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"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15
From Popery, 1854
Nothing can be more decided that the opposition of the Church of Rome to the free use and circulation of God’s Word. She is opposed to the Bible, simply because the Bible is opposed to her. Christ said. “Search the Scriptures,” (John v. 39) but Rome places her members under such restrictions as to the use of the Word of God, as amounts to an absolute prohibition. We shall now give our various authorities, and establish our assertion by indisputable evidence.
I. The Council of Toulouse, A.D. 1229, passed the following decree:
“We prohibit also the permitting of the laity to have the books of the Old or New
Testament, unless any one should wish, from a feeling of devotion, to have a psalter
or breviary for divine service, or the hours of the blessed Mary. But we strictly
forbid them to have the above-mentioned books in the vulgar tongue.” — Labbey and
Cassort’s Councils, part I., tom. ii. Paris, 1671.
This decree was passed in the time of the Waldenses, and strictly carried out.
II. Quesnel, a pious and eminent Roman Catholic, in the beginning of the 18th Century, published a work which proved very distasteful to the Church of Rome. Accordingly, Clement XI, issued a bull, commonly entitled the Bull Unigenitus, in which he condemned certain propositions contained in the above work. Amongst the propositions condemned were the following:
The Bull Unigenitus is of the highest authority. Romanists unblushingly admit it
to be in full force even in the British kingdom. Dr. Murray, Romish Archbishop of
Dublin, gave evidence before the Committee of the House of Commons, in 1828, as follows:
“Is the Bull Unigenitus received in Ireland? It Is.” See Report, P. 647.
III. Saint Alphonsus Liguori, the high authority of whose works we have already pointed
out in Chapter II., says, “The Scriptures and books of controversies may not be permitted
in the vulgar tongue, as also they cannot be read without permission.”
The Saint refers with approval to the 4th rule of the Index, to which we shall call
IV. The second article with approval of Pope Pius’s Creed amounts to a prohibition
“I also admit the sacred Scriptures, according to the same sense which the holy Mother,
the Church, has held, and does hold, — to whom it belongs to judge of the true sense
and interpretation of the Holy Scriptures; nor will I ever take and interpret them
otherwise than according to the unanimous consent of the Fathers.”
Here the Romanist promises to understand Scripture only according to the sense of
the Church, and the unanimous consent of the Fathers. But the Church has never given
an authorized sense or commentary of Scripture; and the unanimous consent of the
Fathers is a non entity, these ancient writers being divided on almost every point.
Therefore, the conclusion irresistibly follows, that the Scriptures are not to be
understood at all.
V. The fourth rule of the Index of the Council of Trent, distinctly prohibits the
use of the Scripture to the member of the Church of Rome, unless he can obtain the
license or permission of his superior. The rule is as follows:
“Inasmuch as it is manifest, from experience, that if the Holy Bible, translated into the vulgar tongue, be indiscriminately allowed to every one, the temerity of men will cause more evil than good to arise from it; it is, on this point, referred to the judgment of the bishops, or inquisitors, who may, by the advice of the priest or confessor, permit the reading of the Bible translated into the vulgar tongue by Catholic authors, to those persons whose faith and piety, they apprehend, will be augmented, and not injured by it; and this permission they must have in writing.
“But if any one shall have the presumption to read or possess it without such written permission, he shall receive absolution until he have first delivered up such Bible to the ordinary. Booksellers, however, who shall sell, or otherwise dispose of Bibles in the vulgar tongue, to any persons not having such permission, shall forfeit the value of the books, to be applied by the bishop to some pious use, and be subjected to such other penalties as the bishop shall judge proper, according to the quality of the offense. But regulars shall neither read nor purchase such Bibles without a special license from their superiors.” — See Canons and Decrees of Council of Trent. Paris, 1832.
Here several points are observable:
1. It is taken for granted that the indiscriminate reading of Holy Scripture will “do more harm, than
good”! What! The reading of the inspired volume do harm! Yes; such is the deliberate teaching of the Church of Rome.
