Church Authority and Church Atrocities

I will be upfront with everyone here.

I grew up in the Catholic Church but was never really a Christian while in it. While in college, after having been challenged by my very Catholic father-in-law, I started examining Christianity and after a year of intense study, I became a true Christian for the first time in my life (thank you very much C.S. Lewis).

That was about 3 years ago or so. Since then, I have been trying to find out the truth about Christianity.

One of the great struggles I have with Catholicism is this:

If the Church’s authority is supposed to be accepted by the faithful at all times…What happens when the Church demands its members engage in immoral activities? For instance, at the Fourth Lateran Council, the Church demanded that secular authorities “exterminate” heretics. Pope Leo X’s Papal Bull of 1520 stated that it was an “error” to teach that burning heretics was against the will of the Holy Spirit. Pope John Paul II himself admitted the Church has done some terrible things in its past. Yet, whenever these events have occurred, the Church has demanded obedience from the faithful.

So my question to you is: How can the faithful approach these kinds of situations? If the Church tells me I should exterminate all the heretics (not that I think they would in the future), am I obliged as a Catholic to be obedient? What if the Church says I must do this or be thrown out of the Church?

I am not saying the Church will ask its faithful to burn heretics (those days are behind us I hope), but the same could be said for any command of immorality. How do Catholics know when they should be obedient and when they should reject the authority of the Church? The Catechism and the Canon make it sound like Catholics must always be obedient.

Any sincere help with this would be greatly appreciated. This is a huge stumbling block for me on my way to being Catholic.

God Bless,

The Church has no authority to ask, let alone make, a person commit an immoral act. One is not being disobedient by refusing such a request or demand.

The problem is…That pretty much contradicts Canon Law, which seems to say that we must always be obedient…It also contradicts numerous councils and the CCC, which teaches expressly that Catholics are called to be obedient to the bishops and the Pope.

Is there a provision somewhere which says what you are now claiming?

Would it be disobedient of you to refuse to give me all your money if I demanded you to?

Give the apologist line a call…some things can be “myths” that one gets told (not asking to argue here what is or is not-but just noting it) …and various things must be understood correctly and in their times…and the apologist can more “personally” talk with you about your concerns…

One is not obliged to sin. In fact one is obliged not to sin. So no Bishop can tell one to sin.

In Jesus of Nazareth -and thus in his Church is* true life!*

(come on home…)

CCC 1782 Man has the right to act in conscience and in freedom so as personally to make moral decisions. “He must not be forced to act contrary to his conscience. Nor must he be prevented from acting according to his conscience, especially in religious matters.”

CCC 1800 A human being must always obey the certain judgment of his conscience.

No it didn’t.

One cannot teach as doctrine something that is not revealed in divine revelation. No such revelation exists.

That one cannot teach it does not imply that the Church teaches the opposite, nor anything at all on the matter.

For instance, one could not teach that “unbaptized babies go to heaven when they die” because this is not revealed doctrine. That does not mean the Church teaches the opposite, or anything at all definitively regarding the fate of unbaptized babies.

It merely means you cannot teach whatever it is you are asserting as a doctrinal truth, because it isn’t.

You assume that were such a command given it would be immoral.

Are you the Pope?

First of all, yes, I am assuming the command to burn heretics is immoral…based on the teachings of Jesus.

Secondly, yes, the Fourth Lateran Council did require secular leaders to take an oath to exterminate heretics:

We excommunicate and anathematize every heresy that raises against the
holy, orthodox and Catholic faith which we have above explained;
condemning all heretics under whatever names they may be known…
Secular authorities, whatever office they may hold, shall be admonished
and induced and if necessary compelled by ecclesiastical censure, that as
they wish to be esteemed and numbered among the Faithful, so for the
defense of the Faith they ought publicly to take an oath that they will
strive in good faith and to the best of their ability to exterminate in the
territories subject to their jurisdiction all heretics pointed out by the
Church… If [a ruler] refuses to [comply] let the matter be made known
to the supreme pontiff, that he may declare the ruler’s vassals absolved
from their allegiance and may offer the territory to be ruled lay Catholics,
who on the extermination of the heretics may possess it without hindrance
and preserve it in the purity of faith

So if your conscience believes in birth control, it’s ok? Believe in gay marriage, it’s ok? No body (according to the above) can make me change and it’s ok. So I guess what ever I believe is ok!!! Wow!!!

Remember the story of Abraham? He was told to sacrifice Isaac…and Abraham did as he was told. And Abraham found favor with God.

15 The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time 16 and said, “I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, 18 and through your offspring* all nations on earth will be blessed,[c] because you have obeyed me.”**

Now, I suggest that you re-read the story of King Saul.

He was commanded by God to slay everyone, in one of those battles, as I recall:

Samuel said to Saul, “I am the one the Lord sent to anoint you king over his people Israel; so listen now to the message from the Lord. 2 This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. 3 Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy[a] all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.’”

