Resentment and weakening faith


This is going to be a difficult question for me to explain, but it is one I am increasingly struggling to answer myself or justify to others.

I’m a masters student, and my main topic for the past year has been the history of the Catholic Church over the past century. I’ve been preparing for this for some time, reading and reviewing works by Catholic, Protestant, Communist and Secular scholars alike.

As I’m sure we all know, a huge portion of the history of the modern church, especially for the past twenty years has been dominated by the incessant non-stop revelation of horrific abuses by the Catholic Church, cleric and layman alike. Canada, Australia, Ireland, France, America; there isn’t a country upon the earth that the Catholic Church operates within that hasn’t experienced a terrible abuse of trust and power.

I’m sure I don’t need to go into detail about the cases like that of Philomena Lee or St Vincents Orphanage in Newfoundland and the Catholic Church’s response to it, but we all know how it has been portrayed by the media and what the secular public thinks about it. The non-Catholics on my course started out as uninterested in the Catholic Church, but by now insult it and show an active dislike of it, being “evil”, “corrupt” and “malevolent, a threat to freedom” and view it with barely concealed hate.

And what bothers me is…I’m struggling myself to disagree with them.

I know the Catholic Church is the one Church founded by God, and that the real presence of Christ can only be found within it. I also know we cannot judge the Church y the actions of a few…But it’s not just a few. I’ve tried as hard as I can to remain unbiased in my research but from the very beginning the Church leadership has been held by some of the most petty (Stephen VI), vindictive (Urban VI), cruel (Innocent IV), treacherous(Benedict IX) and tyrannical (Pius IX) men to have ever walked the face of the earth.

My question is this…If the Catholic Church is the source of all truth and the body of Christ upon earth, why has it been such a corrupt and destructive force in the world for so long and so prone to abuse? Certainly today in areas like healthcare it is a great source of good but even still…The Irish adoption scandals, the Australian boys school rapes and vilification of the victims, opposition to abolishing slavery…

I keep trying to tell myself that this is Gods will, and this is his chosen tool for our salvation…But at the same time it’s hypocritical, woefully inefficient and all too often seems to be the personal sledgehammer for whichever Roman or European ruler had the most money to fling around. Forget testing us, it feels almost as if many of the people the Church has been charged to aid have been actively persecuted and tortured by it and like that Ugandan Cardinal promoting the “death to the LGBT” legislation proves in some cases still is *.

I want to see good in it, and in my thesis I am trying hard to portray it in the best possible light. But there are so many things I can’t even begin to justify, it feels almost like a futile effort. As a Catholic I can’t write an essay against the Church, but the deeper I go the more true more of the accusations against it appear to be true.

I need help, reassurance…I don’t even know, maybe a shrink would help. I’m trying not to be resentful or emotional on the matter, as any historian should be but It is taking me a great deal of continual effort to not actually dislike the Church as an organization, I’m struggling to see it as anything but rotten to the core at the moment, but I don’t want to.

Any advice? Thank you*

If you were the devil would not you attack the Catholic Church? Perhaps this is not the most satisfying of answers but it may be of help to you.

God Bless you

It happened the other way for me: I started out as a Protestant with a lot of preconceptions about Christianity, studying the Church at the master’s level. At the end of my program, I joined the Catholic Church.

The Catholic Church is THE LARGEST and OLDEST institution in the Western world. The globalization of the media means that we can instantly see every scandal, all the time. Because controversy sells, the sins of the church are often held up as evidence of its hypocrisy, etc. etc. It’s true that criminals must be held accountable for their crimes.

But if you look at the bigger picture, you won’t find a religious or secular organization free from this kind of scandal–one reason Catholic sin seems so ubiquitous is because there are just SO MANY Catholics. Human beings have a way of doing terrible things, regardless of the ideology they say they ascribe to, though it remains our Christian duty to teach and preach the highest moral standards, regardless of our shortcomings. This is one reason why even the Catechism is so clear that even leaders of the church have, at times, fallen into gross moral sin.

