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
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 www.StFrancisOnline.com 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 http://catalog.AmericanCatholic.org 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
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
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
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