Uncommon Problem with RCC

My story is long and very complicated (and has been discussed at length on these forums many times in the past)…so I won’t go into it.

As a brief summary, you should know that I grew up in the Catholic Church, but was never really a true Christian. My parents were “spiritual” but they went to Catholic church out of habit, not out of faith.

When I was in college (at an Evangelical school), I became a Christian for the first time (with a lot of help from my Catholic father-in-law to be) and I have been looking for a Christian home ever since.

I have spent years examining MANY different Christian denominations and I have given everyone a fair chance (at least I have tried to! I am a fallen human after all).

After making the rounds and studying all of the issues carefully, I am considering entering the Catholic Church once again (this time getting confirmed) and really becoming apart of the community there permanently.

One of the major roadblocks I am running into though is about the Catholic Church’s governing structure and the problems that come from it. Regardless of what you think about papal infallibility, papal authority, or the episcopal form of government, fair Catholics have to admit that a lot of really awful things have come from it. A lot of corruption, a lot of strife, murder, the restriction of liberty, etc. It’s a historical fact that the Catholic Church supported the kings of Europe against the democratization of the West and that the RCC was intricately tied to the opposition of the principle of separating church governance and government in general.

How do you all deal with these problems? Wouldn’t the church be better off with less authority concentrated in one church governing office?

I look at all of the corruption and problems the Catholic Church has endured over the years and I feel saddened by it. I just don’t know if I want to be apart of that. I believe Christian unity is important (one of the main reasons I am attracted to the Catholic Church), but I just can’t shake the feeling that if the Church has abused its power in the past, it could do it again.

Please don’t treat my comments harshly. I am coming here truly trying to find a way to approach these problems differently because, on my own, I haven’t been able to figure out a way to deal with them.

Any thoughts on this would be greatly appreciated.


All Churches have problems. I’m a convert from Protestantism, and I know that there were many problems that you speak of there. You will never find a perfect church. For all it’s problems, the Catholic Church has been around since the beginning, so it has something going for it. And Christ did say that the gates of Hell would not prevail against HIS church. Yes, there are problems. And that’s because the Church is made up of fallen people. But it has stuck around despite all of this. Good luck and God bless.

What about the Catholic Church’s governing structure and the good that has come from it?

You seem hung up on all the problems. I suggest you start researching and contemplating the good. You say you’re looking for a different approach. There it is. :slight_smile:

Sounds like a simplistic answer, but give it a shot. You might be surprised. :wink:

Well… here’s the thing. Did the problems you point to “come from… the Catholic Church’s governing structure”? Did the errors of past generations come from a hierarchical structure? Or, is it the case that the errors of the past come from the past? That is, can you identify the source of problems as the “Church’s governing structure”, or is just that problems happened in a particular time in history, and the governing structure happened to be around at that time? If you want to suggest that the governing structure is at fault, then wouldn’t you have to demonstrate that things you’re talking about have happened both then and now – 'cause after all, the fault lies with the hierarchical structure, right? Otherwise, you have had concede that errors of a particular age lie with that age – and not the institutions of that age, right?

A lot of corruption, a lot of strife, murder, the restriction of liberty, etc.

Fair enough. But, in order to lay these at the feet of the Catholic Church, you’re going to have to show that the Church was the cause of these things, right? And not just that the Church was present at that time, no?

It’s a historical fact that the Catholic Church supported the kings of Europe against the democratization of the West and that the RCC was intricately tied to the opposition of the principle of separating church governance and government in general.

That’s a lot of context to lay out in one post. I think that it would be more responsible to ask about the sorts of forces that were in play in those political situations, and ask why the Church stood with the existing monarchies in those contexts. To simply say “the Church supported the monarchies” is a somewhat shallow analysis, don’t you think?

I just don’t know if I want to be apart of that.

OK… that makes sense. But, does it make sense to leave the Church that Jesus founded, just because the people who populate it are… well, human? Does it make sense to run to another church, or found your own, just because the human parts of the Church aren’t perfect?

I just can’t shake the feeling that if the Church has abused its power in the past, it could do it again.

It could. We’re just human. That doesn’t mean that infallibility is wrong… but it does mean that humans can make human mistakes. The trick – if there is a trick – is to realize that doctrine is protected from error, but humans aren’t… and therefore, we always have to look at our shortcomings and ask how we might do better…! Are you going to be part of the solution, or just run away, pointing the finger at those who came before you? :wink:

Biblically, the Church is not a democracy, nor is it a collection of communities. It is a body!

Bodies, by nature, are authoritarian. Your limbs go where your mind aims them. Your eyes track wherever your mind (“you”) is looking at. Seeing and movement wouldn’t work if the parts had a veto over the head.

The Church is a corporate body, and its earthly head in in Rome.

