How can corrupt Church Leaders be Infallible?


#1

I am an Evangelical seeking some questions about the Catholic Church. How can the leaders of the Catholic Church be seen as chosen when so many have become corrupt?

Now I’m not saying that this is the only church that has corruption in it (far from it!), but take my faith for example: We are allowed to question our leaders’ behavior both INSIDE and outside the church. How can those Catholic leaders who seem to have been chosen, are able to interpret so infallibly, be able to have been let run churches corruptly and live their lives in a corrupt manner?

I know this may offend some, but I tried to say it as clear and direct as possible. I’m not excluding other churches (Protestant, Orthodox…) but I am wondering mainly about the Catholic Church.


#2

Let’s say the Pope (that is, its teaching authority) was given a Calculus test. Let’s also assume that he is infallible in matters, not of faith and morals, but of Calculus. Now, when he takes that test, how many questions will he get right?

Infallibility isn’t a guarantee that he’ll put any answer down. If he doesn’t know the answer, he won’t put a wrong one down. Infallibility will prevent him from putting the wrong answer down. How he does on his Calculus test has nothing to do with his personal sanctity, either. He could be the saintliest saint or the lowest hellbeast and still perform in the same way.

The thing is, many confuse “infallibility” with “impeccability.” When the Pope, in his office as a teacher of the Church, or all the Bishops together make a pronouncement that is declared to be infallible and is in regard to faith and morals, they are prevented by the Holy Spirit from making a wrong teaching. This is how the Deposit of Faith has been preserved by the Church since the very beginning (cf. Matt 16:18-19 “And the gates of hell will not prevail against it”).

Impeccability would mean free from sin (pecca being the Latin root that is found in the word peccatoribus meaning sinners). We do not believe that the Pope or any of the Bishops are impeccable; in fact throughout history there have been a handfull of bad Popes. But none of them ever made a teaching that contradicted the Deposit of Faith.

In short, the Pope and the Bishops (when the Bishops are teaching together and not individually–only the Pope has individual infallibility) are teaching, they are prevented from “putting down the wrong answers” so to speak.

For a better explanation, consult www.catholic.com

Hope that helps…forgive my longwindedness!

-ACEGC


#3

[quote=skattas]I am an Evangelical seeking some questions about the Catholic Church. How can the leaders of the Catholic Church be seen as chosen when so many have become corrupt?

Now I’m not saying that this is the only church that has corruption in it (far from it!), but take my faith for example: We are allowed to question our leaders’ behavior both INSIDE and outside the church. How can those Catholic leaders who seem to have been chosen, are able to interpret so infallibly, be able to have been let run churches corruptly and live their lives in a corrupt manner?

I know this may offend some, but I tried to say it as clear and direct as possible. I’m not excluding other churches (Protestant, Orthodox…) but I am wondering mainly about the Catholic Church.
[/quote]

Its a good question. You have a misunderstansing of the docrine of infallibility. It apples only to the Pope and applies only when he clearly states he is thus speaking. It has been excercised twice-both times concenring Mary.

We do not believe are leaders are infallible-they are men and have the fallibilties of all men. We do, however, believe that our Priesthood can be traced in an unbroken line back to St Peter. I guess it would be fair l, then , to say they are chosen but then arent we all chosen by God?

All of our religious histroy is full of sins by our chosen leaders. Think of Moses at Meriba or better yet think of the lament of David in Pslam 51 :

*"For I know my transgressions, *
and my sin is always before me. "

and later is the Psalm:

*"Restore to me the joy of your salvation *
*and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. *
*Then I will teach transgressors your ways, *
and sinners will turn back to you. "

David repents of his sins and realizes that his repentnece is an opportunity to bring others back to the Lord.

That is the way it is with our Church. Yes we have leaders who sin but we also have great leaders like John Paul II who spent his Papacy making amends to those our Church had offended in its 2,000 year existence.

We Catholics beleive we are the One True Church, founded by Christ himself. A Church founded by Christ will not be bought down by the sins of some of its leaders-chosen or not. We have perservered for 2,000 years in spite of , many times, the fallibilities of our leaders.


#4

As a catholic, this does confuse me too. I know that in principle just because someone is a bad guy doesnt mean they cant interpret infallibly, but why would God let someone become pope when there must have been a better alternative. Those who were mad,corrupt etc… dont invalidate the claims of the RCC but they have made it a point which protestants find hard to accept. I wonder if this might do well in the ask an apologist page.


#5

There have been about a dozen bad popes—not bad, in 2000 years.

Infallibility has nothing to do with a particular pope’s holiness. I don’t think you understand the doctrine—it’s a negative protection, not a positive one. In other words, it’s not a guarantee that what a pope says will be wonderful, inspiring, or inspired. It does mean that that pope, and the Magisterium when speaking in conjunction with the pope, will be protected from teaching error when definitively teaching in the areas of faith and morals. So, even though there have been bad popes, you can’t find an example where they taught, for example, that Jesus wasn’t divine, no matter how personally reprehensible they may have been.

