19 The texts of Sacred Scripture are often not quoted word for word but are merely indicated by a reference (cf.). For a deeper understanding of such passages, the reader should refer to the Scriptural texts themselves. Such Biblical references are a valuable working-tool in catechesis.
Paragraph 19 describes the use of the Sacred Scripture in the text and presentation the work. A cursory review of the Catechism indicates that the Scriptures are cited frequently. The introduction to the work, signed by Pope John Paul II at the time of release, indicates that exegetes (Scripture scholars) served on the writing panel. There are a few points here worthy of closer attention regarding the use of the Bible in and with the Catechism.
Para. 19 states immediately that Scripture texts are often not quoted word for word, but indicated by Biblical citation. Thus the reader will find such references listed as Matthew 10:32 or Romans 10:9, to use just two examples, in the text or footnotes, but the context and contents of the citation must be obtained by recourse to another text, in this case the Bible. The use of Scripture in official literature or even simple blogs creates substantial logistical problems; the bigger the text, the bigger the problem. The first obvious solution would be to just include the text, and many first time readers or users of the Catechism may wonder why this wasn't done in the first place. Unfortunately, this is a little more complicated than it looks. The first issue is simply size: my hard-cover edition runs to 803 pages without the full Biblical citations. I am not privy to the problems of book publishers as a rule, but there is a certain critical mass where a printed product morphs from a standard book to an extended research volume, like my Jerome Biblical Commentary which weighs, according to Amazon, 3.4 pounds. In fairness, there are other citations included in their entirety such as full paragraphs from Cardinal Newman, for example. The editors must have reasoned that the average Catholic is more likely to have a bible on his book shelf than Newman's An Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent. I thought so.
Then there is a legal problem, namely the copyright involved in using a particular translation. This is a bigger issue than simply the Catechism; all theology/religious education texts have to deal with legalities. The costs of researching and translating a Bible accurately are astronomical: if you told me a quarter-billion for a very accurate rendering, I would not fall over in shock. The New American Bible 1970, familiar to most Catholics, took 27 years to produce. I was living with both the general editor and one of the canonical translators in 1970 when the NAB was unveiled; one of them appeared on the Today Show. The translator/interpreter of one of the Wisdom Books had devoted years to his project. He told me, only partly in jest, that if someone produced a better translation, he would curse the man's family to the 500th generation. Biblical scholars have those great apocalyptic gifts!
So you get the picture that the owners of biblical translations do not look kindly toward pirating. In case you were wondering, the Bible texts spelled out in the English version of the Catechism come from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible (1989), which is approved for pastoral and study use by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The irony here is that the USCCB actually owns the rights to the New American Bible, but for whatever reason the NAB was not selected, possibly because it was a predominantly "American" project. And, given the size of the English-speaking world and the market for the English language Catechism, the negotiation of rights was no trivial matter. I might mention here that on my blog site and in my courses I do recommend a number of bible commentaries, but one of my considerations is in fact whether the actual text is included or not. Father Francis Moloney's treatment of Mark's Gospel, which I cite on many a Tuesdays, does not in fact contain the actual text of Mark; it is necessary to use a Bible alongside. However, the excellence of the commentary outweighs, in my mind, the inconvenience. In truth the omission of the Biblical text cuts production costs considerably. Other Biblical commentators actually undertake their own translations for their books from the major manuscripts presently available in museums and collections, but this too is expensive and time consuming.
Another question involving the Catechism's use of Scripture is an issue I have briefly touched on before, that is, the practice of cherry-picking, or as scholars say today, "proof-texting." For centuries the Catholic method of "doing theology" was propositional: a premise was put forward, arguments raised, and then the premise was defended by statements in its defense. This method of Catholic theology dates back to early medieval times in the West, but it is actually a heritage from Socrates and Aristotle long before Christ. For this reason logic and rhetoric were main staples in a medieval university's curriculum. The "premises" were doctrinal and judicial statements held by the Church, fortified over time by the expansion of defenses. Scripture study as a discipline was put at the service of the Church Body. The study of Scripture as a fully independent discipline, with attention to literary forms, linguistics, intent of authors, understanding of inspiration, archaeology, liturgical use, writings of the Fathers, secular historical sources and the like, in the scale we have today, is a post-Enlightenment development that did not penetrate Catholicism till the twentieth century, with Pius XII's blessing in 1943.
The renewal of Scripture study is no doubt one of the driving forces of Vatican II and certainly permeates its documents. My concern about the Catechism is its appearance of deploying the older scholastic approach to Scripture as "proof-texting." Taken as a whole, the text does not appear "Biblically driven" in its organization and priorities. In the ever present tension of Scripture and Tradition in the life of the Church, I have the impression that the Catechism as a whole is Tradition-driven at the expense of Scripture. In Roman Catholic self-understanding, Scripture and Tradition are both necessities; it was, after all, the “tradition” of usage that led the Church to determine the precise corpus of New Testament books in the first centuries of Christianity. As we look at the developments in Vatican II in other posts, it will become evident that the Council Fathers wrestled with a terminology to describe the relationship of the Church body over time with the reality of revealed Scriptures.
My educational concern is that the layout of the Catechism does not do full justice to Scripture’s importance. One need not go to the extremes of Luther to understand that it is Scripture which stokes the engine, not propositions, important as they may be. This is the cost of the Catechism’s dependence on its Roman predecessor of the sixteenth century, and it is unfortunate.