2. The bishop or inquisitor, not the parish priest, may give license to certain parties
to read the Bible.
3. These parties are those who, it is ascertained, will derive no harm therefrom;
that is to say, who are so thoroughly imbued with Romish sentiment and feeling, that
nothing can shake their adherence to Popery.
4. The licence must be given in writing.
5. The person who possesses a Bible without such written license, must deliver up
the Bible to the Church authorities.
6. If he does not give up the Bible, he cannot receive absolution.
7. Booksellers who sell Bibles in the vulgar tongue to persons not possessing the
license, must lose the value of the books, and be subject to other penalties, according
to the pleasure of the inquisitor.
8. Even the clergy are not to read or buy such Bibles without the permission of the
Such then are the principles and discipline of the Church of Rome, in reference to
the Bible and its use.
This 4th rule is binding even at the present day. Dens says:
“According to Styaert, the law has been received, and hitherto observed, (with some variation, according to the character of the countries,) in by far the greatest part of the Catholic world; only where they lived amongst heretics, a greater indulgence was allowed.” — p. 103, vol. II. Dublin, 1832.
The Bible is sometimes possessed by Romanists in England, and Protestant countries; nay, it is even studiously paraded in the Roman Catholic bookshops, but Dens explains the reason, “Where they (Catholics) lived among heretics, a greater indulgence was allowed.” The object is evident; even to lead Protestants to suppose that the Church of Rome is not the foe of the Bible.
We cannot do better than quote a passage from Venn’s excellent letters to Waterworth, in which he shews that the 4th rule of the Index if referred to in the most recent bulls of the Pope as of the highest authority:
(1.) Pius VII., in a letter to Ignatius, Archbishop of Quesn, Primate of Poland,
dated June 29, 1816, alarmed at the progress of the Bible Society in that country,
“‘We have been truly shocked at this most crafty device, by which the very foundation
of religion are undermined.’...‘We again and again exhort you, that whatever you
can achieve by power, provide for by counsel, of effect by authority, you will daily
execute by the utmost earnestness.’ And then he repeats the rules of the Index, Nos.
2, 3, and 4, and the Decree of Benedict XIV.
“The same Pope, in his letter to the Archbishop of Mohilow, dated September 3, 1816, reproves him for having sanctioned the Bible Society and adds, ‘You ought carefully to have kept in view what our predecessors have already prescribed, — viz. that if the Holy Bible, in the vulgar tongue, were permitted everywhere, without discrimination, more injury than benefit would thence arise.’
He afterwards proceeds to quote the Bull Unigenitus, as expressing the opinion of
the Church; and in another passage of his letter, he reproves the Archbishop for
quoting the first part only of Pius VI’s celebrated letter to Martini, which is prefixed
to the stereotype edition of the Rheimish New Testament, published at Belfast, 1839,
(which is so often appealed to by English Romanists as a proof that their Church
is favourable to the free circulation and reading of the Scriptures,) and says, ‘That
most wise Pontiff, for this very reason, commends a version of the Holy Scriptures
made by that prelate, because he had abundantly enriched it by expositions drawn
from traditions, accurately and religiously observing the rules prescribed by the
sacred congregation of the Index.’
“In the year 1820, Pius VII. approved of the decrees of the sacred congregation of
the Index, which condemned and proscribed two editions of the New Testament translated
into Italian by Martini.
“These editions appear to have been exact reprints from the original work of Martini,
but without any notes. The original work, consisting of 23 quarto volumes, needed
no proscription. (Martini’s edition of the Bible needs no proscription, because it
consists of 23 quarto volumes, and therefore cannot be purchased by the masses.)
(2.) Leo XII., in his encyclical letter, dated May 3, 1824, says, and I adopt the
translation by the Roman Catholic bishops in Ireland.
“‘Our predecessors published many ordinances; and, in his later days, Pius VII.,
of blessed memory, sent “two briefs,” (from which I have just quoted.). . . .