Of course, authority can lead to trouble. The mind (or the ego) can lead the body into situations where limbs or the nose get broken, skin scuffed, etc. Likewise, the Church has made mistakes in its political activities. It was not created to do politics, but to be our LORD’s earthly body.

But the other religions have the same problem, without having the sacramental body of our LORD. Consider the religious wars of the Reformation, the witch hunt period, etc.


Now, you were speaking of the Church’s hierarchy. I know many will reach way back to the Middle Ages and talk about abuses from that time period, when not only the Church, but mankind, was quite primitive.

Were you to watch, say, something that occurred with another church, say, with the Anglican…Henry VIII and do a comparison, you might find that the Catholic Church begins to look, by comparison, maybe a bit better.

I once saw the series, “The Tudors”. It has a lot of things in it which make it not something I’d normally recommend…a lot of explicit sexual scenes, nudity, violence, but it seemed VERY accurate in many of its other things.

Further, watch “Luther” if you want to see some of the violence that also happened under his watch, as well.

I’ve noticed some also try to greatly exaggerate such things as the Inquisition, say, making the figure come out in the thousands! It wasn’t anything close!

Now, we in the Catholic Church adhere to a hierarchical system, because we believe it was inspired, by Christ, himself! Christ spoke to Peter and gave him the keys to the kingdom. He said all authority on heaven and earth had been given him (Jesus). In turn, he said, just before ascending…ONLY to Peter…that what he held bound would be held bound also in heaven! What he loosed on earth would be loosed in heaven!

So, seemed Christ transferred a good deal of authority, at that moment, to Peter! Christ changed his name to mean “Rock”…and said, “On this rock, I will establish my Church” and that the gates of hell would not prevail against it!

Christ asked Peter…3 TIMES…and Peter, alone…to shepherd his sheep! We call this exclusivity.

With the apostles, in the absence of Christ, when they argued, it was Peter who always had the last, and final, decisive word. What he said, went!

The early Christians recognized Peter’s authority. Now, Peter held like a kind of office. In his absence, his office was transferred to another, and when that person died, to another, and it’s been this way for over 2,000 years so that the Catholic Church is now the longest-lasting formal institution.

In the same way a company, country, or organization needs a structure, so does the Church! Christ anticipated this need, and that’s why he gave Peter authority so that the Church would never be lacking in leadership. If one is killed, he is immediately replaced.

I notice companies have their CEOs. Countries have their prime ministers and presidents. Try to imagine things without. It’d be chaos!

Now, some churches have no hierarchy. So, when there is a question on a matter of faith, they can’t so much as even call a council to discuss the matter, because you’re to go directly to God.

I notice other churches DO have their own leaders, but they simply avoid the term “pope”, etc.

Now, Christ even gave Peter power to forgive sins! Why would he have bothered if his intention all along had been for us to do everything directly …to God from confession all the way up?

As to the Church, and its leaders, being imperfect, that’s true. However, just because we have a Judas doesn’t mean everything’s all bad. With our human nature comes this problem. Even Peter wasn’t perfect, yet it never seemed to stop Christ from choosing him to be the “rock” of the Church or the others from becoming apostles!

Yes, we have had corruption, but I still think with all things considered, the good of the Church still outweighs the bad.

As to Papal infallibility, again…it’s often talked about as if it’s something the Pope uses everyday, when, in reality, hasn’t he actually only used it** twice **in something like 2,000 years.

For that, it has to be in the context where what he is talking about is in agreement with the faith, under VERY specific circumstances. Even in these specific, set circumstances, even the Pope does NOT have the authority to change dogma, say…beliefs already determined.
He, also, has to say he’s speaking infallibly.

There’s only so much power even a pope has, but a lot of non-Catholics often don’t seem to realize that.

It’s a historical fact that the Catholic Church supported the kings of Europe against the democratization of the West and that the RCC was intricately tied to the opposition of the principle of separating church governance and government in general.

The “democratization of the West” often involved a great deal of social disorder and civil unrest from which many people suffered. It was not a good thing. We think now that it was good because we forget the many who were killed with the implementation and because we are now steeped in the idea that “democracy” (actually represetative republicanism) is better than any other form of government, esp in the US.

Additionally, many of the “democratizers” were very anti-Catholic and/or anti-religious.

Before really being able to understand this issue, however, I think it is important for you to learn that the Catholic Church has been a force for good in the world, both on an individual and social level. Most of the history books in the US have a progressive-historical view: the writers believe that humanity just naturally develops and becomes better and better.

This is not the case. Humanity has improved because of the Catholic Church. For example, consider the rules of war embodied in the Geneva Conventions. These are derived from Catholic thinking. People in Europe before the Church, and peoples around the world not influenced by the Faith or the Geneva Conventions even now don’t take care to avoid civilian harm. This is just one example of the fact that moral improvements in human behavior have for the most part been brought about by the Church.

