Defense Against The Bad Popes Argument

My friend who was raised Catholic but who thinks all he needs is the Bible and Jesus, says, How can the Catholic Church be Christ’s Church (the one true Chruch) when there were so many popes who did terrible things. You know someone by their fruits argument(?). God would not allow His Church to do these things and therefore the Catholic Church is NOT the true chruch.

To be honest with you he bends with the wind, if you know what I mean. His only hard and fast conviction is that a lot of the Catholic Chruch teachings are not in the Bible and are made by man. He will give great wieght to what a preacher on the television says and thinks what an early Chruch Father says has no wieght. ‘But the Church Fathers were taught by some of the Apostles.’ ‘Well, they got it wrong. They didn’t hear right.’

Sorry for the rant.

A Pope is not Infallible 24/7. Even the Popes who had moral deficiancies did not Promulgate Heresy when Teaching ex Cathedra. So until he can accept the fact that the Pope is both man and guided by GOD at times when appropriate - then he cannot accept the fact that Jesus himself said in Scripture that the Gates of Hell would never prevail. Jesus didnt say that Popes wouldnt Sin or be susceptible to failures as men. Dont they love to cite Romans 3: 23? All of 3 Actually. So we know that any Pope can sin. But when Guided by the Holy Ghost - he no longer is Teaching as Man. So when he defines from the Chair he rises above that station.

To believe as he does - then one would have to say Jesus was wrong and the Gates of Hell have triumphed.


If you want to evangelize someone, pray much and make sacrifices for that person’s conversion. :smiley:

Measure every word and whether it will truly do any good! You can say all the right things… but without the grace behind those things… it won’t get through, so prayer and sacrifices…

Then you’ll get through a little more!

What if someone had said that by the fruits of Judas, we would know the entire work of Christ?

What of when Peter denied Christ? Or when all the apostles but one abandoned Our Lord, what if people judged the Our Lord’s work only by this? How could they do so honestly?

David did both good and evil in the sight of the Lord, but David remained the chosen of the Lord, His chosen king for Israel.

“So many” bad popes? The amount of good popes vastly outnumbers the amount of good popes. Why do you think it’s such a huge thing when a pope does things wrong and disgraces the chair or Peter? It’s not just a coincidence that out of the 265 popes we’ve had, only about a handful have been bad. The reason is most Popes have been good, holy people who have served God very well.

On top of that it would be good to note that no bad Pope has EVER (not even ONCE) ever tried to change infallible teaching or has incorrectly defined doctrine on faith/morals. That should tell you a lot. Being Pope and “infallible” does not mean one cannot sin. It means one cannot be wrong in specific contexts of faith/morals. Despite the fact that a couple of popes did evil things like murder, adultery/fornication, selling indulgences, etc, they never once went against the Church’s infallible teaching.

The best you can hope to with most people like this is to plant a seed or two in some way, to show that Catholicism has one or two perfectly biblical and beautiful beliefs and then let God do the rest.

Personally, I go straight to Mary with these types of guys. I ask them if they keep God’s commandments and bear witness to Jesus and when they say yes, I read Revelation 12 to them, where it says that those who do so are Mary’s “Offspring.” “See” I say, “Mary is your mother.” Some respond that the book of revelation is in the future and my response is, “Well then, you better get ready!”

Regarding bad Popes, the only response is that people are human. As they say in New York, whadaya gunna do? How people act does not change the essential truth’s of faith. Even Islamic suicide bombers speak truth when they yell “God is great” before they set off the explosives. People used the Bible to justify slavery. Does that mean the Bible is wrong? No way. Some Popes did some bad things. So what? Does that mean that everything they said is wrong or that twenty centuries of Christianity is a sham? Talk about throwing out the baby with the bath water!

The fact is that Jesus did not promise to give us perfect leaders; that he chose Peter shows just the opposite. Jesus promised that he would guide his Church but not necessarily the individuals in it.

Throw a couple of these back at your friend.

The disciples approached him and said, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” He said to them in reply, "Because knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted. (Matthew 13:10-11) Note that Matthew does not distinguish between Apostles and Disciples but the context shows that he was probably speaking to the twelve.

Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me. And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me." (Luke 10:16)

Moreover, we possess the prophetic message that is altogether reliable. You will do well to be attentive to it, as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. Know this first of all, that there is no prophecy of scripture that is a matter of personal interpretation, for no prophecy ever came through human will; but rather human beings moved by the holy Spirit spoke under the influence of God. (2 Peter 1:19-21)

I have a few more here.


