Mr. Shaun McAfee, O.P. is the author of Reform Yourself! and other books, is the founder and editor of EpicPew.com, and contributes to many online Catholic resources. He holds a Masters in Dogmatic Theology from Holy Apostles College and Seminary. Shaun has made his temporary profession as a Lay Dominican and temporarily lives in Italy.
About two weeks ago at epicPew.com we shared a video from the YouTube channel “The Bible Project” briefly explaining the setting and plot in the Book of Job. If you aren’t aware, The Bible Project is an Evangelical resource that aims to help folks understand the subtleties and difficult parts of the Bible. More than 90 million people use YouTube in United States, so it’s a pretty slick idea to get people who would rather not read the Bible, to at least become interested in a quick video that makes the Sacred Text, not so intimidating. Well… an anonymous reader of epicPew.com and priest writes me in an email:
I went to the Bible Project web site and to my amazement I am presented with a protestant minister who appears to be the instrument of this endeavor. A Catholic entity may not use a non-Catholic source as authoritative. Remember, they are technically heretics, they broke from the Truth. Their thought pattern diminishes their ability to comprehend the fullness of the Truth, thus heretical information will be mixed in with the Truth. One not steeped in the faith will not catch the errors and will incorporate those errors as truth in their lives. This latest video that you cited is the first one I have seen and it is a good example of protestant error.
So here’s the video in case you’re curious. Whenever I get an email like this, depending on what time of the day it is, I put on the brakes. I don’t want to lead someone stray due to an oversight on my part. And naturally, I also dislike the thought of being wrong. Yeah, that’s my enormous sense of humility speaking. But it’s true. If I’m not sure something is orthodox and faithful to the Magisterium, I don’t want to publish it. Even at epicPew, where we’ve debated some hilarious stuff, and have some laugh-out-loud posts, I won’t flirt with error.
I was further told, “passing on [non-Catholic material] as authoritative implies that their theological perspective is equal to the Church's, thus equal to the Lord's, and, thus, rendering all religions as the same.”
The video was never presented as having “authority”; it was a simple plot summary, not a discussion of faith and morals. But this topic revolves less around authority and more around Christian unity, or ecumenism. Christian unity is an idea that comes right from the lips of Jesus’ final prayer:
The glory which thou hast given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and thou in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that thou hast sent me and hast loved them even as thou hast loved me. John 17:22-23
What every Catholic must understand is that Catholic truth can be discovered in non-Catholic sources. Here’s how the Council Fathers of Vatican II put it:
Nor should we forget that anything wrought by the grace of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of our separated brethren can be a help to our own edification. Whatever is truly Christian is never contrary to what genuinely belongs to the faith; indeed, it can always bring a deeper realization of the mystery of Christ and the Church. (Unitatis Redintegratio 4)
Though Protestants are not protected from error in matters of faith and morals, we share a common Baptism. “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one Baptism. (Ephesians 4:4-5) The Decree on Ecumenism clarifies this: “But even in spite of them it remains true that all who have been justified by faith in Baptism are members of Christ’s body.” (Unitatis Redintegratio 3)
So they’re definitely Christian, though they reject Catholic authority and Tradition. But can we use some of their materials, especially those that study the Bible? Ut Unum Sint is one of the very best encyclicals from St. John Paul II, and it lengthily details the relationship between Protestants and Catholics. The Pope wrote:
These brothers and sisters promote love and veneration for the Sacred Scriptures, calling upon the Holy Spirit, they seek in these Sacred Scriptures God as he speaks to them in Christ, the One whom the prophets foretold, God’s Word made flesh for us. In the Scriptures they contemplate the life of Christ, as well as the teachings and the actions of the Divine Master on behalf of the salvation of all, in particular the mysteries of his Death and Resurrection … They affirm the divine authority of the Sacred Books. (Ut Unum Sint 66)
Our Protestant brothers and sisters love the Bible and are usually more versed than most Catholics. But, that being said, I would say it is a not a good idea to use the Message Bible over a good Catholic translation, and it is also better to read apologetics from Catholic Answers or Patrick Madrid than from Alpha and Omega or the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry. While it is not intrinsically wrong to read these, it can be dangerous to do so with an untrained eye. So the priest is correct when he told me, “One not steeped in the faith will not catch the errors and will incorporate those errors as truth in their lives.”
When it’s the truth, it’s the truth, and it doesn’t matter, really, if that comes from a Catholic resource or a Protestant one. “Catholics must gladly acknowledge and esteem the truly Christian endowments from our common heritage which are to be found among our separated brethren.” (Unitatis Redintegratio 4)
Our best bet is to stick to trusted Catholic resources, but if it’s a simple video explaining a biblical plot, there’s no error there. Just be careful to maintain your Catholic reading so you’ll recognize error if (and potentially when) you come across it.