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BIBLE


545


BIBLE


fulfilment of such a work, and it was not done. But in 1782, Congress commended the publication of the Bible which had just been made in Philadelphia. There had been local Bible societies in the Colonies, but these were not united with the American Bible Society vmtil 1816. This society has become next in size and in importance to its counterpart, the British and Foreign Bible Society and in 1907 controlled 620 auxiliary societies in the United States and 11 agencies in the Latin-American countries and else- where. The Society has no established agency in Europe, but maintains correspondents in Norway, Sweden, Russian Finland, Germany, Switzerland, France, Spain, Italy, and Austria. In these countries it either co-operates with the National Bible societies, or lends assistance to the local Protestant churches. For example, the American Bible Society has been co-operating closely for the last fifty years with the Methodist Episcopal Church in Bremen, Germany, and in that time and place has assisted in the pula- lieation of over a million volumes of Scripture. The American Society has extended its efforts into the Levant, a regular agency being established in Con- stantinople. It works in conjunction with the Protestant missionaries in Bulgaria, Turkey, Asia Minor, Mesopotamia, Syria, Egj'pt, and the Sudan. In these countries alone, it has distributed over 3,000,000 volumes during the past half-century. All told, the copies of the Bible, or parts of the Bible distributed by the American Bible Society for one year, ending 31 March, 1906, were 2,236,755, and during the ninety years of its work it has disposed of 78,509,529 volumes.

After being duly impressed by these figures and those of the still more prolific British Society, the Catholic reader naturally questions whether the amount of good done is, after all, to be measiu'ed by the number of volumes distributed. A considera- ble number of Protestant missionaries have already answered the question negatively, and if we may judge from many letters from ministers in the mission field, there is a growing feeling among thinking Protestants that the promiscuous distribution of the Bible "without note or comment" is a doubtful means of propagating Christian doctrine. Even as a means of proselytism, the scattering of Bibles seems not to produce the expected results. A missionary on the Malay peninsula, among others, complains that although thousands of Bibles were distributed, it was, so far as he could learn, "with scarcely any perceptible benefit". He "did not hear of a single Malay convert on the whole peninsula". The natives of the missionary countries are, accord- ing to reports, eager to obtain books from the so- cieties, but agents and missionaries and bishops have reported that in many cases the volumes were used for vulgar and profane purposes. Indeed, the reckless distribution of the Scriptm-es in too many cases becomes an occasion for the profanation of the written Word, rather than for the growth of religion. Instances of abuse of the Bible could be collected freely from the letters of missionaries. Catholic and non-Catholic alike.

But for deeper reasons than this, the attitude of the Church toward the Bible societies is one of un- mistakable opposition. Believing herself to be the divinely appointed custodian and interpreter of Holy Writ, she cannot without turning traitor to herself, approve the distribution of Scripture "with- out note or comment". The fundamental fallacy of private interpretation of the Scriptures is pre- supposed by the Bible societies. It is the impelling motive of their work. But it would be likewise the violation of one of the first principles of the Catholic Faith — a principle arrived at through observation as ■well as by revelation — the insufficiency of the Scrip- tures alone 6o convey to the general reader a sure


knowledge of faith and morals. Consequently, the Council of Trent, in its fourth session, after expressly condemning all interpretations of the sacred text ^yhich contradict the past and present interpreta- tion of the Church, orders all Catholic publishers to see to it that their editions of the Bible have the approval of the bishop. Besides this and other regulations concerning Bible-reading in general, we have several acts of the popes directed explic- itly against the Bible societies. Perhaps the most notable of these are contained in the Encyclical "Ubi Primum" of Leo XII, dated 5 May, 1824, and Pius IX's Encyclical "Qui Pluribus", of 9 Novem- ber, 1846. Pius VIII in 1829 and Gregory XVI in 1844, spoke to similar effect. It may be well to give the most striking words on the subject from Leo XII and Pius IX. To quote the former (loc. cit.): "You are aware, venerable brothers, that a certain Bible Society is impudently spreading tliroughout the world, which, despising the traditions of the holy Fathers and the decree of the Coimcil of Trent, is endeavouring to translate, or rather to pervert the Scriptiu-es into the vernacular of all nations. . . . It is to be feared that by false interpretation, the Gospel of Christ will become the gospel of men, or still worse, the gospel of the devil." The pope then urges the bishops to admonish their flocks that owing to human temerity, more harm than good may come from indiscriminate Bible-reading. Pius IX .says (loc. cit.): "These crafty Bible Societies, which renew the ancient guile of heretics, cease not to thrust their Bibles upon all men, even the un- learned, — their Bibles, which have been translated against the laws of the Church, and often contain false explanations of the text. Thus, the divine traditions, the teaching of the fathers, and the au- thority of the Catholic Church are rejected, and everyone in his own way interprets the words of the Lord, and distorts their meaning, thereby falling into miserable errors".

Thus are given the chief reasons of the opposition of the Church. Furthermore, it can scarcely be de- nied that the Bible societies, by in\-ading the Catholic countries and endeavouring to foist the Protestant versions upon a Catholic people, have stirred up much discord, and have laid themselves open to the charge of degrading tlie Sacred Book by using it as an instrument of proselytism. Still in almost all the books and pamphlets which are WTitten to show the results of Bible propagandism, naive complaints are made by the writers that the Catholic priests forbid the dissemination of the Scriptures among their people. The societies do not offer to supply Catholics with Catholic Bibles, fortified with the ecclesiastical Imprimatur, and supplied with the necessary notes of explanation. If such an offer were refused, there might be some pretext for the complaints of the societies, but so long as they follow their present course, it must be evident that they have small ground for wonder if the authorities of the Church oppose them. The true attitude of the Church towards the popular use of the Scriptures is shown by the establishment of the Societil di San Geronimo, for the translation and diffusion of the Gospels and other parts of the Bible among the Italian peoples.

There have been many dissensions and .some schisms among the members of the Bible societies themselves. At the very foundation of the British and Foreign Bible Society Bishop Marsh, consistently with the principles of the Church of England, ob- jected to the printing of the text, "without note or comment", and recommended the addition of the Book of Common Prayer. The objection was, of course, overruled. In 1831, the British and Foreign Bible Society decided to demand belief in the Trinity as a requisite to membership. This led to a schism