Defending the Indefensible

Hello all,

I will be visiting my family at the end of June and will be seeing my brother. We were raised Catholic, but he is now an agnostic and anti-Catholicism. He always asks me how I can belong to an organization which has acted so unChristlike over the centuries. Whether it be, in his opinion, the forced conversions of the Jews, Native Americans and other indigenous groups, the selling of indulgences, the inquisition, and the physical abuse doled out by some nuns/clergy at schools. His main focus, however, is the child molestation that went on in, and was covered up by, the Church. My gut reaction is to say that I’m a Catholic in spite of some of the actions of the Church and not because of them. And because I believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, I need the stay a member of the Church because of that belief. I also feel that the Church has earned much of the ridicule heaped upon it in the wake of the sex abuse scandal, so I don’t think it’s right to always defend the Church.

Am I sinning by holding these positions and by not defending the Church when my brother goes on one of his anti-Catholic tirades? What might be a better way to handle these attacks?


Tell him just what you have said here.
You are Catholic because of the truth of the faith and the Sacraments which give you grace to be a good person and to do God’s will. Some Catholics have sinned, yes, but not all sinners are Catholic.
That doesn’t mean that the Church instituted by Christ Himself is not the true church.

Ask him if an agnostic and anti-Catholic person were to molest a child, hurt people, take advantage of people or do things that are un-Christ like, would he stop being an agnostic and anti-Catholic person?

Furthermore, when faced with things like this I love to point to the first bad Pope we ever had.

He was a coward.
He was a hypocrite.
He was actually called Satan.
And he left Jesus when Jesus could have used his help the most.

His name was St Peter and not only was he the first bad Pope we had he was the first Pope we had. Catholics are sinners, we all make mistakes from the Pope all the way down to me. Some are grevious and horrifying sins, some are less so in the eyes of the world. But that doesn’t mean we give up our faith in God. We don’t worship humans for a reason, we worship God because He is perfect, because He is love, because He is our Creator. If he wants to give up on God because of what humans have done then he might as well give up on anything and everything because he is never going to find a place or organization that is not sinful, and does not have people in it which means it is going to be imperfect.

Remind him, this world is not our home, we are passing through, this world is not our goal, perfection, the beautific vision, heaven is our goal. Where sin can no longer affect anyone.


Ignore him and just pray for him. I find that confrontations with family rarely go well and usually just ends up worse off. As my priest tells us many times before the holidays, you can’t fix their 20, 30, 40 or more years of stupid. Just let them be and pray for them.

Hi, Lisa!

…what was done wrong was done wrong… error creeps in where humans abound…

What does the Church Teach?

Does the Church Teach that evil (unrighteousness) is good/correct?

What did society do when these cases took place? …up until the late sixties, the US court system operated under the assumption that a husband could not be criminally charged for raping his wife… ditto with all sorts of cases, including child sexual abuse–society simply either did not believe the child and/or removed the victim/perpetrator from the environment (including instances of incest)… that’s not a defense but fact that must be taken into consideration when seeking to understand the error committed by the Church.

Still, since the Church’s “Mission” deals with Righteousness and Justice, it is understandable that society (as does God) would hold the Church at a greater responsibility than itself.

Conversely, why is it that most of the cases against the Church are ancient and are brought to the foreground with great prejudice while current cases, where the perpetrators are non-Catholic Priests, are simply glassed over… these cases involved officials from the public school systems, officials from the court police systems, officials from the governmental system, and professionals from the private sector (not to mention the various non-Catholic religious/pseudo religious groups)…

The US, as many other nations in the world, was built on the oppression and extermination of the aborigine people, is your brother ready to cease being a citizen of the world?

Maran atha!


Your speaking of Simon the disciple before the coming of the holy spirit - Peter the rock shows up after Pentecost when he if filled with the Holy Spirit and he is nothing like you describe above he’s the exact opposite he becomes Peter the Rock that Jesus knew he would become - you need to read the Acts of the Apostles obviously you haven’t.

OP; I know how he feels, believe me. Please bear with him; let time and prayer heal .

Your title is perfect; it really is. Thank you. And until we admit it is indefensible?

Many of us feel the same way and challenging will only increase our suffering and polarise us and prolong our pain.

The Tuam scandal here which is still unfolding affected me deeply indeed viscerally. I can feel it even mentioning it. I knew it was bad through some work I do here but the shockwaves were appalling . Knowing families personally affected too.

I have excellent support and direction;I have not been to mass since.
My directors know this and why;dear Lord,helpless tears flowing even now.

I stay with the old monastic ruined abbeys in the early hours where prayer has been in kinder times.

May never go again. But I have not lost faith in Jesus;far, far from it. But the church here?
There are no words. And the arguments I read here are not any help . Quite the opposite.

Many of us are suffering from the ricochets.

Let healing happen. At the pace that is needed.

and please, stop defending, and bow heads in shame. Embrace the victims.

Over and out from me on this… just the posts are so… blind…

Thank you all for your responses. If he starts, which I know he will, I’m going to stick with my gut reaction, keep my cool, and add some of these replies if he pushes. I think I might write down some quick, short responses just in case he gets me upset and rattled. He usually talks over me, so he really isn’t interested in a discussion he just unloads on me. :frowning:

Absolutely! I will defend my faith in Christ, but I (we) can not excuse horrendous behavior. It is hard, and heartbreaking, to feel the onslaught of those who have lost their faith because of the wrong actions of others. And perhaps I’m a coward for wanting to avoid the confrontation. It is a fine line to walk when we defend Christ while condemning (rightfully) the UNchristian deeds of His church. I want to extoll the beauty of the faith, share my joy in Christ, but I don´t want to discount the real experiences of others nor do I want to defend the indefensible.