My Mother Church is not without her flaws. She is very old, and sometimes tired, and she has a lot on her plate. Her children (including me) are often selfish, petty, and horrible. Sometimes they do cruel things. But I love her anyway, because she is my mother, and without her, I would not be. I will pray for you as you continue your research into the life and history of our Church.

Why can’t you write an essay against the Church if it is true? Hasn’t the Church been hurt enough by weak members who would rather be quiet than cause a ripple? Their silence has caused an ocean of storms. Look at the Saints in the past who stood up to corruption in the hierarchy and caused reform from within. Pray that you have the strength to do what is right.

Never forget these words from a great Saint.

Pope St. Pius X said: “All the strength of Satan’s reign is due to the easygoing weakness of Catholics.”

Well stated:thumbsup:

First of all let me say that you are perfectly right to feel as you do. The Church has failed so many times to live out the Gospel and it hurts.
I have a limited tolerance for those who say “all organizations have these problems”. Even though this is undoubtedly true, the Church holds herself to a higher standard even by her own teaching.
We should be profoundly ashamed of these things and when others attack the Church it really is because they are so disappointed - and rightly so since she ISN"T just another organization. May God have mercy on us and see us through this sad and dark time.

Now - having said that - I think that part of your problem is that you are unduly influenced by certain aspects of Church history and giving them too much weight…to illustrate this, I refer to your OP where you say…
“As I’m sure we all know, a huge portion of the history of the modern church, especially for the past twenty years has been dominated by the incessant non-stop revelation of horrific abuses”.
I agree that a huge portion of what has been “reported” and “written about” has been these things…but to say that this is a “huge portion of the history” of a billion strong worldwide community is carrying it a bit too far.
You are studying the last century…how about St Mother Theresa of Calcutta and the sisters of charity, what about St Faustina and St Kolbe, and others. What about the establishment of EWTN, and the many The continued work of the many mission groups such as the Comboni Missionaries etc.
Yes - the abuses are horrible and they should NOT be defended…but if you are to maintain your balance, and your faith, you need to weigh these sins by a few against the virtues and charity of the many who feed and clothe and house, and heal - one soul at a time…not for money but for the Glory of God.
If you are to write a balanced thesis you need to spend more time on these because these types of things are the “Huge portion” of Church history that is NOT reported on and is NOT written about.

Don’t know if this helps or not but it’s my 2 cents…


Your methodology is wrong. The evidence you have presented is not of the kind that can support such conclusion. You only listed something about the “research subject” (Church). But to make such conclusions, you also must have a “control group”. Otherwise your conclusion doesn’t follow. And in your case the control group will consist of non-Catholics (or non-Christians).

Let’s look at one example:

Really? You really think that Pius IX was more tyrannical than, let’s say, Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao, Nero?

If that is “unbiased”, I wonder how “biased” looks like…

Also, you listed five (5) popes. Out of hundreds. Yes, that is “just a few”. Somehow I suspect that even the number of good popes during just your lifetime (at least 3 - St. John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis, right?) is comparable to that. :slight_smile:

Any time people are put in positions of trust and authority there is the chance of abuse. It might be showing favoritism to someone, protecting the criminal, taking favors or what ever. The Catholic Church is not immune to human nature or the fact that we are all sinners.

God may have founded the Church, but he also allows His followers free will. As sinners we are the ones that bring the corruption. It is not a magic trick or certain protection against doing wrong when one gets baptized. Those who may be using the findings you mentioned against the Church or proof that she is “evil” need to remember they are no better. They should take a good hard look at their particular Church and they will discover the same things.

This stuff happens due to the sinful nature of humans, not because it is the Catholic Church. If one could determine the PERCENTAGE of offenders across all faiths (like the ones you mentioned) I would suspect the rates are similar if not the same. The offenses will be the same as well.

