The Church: Good or Not?
In a few days I will celebrate the birth of my role model in life, Jesus Christ. Some of you will too. Others may instead celebrate finding a pair of socks under the tree, a football game on TV, or a cold beer in the fridge. I will celebrate those too, but that will not be a substitute for the true meaning of Christmas as expressed by Linus:
Now I presume some of you in the audience regard that story as a myth. Others believe in the story, but do not become indoctrinated into a particular religion. Others are Christians, but are not affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church (the “Church”), as I am.
I say this as a Catholic because I recognize there are rational reasons for rejecting the Church. Throughout ancient as well as modern history many of the Church’s policies, actions, and scandals are hard to defend. I will share that at a recent Christmas party a fellow Catholic confessed to me that some of what is going on in the Church today makes her question whether she should remain affiliated with her religion.
Perhaps an even more persuasive argument for the Church not being a force for good is given by Stephen Fry:
Clearly these men have a much more persuasive argument in this debate than their opponents, which include Catholic Archbishop John Onaiyekan of Nigeria, and deserve to have overwhelmingly won the debate.
Martin Luther was right. At that time the Church has clearly corrupt and I am glad he posted his 95 theses at Wittenberg. When the Church is wrong, people like Luther, Hitchens, and Fry do well to alert us.
I agree with Hitchens that the Church has much to apologize for. However, some of his arguments are easily refuted:
- Hitchens relishes the time where nobody on earth claims infallibility. He is confused. The Pope does fart. The doctrine of infallibility does not mean the Pope is a perfect human being incapable of error. What it does mean is that the Church has a means of resolving issues within the Church. It is not a democracy. The doctrine of the Church is resolved by having a representative empowered to decide since Peter was first appointed by Christ to be the foundation of the Church. In the United States when the Supreme Court rules on a case it becomes settled law. Same idea.
- The Church was a force for good for the Jews under the period of the Holocaust. The actions of Pope Pius XII saved many Jews. By adopting a diplomatic approach, the Pope avoided antagonizing the Nazi regime, which would have lead to the death of more Jews. In appreciation for the efforts of Pope Pius XII, the government of Israel approved the planting of a forest as a memorial to the Pope for all of the Jewish lives he saved during the Holocaust.
I do not have the time to go through every claim of Hitchens and Fry. I am sure many able people can offer refutations on these matters.
Being a cradle Catholic, I think it is important to challenge your beliefs. You should not follow something just because you always have. I questioned my religion in college. I experienced interactions with other faiths. I found that the Catholic Church is a force for good in my life. The scandals are terrible and should not be tolerated, but at the same time the Church which helps me and others act in accordance with the teaching and spirit of Jesus Christ is a force for good in the world.
Consider that Martin Luther had no intention of forming a new church. His intention was to address the corruption in the Church and fix it. Today, there are those sincerely engaged in rectifying problems in the Church and I support these efforts.
So, go ahead and celebrate your beer, football, and socks. I will celebrate the birth of my role model in life Jesus Christ, and I will celebrate in the Church that helps me be a force for good.