Holiness of the Catholic Church

Hey all,

I have a non-Catholic friend who objects to the validity of the Catholic Church’s holiness, because he finds especially persuasive the evidence that demonstrates a lack of consistency in respect to Christ’s visible love amongst Catholics.

More specifically, he observes the bad behavior(sin) of Catholics in his everyday experience, thinks of the good tree/good fruit analogy, and then concludes that the Holy Spirit would dwell amongst only individuals which display consistently good behavior.

I then respond that Christ’s Church (and any other so-called Church) will have good and bad people in it. He concedes this point, but then makes the affirmation that habitually bad behavior would not be found amongst Christ’s true people.

Is it true that habitually bad behavior would not be found in Christ’s true Church, and this an objection of holiness or really just an objection of something else like enforcement of behavior?

Everyone has their “favorite” sin. You know, the one that you do over and over.

Like it or not, everyone has one. I know I’ve confessed the same sin more than once. Same sin, different occasions.

Tell him we are not there yet. … :wink:

Though your non-Catholic friend is wrong, this nevertheless is always a reminder to us to live the life of the Gospel. He merely demonstrated that one who does not can never be an effective witness. Like they say, we can preach better by our deed and what is more by the life we are living.

What faith is your friend? Find that out and point out specific examples of people of that denomination, likewise, having cases of chronic sin.

True and I would be tempted to do that to make a point that the sinfulness of the members of the Church does not invalid her holiness. The flip side is we would be inadvertently drawn into his argument. It is like saying, “You guys are doing that too.” The strongest argument would simply just to mention the truth that we are the Church that Jesus formed and that is not determined by the sinfulness of certain members. If he wanted to know holy people of the Church tell him about the various saints, some of whom are as recent as someone that he may have heard of.

One thing comes to mind in reading your post. Your friend should be made aware of “Judge not, lest ye be judged.”
Catholics may not be perfect Christians, but we have one advantage over Protestants in that matter. We have recourse to Confession and know when are sins are absolved!

Humans being as imperfect as they are, is there a group or religion that bears better fruit?

What would be the standard: less sins? more humility? more creativity? more happy families and marriages? more in touch with reality? more charity? more charity to others not of the same faith? more contributions to mankind? more charitable institutions? less illness? less crime? more money? more members?

And define “good behavior”.

Because people are not perfect. Even among Jesus’ deciples there was Judas. And Peter denied Jesus 3 times. The Church is made up of humans and humans are not perfect.

I would note St Peter’s comment that even the just (righteous) man sins seven times a day. Few if any people could sin that often and not repeat one or more sins habitually. Yet apparently one can do so and still be a just man.

First of all - I would say that your friend points out a rather embarrassing truth about us. Too - too often we do not think, speak, or act as we should given that we claim the title Catholic and Child of God.
So I would suggest that you commiserate with him on this sad fact.

However - having acknowledged this fact - let us look at what the Church means when she uses the term “Holy”. From The Catechism we have:
823 “The Church . . . is held, as a matter of faith, to be unfailingly holy. This is because Christ, the Son of God, who with the Father and the Spirit is hailed as ‘alone holy,’ loved the Church as his Bride, giving himself up for her so as to sanctify her; he joined her to himself as his body and endowed her with the gift of the Holy Spirit for the glory of God.” The Church, then, is “the holy People of God,” and her members are called “saints.”
Here we see that the holiness we speak of is not derived from the actions of those claiming the title “Catholic” but rather from the unfailing grace of God acting within the Body as a whole. This is further explained in Lumen Gentium:
39. The Church, whose mystery is being set forth by this Sacred Synod, is believed to be indefectibly holy. Indeed Christ, the Son of God, who with the Father and the Spirit is praised as “uniquely holy,” loved the Church as His bride, delivering Himself up for her. He did this that He might sanctify her. He united her to Himself as His own body and brought it to perfection by the gift of the Holy Spirit for God’s glory. Therefore in the Church, everyone whether belonging to the hierarchy, or being cared for by it, is called to holiness, according to the saying of the Apostle: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification”. However, this holiness of the Church is unceasingly manifested, and must be manifested, in the fruits of grace which the Spirit produces in the faithful; it is expressed in many ways in individuals, who in their walk of life, tend toward the perfection of charity, thus causing the edification of others; in a very special way this (holiness) appears in the practice of the counsels, customarily called “evangelical.” This practice of the counsels, under the impulsion of the Holy Spirit, undertaken by many Christians, either privately or in a Church-approved condition or state of life, gives and must give in the world an outstanding witness and example of this same holiness.
In this we can see both a promise of protection and a call to holiness among all the members.
And this is Key…
The “Church is Holy” refers to the heart, which is Christ. It refers to the goal which is perfection in Agape and the universal guidance of the Church - in her teaching - through the Holy Spirit. It does not refer to the actual positional holiness of every Catholic for each is in a different place on their journey.