In other words: If the Catholic Church had 1000 people and 100 where of the deviant type and a Lutheran or Protestant, Baptist or any other Church had only 500 people and 50 were of the offending or deviant type…the rate and severity of the abuse is the same in terms of percentages. Believe me, I truly think all Churches are just as afflicted as the Catholic Church. She gets all the attention because of her size and age.

Our faith is fortunately built on a foundation of Christ, not on the unstable sins of the members. From there, we can retain confidence in our faith, and confront any problems permeating the members.

The Catholic church is made up of human beings with all their fallibilities, sins and faults. Human corruption is inevitable as it is in any human organization. Jesus Christ predicted that scandal would come, and it would be bad for the one from whom it comes. But this is the strength that indicates that God sustains His Church in spite of scandal. If this was strictly a human organization, the scandal would destroy it. Indefectibility is one of the chief attributes of the Catholic Church. This means that the Church as Christ founded it, will last until the end of time. He stated the “the gates of hell shall not prevail against her” Matt.l6:l8 this means that all the powers of the devil, and human corruption would not destroy her. Over 2000 years by the facts of history, not one of her persecutors have prevailed over her, many have come to a fearful end. Jesus promised to be with her till the consummation of the
What has happened is that we have taken many things of our faith for granted. We thought by teaching our faith, following a formal routine of receiving the sacraments that we were converted. Upon examining the conduct of many Catholic Christians, and other Christian churches it became obvious that many were not converted. the Church suffered a drifting away from the encounter with Jesus Christ, a turning from sin, and turning to Christ In other words the Faith is not passed on from generation to generation just by teaching and following format routine, there had to be an encounter with Jesus Christ that caused on to give their life to God and turn away from sin, and receive His Spirit of adoption. This can not be taught. We can teach the truths of our faith, but we must receive the grace to appropriate the Faith into our lives, and this comes from the “encounter.” This is why evangelization is so important, the spreading of the Good News, that Jesus is our only Savior to redeem us from the evil works of Satan, who seeks to destroy the Church through human corruption. We need once again to become "Christio-centric. Put Jesus back into our lives!

First I share this quote with you:

“He who begins by loving Christianity [insert whatever belief/religion/worldview you hold] better than Truth, will proceed by loving his own sect or Church better than Christianity, and end loving himself better than all” (Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Aids to Reflection aphorism 25).

Then I ask you to really think about the matter you have encountered with your studies… does the brokenness you find within the Catholic Church, the evilness of many of its leaders, actually count as an argument against its truth?

The same applies to every denomination and even radical Muslims, wicked people of all sorts and their beliefs. And good people. Does the goodness of the people of a particular belief mean the belief is true? Is there any logical connection between your behavior and the truths of your beliefs?

Perhaps Catholicism is false. But, is looking at the behavior of its leaders the right judge of the truth or falsehood of Catholicism?

This is a good thing. Sin should never be justified.

I think you lost me here. It seems like you ended up studying not the CC, but the particular sins of corrupt persons attached to her.

It is for those who wish to focus on sin and scandal, but in point of fact, this is NOT “a huge portion of the history of the modern church”. It is huge in the news, but to focus on the sins of men rather than what the Church has accomplished is just to fall into the modern media bias.

So why let ourselves be drawn into such bias?

This is Satan actively at work in our classrooms, no doubt.

This is Satan’s goal- through sin to cause us all to fall away from the faith.

27 And Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away; for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ Mk 14:27–28

Satan knows this principle, so he attacks the shepherds, especially Catholic priests, knowing how much damage it will do the the whole flock.

comparitively, it really is only a few. I am curious why your studies have not included any of those declared saints in the last 100 years?

I think the best “fix” for your consternation is a better concept of the Church herself. The Church, like Christ, is incarnational in nature. She has both divine and human elements. It is not her human elements that make her indefectible and infallible, but her divine elements. Her Head is Christ, and she is ensouled by the Holy Spirit. It is these elements of divinity that make the Church Holy. Just as Christ, being both divine and human, was able to suffer pain and die, so the Church suffers through her human elements. And there are those within her that are wolves among the sheep.

