The Catechism or the Bible?

A former Catholic declared:

You must remember that in the Catholic Church the Catechism has equal authority with the Bible (or so I was told by my RCIA instructor).

What your RCIA instructor told you was not quite accurate. According the Apostolic Constitution Fidei Depositum, the instrument used by Pope John Paul II to promulgate the Catechism of the Catholic Church on October 11, 1992,

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, which I approved 25 June last and the publication of which I today order by virtue of my Apostolic Authority, is a statement of the Church's faith and of Catholic doctrine, attested to or illumined by Sacred Scripture, Apostolic Tradition and the Church's Magisterium. I declare it to be a valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion and a sure norm for teaching the faith. May it serve the renewal to which the Holy Spirit ceaselessly calls the Church of God, the Body of Christ, on her pilgrimage to the undiminished light of the kingdom!

Did you see? The Catechism is a compendium of Catholic faith and teaching drawn from the "Sacred Scripture, Apostolic Tradition and the Church's Magisterium." Here is one of the root causes of the difficulty one encounters when discussing the Scriptures with a member of the Catholic faithful. Bible-believing Christians look to the Bible as the standard against which doctrine must be measured.

This is not the case when Catholics refer to the Word of God. The Catholic Church holds that the Word of God does refer to Sacred Scripture; however, she includes what she calls Sacred Tradition under that heading. So, when a Catholic argues that the Word of God clearly states thus and so, he may be referring to a passage from the Bible and/or the work of one of the Church Fathers, or a Doctor of the Church or "Well, that's the way we've always done it." The Catechism states it in these terms:

97. 'Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture make up a single sacred deposit of the Word of God' [DV 10] in which, as in a mirror, the pilgrim Church contemplates God, the source of all her riches.

While it is difficult enough having to deal with the sometimes confusing and oft-times conflicting opinions of the many authors of Tradition, which may stand in clear opposition to the Sacred Scriptures, the Catholic Church compounds the difficulty by declaring that only her Teaching Authority, or Magisterium, has authority to interpret the hodge-podge of sacred and profane writings that make up Catholicism's Word of God. Referring again to the Catechism:

100. The task of interpreting the Word of God authentically has been entrusted solely to the Magisterium of the Church, that is, to the Pope and to the bishops in communion with him.

Returning to the RCIA instructor's statement, in a way what he claimed was true. Since the Catholic Church created the Catechism using the Scriptures, Tradition and the Teaching Authority of the Church – all sources she considers to be divinely given—one could argue that Catholics are required to assent to all that it contains. However, while assent may make someone a good Catholic, I cannot imagine that assenting to all it contains will help one's cause when he stands before the Great White Throne. Bear in mind that the Catholic Catechism includes many things that are in no way supported by Scripture and/or which may well stand in clear opposition to the teachings of Scripture.

1 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.

2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.

3 And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

4 The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.

5 Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.

6 For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.--Psalm 1

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