Pope Clement XI
And Bible Reading By The Laity


Note the following from the History Forum of EWTN: (Quickly deleted from EWTN's forum on 12 Jan 2003 upon reading my emailed response below).

The Bible and the layman
Question from Joe Bateman on 01-09-2003:

I had sent this to you before but you did not respond. I don't know if it was zapped into cyberspace, or you don't have a response. I will try again:

You have had many questions of late about the Roman Church and the Bible as it pertains to the laity. You insist that Rome has never withheld the Bible from the common man, I believe that history speaks against this. For example in 1229 the Council of Valencia put the Bible on the index of Forbidden books stating," We prohibit also the permitting of the laity, to have the books of the Old and New Testament, unless any one should wish to have a psalter or breviary for divine service...But we strictly forbid the above mentioned books in the vulgar tongue." The Council of Trent reaffirmed this decree. Clement XI also affirmed this in his Bull Unigenitus in 1713. I believe Leo XII in the 1890's allowed the laity to read the Bible but only the Latin Vulgate and only with permission, and the Pope forbid you try to interpret the Bible by yourself, the laity are not able. Of course they probably couldn't read Latin either. I will grant you that the Bible is and was read in the church, but only by the priest, and than with the Rome's interpretation thereof. That is an argument for another day though. (I thought God sent his Holy Spirit to guide us.) In closing, I don't see how you could say that the Bible has always been available to the Roman lay person. Thanks for your insight. God Bless

Answer by Matthew Bunson on 01-10-2003:

Please do not consider any comments here as a personal criticism or attack. However, as has been noted in previous postings, the historical facts and documents themselves simply do not support your contention. Owing to deliberate misinterpretations, mistranslations from the original Latin, or misunderstandings of the papal and conciliar documents, attacks such as the one you note have been made over the years. The reality is quite different.

I will re-state -- Catholics have not been denied the Scriptures. The documents you cite, further, do not support the contention being made that the Church prevented Catholics from reading the Bible. I will not bore readers with every document mentioned, but I would encourage them to read several previous postings relative to the decrees of Pope Leo XIII. I will offer, by way of example, several paragraphs regarding the Scriptures from Unigenitus of 1713 by Pope Clement XI that is listed above as "proof":

"84. To snatch away from the hands of Christians the New Testament, or to hold it closed against them by taking away from them the means of understanding it, is to close for them the mouth of Christ.

85. To forbid Christians to read Sacred Scripture, especially the Gospels, is to forbid the use of light to the sons of light, and to cause them to suffer a kind of excommunication."

I do not think that it can be much clearer than that, and Clement was speaking from traditional and unchanging Church teachings. For anyone who thinks this might be propaganda, I encourage them to read the document for themselves at www.papalencyclicals.net or through EWTN's extensive library resources on-line.

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And there is also this entry in the forum: (the answer was deleted on 15 Jan 2003 and replaced, see below)

Errors of Joe Bateman
Question from Damian on 01-10-2003:

I'm not sure if Joe didn't do his homework or is being deliberately misleading, but even a quick search shows the errors of his statements. For example, his statement concerning Clement XI is false. Here is what Clement [in Unigenitus] actually said:

[80.] "The reading of Sacred Scripture is for all.
[81.] The sacred obscurity of the Word of God is no reason for the laity to dispense themselves from reading it. "

Answer by Matthew Bunson on 01-11-2003:

Thank you for your views on this topic. As I wrote, I encourage readers to consult the original sources. They tend to speak for themselves.

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Well, taking Matthew Bunson's advice, I consulted several sources, and as a result, the following was submitted to Matthew Bunson at the EWTN history forum on 12 Jan 2003:

Matthew Bunson,

The following open letter to you has been posted to my web site at http://biblelight.net/Bible-Clement-XI.htm    In fairness, I will also post any response of yours to the same page.

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia online at http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15128a.htm Unigenitus was:

"A celebrated Apostolic Constitution of Clement XI, condemning 101 propositions of Pasquier Quesnel.   ... the pope ... in Feb., 1712, appointed a special congregation of cardinals and theologians to cull from the work of Quesnel such propositions as were deserving of ecclesiastical censure. ... It took the congregation eighteen months to perform its task, the result of which was the publication of the famous Bull "Unigenitus Dei Filius" at Rome, 8 Sept., 1713. The Bull begins with the warning of Christ against false prophets, especially such as "secretly spread evil doctrines under the guise of piety and introduce ruinous sects under the image of sanctity"; then it proceeds to the condemnation of 101 propositions which are taken verbatim from the last edition of Quesnel's work."

So the 101 items listed in Unigenitus are direct quotes from Quesnel's work which Pope Clement XI and the church were condemning as ERROR. According to the last paragraph of Unigenitus Dei Filius (the Dogmatic Constitution issued by Pope Clement XI on Sept. 8, 1713 online at http://www.ewtn.com/library/PAPALDOC/C11UNIGE.HTM) the 101 quoted propositions of Pasquier Quesnel are

"Declared and condemned as false, captious, evil-sounding, offensive to pious ears, scandalous, pernicious, rash, injurious to the Church and her practice, insulting not only to the Church but also the secular powers seditious, impious, blasphemous, suspected of heresy, and smacking of heresy itself, and, besides, favoring heretics and heresies, and also schisms, erroneous, close to heresy, many times condemned, and finally heretical, clearly renewing many heresies respectively and most especially those which are contained in the infamous propositions of Jansen, and indeed accepted in that sense in which these have been condemned."

