Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Pope Fact: Infallible does not mean sinless

The question I got from Mehridith at the bottom of this older post is a common one:

"I don't understand how one can come to the conclusion that someone is without sin; i.e., the Pope being infallible. Can someone explain this to me, a faithful Protestant?" 

I whipped off a quick answer:
Hi Mehridith! I think I can clear it up fairly quickly. We don't believe that popes are without sin. All of them were/are sinners, and some were grave, horrible sinners. So, infallibility does not mean what you think it means. It means that, sinners that they are, the popes will never teach doctrine which is in error. Like the writers of the Bible who wrote without doctrinal error… the popes cannot teach error on issues of faith and morals. Hope that helps! I will come and write more in a bit if I get a chance. (But basically, infallibility is not impeccability.)
To expand just a bit, here are the facts:

1) All of the 266 popes have sinned, including the first pope, St. Peter, who committed among the worst of sins: He denied Christ three times during Christ's Passion.

2) While all of the popes have been sinners, it's also true that many of the popes have practiced heroic virtue, rising to the heights of great sanctity. The first popes (and several subsequent popes) died as martyrs for the faith, and many popes have been canonized or beatified. Saintly popes are common.

3) Though most popes were good and holy men, there were a handful of popes who were bad, wicked and/or corrupt. A recounting of their personal sin would make your hair curl! It is entirely possible that there are popes in hell.

4) Whether saintly or evil, no pope has ever taught heresy (i.e., no pope has ever taught error as truth). The Holy Spirit guides the Church and protects her so that the faithful will never be led into doctrinal error -- no matter who sits in the Chair of Peter.

5) If you wonder how someone can speak truth while not living it, think of a math professor teaching his students perfectly correct formulas and concepts, while he himself cheats on his taxes and cannot seem to keep a balanced checkbook. Or think of a chronic adulterer who preaches that adultery is wrong. His actions are evil, but what he says is perfectly true.

Just as God protected sinful men from teaching doctrinal error when writing the Bible, He also protected sinful Peter and his sinful successors from teaching doctrinal error while leading His Church.

Infallibility does not mean impeccability.

Related posts:

The Pope is not as powerful as you think

The different types of infallibility

"…and the Papacy remains"

Protestants: It's time to come back



  1. I'm a pretty bad apologetic, but I was able to explain this correctly recently to a friend who's staunch in her Protestant faith, and no fan of the Pope (any Pope, I imagine).

    Too bad I couldn't coherently explain the need for confession to a priest, too, rather than just telling God, "Sorry!" and being done with it. Or that simply obeying the 10 commandments earns a direct pass to heaven.

  2. GFNY, I am pretty sure you are a good apologist! :)

  3. Okay. . . I'm going to try to field this, as a cradle Protestant well on her way to Rome. I defer to Leila if she disagrees with me. We are told in Scripture not only to confess our sins to God, but "one to another" (James 5:16) Christ also told his apostles when He gave them the Holy Spirit " If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained." which is the Biblical validation for the priest's right to forgive sins in Christ's name. It can't belong to EVERY Christian, as Protestants attest, because after all, if more than one person is hurt by someone's sin, and one person forgives him, but the other does not, what then? And simply obeying the 10 Commandments is a weak "but I've been a good person" argument. We are clearly told in the Bible that no one can earn Heaven, that it is a gift from God. "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast." Ephesians 2:8-9. BUT, in contrast to the Protestant argument that faith is all we need to be saved, James clearly states that "faith without works is dead." BOTH must be present for a man to work out his salvation "with fear and trembling." (Phillipians 2:12) I hope this helps you. :)

  4. Cassi, you are going to make a great Catholic with that kind of answer! Welcome home (almost)!!!

    And to add to the John chapter 20 quote ("If you forgive the sins of any…"), I wrote the following, which discusses what happens right before, when Jesus breathes on them:

    Pretty dramatic stuff, which cannot be ignored! (Only two times in the entire Bible does God breathe on man.)

  5. Thanks for the vote of confidence, Leila, but I really struggled with the confession issue. I knew what I wanted to say, but couldn't verbalize it, which is often an agonizing problem for me in the heat of discussion. It's always after the conversation is done that I realize exactly what I needed to say.