Magicsilence,

I’m afraid I don’t understand your confusion. God picked David, but he was guilty of serious sin. If this confuses you, then the existence of evil probably confuses you: why would God let the Holocaust happen? Why did God allow Henry Vlll to kill St. Thomas More? We aren’t God, and so we can’t know why certain things happen, whether in the Church or outside.


#6

[quote=Magicsilence]As a catholic, this does confuse me too. I know that in principle just because someone is a bad guy doesnt mean they cant interpret infallibly, but why would God let someone become pope when there must have been a better alternative.
[/quote]

Well, think of it this way: David was a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14), and he murdered Uriah in order to marry Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba. (2 Samuel 11) In fact, God honors David so far as to refer to Himself in Scripture as “the son of David.” (Matthew 1:1) Why? I don’t know. But David was also the author of most of the Psalms, which we know today as an incredible heritage of prayer I would never wish to be without.


#7

Consider that God is in charge and that He has promised that the gates of Hades will not prevail against His Church and to this end He preserves the Catholic faith infallible inspite of the immoral behavior of some of its leaders. I don’t think anyone would call Caiaphas a saint yet God made use of him because of his office as high priest to utter an infallible prophecy at Jesus’ trial:

49But one of them, Ca’iaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all; 50 you do not understand that it is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation should not perish.” 51He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus should die for the nation, 52and not for the nation only, but to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. (John 11:49-52)


#8

How can a camel pass through the eye of a needle? All things are possible with God.

Read the parable regarding the kingdom of God (the Catholic Church) being similar to the man who sowed a field of wheat (sanctified people). In the middle of the night someone (the devil) sowed weeds in the field. When the master saw the weeds growing among the wheat, he decided to let them grow together and separate them later (upon their deaths).

Let’s look at it another way. If the Catholic Church was always led by the most pure man in the Church, it would be a sure sign of God’s guiding hand. People, like the Apostle Thomas who had to probe Jesus’ wounds, would follow the Church because they have seen. With the weeds amongst the wheat, people follow the Church out of faith, “Blessed are those who haven’t seen and yet still believe”.

NotWorthy


#9

[quote=estesbob]Its a good question. You have a misunderstansing of the docrine of infallibility. It apples only to the Pope and applies only when he clearly states he is thus speaking. It has been excercised twice-both times concenring Mary.
[/quote]

This isn’t quite accurate. Infallibility is also a quality of the Church herself. There are many infallible teachings. For example, that only men can be ordained is an infallible teaching.

– Mark L. Chance.


#10

[quote=mlchance]This isn’t quite accurate. Infallibility is also a quality of the Church herself. There are many infallible teachings. For example, that only men can be ordained is an infallible teaching.

– Mark L. Chance.
[/quote]

Actually we are talking about two different things.There is a formal Doctrine of infallibily that applies to the Pope only and has only been invoked twice, once to declare the Immaculate Conception , the other to declare the Assumption… This is the doctine that I beleive causes the most confusion among Protestants and apparently some catholics. They wrongly believe that it is doctine that everything the Pope says is infallible-some also beleive we believe he is sinless

We also have two thousand years of teachings and traditions and the Church has enumerated many other Doctrines that also carry the wight of infallible teachings. These are grounded in two Scriptures -For the Pope :

Mt 16:
17Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. 18And I tell you that you are Peter,c] and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hadesd] will not overcome it.e] 19I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will bef] bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will beg] loosed in heaven.” 20Then he warned his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.

For the Counclis, synods, etc is the verse where Christ says "where two or more are gathered in my name i will be there)(Ive parapased it).

You are correct that male onoy ordination is an infallible teaching that ca not be overturned-celibacy of Priests , OTH, ias a discipline that can be eliminated by the dtroke of the Popes pen.

:


#11

Hi Skattas :dancing: ,

The Special gift of infallibility has nothing to do with the moral perfection of the Church’s members (which other have noted refers to Impeccability). Even so, Protestant Christians should have no problem with the concept that sinners can teach infallibly.

The Bible is a perfect example. All its writers were sinners, but their writings are infallible. Just look at Peter. He denied Christ, was rebuked by one of his bishops (Paul), and yet wrote two infallible encyclicals. Moses, was a murderer and David was an adulterer and murderer, but they too wrote infallibly. God even allowed Caiaphas to prophesy infallibly, even though he was evil and helped to plot Jesus’ death.

God allows sinners to teach infallibly, just as He allows sinners to become saints.


#12

[quote=NotWorthy]How can a camel pass through the eye of a needle? All things are possible with God.
[/quote]

:amen:

With no disrespect meant to the original poster, I sometimes question the faith those who dismiss Church authority because of the sinful actions of men. God will protect His Church.


#13

It’s very hard to properly grasp infallibility without appreciating the nature of the Magisterium. The Magisterium is not a group of people, although, of course, a group of people exercise it. It is the teaching authority of the Church.

There are two main areas in which the Magisterium is manifested. It is manifested in “Extraordinary Magisterium” by the Pope when he proclaims a dogma. And there is no need for him to use a formula like “I hereby infallibly declare …;.” when he exercises that Magisterium, as many incorrectly suppose.

