1. The Bible
The Catholic Bible contains seven Old Testament books which are not contained in the Bibles we use. These are: Tobit, Judith, 1 and 2 Maccabees, Wisdom (of Solomon), Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) and Baruch.
Additionally, five more books are attached to other Old Testament books. The additions to Esther are attached to Esther; The Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Young Men, Susanna, Bel and the Dragon are attached to Daniel; and, The Letter of Jeremiah is sometimes attached to Baruch.
The Catholic Church did not officially accept these books as canonical until April 8, 1546 at the Council of Trent [Note: for more information see The Apocrypha by Bryan Hodge].
The Church “does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the holy Scriptures alone. Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honored with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition, paragraph 82). “Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture make up a single sacred deposit of the Word of God” (CCC paragraph 97). It is important to understand that the Bible is not the Catholics only source for authority. Kerry Duke explains, “If you argue, for example, that the New Testament says nothing about infant baptism, the Catholic will readily admit this. He will add, however, that sacred tradition does not speak of it – and this tradition is to him just as much the word of God as the Bible is. In fact, when you cite any passage about the word of God (e.g. Matthew 24:35; John 12:48; 1 Thessalonians 2:13) the Catholic will immediately think not just of the written words of the Bible but also of the spoken words of the apostles handed down through the ages by the Catholic Church (‘tradition’). Tradition, you see, is his trump card over any verse you quote” (Kerry Duke, Debate Charts on Roman Catholicism, pp. 1-2).
3. The Magisterium
“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… This means the task of interpretation has been entrusted to the bishop in communion with the successors of Peter, the Bishop of Rome (CCC Paragraph 85). “The task of interpreting the Word of God authentically has been entrusted solely to the Magisterium of the Church, that is, to the Pope and to the bishops in communion with him” (CCC Paragraph 100). “Tradition, Sacred Scripture, and the Magisterium of the Church are so connected that one of them cannot stand without the others” (CCC Paragraph 95).
All of this can be very confusing. Kerry Duke asks: (1) Can I know what the Bible teaches by reading it? No, the Catholic Church must officially interpret it for you. (2) Will that official interpretation be all that I need? No, you need Sacred Traditions. (3) Okay, then I’ll study the Church Fathers to learn this Tradition. Will that work? Sorry, but you must have the Church Magisterium to decide dogma. (4) Well, I’ll go the Church to get the body of ‘Sacred Tradition” so I can study all the apostles handed down to us. Is that okay? Not really, because the Church really doesn’t have this body of teaching written down somewhere. The Church only ‘extracts’ truths from it as they are needed. (5) But since a lot of people besides the apostles heard Jesus, maybe some of His saying have been passed down through people other than the apostles. Is that possible? No, because only the Catholic Church knows this Tradition. (6) And what is your proof of these claims? (Duke, p. 17).
Catholics believe that the Roman Catholic Church is supernaturally guided by the Holy Spirit. The Magisterium “is not superior to the Word of God, but is its servant. It teaches only what has been handed on to it. At the divine command and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it listens to this devotedly, guards it with dedication, and expounds it faithfully” (CCC Paragraph 86). On July 18, 1870, Vatican I declared that the Pope was infallible when he spoke ex cathedra or from the chair. The final vote of the bishops was 433 to 2 (Why Papal Infallibility Was Made Dogma In 1870, pathos.com). He has officially spoken ex cathedra once since then [Pope Pius XII did so November 1, 1950 defining the dogma of Mary’s Assumption into heaven (Fr. Hugh Barbour, O. Praem., Q&A The Most Recent Ex Cathedra Statement, catholic.com)].
However, this too can be a bit confusing. Fr. Hugh Barbour writes, “The requirements for ex cathedra or extraordinary exercise of the Magisterium and the requirements for infallible teaching are not exactly the same. There can be teachings that are taught infallibly but are not presented in an extraordinary form of definition. The chief example of this would be St. John Paul II’s declaration on the ordination of women to the priesthood ordination sacerdotalis on May 22, 1994… It is clear that here the Pope is using his full authority and intends for his declaration to be definitive. He thus fulfills all the requirements for a dogmatic definition, even though his instruction was not announced as such” (ibid).
1. Changing Positions
Moises Pinedo writes, “Pope Honorius I (A.D. 625-638) was deemed a ‘heretic’ for many years after his death for espousing the doctrine of monotheletism (the doctrine that acknowledged two distinct natures within Christ, but only one divine will). He was censured by the Third Council of Constantinople in 680… Another Pope, Eugenius IV (1431-1447), condemned Joan of Arc, considering her to be a participant of witchcraft, though Benedict XV canonized her as a ‘saint’ in 1920… other Popes, such as Paul III, Paul IV, Sixtus IV, Pius IX, et. al., authorized, promoted, incited, and reinforced the ‘Holy’ Inquisition for which the late Pope John Paul II would apologize worldwide. The same John Paul (1978-2005) gave a fatal blow to the doctrine of infallibility. In opposition to the declarations of other popes and to Catholic doctrine itself, this Pope declared: The Spirit of Christ uses churches and ecclesial communities other than the Catholic Church as means of salvation (1979, 4.32). People outside the Catholic Church and the Gospel can attain salvation by the grace of Christ (1990, 1.10). People can be saved by living a good moral life, without knowing anything about Christ and the Catholic Church (1993, 3). There is sanctification outside the Catholic Church (1995, 1.2). The Martyrs of any religions community can find extraordinary grace of the Holy Spirit (1995, 3. 84)” (Moises Pinedo, What the Bible Says About the Catholic Church, pp. 53-54). [John Paul II cf. Boniface VIII in 1382, O.C. Lambert, Catholicism Against Itself, vol. 1, page 276].
“All scripture is given by the inspiration of God… that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16, 17). Where is the indication that we need scripture, plus tradition, plus Magisterium?