    She kept saying that she "didn't need the Pope" for confession or to communicate with God. I told her that I didn't, either, but that the Pope's purpose is to defend/explain/interpret doctrine and to keep the Church unified in those aspects. I'll have to remember the verses both of you mentioned. She's quite on the liberal/Democratic side, and I have little doubt she sees the Pope as an oppressor of women. She has never said that directly, but that's definitely the feeling I get.

    She also stated clearly that she was going to heaven. "Not purgatory, not hell, but heaven." She hasn't broken any of the ten commandments so that's where she's going. I was a bit dumbfounded at her statement, which I wasn't sure was based on horrible theology, arrogance or both. Cassi, where were you (you too, Leila!) when I needed you?! ;-)

    I don't assume that anyone is going to heaven. We all want to hope that we get there, but assuming that's a given is as wrong as assuming it's a given that even if you are best practicing and truly believing Catholic out there, that you are exempt from sadness and tragedy. That's something else that blows my mind. Even before I finally started learning about my faith in the past couple of years, at least I had those issues figured out. I've read where people say, well, I've never missed church, I do this good thing, I do that good thing, I've never done that bad thing or that other bad thing (checking off boxes), but when stuff happens, they're the first ones to cry, "Why me?! I'm a good Catholic! I've never missed Mass!" and so on, and then they usually turn away from God. When a teenaged family member died a couple years ago, a family friend, himself with two young adult children, told me that if ever he lost a child, he'd lose his faith. I was shocked; honestly, for him to say that, he didn't have any faith THEN.

    Enough O/T stuff for now. Good luck on your faith journey, Cassi!

  6. Where was I? Most likely still learning why everything I ever thought about Catholicism was wrong, lol. ;) I've been exploding my brain nightly for about a month now. I've finally reached a point where I'm not giving myself a headache anymore, praise God. I think perhaps coming from a Protestant background gives me an edge in explaining Catholicism to Protestants. . . but I AM of a conservative bent, so I'm not sure how well I'd relate to your friend. :) Leila, you should know that your blog has been a wonderful source of both information and understanding for me in my search for a church/denomination/congregation that preaches and practices (or at least expects) God's Truth. Thanks for your insightful posts!

  7. I just explained confession to my Southern Baptist MIL. I think there are a couple of different key points.
    1) The Biblical quotes showing that God did indeed given certain men the power to forgive sins on His behalf.
    2) On a theological level, it is a ritual that is tied in with receiving communion worthily. (Another Biblical injunction, that even my MIL remembers her mother telling her before receiving the Lord's Supper.)
    3) Confession is a physical way to repair our personal relationship with God. If I hurt my friend, I might feel sorry, but things might not be right between us if I don't apologize and made amends. Furthermore, I will know things are at least a little better if I HEAR her say she forgives me.
    Confession offers a physical means of physically telling God we are sorry and physically hearing that we are forgiven and what we can do to make amends for our transgression. Obviously, God knows all of our thoughts and feelings, but confession is there to help US keep up OUR side of the relationship.
    4) The process of going to Confession regularly makes us more accountable for ours sins. Before you go, it is best to go through an Examination of Conscience and really evaluate all of your behavior since the last confession. And E of O is an impartial list of sins...and when you see it in black and white it is much harder to rationalize away your actions. It also might remind you of sins you had forgotten.
    It is easy to fall into the spiritual trap of believing that you have never really done anything "too bad" without regular impartial accountability.
    5) The act of having to admit what you have done out loud can be really embarrassing...and as such, it makes you want to avoid doing THAT sin again. You can also become aware of your particular patterns of sin that you need to work on.
    6) The Confessional is an amazing conduit of the Holy Spirit. Both my husband and I have gone to Confession and found ourselves getting relief for a problem we had never intended to bring up, since it didn't seem relevant to confession at all.

