[quote=Genesis315]That’s a good point, however, I think free will would be lost if we were all just made holy. By having all of the truth we have the best available means to be holy (which is a possibility for all of us).
Well, it may seem that way. But who’s to say how God sees it? Maybe the struggle with uncertainty and ambiguity is part of the process of becoming holy? Maybe the sort of complete certainty that some Catholics seem to want would actually be bad for us. (BTW this is not necessarily the Catholic view–I think there are ways of understanding infallibility that don’t stem from this hunger for complete certainty, and in practice infallibility doesn’t seem to provide a lot of certainty, since its precise limits become themselves a matter of fierce debate. But it’s often presented in fora like this one as if that were its selling point.)
[quote=Genesis315]I would think understanding the truth of the Real Presence would be of the utmost importance and everyone would love to know and understand it as deeply as possible.
There’s a big difference between what we might like and what is necessary for us. It’s nice to understand the chemical composition of the food I eat, but I don’t need to do so in order to be nourished. The fact that scientists might argue about the way in which the food nourishes me doesn’t prevent me from being nourished (though it might have some impact on what I eat and how, so it’s not irrelevant).
[quote=Genesis315]People always mention that there are doctrines that are meaningless, but I can never think of any. Usually they are just referring to contraception. :rolleyes:
I’m not sure about that, but at any rate I would never say that any doctrine of Catholicism is meaningless. I’m just not sure that they are all so central that if the Church was wrong about some of them it would follow that the gates of hell had prevailed. If the Church said that Jesus was divine when He really wasn’t, then the gates of hell would have prevailed. Arguably if the Church taught idolatry toward the Blessed Virgin, then the gates of hell would have prevailed. But not all the points at issue are of such importance.
[quote=Genesis315] While we’re on it, that might be a good example since it is a doctrine that has changed in protestant communities (it was once sinful, now it’s not). Your average protestant I guess wouldn’t think it was a big deal whether or not one thinks it is a sin or not. But, why wouldn’t I want to live in a way most pleasing to God? If using contraception was not pleasing to God (which it’s not) then it is a big deal and detracts from my ability to be holy.
True. But consider this: we would all agree today that owning slaves is always displeasing to God. The Church has never taught that slavery was a good thing. But it has not always taught that owning slaves (as opposed to enslaving innocent people) is always wrong. There are many documented cases of Popes and clergy owning slaves–in the 19th century I understand that the Jesuits at Georgetown owned slaves. Some people (like Rodney Stark) claim that this was simple disobedience to the Church’s teaching, but I see no evidence for this. The Catholic Church disapproved of slavery, but it was a nuanced disapproval that left Catholics on the ground a lot of leeway. Now I grant that this is not parallel to the mainline Protestant attitude toward birth control. But I’d argue that it is roughly parallel to the mainline Protestant attitude toward abortion. Mainline denominations deplore abortion but seem to regard it as a necessary evil in some cases.
I’m not trying to draw exact parallels, only to point out that the Catholic Church has taken morally problematic positions, leaving ambiguity where today we would see total condemnation as the only legitimate option. Of course, the Church’s position on the execution of heretics is even more obvious, since the Church explicitly taught that heretics should be executed, while today it clearly teaches that people should not be persecuted for their religion. (The other example often cited is usury, which actually is a fairly good parallel with the Protestant shift on contraception.)
This is not an argument against infallibility. It’s an argument against your implicit claim that Catholicism offers moral clarity whenever and wherever needed. Quite clearly it does not. It would, I’m convinced, have been very helpful to St. Thomas More in his striving for holiness if the Church had told him that it was wrong to persecute heretics, instead of telling him (as it did) that it was a sacred duty. If, as we both agree, St. Thomas More managed to become a saint in spite of being led astray by the Church on that score, then surely people can also become saints while being led astray on some more abstruse doctrinal point.