The focus of your "research’ appears to be focused not on the divine elements, ,but upon the wolves among the sheep. Why are you not focusing on Humana Vitae, and the Church’s stand against contraception? Why not JP’s Theology of the Body? These works of the Holy Mother Church are monumental in this century, and it is painfully obvious how ignoring the divine principles in them has caused all of Western civilization to take a nose dive.

This question is fundamentally flawed. It is not “the Church” that is the source of corruption and destruction, but Satan, and those fallible persons who have fallen into these sins.

That being said, this occurs BECAUSE the Church is the body of Christ on earth. Of course Satan is going to try to contaminate that which is of God.

Well, this is where your error in logic lies. Evil is not the will of God,neither is corruption of His body.

I will remind you of what St. Paul wrote about members of the Body joining themselves to sin:

Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I therefore take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! 16 Do you not know that he who joins himself to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two shall become one flesh.” 17 But he who is united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. 18 Shun immorality. Every other sin which a man commits is outside the body; but the immoral man sins against his own body. 19 Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body" 1 Co 6:15–20

The divine elements of the Church cannot be hypocritical. The human elements can, and do.

By what standard? In what regard?

It is true that there have always been Catholics, (or so called Catholics) who have used positions of power in the Church for their own selfish reasons. But, just as the actions of Judas do not invalidate what the rest of the Apostles believed and did, neither to corrupt leaders invalidate the work of God in the Church.

I am very glad to hear this. It would be tragic for any faithful Catholic to look to sin as a source of good, to portray sin in a positive light, or to justify wrongdoing.

It sounds to me like you are writing an essay against sinners in the Church leadership. Personally, I agree that it is a futile exercise. It is a mystery why anyone who loved the Church would choose such a topic, rather than, say, the impact of Mother Teresa on the world. I think you just have fallen victim to the wiles of the evil one, who is still trying to demoralize the flock by using these sins.

There won’t be any recourse, if you cling to a deficient notion of the Church. The only way to prevent falling into such a state is an understanding of the nature of the Church as incarnational. One must be able to separate the sins of man from the Holiness that is the Church.

I remember when I read Catholic History and realized it was about the church trying to keep law and order in its own house. And that some of the problems just keep reappearing under different forms. It was kind of a take back for me at first. I had to do some adjusting to the idea that not everything or person in the church is perfect. Especially some who were high in the church were certainly lacking in what Jesus wanted of his followers.

But I did notice that many of our big saints, the mystics, were esentially missing from the scene. St. Catherine was briefly mentioned as one who endevored to get the papacy from France back to Rome. But that was brief narrative, and yet she really had much to contribute to our church. St. Francis was somewhat mentioned and that’s all. So going down this vein, history isn’t about the saints but about the sinners. It is also about the mistakes the human beings running the church make as well. It doesn’t mean that they were bad, but just human and errant, and much misunderstanding and unforgiveness.

In fact I’ve noticed this about American history as well…wars and political intrigue and much more juicy stuff. And after all the garbage is well noted, we came out of it as the land of the free and the land of opportunity. But it dosen’t seem thata way when reading history. It seems more like might makes right and a lot of people getting hurt along the way.

Johnny Carson once said that what people remember about us the most is not all the good things we do, but the one bad thing we do. They never forget that. And this is true of history as well.

Then too Jesus did tell us that scandals will happen. And this prophecy is still being fulfilled and always will be.

May God bless and keep you. May God’s face shine on you. May God be kind to you and give you peace.

For clarification. Are you writing on the history of the teachings/doctrine of the Catholic Church in the past 100 years, or the actions/behaviors of people who are members of the Church in the past 100 years…or both?

I understand that ultimately you (and so many others) have to process how to come to terms with the various abuses and scandals that are associated with the Church, and I don’t make light of that or it’s impact on your faith.

But as far as your thesis goes, I think that those things can be seen as different issues.

