celebrated on September 30, help you to probe and understand more deeply the biblical texts as God’s unique self-revelation.

Latin Mass Desired

Q: Our bishop will not let us have a Latin Mass even though Pope John Paul II asked bishops to allow this. I am 74 years old and am about ready to stay home and pray for the day when this will be allowed. I used to drive 175 miles for a Latin Mass but I cannot do that now.

A: Contrary to what some people think, the Roman Catholic Church has not outlawed the Latin Mass. The Novus Ordo Missae, promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1969 to take effect the next year, has been celebrated in Latin as well as in many other languages. During Masses in St. Peter’s Basilica or Square, the pope usually prays the Eucharistic Prayer in Latin.

The problem is not the language but the fact that a few Catholics have denied the validity of the 1969 Novus Ordo Missae and Pope Paul VI’s authority to promulgate its use. They claim that only the 1570 revision made after the Council of Trent is valid.

Because of that, in October 1984 when Pope John Paul II asked the world’s bishops to consider giving permission for the celebration of the Tridentine Mass, he stipulated: 1) the group must accept the authority of the diocesan bishop giving the permission; 2) the group may not have ties to those who oppose the 1969 Novus Ordo Missae; and 3) the 1962 Missale Romanum is to be used.

The Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter accepts these conditions; the Society of St. Pius X, founded by the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, does not.

The issue here is not the language in which the Eucharist is celebrated (Jesus used Aramaic) but rather whether the worshipers are in communion with the whole Church, which permits a variety of languages, or only with people who regard Latin alone as the acceptable language for Mass.

If you accept Pope John Paul II’s conditions listed above, you may yet be able to get your local bishop’s permission for a celebration of the Mass in Latin.

Q: I recently read an article that used the term “chorbishop,” an expression that I had never encountered. How does a chorbishop differ from a regular bishop?

A: The Revised New Catholic Encyclopedia explains the term as “the title given in the Christian East to a bishop caring for people in the country. In that sense, he is a bit like an auxiliary bishop in the Western Church; both types of bishops work under the direction of the “local ordinary,” the bishop in charge of a diocese, archdiocese or equivalent Church jurisdiction.

The first reference to chorbishop is in the second century; the institution had pretty well died out by the 12th century.

Today, this office no longer exists in the Orthodox Churches. It is an honorary title among Melkite Catholic priests. The Chaldean and Syrian Catholic Churches have one chorbishop per diocese. Maronite Catholic chorbishops function much as auxiliary bishops do in the Western Church.

Q: I hear people say that Catholic priests are ordained “according to the order of Melchizedek.” I know that he was a priest in the Old Testament, but do we know anything else about him? Why is he linked to Catholic priests?

A: Melchizedek, who was both a king and a priest, first appears in Genesis 14:18-20, offering bread and wine in thanksgiving for a military victory by Abram. This was before God changed his name to Abraham.

Verse four of Psalm 110 says, “Like Melchizedek you are a priest forever.” Chapters five, six and seven of the New Testament’s Letter to the Hebrews mention Melchizedek eight times. The expression “according to the order of Melchizedek” appears in 5:6,10; 6:20 and 7:11,17, always referring to Jesus. The Church applied this to priests, who are united to Christ through the Sacrament of Orders.

The names of Melchizedek’s parents are never given. This contrasts with the Hebrew/Jewish priesthood that was strictly determined by one’s family tree. After Aaron, Moses’ brother, was chosen by God as high priest, this office passed from the eldest son to the eldest son. Other priests were descended from Aaron’s younger sons.

The author of the Letter to the Hebrews uses Melchizedek to stress continuity with and yet contrast from the Old Testament priesthood.

Q: I recently became engaged to someone who is not a Christian. If I marry this man, can I remain a Catholic? Does the Bible say that I will go to hell for doing this? Is God really going to condemn me for falling in love with a non-Christian?

A: Marrying a non-Christian does not mean that you cannot continue to be a Catholic. You can have your wedding in a Catholic parish or, with the local bishop’s permission, elsewhere. When one spouse is not baptized, the marriage vows are exchanged in the context of a prayer service (Scripture readings, hymns, prayers, blessings) and not a Mass. A separate dispensation from the local bishop is needed when a Catholic marries an unbaptized person.

A marriage between a Catholic and a non-Christian poses very real though not insurmountable challenges, especially regarding the religious upbringing of any children the couple may have.

In our February 2001 issue, I responded to someone who asked a question similar to yours: “Marriage is the most beautiful, fundamental and complex human relationship. Facing religious differences now may strengthen your relationship tremendously—or reveal a problem bound to arise later. Now is the best time to address this issue.”

If you have a question for Father Pat, please submit it here. Include your street address for personal replies enclosing a stamped, self-addressed envelope, please. Some answer material must be mailed since it is not available in digital form. You can still send questions to: Ask a Franciscan, 28 W. Liberty Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202.

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