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Why I am not a Catholic nor Protestant Christian, Part 5: The Infallibility of the Pope

07/07/10

Permalink 10:52:00 pm, by Norgaard Norgaard Email , 661 words   English (US)
Categories: Why I am not a Catholic nor Protestant Christian

Why I am not a Catholic nor Protestant Christian, Part 5: The Infallibility of the Pope

Every organization needs leadership, and there are many ways that leadership can be oriented. To look at the way leadership works within the various Christian denominations, one thing that should stand out is the wide diversity in how leadership is manifested. Within some churches, there is an elected leadership council that guides the faithful. Some churches have no official leaders but instead simply have preachers who are respected by the faithful. At the other end of the spectrum, the Catholic church has one supreme leader, the Pope, whose word is supposed to be infallible under certain circumstances.

For centuries, the Roman Catholic Pope was one of the most powerful men in the world. His authority was unquestioned among the Catholic flock during the middle ages. In more recent centuries, Papal authority has waned considerably but the Catholic hierarchy is very much intact and there are over 1 billion Catholics in the world. Certainly many of these faithful have reasons to believe and observe Catholicism as they do, but few of them make significant efforts to challenge the traditional top down leadership of the church. One problem is that few Catholics know much about the horrendous corruption exhibited by the church leadership for centuries up to the present day. Few know of the tremendous suffering and injustice caused by selfish decisions made by past Popes and few take the time to critically look at the evidence of this happening in the present.

Supposedly, the infallibility of the Pope was granted by Jesus when he said to his apostle Peter that whatever he calls holy will be called holy in heaven, as reported in the Gospel. The argument is that since Peter ended up becoming the first bishop of Rome, which over time evolved into the Pope, that every Roman bishop is infallible. I strongly disagree with the common practice among Christians of believing that everything in the Bible must be true, but this is a topic for another blog posting. What is truly bewildering about this argument for Papal infallibility uses a line from the Bible to essentially argue that one guy's word is above all, including anything else that might be written in the Bible!

I grew up Catholic and I was indoctrinated with the usual Catholic stuff including the unquestionable supreme position for the Pope. Actually, though, in my experience I wasn't exactly taught to believe that he was infallible, only that he is very holy and does God's will and was personally chosen by God. I, like many other Catholics, thought that John Paul II was a very holy man, even though he had many flaws that I was oblivious to and many older people within the church should have been more aware of. He was hard line and uncompromising on many issues; despite the rapidly changing world he did not alter his views to reflect reality. He strongly opposed the teaching of liberation theology in which chronically poor people were taught how to use their religious beliefs to make a better life for themselves. John Paul II tried to stomp this out because he thought it was communist and that it encouraged faithful Catholics to challenge authority. He was far from the saint that many portrayed him to be.

So in summary, the top down, supreme leadership model employed by the Catholic church for centuries inevitably leads to selfish and corrupt leadership. There are many other churches that have better leadership models, such as the Baptists, Evangelicals, Pentecostals, etc. that often either have an elected leadership council or that have no official leadership, but these churches have different problems: they seem to be completely certain that the Bible is the word of God and they are often completely uncritical of this assumption. I will address this phenomenon next week.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Is faith virtuous, or is it harmful? Let your voice be heard in the forum.
You can also email the me at brandon@enlightenedworldview.com

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