Churches, letters and infallibility

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I write in response to the letter to the editor “Columnist wrote tripe” submitted to The Telegram by Patrick Hanlon.

I will begin by stating that I believe that Mr. Hanlon is entitled to hold whatever beliefs he chooses. However, I must take issue with the fact that Mr. Hanlon obviously believes that the Roman Catholic Church is above reproach and that what he, as a Roman Catholic, believes is the absolute and only truth which can be gleaned from either the Gospels or any other Scripture writings contained in either the Old or the New Testaments.

With regard to Mr. Hanlon’s belief that the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church are above reproach, I find this claim to be particularly difficult to believe.

Consider the fact that Peter, the disciple on whom the RC Church is founded, was admonished by Christ himself, in the strongest possible terms for displaying what Christ deemed to be inappropriate behaviour.

Jesus is reputed to have addressed Peter by saying, “Get Thee behind me Satan.”

If the person who founded the Roman Catholic Church was not above reproach, why should anyone who is in a position of authority, or a member at large in the contemporary Roman Catholic Church, assume, as Mr. Hanlon so obviously does, that both he and his church are above reproach?  

I also find Mr. Hanlon’s attempt to refute valid criticism of the church by referring to such action as bigotry to be lacking in both substance and credibility.

When you consider that the greatest myth perpetuated by the Roman  Catholic Church is the biblically unsubstantiated myth that any mere mortal is infallible in any respect, the fallacious claim that the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church are above reproach becomes understandable, despite the lack of any corroborating evidence in scripture to support such a claim.

Finally, while accusing those who challenge the Roman Catholic Church of bigotry, Mr. Hanlon does not shy away from attempting to inflict his own particular brand of bigotry when he blatantly proclaims that the Roman Catholic Church has a lock, if you will, on what constitutes an appropriate meaning of the sacrament of holy communion, when he brands the manner in which the sacrament is administered in Protestant churches a meaningless ritual because Protestants don’t believe that they are actually eating Christ’s body or drinking the actual blood of Christ.

Small wonder that, while the gates of hell may not be prevailing against the Roman Catholic Church, they are doing one hell of a job shaking things up.

Herb Morrison

St. John’s

Organizations: Roman Catholic Church, RC Church

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  • Colin Burke
    March 22, 2013 - 15:12

    What I mean when talking about caricatures is that I can well conceive of someone's having seen a perfectly libelous cartoon of another whom he has never met and later meeting that person and then recognizing that person both as a highly decent human being and also as the subject of that cartoon. The same might be true of institutions, including the Catholic Church, though "Every comparison Iimps, including this one. I do not deem it an insult to your intelligence simply to say that the Catholic Church has never officially revoked or retracted a doctrine it has officially held as infallible, which is all I started out by saying -- though it would be insulting for me claim that this one piece of evidence is final proof, which I have not clamed it to be. I know of nothing in the Bible which declares that the Church has indeed officially revoked or retracted any such doctrine. Anyone who can show me conclusively that the Church has indeed done so, will convince me that the Church itself has insulted my intelligence. And anyone who tells me that I hold this position only because of what I was spoonfed in childhood will come very close to what I deem insulting my intelligence. Meanwhile, we have had a good discussion, and I do appreciate our discussing such matters in a spirit of mutual respect. I only regret that it is not possible here to reproduce what I have so far read of the contents of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and to show why these seem to me to be in accord with conclusions of right reason, if that is what it took to convince anyone of the bare possiblity that one man might conceivably be protected from teaching error when he claims not to be teaching error. The doctrine, as I understand it, does not mean that the Pope can say whatever comes into his head and it will turn out to have been true; rather it means that when the Pope has found out the truth by diligent effort -- if it is a truth which can thus be found out, as not every truth will be -- he will not be able officially to contradict it. At least that is what I read in a book by an author named Frank Sheed, far better informed than I. The Church does not claim to prove any doctrine which it claims was revealed to it by God, but only that such doctrines are not themselves contrary to right reason. If you can convince me it is unreasonable to believe that God might possibly, through one man at a time, whom he might regard very much as you do, enable mankind to avoid error in what he wants us to believe about him, then by all means go to it. Enabling us to avoid error does not necessarily mean preventing us from falling into it; we have to do something for ourselves. Thank you for this opportunity.