But there is also the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium, which is also exercised by the Holy Father, AND by the Bishops in union with him.

I’ve heard it said a disturbing number of times that only twice has there been an infallible proclaimation by the Pope. The reference is to the doctrines of the Immaculate Conception and Assumption. These are examples of extraordinary Magisterium. But John Paul II’s assertion that the Sacramant of Holy Orders can only be given to men is also infallible teaching from the Magisterium, this time an example of the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium.

Each category is protected from error by God the Holy Spirit. Teaching from each category are EQUALLY BINDING on the faithful. That is why the protection against error exists in the Church that Jesus founded. Can you imagine Him founding a Church that could promulgate error in its teachings?

Sinners exercise the Magisterium – they freely admit to being that – but this Divine protection prevents that reality from tainting the teachings of Christ’s Church. It is one of Her glories!

Blessings,

Gerry


#14

With no disrespect meant to the original poster, I sometimes question the faith those who dismiss Church authority because of the sinful actions of men. God will protect His Church.
[/quote]

ya, at the same time, most protestants believe that Jesus came to establish the bible, and not a teaching guiding church (even though scripture itself refutes that claim). I don’t think that it’s fair to the original poster, who obviously has doubts whether the Catholic faith is his Church. Just stating the obvious. These truths take time to be understood by those seeking it.

This question is a fair question, because in Protestant circles, this is one of the points they make to discredit the Catholic faith.


#15

Franz, good point. But to a Protestant who believes that God protects the Bible, the idea that God can protect the Church shouldn’t be a big leap. Now the question isn’t CAN He, but DOES He? On that point Protestants and Catholics disagree.

[quote=skattas]I am an Evangelical …take my faith for example: We are allowed to question our leaders’ behavior both INSIDE and outside the church.
[/quote]

I also want to point out that Catholics are allowed to question our leaders’ behavior both inside and outside the church. If you visit other areas of this forum, you can find much grumbling about bishops and priests whom posters find doing things we don’t like. We don’t accept their sinful behaviors. We don’t even accept everything they teach; (sadly sometimes our church leaders don’t teach in line with the Magisterium–and this causes much confussion for Catholics who are unfamiliar with the Catholic faith.) Sometimes we even complain about the petty stuff.

Canonized saints strongly disproved of some pope’s behavior–St. Catherine of Sienna is one such example. So, if you think that loyal Catholics simply follow our leaders blindly, you are mistaken. We believe that loyal Catholics follow Christ and His Church. (And the question of if it’s His Church or not separates Protestants from Catholics–and sadly corruptable leaders from both sides lead to that split.)


#16

[quote=skattas]We are allowed to question our leaders’ behavior both INSIDE and outside the church.
[/quote]

Yes that olde protestant liberalism has been so good for America.

You people were part and parcel of the inauguration of the culture of death in America. Margaret Sanger played you like tools. And now you have the nerve to come here and accuse the Catholic Church as being too obedient to moral authority.


#17

Not only are we allowed to question a clergyman’s actions, we are encouraged to. First you take it to the “offending” person, then you go over his head if he doesn’t answer your inquiry to your satisfaction.

Notworthy


#18

Jesus found corruption in the religious leaders of his day. Matthew Chapter 23 details his attacks on those leaders. However, he begins his attacks with the following admonition to his disciples:

"The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses.
Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example.

In the face of the flawed leaders the Churche today, I believe Jesus would say something similar about those who have inherited the seat of Peter.

A measure of acceptance of leaders, despite their flaws, is necessary for the sake of unity. I believe the fact that Europe lost that unity (with the formation of the Lutheran, Episcopal, and other churches) is a significant factor leading to WWI and WWII

We are called to accept the leadership God has seen fit to put in place, But we are not called to always follow their example

peace

-Jim


#19

[quote=trogiah]Jesus found corruption in the religious leaders of his day. Matthew Chapter 23 details his attacks on those leaders. However, he begins his attacks with the following admonition to his disciples:

"The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses.
Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example.

In the face of the flawed leaders the Churche today, I believe Jesus would say something similar about those who have inherited the seat of Peter.
[/quote]

Very good points! I agree totally with what you’ve said… So Far!

[quote=trogiah] A measure of acceptance of leaders, despite their flaws, is necessary for the sake of unity. I believe the fact that Europe lost that unity (with the formation of the Lutheran, Episcopal, and other churches) is a significant factor leading to WWI and WWII

[/quote]

Oooooh! I think you’re on your own on this one!


#20

[quote=Franz]ya, at the same time, most protestants believe that Jesus came to establish the bible, …
[/quote]

I don’t know which “protestants” you’ve been talking to. Catholics continually claim that protestants “misrepresent”, “misunderstand” or the all time favorite “hate” Catholic’s. Yet here we see a prime example of a Catholic doing the EXACT SAME THING. :rolleyes:

Most “protestants” I know don’t believe that Jesus simply “came to establish the Bible” any more than Catholics believe that pink unicorns are the keepers of tradition.


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