Are Catholics Free to Interpret Bible Verses?


Quick Answer

Overall, Catholics are free to interpret passages and segments of scripture according to their consciences, as the Catholic church provides guidance on doctrine not scripture interpretation. However, Catholics who believe church doctrine must naturally interpret certain verses in particular ways in order to reconcile scripture with the Church's teachings.

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Full Answer

As of September 2015, only seven passages of the Bible have been at least partially defined in Catholic teaching. The idea of baptism is defined by the phrase "born of water and the Spirit" in John 3:5, and according to church teaching, Christ's injunction to "Do this [the Eucharist] in memory of me" in Luke 22:19 and 1 Corinthians 11:24 appointed the apostles as priests in the same way the church ordains its priests.

Similarly, the power to forgive sins that Jesus gives to the apostles in Matthew 18:18 and John 20:22–23 is specific to ordained priests, according to the church. The reality of original sin is confirmed by Romans 5:12, and the presbyters referred to in James 5:14 are ordained ministers, not just members of the Christian community. Much of the church's official interpretation of scripture therefore reflects its ordination protocols and political structure.

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