  8. When we were studying Catholicism and learning about infallibility, we immediately looked up the "bad popes." Not one of them issued anything ex cathedra regarding faith or morals binding to the faithful. We were stunned. Remember when Jesus told the disciples that once He left and the Holy Spirit came, that He would "guide them into all truth" (My ex-pastor husband is the chapter-and-verse guy but he's not here right now for the reference!)? Well, there it is. Even though these men were popes, the doctrines of the Church were protected. Guided. I still get all excited writing it out now!

  9. Thanks for this! I loved your math teacher example. Will be keeping it in the back of my head.

    A friend of mine blogged the other day about how all "bible Christians" believe in infallibility too - the authors of scripture were in fact infallible in their writing! Why hadn't this dawned on me as a Protestant?

  10. Cassi, I'm a recent convert and I can rely relate to the idea of "exploding your brain" every night. That was me for three years! I'm so glad to be in Christ's Church where I belong. Having been a staunch anti-Catholic Protestant has given me a real desire to articulate Catholic teachings with clarity and passion. I consider myself blessed to have taken the scenic route to the Church! Praying for you as you discern. :)

    @Leila, I didn't realize that there were only two instances in Scripture in which God has breathed on man. Whoa.

  11. Wow, well, I always say that the comments are the best part of this blog. Ladies, thank you!! Keep those thoughts and stories coming!

  12. Just a picky note, but not sure where you are getting your info on the first 31 popes. The claim that they were all martyred is spurious.

  13. A little off the subject here, but I found a list of popes and was surprised at how many of them became saints!

  14. I remember listening to a talk by the late great Bishop Sheen. He pointed out (the obvious). Never has a pope (even the questionable ones) amended or tried to change Gods commandments.

  15. I wish I could think like you....................

  16. We could bring this argument down to scale to satisfy so many who believe that Catholicism and Catholics in general are one big hypocrisy. I hear it often, "How can you believe what Father So-and-So says, when he was caught doing x, y, z..." as well as on the flipside, saying that "Mrs. A is a Catholic, and SHE believes x, y, z, so clearly Catholics are not unified on that issue..."

    What a practicing Catholic does, says, or believes is not what dictates what is TRUTH, regardless of how high up on that hierarchy the practicing Catholic is ;) There's a reason we call ourselves "practicing," after all. I've yet to hear someone say they are a perfected Catholic.

  17. BTW, Leila, have you ever thought about consolidating these Little Teachings into a book? I'm seriously asking. I think just a page at a time is so much easier to absorb for a lot of of people than an entire chapter. As Cassie said (I think it was her that said it) her head felt like it would explode trying to learn Catholicism. I'm not suggesting that you Little Teachings replace any classes for new converts to attend, but just as a simple review--and for the rest of us Catholics who need a refresher, it would help us too.

    Just something to think about and pray about.

  18. Mary, no worries, you are not being picky. It's a number I have read in more than one place, and comports with common sense (for the first three hundred years it was illegal to be a Christian and could easily cost you your life. There were countless martyrs, and popes were elected pretty much knowing they would by martyred). There are many documents and much written history available about those early centuries, so I assumed that the number was sound. I will do more digging to be sure, and if you can tell me why you consider that number to be spurious, let me know! I'm interested.

    And Becky and Rebecca, yes, I've thought about it! :) Still thinking! :)


    Mary, here is the link to the list of popes and their biographies. Sometime today I will go through and look at their causes of death. You can check it out if you'd like and let me know, too! :)

  20. I have a really hard time wrapping my mind around this; to the non-Catholic atheist it reads like a giant loophole for all sorts of inappropriate behavior. Is it really okay for a Pope who sleeps with women and calculates the murder of other people (courtesy of HBO's "the Borgias," I know, it's entertainment, not academic) as long as he confesses every week, is in close commune with God and upholds Catholic doctrine?

    I hesitate to bring up the proverbial pedophile priest but I'd have an extremely difficult time explaining to my hypothetical child that even though Father molested him, the doctrine he taught and the scripture he recited was all par excellence in teaching.

    Anyways, my apologies for breaking into the discussion. Time for another cup of coffee.


    1. Gwen, how would you explain to your hypothetical child that even though grandma molested him/her that not all grandmas hurt children? Just wondering....

