Do Catholics Believe the Church is More Important than the Bible?

By pintswaquinas April 11, 2024

Protestants believe in sola scriptura, the idea that Scripture alone is the final authority for determining Christian beliefs and practices. Catholics contend that we need an authoritative Church to correctly interpret the Bible.

Some Protestants have countered this by saying that Catholics believe that the Church is more important than the Bible.

That’s not true. Here’s why.

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The Church is not a source of revelation.
When we speak of the “three-legged stool” of Scripture, Tradition, and the Church, note that only Scripture and Tradition pass on God’s divine revelation. The Church is not a source of revelation but rather the infallible interpreter of the other two “legs.” In this sense, you could say that the Bible is more important than the Church.

But Scripture needs an authoritative interpreter, which is the Church’s Magisterium. When there seems to be opposition between the words of Scripture and the Church, we listen to the Church.

“Doesn’t this put the Church above Scripture?” you may ask.

No. Any perceived conflict between Scripture and infallible Church teaching is really a conflict between our personal interpretation of Scripture and that of the Church. The same Holy Spirit who inspired the Bible also guides the Magisterium. And if there’s one thing we know about God, it’s that He does not contradict Himself.

The Church’s magisterial authority doesn’t make it better than Scripture, as Vatican II explains: “This teaching office is not above the word of God, but serves it, teaching only what has been handed on, listening to it devoutly, guarding it scrupulously and explaining it faithfully in accord with a divine commission and with the help of the Holy Spirit; it draws from this one deposit of faith everything which it presents for belief as divinely revealed.”

In other words, the Magisterium is a servant of God’s Word, and God wishes to speak to us through His Church’s voice.

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