This is the second thread in which I want to discuss Catholic concepts of the church. In reading many of the threads on CAF, I’m finding that the definition of the church on the part of Catholics is a bit slippery to grasp. I’ll begin by reading a thread that will mention how the Catholic church has over a billion members.
That’s fine until someone brings up doctrinal or moral failing on the part of some or all of these people. What follows is an assertion that these people sin but the church doesn’t or that the church doesn’t teach error-effectively redefining the church to exclude the laity since they don’t teach.
If someone else brings up examples of priests who have sinned or taught incorrectly, a further redefinition points out that they are not part of the teaching authority, shrinking the church to the Magesterium.
Next, someone pointing out sinful acts or incorrect teaching by a bishop is met again with the assertion that the church doesn’t sin or teach error and that among bishops only the successor of Peter is protected by the charism of infallibility, shrinking the church to the Pope.
If failings on the part of a Pope are noted, they are dismissed with the understanding that the Pope is human, that this wasn’t an instance where infallibility was being promulgated, etc. while the assertion that the church doesn’t sin or teach error is still made, effectively excluding the Pope.
Thus we’ve gone from a church of over a billion members currently on earth to zero members on earth in order to maintain the notion of a church without sin or error. This sounds suspiciously like an invisible church to me.
(Please note that I accept the notion that those members of the church who have died are now without sin and understand the truth-but to limit the church to just these individuals would still produce an invisible church on earth, and do serious violence to the usage of the word “church” in the Epistles.)
I know that in trying to condense this for the sake of brevity, it may sound glib, but I’m looking for an honest answer to the question:
What is the Catholic definition of the church, who is in it and if any of the members are currently alive on earth, how can it be without sin or error?