This is an odd post. Pius IX is one of the most tyrannical men ever to walk the face of the earth? It takes a pretty startling lack of perspective to get to that conclusion.

Look, yes, the Church is filled with vile and evil and hypocritical men. Today is no exception. Being Catholic does not confer immunity from the consequences of original sin, and no serious person has ever held as much. The sacraments confer grace only to those who are properly disposed to receive it, and Christ himself told us that most people are not properly disposed (narrow the way that leads to salvation and there are few who take it, and all). Why, then, obsess over the sinners, especially when there are plenty of saints to vindicate the Church’s claims?

I have some, but you may not like it.

First, your eternal salvation is waaaaaay more important than your thesis. If the material is causing you to doubt your faith, stop reading it. Men who are tempted to overindulge in alcohol shouldn’t go to bars. People who struggle with the sins of the Church probably shouldn’t immerse themselves in that discussion.

Second, there is a reason why the Catholic Church is under such heavy fire at present: we’re in the midst of a spiritual battle. And, if you’re not familiar with the details, this should be a good starting point for understanding what’s going on:

I have not read all of these articles (the second appears to have sedevacantist overtones), so I am not advocating ALL that the authors have to say, but the gist of the account of Pope Leo’s vision will tell you what you need to know.

Third, as you already know, there are more than a billion Catholics in the world, so while there have been a lot of priests and religious involved in a variety of scandals on a numerical basis, on a percentage basis, the Church is doing much better than the Protestant churches or even the public school systems. Just ask Penn State if the Church has a monopoly on pedophilia issues.

Third, as a simple point of fact, the Irish orphanage problem has been waaaay overblown and is probably a case of the media and other haters simply piling on. Here’s just one article (which you may have seen) that seems to back away from the breathless hyperbole that was all the rage just a few months ago:

Fifth, The Catholic Church, in contrast to some Protestant denominations, does not see itself as the domain of saints who have “already arrived” but rather as the hospice for sinners who are being healed. Unlike the “once saved, always saved” crowd, we hold to the teaching of Paul who exhorted us to “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” (Phil. 2:12) When asked if we are “saved”, the Catholic replies, I am already saved (Rom. 8:24, Eph. 2:5–8), but I’m also being saved (1 Cor. 1:8, 2 Cor. 2:15, Phil. 2:12), and I have the hope that I will be saved (Rom. 5:9–10, 1 Cor. 3:12–15). This is good theology.

Therefore, while I am appalled by the sex scandal involving some priests, I am not surprised. Nor am I scandalized by the actions of a handful of popes throughout our 2,000-year history. The Church is a human institution of Divine origin. Jesus said that the gates of hell would not prevail against the Church; he did not promise that every individual within the Church would be impeccable – as the passage above illustrates. Indeed, he did not promise that any of its members would be impeccable for this would be a violation of man’s free will. Instead, the Holy Spirit has preserved the truth through sinful men allowing it to survive despite man’s fallen nature. Because impeccability is not a pre-requisite for Authority, there is no legitimate reason to reject the Apostolic Authority of the Catholic Church because of the moral failures of some of its members – even those that were elected popes.

I would like to suggest that it is time for you to revisit history in the light of modern scholarship. For too long, the history of the Catholic Church (the Crusades and the Inquisition in particular) has been misrepresented by historians eager to recount the evil deeds of the Catholic Church. However, decades of serious scholarship have revealed that it is time to overturn some popular misconceptions. This is not “revisionist history” but rather “revision of history books” that were inaccurate to begin with.

Finally, in my next post, I will provide some thoughts on this subject taken from Jesus’ own teaching.


If a Church leader is guilty of gross immorality, does his sin invalidate his position or authority?

Many, if not most, Protestants would say that it does, and they often use this line of reasoning to justify their denial of the authority of the Catholic Church. They cite historical events such as the Crusades, the Inquisition or reign of the Borgia Popes as evidence that the Church has lost its claim to moral and spiritual authority.

