|Pope Benedict XVI paging through the St. John's Bible|
What is the means God has given us whereby we shall learn the truth that God has revealed? "The Bible," say my Protestant friends, "the Bible, the whole of the Bible, and nothing but the Bible." But we Catholics say, "No; not the Bible and its private interpretation, but the Church of the Living God." I will prove the facts, and I defy all my separated brethren --- and all the preachers in the bargain --- to disprove what I will say tonight. I say, then, it is not the private interpretation of the Bible that has been appointed by God to be the teacher of man, but the Church of the Living God. For, my dear people, if God has intended that man should learn His religion from a book --- the Bible --- surely God would have given that book to man; Christ would have given that book to man. Did He do it? He did not.
Christ sent His Apostles throughout the whole universe and said: "Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you." Christ did not say, "Sit down and write Bibles and scatter them over the earth, and let every man read his Bible and judge for himself." If Christ had said that, there would never have been a Christianity on the earth at all, but a Babylon and confusion instead, and never one Church, the union of one body. Hence, Christ never said to His Apostles, "Go and write Bibles and distribute them, and let everyone judge for himself."
That injunction was reserved for the Sixteenth Century, and we have seen the result of it. Ever since the Sixteenth Century there have been springing up religion upon religion, and churches upon churches, all fighting and quarreling with one another. And all because of the private interpretation of the Bible. Christ sent His Apostles with authority to teach all nations, and never gave them any command of writing the Bible. And the Apostles went forth and preached everywhere, and planted the Church of God throughout the earth, but never thought of writing. The first word written was by Saint Matthew, and he wrote for the benefit of a few individuals. He wrote the Gospel about seven years after Christ left this earth, so that the Church of God, established by Christ, existed seven years before a line was written of the New Testament.
Saint Mark wrote about ten years after Christ left this earth; Saint Luke about twenty-five years, and Saint John about sixty-three years after Christ had established the Church of God. Saint John wrote the last portion of the Bible --- the Book of Revelation --- about sixty-five years after Christ had left this earth and the Church of God had been established.
The Catholic religion had existed sixty-five years before the Bible was completed, before it was written. Now, I ask you, my dearly beloved separated brethren, were these Christian people, who lived during the period between the establishment of the Church of Jesus and the finishing of the Bible, were they really Christians, good Christians, enlightened Christians? Did they know the religion of Jesus? Where is the man that will dare to say that those who lived from the time that Christ went up to Heaven to the time that the Bible was completed were not Christians?
It is admitted on all sides, by all denominations, that they were the very best of Christians, the first fruit of the Blood of Jesus Christ. But how did they know what they had to do to save their souls? Was it from the Bible that they learned it? No, because the Bible was not written. And would our Divine Saviour have left His Church for sixty-five years without a teacher, if the Bible is the teacher of man? Most assuredly not. Were the Apostles Christians, I ask you, my dear Protestant friends? You say, "Yes, sir; they were the very founders of Christianity."
Now, my dear friends, none of the Apostles ever read the Bible; not one of them except perhaps, Saint John. For all of then had died martyrs for the Faith of Jesus Christ and never saw the cover of a Bible. Every one of them died martyrs and heroes for the Church of Jesus before the Bible was completed. How, then, did those Christians that lived in the first sixty-five years after Christ ascended --- how did they know what they had to do to save their souls?
They knew it precisely in the same way that you know it, my dear Catholic friends. You know it from the teachings of the Church of God, and so did the primitive Christians know it. Not only sixty-five years did Christ leave the Church He had established without a Bible, but over three hundred years.
The Church of God was established and went on spreading itself over the whole globe without the Bible for more than three hundred years. In all that time the people did not know what constituted the Bible.
In the days of the Apostles there were many false gospels. There was the Gospel of Simon, the Gospel of Nicodemus, of Mary, of Barnabas, and the Gospel of the Infancy of Jesus. All of these gospels were spread among the people, and the people did not know which of these were inspired and which were false and spurious. Even the learned themselves were disputing whether preference should be given to the Gospel of Simon or that of Matthew --- to the Gospel of Nicodemus or the Gospel of Mark, the Gospel of Mary or that of Luke, the Gospel of the Infancy of Jesus or the Gospel of Saint John the Evangelist.