A second adage that points toward a well-taught Catholic laity has been around for a long time: “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.”
Saint Jerome's 4th Century words still go unheeded, and the church is to blame. In the second through fourth centuries Catholic bishops pulled together the various texts into what's known today as the New Testament. But it wasn't until 1965, at the end of the Second Vatican Council, that bishops finally said – for the first time! – that all Catholics have a responsibility to study and understand the Bible. Before the Bible was readily available and believers could read, priests had to interpret it for them. But this long-outdated practice still thrives today, despite the 1965 statement. Most Catholics still lack even a rudimentary familiarity with God's Word.
The Catholic Church is indisputably the oldest church but Protestants have a 500-year head start on knowing the Bible. Perhaps the two best-known American Catholic Bible teachers, Jeff Cavins and Scott Hahn, were immersed in Scripture while members of Protestant denominations.
Catholics need to be taught at length what Jesus says to us through the Bible, especially as it applies in daily life. That means Sunday sermons must be substantially longer than five minutes. And Catholics also would do well to emulate Protestants who gather a second time during the week to study Scripture. A few Catholic Bible study programs now are offered at the parish level but that's not nearly good enough.
The lack of vigorous biblical teaching is a key reason why so many former and current Catholics are poorly taught and thus misguided. As a result the church has been brought to its knees – which, come to think of it, is a good place for the church to start. And remain.
(This article is eighth in a series.)