The Catholic Encyclopedia has this text on the topic of the Magisterium, and the problems of Protestant approaches to scripture:

In a similar way they show that they cannot dispense with a teaching authority, a Divinely authorized living magistracy for the solution of controversies arising among themselves and of which the Bible itself was often the occasion. Indeed experience proved that each man found in the Bible his own ideas, as was said by one of the earliest reforming sectarians: "Hic liber est in quo quaerit sua dogmata quisque, invenit et pariter dogmata quisque sua." One man found the Real Presence, another a purely symbolic presence, another some sort of efficacious presence. The exercise of free inquiry with regard to Biblical texts led to endless disputes, to doctrinal anarchy, and eventually to the denial of all dogma.

Have there been any cases where Roman Catholics opposed bible study or other ecumenical worship in a public setting (say state-run schools) on the basis of this doctrine?


1 Answer 1


The Magisterium is not exactly concerned with what you do in your time. If you hang out at the Church of Satan and listen to the preaching, that's just fine with the Magisterium. The question is, do you accept particular tenets that are at odds with Catholic doctrine? So, for instance, going to a Protestant-led bible study is perfectly okay with the Magisterium, as long as you remember and stick to the Catholic position.

Let me give a slightly awkward comparison: going to medical school means you've committed yourself to evidence-based medicine, right? The teaching authority of med school means only certain people are allowed to teach, and they're people who subscribe to those standards of EBM. So you must, in how you act etc., adhere to it. However, you aren't 'banned' or otherwise forbidden from visiting a local faith healer and listen to him about crystals, or something similar (I don't know, I've never been to one of those). The point is that the Magisterium is a quick and easy way to determine who has teaching authority you have to listen to, but it does not determine whom you may listen to.

I am no historian, so I will leave the question of whether there has been Catholic opposition to Bible study open. However, 1) the Catholic Encyclopedia is a bit dated (notably, it's pre-Vatican II), 2) it's not a doctrinal text, 3) the doctrine of the Magisterium primarily concerns who may teach from a Catholic pulpit. So clearly a Catholic school would be opposed to somebody rocking up and teaching not about Protestantism but teaching Protestantism as a doctrine. However, there is nothing wrong with examining other faiths or denominations. The understanding of Canon Law I got says that the Magisterium is primarily concerned with who may speak, not whom one may listen to.

  • Not sure if you're joking or not, but it should be clearly noted that it is definitely not cool with the Church for Catholics to "hang out at the church of satan and listen to the preaching." That's like saying that its ok to hang out with heroin addicts and listen to them hallucinate.
    – user5286
    Commented Jan 17, 2014 at 14:49
  • ...or worse....
    – user5286
    Commented Jan 17, 2014 at 14:52
  • Being completely serious here. There is no problem with doing it per se. It's of course playing with the integrity of your soul, which is not ok. However, there is no harm in encountering the less savoury parts of the world, and in fact there is plenty of merit in bringing faith to them. Quite a few saints hung out with unsavoury fellows to bring them salvation. Participating in rituals, of course, is an entirely different thing.
    – Chris vCB
    Commented Jan 18, 2014 at 21:50

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