Catholic Answers occasionally airs a show dedicated to taking calls from non-Catholics. The shows are usually very cordial, as Rome’s apologists seek to influence the callers to “come home to Rome.” Tim Staples hosted the show recently, and spent time interacting with a Baptist on the correct interpretation of Matthew 5:32. What exactly is the interpretation of “marital unfaithfulness”? The Baptist caller wanted to know.
It wasn’t Tim’s interpretation that caught my attention, rather it was this short MP3 clip which I isolated from the answer given. The caller first presents an interpretation given to him by a Catholic priest, that the “marital unfaithfulness” means “incestual adultery.” Staples quickly informs the caller that that interpretation is only “a way” to interpret the passage. Tim then points out the Roman Catholic Church does not have one infallible way of interpreting Matthew 5:32. Rather, there are several way to interpret the verse. He then states, “There is a lot of freedom with regard to the interpretation of Scripture.” But the most striking statement was Tim’s affirmation that even the verses infallibly defined by the Roman Catholic Church “are left open to other interpretations as long as you don’t deny that which has been infallibly interpreted.”
Tim didn’t mention exactly which verses the Roman Church has infallibly defined, but from his answer, it wouldn’t seem to make a significant difference anyway. According to Tim, Roman Catholics are still free to come up with their own interpretations of even infallibly defined verses (as long as they don’t deny the infallibly definition). Tim’s answer shows that Catholic claims to infallible interpretation are chimerical. For all the claims to interpretive certainty, they typically can’t point to an established authoritative interpretation of any verse. They themselves then provide their own interpretations of Scripture.
But here was the irony of the answer from Tim Staples. The claims for interpretive certainty and the charges against Protestant private judgment are so oft-repeated by Catholic apologists, that they run on auto-pilot. Within the same call, Tim actually stated the typical Catholic argument for Catholic certainty and Protestant interpretive anarchy. I’ve isolated Tim’s statements in this brief MP3 clip. Tim states,
“For 1500 years, the Church always understood that nobody has the authority… just as Saint Peter tells us…of private interpretation…. to think that you or I can run around and interpret the Bible however we want and start our own church and that sorta thing that we see in Protestantism… that is completely alien to the Christian Church for the first 1500 years of the Christian era…”
It amazes me how easily a Catholic apologist can contradict himself within the span of a few minutes. Refuting Roman apologists involves simply listening closely for the double standards. They will typically refute themselves, as did Tim Staples. Learn to evaluate their arguments, and then apply them to their position.