  21. Gwen, is it a logical problem for you? I'm not sure I get it. The promise is that the Pope will not teach error, not that his actions will be good. We rely on him to know the truth, not as a saintly role model (though it's nice when they are, and they usually are saintly). Didn't the math professor analogy help?

  22. Gwen, let me try it this way. The papacy was established by Christ to be a teaching office. Teaching. That's so that the people on earth can know where to find Truth, and that it would be taught clearly and without error until the end of time. It's for us. It's a promise for us.

    The personal behavior of the popes is not connected to the teaching office. God does not mess with any human being's free will choices, not even the popes. If a pope wants to sin his way to hell, God will not stand in his way. Free will is the greatest gift God gives us, and he does not touch it.

    But God will not allow his people to be taught error on what we believe (faith) and how we are to live (morals). And the papacy has never failed in that regard. We see the truth clearly and unchanging, by looking to Peter's successor and his teaching (not his behavior).

    It's a supernatural protection. But that protection is not extended to the personal behavior of a pope, or that would violate his free will.

    Again, it's a TEACHING office.

    Hope that helps!

  23. Is it really okay for a Pope who sleeps with women and calculates the murder of other people (courtesy of HBO's "the Borgias," I know, it's entertainment, not academic) as long as he confesses every week, is in close commune with God and upholds Catholic doctrine?

    No, it's not okay. A pope (or any Catholic) who does not have remorse for his sins will not make a valid confession, will not be granted absolution, and thus will not be in "close commune with God". He will be in a state of mortal sin and will be separated from God unless he repents of his sin, has a firm purpose of amendment, and vows to try and sin no more.

    It's something many non-Catholics don't realize about confession - it's not a "get out of jail free" card. For a confession to be valid, true repentance is necessary, otherwise the sin is retained. If the person doing the confessing professes repentance, but is not truly repentant in his heart, God knows the difference.

    When you think about it, it's truly amazing that there were Popes who had concubines, mistresses, committed murders, etc. and yet never once taught error as doctrine.

  24. "When you think about it, it's truly amazing that there were Popes who had concubines, mistresses, committed murders, etc. and yet never once taught error as doctrine."

    This is probably the strongest proof of and argument for the protection of the Holy Spirit over the teaching of the papal office that I have ever seen.

  25. Thanks JoAnna and Leila, this makes more sense now.


    1. "I hesitate to bring up the proverbial pedophile priest but I'd have an extremely difficult time explaining to my hypothetical child that even though Father molested him, the doctrine he taught and the scripture he recited was all par excellence in teaching. "

      Gwen, I realize you hesitated to bring it up, but you still brought it up. I think it's a slight back handed way of being passive aggressive. So you hesitate to bring it up and then don't acknowledge it when you are addressed....The argument can fly both ways. Funny how we always hear about the Priests but never when it happens in our own homes. Harder pill to swallow? What do we do to Grandma or Momma who abuse children??? We just ignore and place the blame on the Priests......As you have shown.......

    2. Yeah, I did hesitate writing that so I acknowledged my thought process by including the words, "I hesitate..." And yes, be it a pedophile priest or a family member, it is a hard pill to swallow that someone who should/would be a mentor, a leader, an inspiration to a child would instead muddle the message so to speak, with molestation. Hard (for me) to believe that after performing unspeakable acts to a child, one could indeed confess and be repentant truly in one's heart of hearts in front of God.

    3. And how one can be this celestial being of a grandmother and still abuse in the darkness of the night.

      Have you missed the news stories of pastors of Protestant churches raping their daughters on the altars before every sermon?

      You see, the disorder is just not in the catholic church. And truthfully, would like someone to acknowledge that fact...I'm assuming that is why you hesitated. you know sexual abuse goes far beyond the catholic church.

  26. Thank you for this bloggy. Printing this off and reading to children tonight.

  27. Hard (for me) to believe that after performing unspeakable acts to a child, one could indeed confess and be repentant truly in one's heart of hearts in front of God.

    Thank goodness our God is just that merciful. Because the slime and filth I have committed in my past, in embracing every one of the seven deadly sins (and yet looking to all the world as completely acceptable), is enough to make me want to vomit when I think of it. And yet God forgives me. I don't deserve it. But he does. He makes all things new, and I am eternally grateful.

