Short Biographies

by Fr. Andre Lemieux

St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans is one of the greatest human documents of all time.  In majestic style it expressed the radical concept of justification by Faith in Jesus Christ, rather than by the works of the old Mosaic Law.

This concept is now so clearly central to Christianity that nobody can reject it and still call himself Christian.  However, when Paul wrote the Epistle on his third missionary journey about 25 years after Our Lord died on the cross, the concept was radical because for 1500 years previously the Jews had believed in justification by the Law.  Even "completed" Jews (those who became the first Christians) would not accept the idea of replacing the Law of Moses with the Cross of Christ.  They insisted that the Gentile converts had to be circumcised and to observe all the constrictive practices of the Old Law.

But this was a grave misunderstanding of the purpose of Our Lord's life and death, and it threatened to nullify the Incarnation of God altogether.  Hence St. Paul's presentation in "Romans" of justification by faith is, as it were, interspersed with a series of objections on the part of an imaginary Jew to the new doctrine of salvation by Jesus Christ.  In overcoming these objections which he must have been meeting with unceasingly as Doctor of the Gentiles, St. Paul lays out what might be called the Founding Charter of Christianity:_

The Gentiles are plunged in vice (I), but the law-breaking Jew are no better (II), and so all men alike are in absolute need of God's grace (III).  Man attains this grace by believing in Jesus Christ (III) with a faith in God of which Abraham, Father of the Jews, provides the outstanding example (IV).  Thus justification by faith, man is freed from sin to lead the life of the spirit in Christ Jesus (V-VIII).  That Jews should be rejecting this Gospel of which they were the cradle, is a great mystery, but this rejection is for the benefit of the Gentiles, and the Jews will finally convert (IX-XI).  Let then the Catholics of Rome, Jew or Gentile, faithfully practice their religion, leading lives of holiness and justice (XII, XIII), and putting up with their weaker brethren for Christ's sake (XIV, XV).  Greetings finally to a long list of the Catholics in Rome (XVI), already famous for their obedience (v.19)

Does the Catholic Church  Encourage us to Read Scripture?

a)   Yes,     b) upon certain conditions.

a)   In 1968, many Indulgences were done away with, but this one remained:  "A partial indulgence is granted to any Catholic who reads Scripture with due veneration for the word of God and in the manner of spiritual reading.  The indulgence is plenary if he does this for at least half an hour."  (Enchiridion Indulgentiarum, 1968, no. 50).

Scripture itself recommends we draw on its treasures:  "For what things soever were written, were written for our learning: that through patience and the comfort of the scriptures, we  might have hope" (Rom. XV,4).  "The Holy Scriptures ... can instruct thee to salvation by the faith which is in Christ Jesus" (II Tim. III, 15).

b)   But the Bible itself also indicates certain conditions for reading Scripture:  St. Peter says that in the epistles of "his most dear brother" Paul, "are certain things hard to be understood, which the unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, to their own destruction"  (II Peter III, 15-16).  For instance, numberless souls will have been drawn to destruction by Luther's having wrested "justification by Faith" to mean a subjective assurance of one's being saved regardless of the works that God requires to follow faith and to proceed from it (Gal. V6;  James II, 20-26).

So the Catholic Church unconditionally encourages her children to study their catechism because here divine truth is humanly expressed to convey mysteries of God which m ay be neither simple nor clear, Mother Church encourages her children to read on certain conditions:-  that they never use non-Catholic translations or non-Catholic editions (which would include all modernist editions), that they approach Scripture with humility and reverence as the Word of God that it is, and that they be willing to accept that the Catholic Church is the sole guardian of Scripture and sole interpreter of its true meaning.


The Challoner Douay-Rheims Bible, easily available in the U.S.A., provides a reliable text of Scripture, of which the Overview within provides an introduction to the Epistle to the Romans.

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