“‘Reprove, beseech, be instant in season and out of season in all patience and doctrine, that the faithful entrusted to you, (adhering strictly to the rules of our congregation of the Index,) be persuaded, that if the sacred Scriptures be everywhere indiscriminately published, more evil than advantage will arise thence, on account of the rashness of men. . . . “‘The power of temporal princes will, we trust, in the Lord, come to your assistance.’
“In the year 1825, Leo XII issued a mandate, dated March 26, and published in the last Index, in which all patriarch, archbishops, bishops, etc., are charged to remember those things which are set forth in the rules of the Index, and in the ‘observance’ and ‘addition respecting the fourth rule.
(3.) Pius VIII, in his encyclical letter, dated May 24, 1829, writes to the same
effect as Leo XII had done in the year 1824.
(4.) Neither has his successor, Pope Gregory XVI, been less earnest in this matter
than his predecessors. “A decree was passed by the scared congregation of the Index,
dated January 7, 1836, to which a notice is subjoined, and in that notice it is said,
‘Those regulations are especially to be insisted on (omnino insistendum) which were
set forth in the fourth rule of the Index.’
“In the Index of prohibited books, published at Rome in 1841, not only does the 4th
rule appear without any intimation of is even having been suspended; but the notice
enjoining the strict observance of it is placed among the prefatory and recognized
“The encyclical letter, dated the 25th of May last (1845), and addressed to all patriarchs,
primates, archbishops, bishops, is chiefly directed against the Bible Society, and
not only are the translations of that Society condemned, but the principle itself,
of free circulation and reading of the Scriptures, is likewise condemned, and the
observance of the 4th rule of the Index enjoined. The following are extracts from
After mentioning the efforts made at the time of the Reformation to promote its doctrines, he says:
“Therefore, in those rules which were drawn up by the Fathers, chosen by the council of Trent, and approved by Pius IV, and prefixed to the Index of prohibited books, it is read, established by general sanction, that Bibles in the vulgar tongue should not be permitted to any but those whom the reading of them should be judged profitable, to the increase of faith and piety.’ (Here a reference is made to the 3rd and 4th rules of the Index).
“To this same rule, which was afterwards made more stringent by a new caution, on account of the persevering fraud of the heretics, the declaration was at length added, by the authority of Benedict XIV., That the reading of versions in the vulgar tongue, which have been approved of by the Apostolic See, or published with notes taken out of the holy Fathers of the Church, or learned and Catholic men, should be held henceforth permitted i.e. permitted to those having a license; not to all, as is proved by the context).
“The pope then goes on to attack the Jansenists and Quesnelists, who held the Protestant
doctrine respecting the reading of the Bible, and observes, that their audacity is
rebuked in the solemn judgment passed against their doctrines, with the applause
of the whole Catholic world, by two Popes, viz. Clement XI, in the Bull Unigenitus,
and Pius VI, in his constitution ‘Auctorem Fidei,’ — that very Pius VI who wrote
to Martini on his translating the Bible and who is so often ignorantly quoted as
a friend to the free circulation and reading of the Holy Scriptures’” p. 10, Letters
— Hereford, 1845.
Thus the Church of Rome, by her highest authorities, prohibits the circulation of
the Bible in the vulgar tongue.
It is true, that English Roman Catholics deny this; but their very denial of it only
proves either that they are kept in ignorance of the laws of the Church, or that
they are willfully deceived. We believe that the former alternative is the case,
at least in most instances.
The Church of Rome, in her rulers, is the deceiver; she prohibits the Bible, and
yet denies the existence of that prohibition; and thus adds hypocrisy to her other
How can Britons, who are characterized for honesty and love of the Bible, countenance such a system of fraud and hostility to God’s Word as this?
And yet the nation actually sanctions the exclusion of the Bible from its own, (the national,) schools in Ireland, and the education of the youth of that enlightened country in ignorance of the Bible. Need we wonder that insulted Providence permits Ireland to be England’s difficulty, and that evils overwhelm the sister isle. The remedy is to give to its people that blessed book, which the Lord has given for all, to be a lamp unto our feet, and a light unto our path (Psalm 119:105).