Papal Priorities: Biblical Study or Saint Veneration?

Roman Catholics often raise the topic of authority and claim that we need an infallible interpreter to interpret Scripture.  This, they say, means we need the papacy.  But what does the papacy actually do or care about?

When pressed, however, Roman Catholic apologists typically acknowledge that an allegedly infallible interpretation has been provided for fewer than 20 verses (see this document from Roman Catholic apologist and pilgrimage promoter Steve Ray).  Moreover, when you dig into the claims about those verses, most of the interpretations are actually the alleged interpretations of ecumenical councils, rather than popes.

On the other hand, the Roman Catholic church also teaches that infallibility is exercised in the designation of a deceased person as a “saint.”  How often is this alleged gift of infallibility exercised? John Paul II canonized 482 saints in 26 years (apparently a record number).  Benedict XVI canonized 45 saints in 7 years.  Francis has canonized 29 saints plus 812 companions of one of those, in his three years so far as pope.

I think it’s fair to say that papal priorities are revealed by papal actions. In this case, the priority of the papacy is clearly on the veneration of the deceased, rather than on the study and interpretation of Scripture.  In the lifetime of most of my readers, the popes have never once infallibly interpreted Scripture but have allegedly infallibly canonized saints literally hundreds of times.

Roman Catholic apologists may say we need the popes to understand the Scriptures, but Roman Catholic practice demonstrates that announcing saints for veneration is far more central to the actual papal role.

7 Responses to “Papal Priorities: Biblical Study or Saint Veneration?”

  1. Lockheed Says:

    > Roman Catholics often raise the topic of authority and claim that we need an infallible interpreter to interpret Scripture. This, they say, means we need the papacy. But what does the papacy actually do or care about?

    They also say this while simultaneously providing private interpretations of passages of scripture to support their views.

  2. McFormtist Says:

    Quite an intriguing fact.

  3. Byzas Says:

    I'm not quite certain about the dichotomy you are creating. Firstly, teaching scripture and canonising saints isn't mutually exclusive.
    Next, You neglect all the papal encyclicals that the popes have issued over the same period of time. Obviously, the papacy considers issues like female clergy and same sex marriage as scriptural issues so their opposition to these implies a certain interpretation of scripture.

    The massive number of saints the Catholic Church has canonised since 1978 is indicative of the persecution by Nazis, Communists and militant Islam. If main stream Protestantism had the same number of martyrs we would never hear the end of it. I remember all the mileage Protestants got from Richard Wurmbrand and continue to get from Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Maybe you should ask why the Reformed version of Christianity sits so comfortably with so many morally corrupt governments.

    PS: I am not a Roman Catholic nor have I ever been tempted to convert to it.

  4. Tim H Says:

    T-fan — one motive for the saint-proliferation may be the canon-law requirement that every fixed altar must contain a relic. I used to wonder, “aren't the relics all used up by now?” but then it hit me that there is an ongoing supply via the canonization. And since many places may encounter difficulties from the civil law in mutilating the corpses, the supply needs to be sufficiently great to allow for attrition.

  5. SABH Says:

    T-fan, it's great to finally find your blog. I've heard you on the Dividing Line a number of times and I enjoyed your interactions with Dr. White on those instances. The Roman Catholic position on the interpretation of the Bible is self-defeating and contradictory. While they claim that there's a need for infallible interpretation of the Bible, when you point out the many times that the supposedly infallible popes have erred and their “infallible” declarations have been rescinded, they will tell you that they didn't really say what they did while exercising that infallibility. Thus, as Dr. White often says, infallibility is whatever the current pope says it is. I'd rather put my trust on the only thing that is “God-breathed.” Thanks for the fine work!

  6. A. Sanchez Says:

    What you're essentially saying is you'd rather put your trust in your own personal interpretations.

  7. Reformed Apologist Says:


    Everybody does. RCs trust their personal interpretation of Rome, which is why RCs often disagree.

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