Well, the selling indulgences thing really is a myth I tend to think… since it’s technically impossible…

Your comments reminded me that even Jesus, through his human nature, fell three times under the weight of the cross.


Bad leaders are said to be a punishment for sin. But it is still the Catholic Church started by Jesus. The Pope is ONLY said to be infallible in regards to faith and morals, and only during special statements… popes are humans and they can be wrong at times. Nobody is perfect.

And actually, the Catholic teachings are in the Bible, and at the very least heavily implied by the Bible. It’s just some “reformers” took the books out that they didn’t agree with so the Bible now agrees with them… but their Bible is now incomplete. These books contain many Catholic teachings that are still taught today. But both the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches have these books, and they are the two oldest branches of Christianity; the others did not come until much later. Doesn’t that seem a little odd to you, that the oldest branches of Christianity teach these things and the later ones do not?

Curious, why do you think it is a myth?

And St Peter who denied Jesus Thrice as well…


  1. Because attaching an indulgence to almsgiving isn’t simony, and isn’t selling them. And that was what was complained about and claimed to be it by the Protestants.

  2. And you could gain indulgences in ways besides almsgiving, even when there were almsgiving indulgences.

  3. No pious person in his right mind would think he could gain an indulgence by paying for it directly since this is the sin of simony, buying spiritual goods. A basic fundamental.

… So… a myth.

I completely agree. An indulgence likewise was given in lieu of penance already performed by Saints who lived prior, as well. How could someone buy a certain amount of penance? Thats ludicrous.

I agree with you , Shin , Much of these charges were a smokescreen for an agenda of disobedience IMO.

While it maybe cut and dried to you and I, today, was it the same way for the vast number of people who would have been doing this back in that time period? Remember, most of them were illiterate, unschooled in the faith and tended to believe what their Priests and Bishops told them without question. I doubt if most of them had ever even heard of simony, let alone knew that it was a sin. If a Priest told you that you could or would be saved by such an act, these people would more than likely believe it.

Using todays standards of conduct and reason to make assumptions about a past era usually falls flat beacuse the dynamics of that time are seldom factored into the equation.

While I agree that a lot of what was alleged to have happened in those days was pure propaganda initiated by certain parties in order to achieve their own ends, there were some aspects and practices of that time that were certainly in drastic need of change and overhaul. If it had not been so, I doubt the Council of Trent would have addressed the issue.

Excellent point, and one I was thinking of myself! :thumbsup:

Thank you for posting this!:slight_smile:

Well then I think there is an aspect of your argument that falls flat on its face as well. The Seven gifts of the Holy Ghost. When we partake of the Sacraments or practise our Faith in Earnest - we are immersed in the Seven gifts of the Holy Ghost - three of which are Wisdom Understanding and Knowledge . Methinks the People of that era were not as ignorant as you may think.


Well… I think the accuser has the burden of proof.

What evidence is there of selling?* I don’t consider Protestant propaganda generally to be evidence. *

I’ve read some politically incorrect statements about indulgences connected to almsgiving, but if you actually them in the light of Catholicism they were fine.

Who is interested in doing more penance for purgatory anyway besides the devout normally?

The selling of indulgences was conducted primarily by Friars, other religious, Priests, Bishops, undoubtedly some charlatains and possibly one Pope, as well, although the evidence on that is sketchy and unclear. The Council of Trent recognized the practice and took steps to correct it as did at least one Pope.

I believe what the Council of Trent said and accept its decisions and believe that they must have had a reason for addressing the issue. They would have had no reason to address it if it did not happen and happen enough to raise concern.

You say the selling went on, but you having cited and quoted something proving this is the case…

Commentary, I might add is not sufficient in the case of something like this, especially considering the propaganda.

Reams of propaganda by Protestants have been written on the subject out of complete fantasy.

You’d need to cite some reliable source material from the times themselves.

Well actually your friend is right. All you need is Jesus. And what does Jesus do for us? He gives us Himself, the Church, Mary, the Sacraments, the Bible, etc. :slight_smile:

Well if you remember - the Council of Trent was called as a result of the Protestant revolt. Since the primary accusers of that practise were the Protestants - the Council did the prudent thing and define once and for all what was good and what wasnt. So in order to prove that the problem was widespread or merely that the charge was a mountain out of a molehill remains the issue. I agree with Shin. It was overstated and sensationalized. Much like the Crusades and Inquisitiion are today by Atheists. We all agree they happened - but what happened and why is not always the story you get.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit