The sins of Catholics do not affect the truth of teaching?

Hi there, I was hoping you might be able to help me with a question I have

Whenever some awful scandal comes out about church abuses, or people talk about something bad the Catholic church did a few decades or centuries ago one of the lines I’ve often heard is “Bad behavior of members does not change the truth of its teachings”.

How can this be? If the Catholic Church is as claimed the one and only instrument of God to bring about the salvation of souls he seems to have picked a very inefficient way of doing it. Any book on Papal history can show many pontiffs who were less than ideal examples of Catholic faith. Now maybe the office is separate from the corrupt individual…But to repeatedly thrust power into the hands of individuals (Let’s take the German Bishops who have the “pay to take sacraments” policy; essentially pay me or I’m condemning you to hell) who like the so called “Bishops of Bling” use it to further their own ends…Either somethings not quite right with how this salvation plan is supposed to work (i.e: God didn’t realize humans would be as corrupt as they are), or saving souls apparently wasn’t the creators number one priority. The whole apostolic system seems very open to abuse, and doesn’t seem to fit with the idea of a deity who wants to see souls saved.It fits perfectly with the idea of an absolute law, but not with any concept of benevolence.

One bad egg doesn’t mean the whole basket is off, but when the very core system itself is very inefficient and in practice does not and has never worked (i.e: There has never been a period without corrupt clerics) why is that not indicative of some very deep problems with the theory.

On a far more basic crude level; in the same way North Korea isn’t fit to lecture anyone on human rights, how is the Catholic Church qualified to lecture anyone about the welfare of children or vulnerable individuals? Doesn’t “Do as I say, not as I do” sound hypocritical?

It’s just something that crossed my mind, and I wondered what the Catholic opinion on it was.

Thanks if you can help.

The Church, being manned by human beings, is guilty of perpetual hypocrisy. Except for the Saints, it does not practice what it preaches and therefor it is the worlds most reliable institution because it never changes its preaching to conform to its practice. All the rest of us do, we rationalize, the Church however, does not.

Because the church is infallible on faith and morals not impeccable. Look the words up. Neither one even remotely infers the other… Also many of those who accuse the church like that are in communities as bad or worse than we are…not a consolation…just a reality.

Oh absolutley, there are thousands of groups who can be considered to be morally debased. I’m reluctant to use the words good or bad here but there are many groups who are less “good” than the Catholic Church.

You mentioned the impeccability and infallibility on matters of faith…And this is where my problem creeps in. This power to rule continues time and again to fall into the hands of some very shady individuals, less so today but back in the middle ages it was the equivalent of handing Kim Jong Un a nuclear missile. Infalliable on the matter or not, he was Christs vicar, “father knows best”.

If the Pope is infallible (not a matter I want to explore on this thread) then doesn’t this speak against the idea of a deity who wants your soul to be saved? They may be in safer hands at this moment in time but why are the keys to heaven continually given to some of the most depraved men to ever walk the earth?

Either the Pope’s not all he’s cracked up to be, or God doesn’t seem to care an awful lot about his creation. Either way something smells off :confused: (just my first thoughts on the matter)

Thanks for your response.

I’m not going to argue about the church changing or not changing in this thread (don’t want to derail) but if this is the case…Mouth says one thing, body is always doing something different doesn’t this say some pretty negative things about the salvation plan? Why was a system so prone to abuse chosen by an all seeing and supposedly compassionate deity?

On the contrary…it affirms we have free will including the freedom to surrender our will to God’s. And we have the Saints to model that it is in fact possible through the preaching of the Catholic church which, like Noah’s ark, confirms by it’s 2000+ year presence that the perfect love of God is inclusive of all that we perceive (from our limited vantage point) to be imperfect.

Okay…I guess this raises a whole other bunch of questions

If the survival of the Roman Catholic Church attests to its divine protection, surely the survival of the Japanese Royal family attests to the truth of the Shinto claim that they are the descendants of the sun-Goddess Amaterasu “who’s light shall never extinguish”? If anything they’ve got a better claim, since their history has been traced as far back as 660BC at earliest and it is suspected of being older than that.

And as for the matter of free will…If you cared about a child in a house that was about to burn to the ground what would you do? Would you open the door an inch so they have the option of leaving, or because you care for them would you drag them out kicking and screaming if need be?

The latter is love, the former is apathy; you don’t really care if the child lives or dies. If it does, nice if not…No biggie.

As for not comprehending divine will…If Good and Evil are absolutes with no grey in between as the Church attests, it should be a simple matter to identify them surely? Unless of course again, this deity doesn’t care and leaves it all to chance if you correctly define good and evil or not.

Please read up on Papal infallibility to understand what it really refers to. This is a greatly misunderstood topic.

It refers to an occasion upon which the Pope defines a doctrine or dogma addressing a matter of faith or morals. I get that.

Here is the problem though; it’s pretty unclear when exactly he was doing it.

Proclamations such as John Paul II’s were very clear that there were never to be women priests. This has generally been held to meet the criteria of an infallible statement.

Innocent III however proclaimed himself/the office of pope to be undoubtedly Lord of the World, and yet while at the time it was given a token nod of respect since he insisted on it so frequently nobody seems to believe that to be infallible anymore if they ever did.

Both were promoted as matters of faith in their time, but only one is getting acknowledgement. Rather like how Pius IX and several Popes prior insisted opposition to freedom of religion (especially that of the Jews, Protestants and Muslims) was a matter of faith as well, so much so it used to burn heretics, non-believers and other non-Christians for it. Not as often as some claim admittedly, but it still did as a matter of faith.

Surely these are matters of faith to be taken seriously, after all Clement was defining the “correct” interpretation of scripture.

Let’s take it up a notch though

“Decree now for all time”…That sounds pretty absolute, moreso than anything John Paul II ever said. Why is the RC not seeking to purge the Jews from common society anymore? If this is infallible as claimed surely it’s a matter of morals to do so?

The point you are missing in this discussion is that every human ever born (other than Mary… another discussion) is/was a sinner. So of course Catholics be they the Pope or a lay person are all sinners. They sin over and over and over again. However, when it comes to teaching on FAITH and MORALS, the Pope alone, is preserved from error. He can error/sin about anything else but not this because GOD is doing the preserving. It is why in spite of the sinners within, the Church can and does still teach the truth. It’s why in spite of the ways of the world the Church stands firm in her doctrine even though some prelates, bishops, priests lay people might go astray. The Church through the grace of God cannot when it comes to faith and morals.

I have thought about this question also. What comes to mind is the saying: By their fruits you will know them. I know some Mormons who are really decent people of high moral character. Similarly with the Amish. Then the question comes to mind about whether there might be something in their religion which helps them attain this type of life. As I read about the scandals in the Roman Catholic Church and read the polls indicating that a majority of American Roman Catholics think it is OK for a married couple to use artificial birth control, and thereby it seems like they do not see anything wrong with committing a mortal sin, I scratch my head, and begin to think about some of the questions you have raised.

Again, this is about what is being taught by the Church, not how many people choose to disregard the those teachings. Sinners within and without.


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.

If one Church group has people of high moral character, whereas another does not, can you draw any conclusion based on the maxim: By their fruits you will know them?

I think the point you are trying to make, if I understand it correctly, has some serious problems with it, and the examples you have given in the above-quoted paragraph don’t illustrate that point.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but you are trying to say that the alleged infallibility of the pope has sometimes resulted in it being hard for some people to obtain salvation. Therefore, a wise God would have chosen some other means to save people.

Now, I may be misunderstanding your argument, so please correct me if I’m wrong in that summary.

But if that’s basically correct, the main problem I see with it is that there are almost zero occasions where the pope’s infallibility directly affects the average person’s salvation. The fact that the pope can occasionally be guaranteed to teach the truth occasionally helps us straighten out some doctrinal confusions. Except in unusual cases where a person’s conversion is hindered by a struggle regarding a doctrinal point where the pope has ruled or may speak infallibly, I don’t see how the pope’s infallibility is related to anyone’s salvation.

Do you have a more clear example, or am I misunderstanding what you mean?

Regarding the examples you gave:

You mentioned that some German bishops used to require people to pay them before they would administer the Sacraments. I’m not familiar with this and I would like to have more information. Do you mean there used to be some bishops who wanted a collection to be taken at Mass? Because that goes back to the Apostles – the laborer is worth his wages, and all that. They have to eat. Therefore, they needed money. But something tells me that’s not what you mean.

Perhaps you mean that a wise God wouldn’t make the giving of grace and forgiveness dependent on people who can simply refuse to give out that grace and forgiveness. But, first of all, that has nothing to do with infallibility, second of all, if a bishop or a priest refused to forgive you or administer the Sacraments to you for no good reason, you could still obtain grace and forgiveness through prayer and contrition. Thirdly, if God did not work through sinful humanity, our religion would be gnostic rather than incarnational. God wants His people to cooperate in dispensing His grace because it brings them closer to Himself. He doesn’t make your salvation absolutely dependent on other people, but He does involve other people in your salvation because it is within the nature of the good to involve other people in spreading the good.

Does that make sense?

I understand what you are saying and you present an interesting case. But I’m not sure if papal encyclicals or bulls are considered by the Church to be infallible documents of faith. Nor are the esteemed Church Fathers, apart from the Pope, considered infallible in matters of faith.

Actually this is something that is current in Germany, unless you pay 8-9% of your earnings Catholics are barred from all the sacraments and are forbidden to call themselves Catholics. It’s defined as apostasy not to do so which is a first class ticket to hell.

Iceland and Spain have the similar rules too, but I don’t think they pay as much as we do.

Does Spain excommunicate like they are doing in Germany? The tax is a major reason why Germany is so religiously “spun around” and coming undone.

To the OP - I will eventually respond to your posts once I have time.

God Bless

Do the sins of Christians affect the truth of Jesus’ teachings?:rolleyes:

A police officer can pull me over for any reason and demand to see my driver’s license. He has the authority to do so given to him by somebody. Even still, he could have been off duty on Friday night, had too many beers with his buddies and driven home impaired. He still can pull me over and check my license and arrest me on the spot if he wishes. Regardless of human weakness, rather because of it, we need police patrolling our streets.

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