Monday, 23 May 2011

When is it right for a Catholic to swear?

A commenter on a previous post, David Werling of the very beautiful blog, Ars Orandi, pointed out, quite correctly, that the Protestant Bible is a different book from the Catholic one.
The seven Deuterocanonical books present in a Catholic Bible were excised from the Protestant one at the time of the Reformation. And Protestant scholars would refer to the missing seven as "Apocrypha".

Now that, to my mind, is not the only difference; the Protestant version has a different translation of the text which can bend or even change the original meaning and, I am sure that someone will come up with even more distinctions.

This is the only book to swear on!
What this means is that Catholics may only read their own version (the Douay Bible is generally taken as the foundation for all of the Catholic versions).

Now David's comment took me back a few years when I had to appear in a court of justice. No! no! You've got it all wrong; I was not in the dock I was there because it was my name on the licensed premises operated by my College at the time and I had to be sworn in as licensee.
I had given little thought to the whole exercise until the clerk to the court asked me if I wanted to be sworn in using a Bible. I responded that I would but that it would have to be a Catholic one.
He eyed me up suspiciously and stated that all bibles were the same. I refuted this politely and said that they must surely have a Douay Bible in court. By this time he and his fellow officials were loking a little nervous and looking around for the nearest fire exits.
The clerk went off to rummage in some cupboards and came back looking triumphant: "Look" He said: "I've found a Koran for you!"

He was most disgrntled when I told him that just would not do and I was beginning to regret not shoving our family bible in my case before going to the courtroom.
Eventually, a solution was arrived at. I would utter the atheist affirmation! This, after reading it through was actually quite acceptable as it did not deny God in any way and only vouchsafed that I would tell the truth blah blah.

After this stressful event I pondered on whether I was being pedantic in only being prepared to swear on a Catholic Bible - after all, it was the promise to tell the truth that mattered. But then I decide that I was in the right and that any compromise would have been wrong and the oath, in all probability, invalid as I would have had no belief in the book that I was swearing on. It could have been the Protestant Bible,  the Koran or the Bumper Book of Rupert the Bear Stories and it would have been wrong, quite wrong.


  1. I am with you here!
    Charged at Bow Street Magistrates Court (I don't suppose many bloggers can say that!) with failing to provide a statutory statement of ownership subsequent to an alleged parking offence I declined to give my evidence on oath. As I explained to the Magistrate I happened to believe in God and regarded an oath as a very serious business. In the present instance the matter was a mere trivial piece of beauraucracy and my recollection in the matter was unclear. In the event I was allowed to give my evidence from the floor of the court and within a few minutes found guilty, fined ten pounds with five pounds costs and escorted out. I don't suppose the suggestion that the court's business was trivial did me any favours but I gained a valuable insight into British Justice!

  2. Crumbs! Something else I never thought about. I really do wonder where I've been, all my life!

  3. It used to be known: 50s the local(non-catholic) charity in the midlands presented every child of 10 a bible,Catholics got DOuai, and we were told to ask for a catholic bible should we have to give an oath.That Courts actually had them available , I don't know.
    Im sure you werent just being pedantic. It's like friday Fish in a way.

  4. PS I believe there ARE now tranlations Catholics may read, as well as Protestants use, whether the courts have them is another matter.

  5. Another bloody-minded Catholic. Yay!

  6. I had never really thought of that before. When I'm sworn is as dictator of Earth I will be sure to have a Catholic Bible handy.