Such a response, however, is unbiblical. For example, Scripture states that Jesus knew “from the beginning” who would betray him – namely Judas, whom Jesus calls a “devil” (cf. John 6:64–71). This fact is significant, since Judas was selected as an apostle even though Jesus knew that he was corrupt.

Another example would be found in Jesus’ teaching on “Moses’ seat” found in the opening verses of Matthew 23: “Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: ‘The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.’” (Matthew 23:1-3)

“Moses’ seat” is a phrase that referred to a position of legitimate teaching authority held by the teachers of the law and the Pharisees. Later, Jesus condemned these men as “hypocrites,” “blind guides,” “blind fools,” “serpents,” and a “brood of vipers.” But in the passage above, Jesus specifically instructed the crowds and his disciples to obey these leaders – despite their corruption – because of the authority of their position. That is sobering stuff.

If it were true that immorality invalidated a religious leader’s authority, then why did Jesus command his followers to “obey and do everything” the scribes and Pharisees tell them? Jesus merely admonished his followers not to follow their hypocritical example. There is not even the slightest hint that their positions had been forfeited or abrogated because of their hypocrisy or immorality. If anything, the reverse is true because Jesus validated these leaders’ office by telling people to obey them. From this, we see that sin and corruption found in the individual office holders has no impact whatsoever on the authority of the office itself.

In the Parable of the Weeds found in Matthew 13, Jesus tells His disciples to anticipate corruption within the Church. He said:

Jesus told them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ ‘An enemy did this,’ he replied. "The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ ‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’ (Matthew 13:24-30)

Notice it is not the world at large that is being described but rather the “kingdom of heaven” or Church that is portrayed as the field containing both wheat and weeds. Jesus does not indicate that weeds (sinners) should be uprooted from the field (Church) until the separation done at the time of the final harvest.

Of course, sin and corruption in Church leadership should never be condoned but neither should they surprise us. The Church is not a paradise for saints who are already perfected but a hospital for the spiritually sick who are being healed.

Jesus clearly taught that sin would be present in the Church, but He also taught that sins of individual Church leaders do not invalidate the authority of the positions those leaders hold. These sins, whether real or imagined, do not undermine the legitimate authority of the Catholic Church and do not provide an excuse for those who refuse to acknowledge and obey her. The authority given by God to the Church and the office of the Papacy is the same today as it was in the days of Peter, Linus, Anacletus and Clement because God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.


Finally, we should consider the following from Pope Piux XII’s 1943 encyclical, Mystici Corporis Christi:

And if at times there appears in the Church something that indicates the weakness of our human nature, it should not be attributed to her juridical constitution, but rather to that regrettable inclination to evil found in each individual, which its Divine Founder permits even at times in the most exalted members of His Mystical Body, for the purpose of testing the virtue of the Shepherds no less than of the flocks, and that all may increase the merit of their Christian faith. For, as We said above, Christ did not wish to exclude sinners from His Church; hence if some of her members are suffering from spiritual maladies, that is no reason why we should lessen our love for the Church, but rather a reason why we should increase our devotion to her members. Certainly the loving Mother is spotless in the Sacraments by which she gives birth to and nourishes her children; in the faith which she has always preserved inviolate; in her sacred laws imposed on all; in the evangelical counsels which she recommends; in those heavenly gifts and extraordinary grace through which with inexhaustible fecundity, she generates hosts of martyrs, virgins and confessors. But it cannot be laid to her charge if some members fall, weak or wounded. In their name she prays to God daily: “Forgive us our trespasses;” and with the brave heart of a mother she applies herself at once to the work of nursing them back to spiritual health. When, therefore, we call the Body of Jesus Christ “mystical,” the very meaning of the word conveys a solemn warning. It is a warning that echoes in these words of St. Leo:

[INDENT]“Recognize, O Christian, your dignity, and being made a sharer of the divine nature go not back to your former worthlessness along the way of unseemly conduct. Keep in mind of what Head and of what Body you are a member.”

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