The following is from the Beggars All archive:
Here are some tidbits from the Catholic Encyclopedia on the job the infallible church has done in 2000 years of infallible biblical interpretation:
“The Catholic commentator is bound to adhere to the interpretation of texts which the Church has defined either expressly or implicitly. The number of these texts is small, so that the commentator can easily avoid any transgression of this principle.”source
"...the Holy Fathers, we say, are of supreme authority whenever they all interpret in one and the same manner any text of the Bible, as pertaining to the doctrine of faith or morals; for their unanimity clearly evinces that such interpretation has come down from the Apostles as a matter of Catholic faith...This unanimity is not destroyed by the silence of some of the foremost Fathers, and is sufficiently guaranteed by the consentient voice of the principal patristic writers living at any critical period, or by the agreement of commentators living at various times; but the unanimity is destroyed if some of the Fathers openly deny the correctness of the interpretation given by the others, or if they explain the passage in such a way as to render impossible the explanation given by others."
So there you have it: in 2000 years the infallible church took care of a few scripture passages. Great job.
The infallible church also looks to the unanimous consent of the fathers for some help in figuring out the Bible. Let’s try this for some ‘certainty’. We’ll start with the Fathers’ comments on Matthew 16:18- “The Patristic Exegesis of the Rock of Matthew 16:18.” After reading this link, the line above from the Catholic Encyclopedia really has an interesting ring to it: "...the unanimity is destroyed if some of the Fathers openly deny the correctness of the interpretation given by the others, or if they explain the passage in such a way as to render impossible the explanation given by others."
“Very few texts have in fact been authoritatively determined and ‘there consequently remain many important matters in the explanation of which sagacity and ingenuity of Catholic interpreters can and should be freely exercised…” [Source: Dom Bernard Orchard, M.A., ed., A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture (London: Thomas Nelson, 1953), p.60, first column (as cited by David T. King, Holy Scripture: The Ground And Pillar of Our Faith Volume 1 (WA: Christian Resources inc, 2001), 223].
“The number of texts infallibly interpreted by the Church is small…It has been estimated indeed that the total of such texts is under twenty, though there are of course many other indirectly determined”[Source: Dom Bernard Orchard, M.A., ed., A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture (London: Thomas Nelson, 1953), p.59, second column ((as cited by David T. King, Holy Scripture: The Ground And Pillar of Our Faith Volume 1 (WA: Christian Resources inc, 2001), 224]. King mentions this commentary lists Isaiah 7:14, Isaiah 53, and 2 Maccabees 12:43 as infallibly defined, but gives no evidence to prove the assertion.
“The Council of Trent teaches that Rom., v, 12, refers to original sin (Sess. V, cc. ii, iv), that John, iii, 5, teaches the absolute necessity of the baptism of water (Sess. V, c. iv; Sess. VII, De bapt., c. ii), that Matt., xxvi, 26 sq. is to be understood in the proper sense (Sess. XIII, cap. i); the Vatican Council gives a direct definition of the texts, Matt., xvi, 16 sqq. and John, xxi, 15 sqq. Many more Scripture texts are indirectly defined by the definition of certain doctrines and the condemnation of certain errors” [Source: The Catholic Encyclopedia, Entry: Biblical Exegesis].
"...the Church by no means prevents or restrains the pursuit of Biblical science, but rather protects it from error, and largely assists its real progress. A wide field is still left open to the private student, in which his hermeneutical skill may display itself with signal effect and to the advantage of the Church. On the one hand, in those passages of Holy Scripture which have not as yet received a certain and definitive interpretation, such labors may, in the benignant providence of God, prepare for and bring to maturity the judgment of the Church; on the other, in passages already defined, the private student may do work equally valuable, either by setting them forth more clearly to the flock and more skillfully to scholars, or by defending them more powerfully from hostile attack" [PROVIDENTISSIMUS DEUS, On The Study Of Holy Scripture (Encylical Of Pope Leo XIII, November 18, 1893].