Hope this helps a little…

Peace
James

He was Catholic but is now a Jehovah’s Witness. He claims his group all believe the same thing and all act with good behavior (the ones who behave badly get “disfellowshipped” leaving only the good behaviored ones as the true members). So for him the Holy Spirit MUST be working amongst his group. :shrug:

He would say Jehovah’s Witnesses, which is his current religious group, are of one mind and display the best and most consistent behavior wherever he meets them.

He seems to take an empiricist approach in that how people show love for each other and reciprocate is a strong indicator of God’s Holy Spirit and therefore holiness.

And yes, in order to even understand what any of those terms,including good behavior, you mentioned are, he needs to understand a proper interpretation of scripture, but that is for another post.

Thank you James for that lengthy response. I will do my best to empathize with my friend’s position more often before discussing the heart of the issue.

I’ve heard of the idea of holiness (and other marks of the Church for that matter) as goals, in contrast to actual statements of fact. If that be the case, I wonder what really separates us from the other churches of this world. In other words, I am sure other churches would say that they have goals to reflect the life of Christ, so if holiness does not reflect reality, then how does this criteria distinguish us from them?

Back to my friend - I do notice that when I attend his religious meetings, the individuals are very quick to love bomb you, and that is the case when I go with him to other geographical locations. I can understand how he feels so much better around these people than some of the churches he used to attend. Is the fact that everyone in his religous group so nice to each other a strong indicator of holiness or could there be another explanation for this consistency, like, say, a strong enforcement of behavior?

:thumbsup:

I’ve heard of the idea of holiness (and other marks of the Church for that matter) as goals, in contrast to actual statements of fact. If that be the case, I wonder what really separates us from the other churches of this world. In other words, I am sure other churches would say that they have goals to reflect the life of Christ, so if holiness does not reflect reality, then how does this criteria distinguish us from them?

This is an excellent question and really goes to the heart of defining “differences”.
The fact is that the differences between groups is not so much reflected in their “holiness” (which is really something more applicable to individuals than institutions) as in their teachings - their beliefs. In their possession of the “fullness of Truth”.
Protestants - as a whole - are founded upon the rejection of some portion of Catholic teaching. This rejection covers a wide range with various groups rejecting large or small portions of the Catholic Church’s teachings.
Naturally from their viewpoint what they have rejected are what they see as errors in the Catholic teachings and I suppose that your friend sees the “less than holy” actions of some Catholics as being symptomatic of such errors.

Back to my friend - I do notice that when I attend his religious meetings, the individuals are very quick to love bomb you, and that is the case when I go with him to other geographical locations. I can understand how he feels so much better around these people than some of the churches he used to attend. Is the fact that everyone in his religous group so nice to each other a strong indicator of holiness or could there be another explanation for this consistency, like, say, a strong enforcement of behavior?

I’m not sure what you mean by “love bomb”…other than perhaps to say that everyone is very loving towards each other. In which case “bomb” would seem to be a rather poor analogy IMHO.

