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ROME AND THE BIBLE
T HE ATTITUDE of the Church of Rome toward the Bible has always been that of HOSTILITY. The first book ever printed in Italy by the Pope's press at Subiaco, near Rome, was in 1465, and from it poured forth a perfect stream of literature of all kinds; but never a book, never a chapter, never a verse of Scripture. Put into the hands of the people, the Church practically says: “ANY BOOK YOU PLEASE, NO MATTER HOW DEGRADING, BUT DO NOT ON ANY ACCOUNT LET THEM HAVE THE BIBLE.” There are few demoralizing books on the Index Expurgatorius, but there are many editions of the Bible.
THE ATTITUDE AND ACTION OF THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH FROM THE FIFTH CENTURY TO THE TWENTIETH IN REGARD TO THE BIBLE, MAY BE TERMED, DETERMINED DEADLY OPPOSITION. As early as 860, Pope Nicholas I pronounced against both the Bible and all those who read it; Gregory VII., in 1703, confirmed the ban; and Innocent IlI, in 1198, declared that all who read the Bible should be stoned to death. In 1229, the Council of Toulouse passed a decree against the possession or reading of the Bible. In 1564, Pius IV., when confirming the decrees of the Council of Trent, issued a bull to the same effect with disastrous effect. It was designed to stop the Reformation in Italy, and, coupled with the extermination of all, high and low, known to have embraced it, it had that effect.
As a distinguished priest and Professor in Florence said a few years ago in a lecture on the Bible: "For two hundred years the Bible in Italy was an unknown book." And he added, "Then commenced the decadence—moral, religious, and political, of Italy." In 1600, Clement VIII., who burned Giordano Bruno, decreed that any one found reading the Bible in the vernacular would be sent to the galleys for life.
In England, in the fourteenth century, any one found possessing the Bible of Wycliffe, that "organ of the devil' as he was called, incurred the penalty of death. On the accession of "Bloody Mary" to the throne of England, in 1553, tons of Bibles were used as faggots to light the piles for martyrs.
When the Bible societies were formed, and ever since, the Popes have vied with each other in the ferocity of the bulls they have fulminated against them. Pius VII., in 1816, denounced them as "pestilences to be arrested by any means possible," and Leo XII., in 1825, as "traps and pitfalls." Pius VIII., in 1830, denounced all the Bibles that issued from their printing presses as "centres of pestiferous infection," and Gregory XVI., in 1844, condemned the societies, and instructed the priests to tear up all the Bibles that they could lay their hands on.
Dr. Alexander Robertson tells us that on the accession of "Bloody Mary" to the throne of England, in 1553, there existed a painting in London of King Henry VIIl, in which he was represented standing holding in one hand a sceptre, and in the other A BIBLE, with the words on its Cover, Verbum Dei. This exhibition of the "Word of God" was so offensive to Papal eyes that it was obliterated, and a pair of gloves painted in its place. Pius IX was most bitter in his opposition to the reading of the Bible, and Bible societies. It was under his reign that Count Guicciardini, Guerra, Guarducci, and many others were banished from Tuscany for reading the Bible. And it was under him that Francesco Madiai and his wife were arrested in Florence, in August, 1851, for reading the Bible, imprisoned in the Bargello for ten months, and then sent to the galleys.
And, also, about the same time, an English gentleman, Arthur Walker, was arrested for having a Bible in his pocket, and was imprisoned. It was when Pius IX held sway in the Vatican that the Hon. Dexter A. Hawkins, a prominent lawyer in New York, was sent to Italy to gather some data in regard to education, and while in Rome, the American Consul, ascertaining that Mr. Hawkins had a Bible in his possession, warned him “not to let it be known,” for, said he, “if it is known, I cannot even as American Consul save you from twelve months' imprisonment.”