We Catholics read the Bible? Are you sure…?

So where in the gospels did Jesus call him Peter, the rock which Jesus would build His Church upon? Was that before or after Jesus said “get behind me satan”? Was it before or after St. Peter betrayed Christ? Was it before or after St. Paul had to confront him about his hypocrisy?

So who needs to reread the Bible?
(I can provide the verses in scripture if you would like)

I wouldn’t bother, it’s a cop out. If he has some teaching of Christ and the Church that he is in disagreement with, dialogue there might help, but what he is arguing here I believe is a decoy to avoid the real issue. Once you answer one claim like the sexual abuse scandal, he will go onto another like the fallacy New Atheists spread that religion causes war (completely ignoring those like Stalin and Pol Pots) etc.

I hope this has helped

God Bless You

Thank you for reading

OP I am in a Parish, a Diocese , that is infamous for past sexual abuse of children by Priests, Brothers, Nuns ( yes Nuns) and Laity engaged in Catholic Institution related work.

We have Loud Fences around practically every Catholic owned building-Church, School, etc.
We are constantly in the Media.
Sometimes our Masses are drowned out by protests, esp on specific dates
The number one go to is ’ why are you a practicing Catholic, they are all Paedophiles’

So how is this handled and responded too? Don’t deny it. Ever. Nor try to defend the Church on this.

Firstly It happened. There are people hurting.

It is acknowledged. Yes it happened, yes it’s horrific. We do not deny it.
We certainly don’t defend it.

You can’t defend it. How can you defend the rape of a child? Why would you?

So we have strong leadership. Our Priests and Bishop discusses it, talks to us in newsletters , special announcements, homilies. They talk to the media. They inherited this mess too.

We have a set of protocols now, in hopes of never experiencing this again.
We have NO confessional boxes.
We have sites of reflection and healing.
Sites of remembrance.

So to answer your Q. Don’t deny it. Say yes, there was evil in the Church. Its been dealt with. That’s what we do.
Of course the shite will hit the fan again if a certain Cardinal is made to answer charges. Its far from over. The shite will hit the fan if he is found by police to have no charges to answer .

But the one thing to stress is

It has not, nor ever will, destroy our faith, or stop us going to Mass

If you can get a copy of ‘‘Bearing False Witness: Debunking Centuries of Anti-Catholic History’’ by Rodney Stark on Amazon, I’d recommend that as it will really help you to respond to the historical stuff (obviously not everything can be debunked, but a lot can, or at least put in a more realistic scale).

Only problem is, the paedophilia is a current issue. It cannot be debunked. It happened

See, it’s not a claim. It happened. People are hurting. Answer it honestly. By sweeping it away, you do the same thing the Church was accused of doing. Ignoring it, moving Priests like Risdale from Parish to Parish.

I pray you find the strength and courage to go back to Mass. Don’t let evil win. Your current Priests are not responsible for that mess.

It is a claim, I am answering it honestly, because not only did it happen in the Catholic Church, but many other places too, including public schools, football teams and any other place where these people can get access to children.

The ones responsible should be in prison, if they were a priest, they can never again serve as a priest. The Church since then has put in place several measures to prevent this sort of thing from happening as many other organizations should too.

What I do not accept is the attempted blackmail and laying of this at my feet and that of the Catholic faith, like I said, if they have an issue with something that is currently being done in the Church, that is fair, and I am more than happy to try and address that, if they have an issue with a teaching of Christ and the Church, that is fair, and I am more than happy to try and address that, but these other things are simply a cop out.

I hope this has helped

God Bless You

Thank you for reading

We don’t even know whether the OP’s brother was sexually abused or not. We do know that his arguments are cop outs and it’s most likely over something else, could that be a personal case of sexual abuse? maybe. But we don’t know unless he says something.

I disagree, if we are talking about child abuse, then it is absolutely indefensible, but that is not all we are talking about.

I am not challenging sexual abuse, I am challenging the claim/insinuation that this is part of the Catholic Faith.

:frowning: I have not heard of that scandal, if it’s sexual abuse, I hope the ones responsible are in prison, there is a new priest there and measures have been put in place to prevent it from ever happening again.

:frowning: I hope you will go to Mass again, since it’s at the Church where Christ is fully present, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Tabernacle. It is not the Church which is responsible but the ones who committed sexual abuse turning out to be wolves in sheep’s clothing. These people are not only in Churches, but in Schools and any other place they can get access to children and we must always be vigilant. As Christ tells us to be wise as snakes and innocent as doves.

The Church cannot sexually abuse anyone, only people can do that.

I will never bow my head in shame of Christ and His Church. The people who committed these crimes were wolves in sheep’s clothing. Christ and the teachings of the Church do not justify or excuse this in any way, shape or form and they should not be treated as such.


I hope this has helped

God Bless You

Thank you for reading

It’s not about ‘debunking it’ it’s about putting the blame where it really belongs. On the heads of those who committed sexual abuse or intentionally tried to cover up cases of sexual abuse, not on the Catholic Church which has always condemned such acts.

I hope this has helped

God Bless You

Thank you for reading

x2, not really ‘mess’, but more accurately ‘evil’.

You are a catholic NOW. You believe in the church, and by your presence plan to keep it on the path. Pray forcthose who disparagexit!

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