Your question at the end is a good one and I suspect that, as in most cases, there is a combination of strong belief and genuine holiness as well as a “strong enforcement of behavior” that can hide some less than holy undercurrents. :shrug:

I must say that I think that the Catholic Church could benefit somewhat from a bit more pronounced enforcement of behavior within the ekklesia as well as placing a greater emphasis on Holiness expressed through Agape in our daily lives.

Peace
James

Your friend is suffering from confirmation bias. The news reports and historical documentation typically only pick up on the bad things the Church has done. Especially the past 500 years when rebellion against Catholicism is widespread and socially acceptable. Pick up any newspaper in the past 30 years (the Fishwrap was one of the first to break the story!) and you will read about atrocities committed by a tiny minority of Catholic priests. Yet you will find precious little news coverage about everyday missionary outreach, charity work and disaster relief effort by all kinds of Catholics and Catholic organizations. Go to any Catholic parish and spend time with the people there - especially mine. :cool: You will find overwhelming love and kindness, cooperation and self-sacrifice from many of the faithful who attend Mass every day or every week. All these good deeds will not make the newspaper because they are not scandalous and they are not bad news. Moreover, so much of the media wants to paint the Catholic Church in a bad light that they will go to any length to do so even when there is good news coming from our halls.

The onus is on your friend to prove that these comparatively trivial bad deeds outweigh all the good. Because the Church has always preached moral truth and stood for that which is good, even if some of her people have acted poorly. The Church has jealously guarded the Deposit of Faith and the Sacraments against every onslaught of evil. The Church has made good on Christ’s promise that the Gates of Hell shall not prevail. And I do not have to look to the Pope or any bishop or priest for proof of this, the proof is in the eyes of my neighbor in the pew, and the proof is in the millions of saints who have gone to their eternal reward and paved the way for the rest of us.

[quote=“Catechism of the Catholic Church”]827 "Christ, ‘holy, innocent, and undefiled,’ knew nothing of sin, but came only to expiate the sins of the people. The Church, however, clasping sinners to her bosom, at once holy and always in need of purification, follows constantly the path of penance and renewal."299 All members of the Church, including her ministers, must acknowledge that they are sinners.300 In everyone, the weeds of sin will still be mixed with the good wheat of the Gospel until the end of time.301 Hence the Church gathers sinners already caught up in Christ’s salvation but still on the way to holiness:

The Church is therefore holy, though having sinners in her midst, because she herself has no other life but the life of grace. If they live her life, her members are sanctified; if they move away from her life, they fall into sins and disorders that prevent the radiation of her sanctity. This is why she suffers and does penance for those offenses, of which she has the power to free her children through the blood of Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit.302
[/quote]

LOL That’s because the “bad” ones are kicked out of their group! If Catholics kicked out those who did “bad” things there would be nothing but perfect people among Catholics too! All that proves is that Jehovah’s Witnesses are less loving and less forgiving than Catholics. It doesn’t make them more holy. Any group who kicked out their less than perfect members would have all perfect members even among pagan religions, so that proves nothing by way of holiness or being truly led by God. :rolleyes: That shows they are less holy because they are less tolerable and unforgiving towards their own members. :shrug:

Or they are better at hiding their sins. :rolleyes:

Exactly! :thumbsup:

Some of the most outward appearing “holiness” churches have had some of the most gruesome sins hidden within them, from my experience.

Something to think about. Ideals may exist, but reality may be another matter. In a church where people are real, deal with their stumbling blocks, and their “holiness” may not look like the “holiness” of the person next to them…that is where I’d rather be. Eyes on your own plate, rather than a competition of who is holier than whom or judgments of “how Christian are you” based upon someone else’s strengths or lists of outward appearances.

Concerning one area of good behavior. I think it would be good to seek which group helps people with the least amount of expectation that they would join the giver’s group or religion. Just pure charity without expectation of profit or gain…

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