    And personally, I believe that dismembering an innocent, helpless human child in the womb is "performing unspeakable acts to a child". And yet not only are those acts committed daily here, by the thousands, but we champion those who do the dismemberment, and we even pay for our friends to have the dismemberment done on their own children. Are we that less despicable than the other sinners? Or do we just not see our own sin and evil acts while we perceive the sins of others so clearly?

    It's a question I've had to confront myself, many times.

    God's greatest attribute is his mercy.

  28. Thanks JoAnna and Leila, this makes more sense now.

    I am glad. And, you know you are welcome to break into the conversation at any time. You are a part of the Bubble family. :)

  29. Mary (or any non-Catholic here… Gwen?), did you see For Greater Glory?

  30. Mary, I have changed the wording of my original post until I can find the time to research the correct number. Suffice to say, if one became a pope or bishop in the early Church, one expected to be put to death. Martyrdom was the norm in those days of persecution in the Roman Empire. I want to be accurate, though, so I will leave the number vague for now. :)

  31. No, I haven't seen For Greater Glory and haven't decided if I will or not. I'm wary of watching a film that reportedly* doesn't do justice to the complexities of the historical events it chronicles**

    *depending on which movie review you read.
    ** yes, I realize many movies fail in this regard.

  32. The way that I explain failures on the parts of priests, Popes, and anyone who calls themselves Catholic is this:

    The Faith does not fail. Humans do when they do not LIVE the Faith.

    My pastor is an amazing priest; he's orthodox, meaning strictly adherent, to Catholic doctrines. What he preaches from the pulpit, one-on-one, and on the street can all be found in Catholic doctrine. The Catechism of the Catholic Church [CCC] is an excellent reference on doctrine, for anyone out there who's curious. I think the world of this priest.

    I also know that, because he's human, he sins, though I do not what his sins are.

    Let's say some day I learn that he has a girlfriend. Or a boyfriend. Or both. Maybe he has a child or two. Or that he's stolen money...or heaven forbid, committed a sexual crime.

    I would be devastated for him and those he hurt, BUT, I would recognize that his failure was in NOT living in accordance with the Faith, not a failure of the the Faith itself. Huge difference.

    Speaking of the CCC, the friend in question also said that she read in the CCC years ago that Jesus wasn't Jewish. WHAT?! I had NEVER heard that before, and have always been taught that Jesus was a Jew. I pointed out Jesus' presentation in the Temple and Mary's purification were done as they were observant Jews. She swore she read it in the CCC. I have a copy, but it's in the abyss of boxes I'm packing. Can anyone here shed light on that? It blew my mind what she misunderstood about the Church.

  33. Miss Gwen, as a lover of cultures and history, had you ever heard of that particular Mexican war against the Church?

  34. I would be devastated for him and those he hurt, BUT, I would recognize that his failure was in NOT living in accordance with the Faith, not a failure of the the Faith itself. Huge difference.

    GFNY, that is brilliantly stated! Exactly!

    And, the fact that Jesus was a Jew is about as basic as "water is wet". I cannot even imagine what your friend was thinking, nor where she got such erroneous info. Certainly not from history, the Church or the CCC. Sad! That is cultural illiteracy, plain and simple.

  35. May I add another thought regarding the pedophile priests? Every day in our nation's schools, teachers molest students. BUT, as is the case with the priests, it is a relatively small number. Does this cause us to say the whole school system is evil, or all teachers are bad people? Actually, a greater percentage of teachers than priests are child molesters. And people bash the Catholic Church over this who wouldn't dream of mistrusting their children's educators. If your child's math teacher is accused of molesting one of his classmates (or even if it's found to be absolutely true), does that cause you to doubt the validity of the Pythagorean Theorem? If I could tell unbelievers one thing, and have it stay with them, I think it would be this: Don't judge the Lord by His people. Too many publicly claim the name of Christ, but don't mean it, and even those who are sincere are subject to falling into sin, both deliberate and purely accidental. We aren't perfect; He is.

