Do the Catechism and the Bible Agree?
In 1566, the Roman Catholic Church gave the name “catechesis” to its summary of principles regarding the totality of the Church’s efforts to make disciples, to help men believe that Jesus is the Son of God so that believing they might have life in His name, and to educate and instruct them in this life, thus building up the body of Christ. The catechism was conceived as an organic presentation of the Catholic faith in its entirety. It should be seen, therefore, as a unified whole. The catechism aims to present an organic synthesis of the fundamental contents of Catholic doctrine - regarding both faith and morals - in the light of the Second Vatican Council and the whole of the Church's Tradition. Its principal sources are the Sacred Scriptures, the Fathers of the Church, the liturgy, and the Church’s Magisterium.
While the catechism is the book the Catholic Church uses to educate people in Catholicism, many times it seems to contradict the Sacred Scriptures that it considers one of its principal sources. Let’s do a few comparisons between the two.
Catechism Paragraph 841 — The Church’s relationship with the Muslims. “The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day.”
The Bible — Muslims do not recognize Jesus as God, nor do they recognize what Jesus did at Calvary in fulfilling God’s plan of salvation. While Muslims may “adore the one, merciful God,” they also believe in Allah as their god. And while the catechism says that Muslims profess to hold the faith of Abraham, the Bible says in Matthew 3:9, when John the Baptist confronts the Pharisees and Sadducees, “and do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones.” The Pharisees and Sadducees were claiming that they held special status with God because Abraham was their father, but John was saying, in essence, that their lineage did not matter, nor did professing to hold the faith of an ancestor, but that God raises up whomever He wants as His children.
Catechism Paragraph 1367 — The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice: “The victim is one and the same: the same now offers through the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross; only the manner of offering is different.” “And since in this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass, the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and is offered in an unbloody manner. . . this sacrifice is truly propitiatory.”
The Bible — Jesus is not speaking literally in John 6:30–69 about eating His flesh and drinking His blood. If He was, people would not still be dying today (John 6:50: “This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die”), nor would they still be going hungry and thirsty today (John 6:35: “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst”). Jesus is speaking allegorically just as He was in John 4:32 when he told His disciples, “I have food to eat of which you do not know.” His “food” was to do the will of the Father who sent Him (John 4:34) to be the one-time propitiation for our sins, not to offer His flesh and blood perpetually through the ages for us to partake of and thus be saved. Jesus said in John 6:63, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.” Matthew 15:11 and 17 tell us that “Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man. Do you not yet understand that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated?” If Jesus says here that nothing we eat defiles us, then how can what we eat make us holy either? Titus 3:5 refutes the idea that salvation is based upon anything other than His mercy, for it is “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.” Finally, Hebrews 10:14 says, “For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.” This offering was the one-time sacrifice of God’s Son on the cross 2,000 years ago, done once for all and for all who will choose to receive the gift of salvation that God provided through His Son. No further sacrifice is needed to cover our sins; Christ did it only once. Any additional ritual that seeks to repeat this atoning work merely lessens the significance of God’s decision to send His Son at one particular time in history to give His life as a ransom for many.
Catechism Paragraphs 971 and 969 — “All generations will call me blessed.” “The Church’s devotion to the Blessed Virgin is intrinsic to Christian worship.” The Church rightly honors “the Blessed Virgin with special devotion. From the most ancient times the Blessed Virgin has been honored with the title of ‘Mother of God,’ to whose protection the faithful fly in all their dangers and needs. . . . This very special devotion . . . differs essentially from the adoration which is given to the incarnate Word and equally to the Father and the Holy Spirit, and greatly fosters this adoration.” “. . . Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this saving office but by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation . . . . Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix.”
The Bible — While there are many traditions of how Mary is viewed, the Bible says in Acts 4:12, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” The surrounding verses and the context all point to this “name” being Christ’s alone, not Mary’s nor anyone else’s. In 1 Timothy 2:5 we read, “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.” The Bible does not say that Mary is a mediator for us to God. Isaiah 8:19 asks us, “should not a people seek their God? Should they seek the dead on behalf of the living?” Mary is dead, but Christ was resurrected and is alive and is the only One we should be seeking. Likewise, the only One who intercedes for us is the Holy Spirit, as it says in Romans 8:26: “the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” The tearing of the temple veil from top to bottom at the moment of Christ’s death signified the opening up of the way between God and man so that man has ready access to God the Father at all times. Hebrews 4:15 encourages us by saying, “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” God makes Himself available to us. Jesus placed no special significance on Mary His mother in Luke 11:27–28 when a woman from the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, “Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You.” He replied instead, “More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!" Mary called Jesus her Savior and provided us with a good role model in her submission to God's will, but the Bible clearly says that all reverence, awe, and adoration belong to Jesus Christ alone.
In conclusion, the Bible tells us not to add anything to it for it is “the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints“ (Jude 3). In Jesus’ high priestly prayer in John 17, He asks the Father to “Sanctify them by Your truth” because “Your word is truth” (verse 17), so "that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:17). “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
While the catechism is meant to instruct men in the life they have in Jesus Christ and is a presentation of the Catholic faith, the few examples given here show that the catechism in certain places directly contradicts the Sacred Scriptures which the Catholic Church says is the catechism’s source of doctrine. We need to be careful not to elevate the catechism above the Word of God nor give it equality with the Scriptures that were inspired by God Himself. Only God’s Word is infallible because it came from an infallible God. Jesus exhorts us in John 8:31-32: “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”