But it may be said that this hostility is directed against Protestant versions, and not against Roman Catholic ones. But such is not the case. THE OPPOSITION IS AGAINST THE BIBLE, PURE AND SIMPLE. Catholic Bibles have shared the same fate as Protestant ones when they found their way into popular use. On May 18th, 1849, some three thousand copies of the Catholic New Testament were seized and destroyed in Tuscany. Roman priests are ignorant of the Bible. The Bible is not used as a text-book in the Papal seminaries. Count Campello was trained for the priesthood in the Academy of Noble Ecclesiastics, the highest training College in Rome, and yet during all his years of study he never even saw a Bible. CATHOLIC MISSIONARIES DO NOT USE THE BIBLE, AND THERE IS NO INSTANCE IN HISTORY OF THEIR HAVING PUT A COPY OF HOLY SCRIPTURE INTO THE HANDS OF THEIR CONVERTS.
A young man, a very zealous Catholic in a town in Italy, got hold of a New Testament, and took it to the priest. The priest said: "You have got hold of a very bad book. That book was printed in hell." The words awoke the young man's curiosity, and, in spite of the protest of the priest who desired to have it, he took it home to read it. The result was his conversion, and he afterward became an evangelist.
The question often arises in the minds of Protestants, “WHY ARE CATHOLIC PRIESTS SO HOSTILE TO THE BIBLE? WHY DO THEY NOT WANT THEIR PEOPLE TO READ IT?” The simple answer is, IF THEY READ THE BIBLE, IT WILL SET THEM THINKING; IT WILL AWAKEN THOUGHT. And that is opposed to the genius of the Papacy. The Pope demands the sacrifice of the intellect. God in the Bible appeals to our reason. He says, "Come, let us reason together;" "Prove all things: hold fast that which is good;" "Think on these things."
I know a Roman Catholic priest, he is a personal friend; he is being persecuted for his loyalty to the truth, and yet he is in the Church. I have heard of another priest who is anxious that his people should possess the Bible and read it, and he also wants his brother-priests to know it, and preach it, and to comfort the sick with its Divine words. "But," he says, "alas! I fear that these my wishes will never be realized. And why? Because the day in which the priests and Catholic believers give themselves to the reading and the study of the Bible, that day will be the last for the Roman Church, for the priests, and for the Papacy." That thought of the Italian priest is in keeping with the words used by Zanardelli, the present Premier of Italy, in a speech made at Brescia: "Woe to the Roman Catholic Church when my countrymen get hold of the Old and New Testaments, then they will know the difference between Jesus Christ and His so-called Vicar."
When the Ecumenical Council, held in the Vatican in 1869-70, was in session, at which the infallibility of the Pope was decreed, the following curious incident occurred. Dollinger and Dupanloup, in supporting their arguments against the proposed new dogma, wished to refer to some passages of Scripture; but no one had a Bible in the whole Council, nor could one be procured for them within the bounds of the Church, so one had to be borrowed from the Protestant chaplain of the Prussian Embassy!
As a noted writer has said: "The ignorance of the Roman Catholic clergy of the Bible is only equaled by their hostility to it." The two go hand in hand. Padre Curci, the learned Jesuit, who died a few years ago in a convent at Fiesole, to which he had been banished by the Vatican for his liberal writings, said in his work Vaticano Regio: "If theological study in general has waned and degenerated amongst our clergy, biblical study has been entirely abandoned. The activity of the Protestants in the study of the Bible, which ought to be to us a noble incentive, has been made a pretext for calumny to such an extent that already in some large dioceses an understanding is allowed to circulate quietly amongst the younger clergy that, as the study of the Bible is a Protestant affair, it would be a curse to any one to engage in it."
AFRAID OF THE LIGHT
Why is it that the Romish Church cuts out the second Commandment entirely from their Catechisms; and then to make the number good, makes two Commandments of the tenth? The Commandment which they do not wish their children to learn is as follows: “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity, of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me, and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love Me and keep My commandments” (Exodus xx. 4-6). It is the same both in the Douay and Authorized Versions. What right has any Church to mutilate Holy Scripture? Against such the malediction of Jesus Christ is pronounced: “If any man shall take away from the words of the book, God shall take away his part out of the book of life” (Rev: xxii. 19).