  36. Cassi, well stated! Thank you!!

    And, here's an AP article about abusing (and passed-along) teachers, which tells a horrible tale, much worse in numbers than the priest scandal:

    And the Pythagorean Theorem still stands. Go figure.

  37. I'm certainly not disputing that abuse happens in many situations/contexts or suggesting that it only happens amongst Catholic priests and children.

    That said, last time I checked teaching someone the Pythagorean Theorem didn't involve ingesting an entire philosophy/ideology about a deity who is perfect, a moral code to live by and the promise of an afterlife if one lives according to God's plan.

  38. That said, last time I checked teaching someone the Pythagorean Theorem didn't involve ingesting an entire philosophy/ideology about a deity who is perfect, a moral code to live by and the promise of an afterlife if one lives according to God's plan.

    Miss Gwen, I'm not sure how this is relevant?

    Look, if a pope were uneducated, youthful and dumb, he still would not be teaching error as pope. Even if he did not "ingest an entire philosophy", he still would teach the same truths that have come before, and never reverse or omit any part of the moral law, or the tenets of the Faith. The basics of faith and morals can be stated very simply: (for example) Murder of any innocent is intrinsically evil. Contraception defiles and changes the nature of a sacred act. Mary was Immaculately conceived, i.e., she is and has always been sinless. God is a Trinity of Persons. Etc.

    Not every pope was known for exploring the depth and beauty of these unchanging truths. Some popes did that/do that better than others. Some popes may have been less intelligent or eloquent and may have said very little. But none have or will steer the faithful off a doctrinal cliff. Truth will always be taught from the See of Peter, guaranteed.

    It's really incredibly simple and deeply profound at the same time.

    Hope that makes sense.

    And the very best book which illustrates how this happens practically speaking, with real life examples, is Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic, by David Currie. His chapter on authority gives some examples in history that still blow me away.

  39. Points to Miss G for quickly jumping on the weak spot in my argument (which I was already aware existed): that teaching someone math has nothing to do with morals. Still, if you'd rather compare apples to apples, we could say that even if that teacher screws up his checkbook (or deliberately writes a bunch of bad checks), the math principles he teaches still remain valid. Another large difference being that a math teacher CAN (if he loses his mind and wants to get fired) teach errant mathematical principles in his classroom. In contrast, the church is assured of Christ's promise that the papal office will be protected by the Holy Spirit from teaching error in the areas of faith and morals. If you haven't yet read the posts Leila links at the end of this one, I recommend it; they're quite good for helping understand that point. However, if you don't subscribe to an actual belief in the founding principles of the Christian faith, I am going to be very weak in the area of helping you understand the Catholic point of view. That is my personal weakness; I simply have no working idea how to "meet you where you are." I will happily discuss with you what I have learned, but I fear my foundation in Christianity and your apparent opposing position (I deduce from other comment threads) will create a gulf in understanding that we can't quite bridge. I'd like to think we can still treat each other kindly. :) Leila, I keep hearing so much about that particular book; I'm dying to read it, but I already have so many backlogged! I'll get there, though.

  40. Sexual abuse is sexual abuse. No matter WHO does it...


    There is no discrimination in evil. Truthfully, I'm not sure how a father could molest a child or do perverse acts in front of a child. That blows my mind....But lets not stop talking about the Priest abuse scandals. Here is the thing, if that is what you want to concentrate on, don't discriminate. :) All sexual abuse is the same no matter who the abuser is...It does the same damage. It seeks to destroy.

    So in the end you are the one that ends up looking out of order when you start chiming in about priest abuse.....You really need to cover all abusers. G, could you imagine your father, your very own father, from whose flesh you came from sexually abusing you? How about your mother? Your grandmother?

    I'm talking from experience on this certain issue. Being the victim of abuse at the hands of a family member. It should NEVER happen in any circumstance and it should all be given the same attention and disgust. But it is not given the same attention as we see so clearly.....

  41. But Cassie is right ~ a large part of the problem is the priestly role as teachers of morality. You can not lecture consenting married adults on what they may do within their bedroom and be perceived as giving priest abusing children a pass without the public going nutso.