But Saul disobeyed:

9 But Saul and the army spared Agag and the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves** and lambs—everything that was good. These they were unwilling to destroy completely, but everything that was despised and weak they totally destroyed.

10 Then the word of the Lord came to Samuel: 11 “I regret that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions.” Samuel was angry, and he cried out to the Lord all that night.

And Samuel said to Saul:

22 But Samuel replied:

“Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
as much as in obeying the Lord?
To obey is better than sacrifice,
and to heed is better than the fat of rams.
23 For rebellion is like the sin of divination,
and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
he has rejected you as king.”

Now look at what God regretted and compare it with was said to Abraham:

34 Then Samuel left for Ramah, but Saul went up to his home in Gibeah of Saul. 35 Until the day Samuel died, he did not go to see Saul again, though Samuel mourned for him. And the Lord regretted that he had made Saul king over Israel***

This is a good question for the Apologists.

This topic comes up from time to time. We have to look no further than under our very roof for answers.

Please see:

To be fair, pablope, there is a big difference between disobeying God and disobeying a man. I don’t think you can take God’s commandments to Abraham or Saul and compare them to a pope talking about burning heretics.

John Hus was burned at the stake for his disagreements on the Eucharist, as well as other contested ideas.

Peter Wycliffe had his remains dug back up; as per order of the Pope, and was given a mock execution, his remains then burned. He translated the Bible into English and also had disagreements with Papal authority.

Peter Waldo was basically a modern Evangelical Christian. He taught that one should give up everything and follow Christ, leaning only on the Scriptures. He was driven from his home and excommunicated, his followers all persecuted, many killed.

The middle ages was not a time for ideas and disagreeing with the Catholic Church.

Not quite. You have a responsibility to form your conscience:

II. The Formation of Conscience

1783 Conscience must be informed and moral judgment enlightened. A well-formed conscience is upright and truthful. It formulates its judgments according to reason, in conformity with the true good willed by the wisdom of the Creator. the education of conscience is indispensable for human beings who are subjected to negative influences and tempted by sin to prefer their own judgment and to reject authoritative teachings.

1784 The education of the conscience is a lifelong task. From the earliest years, it awakens the child to the knowledge and practice of the interior law recognized by conscience. Prudent education teaches virtue; it prevents or cures fear, selfishness and pride, resentment arising from guilt, and feelings of complacency, born of human weakness and faults. the education of the conscience guarantees freedom and engenders peace of heart.

1785 In the formation of conscience the Word of God is the light for our path,54 we must assimilate it in faith and prayer and put it into practice. We must also examine our conscience before the Lord’s Cross. We are assisted by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, aided by the witness or advice of others and guided by the authoritative teaching of the Church.55

… except this isn’t what the council said.

Lateran 4

  1. On Heretics

We excommunicate and anathematize every heresy raising itself up against this holy, orthodox and catholic faith which we have expounded above. We condemn all heretics, whatever names they may go under. They have different faces indeed but their tails are tied together inasmuch as they are alike in their pride. Let those condemned be handed over to the secular authorities present, or to their bailiffs, for due punishment. Clerics are first to be degraded from their orders. The goods of the condemned are to be confiscated, if they are lay persons, and if clerics they are to be applied to the churches from which they received their stipends. Those who are only found suspect of heresy are to be struck with the sword of anathema, unless they prove their innocence by an appropriate purgation, having regard to the reasons for suspicion and the character of the person. Let such persons be avoided by all until they have made adequate satisfaction. If they persist in the excommunication for a year, they are to be condemned as heretics. Let secular authorities, whatever offices they may be discharging, be advised and urged and if necessary be compelled by ecclesiastical censure, if they wish to be reputed and held to be faithful, to take publicly an oath for the defence of the faith to the effect that they will seek, in so far as they can, to expel from the lands subject to their jurisdiction all heretics designated by the church in good faith. Thus whenever anyone is promoted to spiritual or temporal authority, he shall be obliged to confirm this article with an oath. If however a temporal lord, required and instructed by the church, neglects to cleanse his territory of this heretical filth, he shall be bound with the bond of excommunication by the metropolitan and other bishops of the province.

Expulsion is not the same as death.

Listening to people who don’t tell the truth is a poor way to understand it.

Thank you. You beat me to it. :tiphat:

Question: How are God’s command handed down to us?

Does God come down and show himself to us? Or these are prompted to someone and relayed to us?

For Saul, it was through Samuel.

What was the difference between Saul being told by Samuel to slay women and children and the command to burn heretics?

But maybe you miss the point of what I was trying to make…obedience…takes leaps of faith to trust and obey…and trusting God that He will prevent something that will cause sin… just like what happened to Abraham.

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