Once one gets away from the progressivist historical view of natural improvement and the general anti-religious bias of most of what passes for history texts in the US, one can see more clearly why the Church was against “the forces of democratization” and why this was a good thing.

I would have you consider the following Biblical passage.

1 Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 saying, "The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. 3 Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice.

(Matthew 23:1-3, New American Bible)

So, as you can see, Jesus himself tells us to obey the instructions of even wayward and corrupt clergy (inasmuch as such instructions do not directly contradict the faith), so long as we do not emulate their wayward lifestyles.

Yes, and this was a good thing, and had it been successful, Europe would be a free society today. Read Erik von Kühnelt-Leddihn.

I am currently reading (and recommend) The Global Vatican by Francis Rooney. Rooney is a former US ambassador to the Holy See. The book iss a review of the Vatican’s diplomatic relations in the past century, and I think you may feel better about how the Church positions itself as a moral leader of humanitarian issues with a unique position to influence peace, humanitarian efforts and freedom. I am learning a ton from it, and you may too.

By keeping them in perspective.


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.”

I’ve said this before, but it fits again here: A Lexus is no less a Lexus because it is being driven by a rascal.

This is rather simplistic compared to all the excellent commentary above, but it helped me wrap my head around this, so it might help you too.

The Church has been here for two millenia. Despite persecution, rampant heresies, corrupt popes and other officials…the Church is still here, and it’s still proclaiming the Good News. You know what happens to other institutions with these problems? They collapse and disappear and become mentions in history textbooks. But the Church remains. Something makes it different.

Please don’t treat my comments harshly. I am coming here truly trying to find a way to approach these problems differently because, on my own, I haven’t been able to figure out a way to deal with them



My thoughts as well. I think the Church is one of, if not the, oldest continuously (both in terms of mission and structure) operating organizations in the world (definitely it’s the oldest in the West).

What is your source for that? According to the Jewish encyclopedia, more than 13,000 Conversos were put on trial during the first 12 years of the Spanish Inquisition. And that doesn’t count all the other inquisitions.

They’re some legit points Justin. Church history is vast, it’s fascinating and there’s no need for anyone even Catholics to run from what is clearly recorded in the history books.

What institution though has faced as much scrutiny? The standards that have been placed on the Church are unprecedented. It would be foolhardy though for a Catholic to run from historical facts. Protestants seem to want to discount Church history, particularly the early Church and Church fathers, but when indulgences, the Reformation, the corruptions of the clergy are the talking points, history all of a sudden becomes relevant.

I’m not sure if we can say that because separation of church and state didn’t exist(as we know it today) in the Middle Ages, that the Church was against all freedom. At the same time I’m not saying that it was for those freedoms we know today. If those freedoms were Dogma, I’m confident they would have been preserved.

However, I would ask the questions differently. What democracy, existed at that time? Even if it did exist, was it at least Christian or was it pagan, did it really honor human rights? Where on earth during that time did a system not ruled by some monarch or emperor exist?

So the democracy combined with freedoms we’re afforded today are very modern, modern if we compare them to the Churchs history. In our own democracy that isn’t even 300 years old, have we had any of the same corruption? Have we subjected other peoples and nations to something they were inherently against? Have we contributed to conflict based on our democratic beliefs? Have we had rotten public servants who didn’t serve it’s people? These are the same questions and standards you’re applying to the Church, only updated so we can identify them to the age we live in.

Even before our nation turned 100, we had a Civil War that nearly ripped us apart, yet here we are today automatically assuming we’ll make it to 2000 years like our Church. So my point is, I’m not sure if we can arrive at the history we know today when we talk about democracy and freedom by assuming the Church blocked all paths to human rights and freedoms. Think about any other church today, would they have been able to endure those times? Even if they did affiliate themselves with an emperor or monarch, would they have been able to cohesively stay together to stay relevant?
Remember the Puritans who left for America because they were persecuted for their religion? Remember the Witch trials? How about how deplorable they treated Catholics in the 1700-1800’s , not honouring Catholic religious freedom one iota? That’s not in bold print in history books, but it’s factual, our Church made note of this.

So if the RCC has this inherently common flaws, I’m very confident you’ll find those flaws elsewhere. We can’t glorify our history as if it was sinless all righteous. Like many other things, for every critical point that can be made about the Church , you can find something she did that bore fruit, all that while preserving the Faith. The history is still being written.

Are you looking for a perfect religion or a perfect God? Sorry to sound snarky but as I understand it, The Holy Trinity is as perfect as it gets…after that we simple human folk keep mucking it up :D. Congratulations on your upcoming marriage.

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