  42. Joy, understood, and yes, it should elicit outrage. But the question here is why the proportionality is so completely whacked out. Why is the outrage so overwhelmingly against (all) Catholic priests and the (entire) Catholic Church and of a volume not heard for any other sector (by comparison, we pretty much yawn about the rest). And yet the numbers, in reality, don't show a greater incidence of abuse in the Church, and in fact much, much less abuse than in families and schools (parents and teachers also are role models of morality and ethics and sex ed, no?). How do you account for the unbelievable disproportionality of outrage, if not by acknowledging a massive dose of anti-Catholic sentiment and even hatred for priests and the Church?

    That's really my issue… the proportionality is all off.

    1. The outcry against all things Catholic because of the small percentage of pedophile priests is because it serves to support the theory that no one can do without sex. It is a huge finger pointing opportunity. But as with most finger pointing opportunities, it does not hold water but gets lots of press. I can't understand how celibacy can be said to be the cause of such sin when the number of non celibate abusers far out weighs the professed celibate ones. It "proves" that we are all just animals looking to "mate".

  43. Actually my sense is that most people acknowledge that the abuse does not happen more often in the church than in schools or Protestants churchs BUT if it does occur the Bishops are more apt to cover up and discredit the victims than hold the priest accountable and that kind of hypocrisy is fuel for the fire for the anti-Catholic forces.

    Public opinion here in Philadelphia has really improved since first Cardinal Rigali and now Chaput have insisted on more transparency and taking every allegation seriously despite the oncoming trial.

  44. sorrry
    * the perception is that the Bishops will cover-up*

  45. I just discovered your blog Leila...I love it!


  46. Joy, then why all the blanket priest-as-molestor jokes on late night TV and in normal discourse? I don't see that happening with school teachers. And, honestly, there is more cover-up in the school system. The bishops were largely following the directives of the secular psychologists back a few decades ago, who told them that child molesters could be rehabilitated and should be. Of course, that begs the question of why the bishops listened to secular psychologists, but that again is a case of damned if they did, damned if they didn't.

    I just don't buy it that most people understand that Catholic priests offend less than the average. I don't buy it because what's in the media and what is talked about all the time points the finger square at priests. And it keeps going.

    I am very glad that Rigali and Chaput have helped things. That is good. We have a great bishop here, too, who has implemented many safeguards. However, if you read our local Phoenix paper online, and if you look at the comments by the public on any story that even touches on the Church, you will see the most vile and awful comments about priests-as-molestors in just about every other comment. It is a steady stream of hate towards priests.

    I never see this on articles or discussions of public schools or education.

    So, I'd like to think you are right, but I just don't see it.

  47. Dreampuff, thank you and welcome!

    Also, for Joy or anyone who missed it (it ran long ago), here are my thoughts, in two parts, on the priest scandal:

    And, if you are on a Mac, you might be seeing my whole blog in SCRIPT FONT, which is driving me crazy!! Why is it in script??? ACK!!! I would never do that! Blogger, I am so sick of you… sigh.

  48. @ Joy and Leila, here's Fr. Barron with another one of his spot on discussions of "The Last Acceptable Prejudice" (might be familiar to some of you)

  49. Leila, I'm wondering if you know of any times throughout Church history where a "bad" pope tried to teach in error but was stopped - you know, like movie-style tongue tied, etc.

  50. Liesl, the best story is the one pope who was first an anti-pope. When he was an anti-pope (not a valid pope), he taught heresy (he was a bad guy who helped to put the previous pope in prison). Eventually, he became the REAL pope. The empress wanted him to keep preaching the heresy that she believed in (which he had agreed with) and suddenly, he said nope! He never taught the heresy. He was ultimately killed for that, I believe. I can't remember his name and I'm too lazy to look it up (the Empress was Theodora, I believe). The story is recounted in Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic, by David Currie. He has other amazing evidence in there, in the chapters about authority. Really worth having on your shelf! Every Catholic should have it.

  51. I have that book on my shelf (just haven't read it yet)! I will have to add it to the 'I should definitely actually no, really!, read this' pile. And I think I've read about that Pope before, maybe in Saints Behaving Badly? I can't remember his name though...