So to set the record straight, while Matthew Bunson trumpets Unigenitus as proof positive that the Catholic Church promoted Scripture to the laity, it is in fact the diametric opposite of what he maintains above. It is actually striking proof of the deep-seated enmity the Catholic Church had for Bible reading by laity. The following statements, direct quotes of Pasquier Quesnel the Jansenist heretic, stand condemned in the strongest terms as error by Pope Clement XI in Unigenitus:

79. It is useful and necessary at all times, in all places, and for every kind of person, to study and to know the spirit, the piety, and the mysteries of Sacred Scripture.
80. The reading of Sacred Scripture is for all.
81. The sacred obscurity of the Word of God is no reason for the laity to dispense themselves from reading it.
82. The Lord's Day ought to be sanctified by Christians with readings of pious works and above all of the Holy Scriptures. It is harmful for a Christian to wish to withdraw from this reading.
83. It is an illusion to persuade oneself that knowledge of the mysteries of religion should not be communicated to women by the reading of Sacred Scriptures. Not from the simplicity of women, but from the proud knowledge of men has arisen the abuse of the Scriptures and have heresies been born.
84. To snatch away from the hands of Christians the New Testament, or to hold it closed against them by taking away from them the means of understanding it, is to close for them the mouth of Christ.
85. To forbid Christians to read Sacred Scripture, especially the Gospels, is to forbid the use of light to the sons of light, and to cause them to suffer a kind of excommunication.

 Here is the note at the end of Unigenitus online at EWTN:

2. This dogmatic constitution [Unigenitus] was confirmed by the same Clement XI in the Bull "Pastoralis Officii" (Aug. 28, 1718) against the Appellantes, in which he declares that certain Catholics "who did not accept the Bull "Unigenitus" were clearly outside the bosom of the Roman Church; by Innocent XIII in a decree published on Jan. 8, 1722; by Benedict XIII and the Roman Synod in 1725; by Benedict XIV in the encyclical, "Ex omnibus Christiani orbis regionibus" on Oct. 16, 1756; it was accepted by the Gallic clergy in assemblies in 1723, 1726, 1730, by the councils of Avignon 1725 and Ebred, 1727, and by the whole Catholic world.

So by proposing that any of the above items #79 thru #85 regarding Bible reading are true, Matthew Bunson places himself directly under papal condemnation as a heretic, "clearly outside the bosom of the Roman Church."

The text of Unigenitus found on EWTN's web site (to include the two notes), is apparently actually copied from The Sources of Catholic Dogma, Translated by Roy J. Deferrari, published by Marion House, from the Thirtieth Edition of Henry Denzinger's Enchiridion Symbolorum, published by B. Herder Book Co., Copyright 1957, pages 347-354.


Here is what Pope Benedict XIV said about the bull Unigenitus:

3. The authority of the apostolic constitution which begins with the word Unigenitus is certainly so great and lays claim everywhere to such sincere veneration and obedience that no one can withdraw the submission due it or oppose it without risking the loss of eternal salvation.

Ex omnibus Christiani orbis regionibus,
Encyclical of Pope Benedict XIV promulgated on October 16, 1756.

So it follows that by contradicting the papal condemnation of items #79 thru #85 of Unigenitus, Matthew Bunson's salvation is at risk of being lost.


Things get Curious-er and Curious-er at EWTN:

On January 15, the entry submitted by Damian on 01-10-2003 (see above) had the answer deleted and replaced by the following:

Answer by Matthew Bunson on 01-11-2003:

Note for January 15th: Readers will observe that the original question to which this posting is a response is missing. The deletion is not part of some conspiracy. Rather, it is the result of my computer illiteracy, as the patient staff here at the forum can attest.

His question, along with a few other recent submissions were accidentally deleted. In the interests of fairness, I apologize to anyone affected, in particular Joe Bateman. I appreciate the courtesy on his part to dialogue with mutual goodwill. Again, I apologize to anyone impacted by my technical deficiencies; I will endeavor to avoid them in the future.

COPYRIGHT 2003 by EWTN

"Oh! What a tangled web we weave, When first we practice to deceive" Sir Walter Scott


An open letter to Colin Donovan:                                            15 Jan 2003

As the Vice President of Theology for EWTN, there is a serious situation developing in the EWTN history forum that I think you should be made aware of. You can read the details of the situation at my web page at http://biblelight.net/Bible-Clement-XI.htm  I think you will agree with me that Matthew Bunson's (and EWTN's) credibility is at stake here, and the story of accidental deletions from his forum is transparently false and absolutely preposterous. Surely you would like to maintain a higher standard than this at EWTN. I would like, in complete fairness, to give you the opportunity to address this issue publicly on my web site, and will append your response, if any, on the same page, following this email to you.

Michael Scheifler


An open letter to Matthew Bunson:          [submitted 15 Jan 2003]

With regard to your recent "accidental deletions", I have the relevant items, along with your original responses posted on my web site at http://biblelight.net/Bible-Clement-XI.htm I am sure you would like to avail yourself of this opportunity to repost them in your forum, and also respond to my previous reply sent to your forum on 12 January, which is also on the above web page.

Also, an open email was sent to Colin Donovan regarding your actions, and it can also be read on my web site, along with this email, which will also be forwarded to Mr. Donovan.

Michael Scheifler


The following is Colin Donovan's reply of 16 Jan 2003:

You are simply working your own agenda. We have no interest in giving you space.
I see you havenít lost any of your self-importance and arrogance from the last time we went around.
You are free to post this.


It should also be pointed out that the Council of 1229 that banned Bible reading was in Toulouse, not Valencia. See Bible possession once banned by the Catholic Church!


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