  52. I'd like to know more about infallibility and moral issues, because I've read the moral teachings are not subject to papal infallibility and we can use our conscience as our guide. For example, slavery was tolerable by th Church earlier, but now is consodered an immoral behavior, and much worse, a real sin. Another example: destroyings trees and forests was considered a normal behavior, but now, it can be seen not just as an immoral behavior, but a sin as well. Human beings are now perceived as responsible for the nature, for the creation, in an anthropocentric theory of bioethics. If those subjects have been objetc to doctrinal change, and we can say both are moral issues, it's also possible to state that moral teachings are not included in the infallibility possessed by our popes.

  53. Catolica Pensata, let's parse this out a little bit. When the Church speaks of the moral law with regards to the Deposit of Faith, it's non-negotiable, and it's intrinsic stuff. For example: Fornication is intrinsically evil. No "leeway" or prudential judgement. Same with adultery, theft, lies, etc.

    The issues you presented have to do with degrees and with prudential judgement. For example, the Church never has said, "Thou shalt not cut down forests". And she still does not say that. The act of cutting down trees itself is not intrinsically immoral. That's not part of the intrinsic, objective moral law. It would depend on the circumstances of what and where and why we are cutting down trees. For example, paper companies grow trees as a crop. Forests are grown and cut down on purpose, all the time. This is not intrinsically evil. If so, we all have to forego even our Christmas trees, which are grown as crops. Forest rangers have to cut down thousands of trees sometimes, to prevent forest fires.

    "Slavery" has never been taught as a moral good ever in the history of the Church, if you are talking about chattel slavery. Some types of servitude are certainly morally allowable, or morally neutral. Again, it depends. We see the Bible (and others) use the word "slavery" when in fact there is a huge spectrum of servitude that that covers. Some immoral, some moral.

    But when it comes to sexual morality such as contraception, adultery, fornication, homosexuality… all that is intrinsically evil (i.e., by its very nature, Act "X" is wrong). Never has it been taught as anything other than evil, nor will it ever be. Same with the other tenets of the moral law that are specific and intrinsic.

    So, while the Pope has not come out and declared any part of the moral law infallibly (never has he said, ex cathedra, that it is wrong to murder or fornicate, for example), it is still infallibly taught, as it has been taught "always and everywhere" (this is how the ordinary and universal Magisterium works). The pope has never officially declared that "God exists" ex cathedra either. And yet we know that is an infallible teaching of the ordinary and universal Magisterium. He doesn't HAVE to declare it infallible. The Church already teaches it as such.

    You may want to read this post next, which discusses the different types of infallibility, since papal infallibility is not all there is:

  54. Ops, by the church; considered an immoral behavior; but as a sin as well; destroying trees; object to doctrinal changes...
    I'm not trying to polemize, just to understand the topic better. You can indicate some references.

  55. Wow! You're fast!!!!
    Ok, I see your point about degrees of morality and also about intrisic evil.
    Now, I'm struggling with the qualification: what exactly can be called intrinsically evil?
    Is contraception made by a married couple intrinsically evil? How NFP can be considered moral and, for example, using condoms, immoral? Is The mere mean used as birth control by a couple comsidered immoral? As I understand (so far, I'm not saying I'm right and the Church is wrong, I'm just saying I don't understand the Church position, and I'm trying to understand it, otherwise I wouldn't be here making so many questions!), it can't be considered immoral.
    I've read this article by a catholic philosopher and I think he seems to be right.

  56. Herewith follows the link:
    I'm struggling with Demmet's rationale...

  57. Thanks so much for you help and patience. I'm loving your blog. Sincere and honest and direct to the point. Great job!

  58. Catolica Pensata, I don't have but a moment, but yes… It is always intrinsically wrong for a married couple to use contraception. You might be confusing ends and means. It is NOT always wrong for a couple to postpone or avoid pregnancy (the end). But it is necessary that to get to that end (of avoiding a pregnancy) that the means are moral, too.

    For an act to be moral, both the means and the end must be moral. If not, then the act is immoral.

    Here is a post I wrote specifically about the differences between contraception and NFP:

    I think that might clear it up! :)


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