  • Herb Morrison
    March 22, 2013 - 11:45

    If I understand you correctly, Mr. Burke when you talk about caricatures you are saying that while the caricatures themselves might not BE the higher authority they can represent the higher authority. For example, as confessing and professing Christians, both you and I are Disciples who attempt to live our lives in obedience to God's Word and Will, by following in the Way, in obedience to the teachings of Christ. However, neither one of us is Christ. Therefore, we as Christians earnestly trying to live our lives in obedience to God, because we are human, we sometimes think, say, or do things which are definitely not pleasing in God's sight. Why, because we are human and not Divine. Consequeently, whethewr it be within the context of our exchanges on this site, or some other situation we are involved in, as we live our lives, I earnestly attempt to be, among other things, truthful, just, and forgiving. Not unlike yourself I suspect? However I am do not believe, as I said in an earlier post, that what I percieve to be the truth is necessarily the absolute and only truth which can be gleaned within the context of any situation in which I might find myself engaged. Nor do I believe that because a cariture of authority must fit my concept of what I think they should be, in order for that particular caritcature to be a credibly representative of a higher authority. However, I draw the line when it comes to any individual or institution, in this context, the Romman catholic Church, stubbornly inssisting that any mortal can be infalliable in any respect. Such Doctrine is an insult to MY intelligent. I am not delibratly attempting to be disrespectful here, either to yourself or my roman Catholic friends and relatives. I respect your right to your particular Beliefs. Finally, I appreciate the level of intelligence, conviction, respect, honesty and integrity with which you conduct yourself during our debates.

  • Colin Burke
    March 22, 2013 - 10:25

    Apology accepted indeed, Mr. Morrison. What I was trying to convey in my post immediately previous was something like this: A child who has been shown only caricatures of a father absent since the child's birth can yet learn from them to recognize in later life the real person when he finally encounters him. I almost felt that you think one ought to disown an authority which did not exactly resemble in all details the caricatures someone had made of it: that the caricature was the truth and the real authority a bogus copy of that. I'm sorry if I've reasoned wrongly on the basis of such an assumption. On the other hand, I am tempted to say that any assumption that there cannot an acceptable authority behind the caricatures of it would be an insult to my own intelligence. (To which Ed Power might well reply, "Now you've got it!", but I believe you are more considerate, and more considering, than that.)

  • Herb Morrison
    March 22, 2013 - 07:12

    Mr. Burke. I did not either state or imply that you or any else cannot change or reject althogether the the effects that our life experiences might impose on us. I apologize If I conveyed that idea. I was simply conveying one possible reason for your reasoning in the manner in which you reason, at least within the context of Faith-related issues, based on evidence contained in you posts.

  • Colin Burke
    March 21, 2013 - 15:34

    Mr. Morrison, I do not wish nor have I consciously attempted to represent the act of choosing as trivial. What I meant is that choice is an act of will rather than of intellect, that the will is at least as likely to go wrong as the reassoning faculty, and that the most wilful and unreasoning choices can be the most horribly mortal for body or soul; there is nothing "trivial" about that kind of choice. I am almost disposed to resent your implication, if it is what you meant to imply, that a Catholic child spoonfed childish notions cannot become a better-informed adult far later, for you yourself seem to claim to have become such; you might in courtesy at least accord me equal credit and concede that perhaps I might not yet have included in these postings everything I might possibly have come to learn about the church to which I seem to have adhered somewhat longer than you did -- not that I'm ascribing any fault or ill will to your not having adhered to it that long; if you get the impression that I do so ascribe, please forgive me.

  • Herb Morrison
    March 21, 2013 - 11:57

    Mr. Burke, opinions and beliefs that we express are a reflection of choices that we have made.Some choices can and do require reflection, reasoning, and soul-searching and are not anything near as trivial as you attempt to make them appear to be in your latest post. Choices are not universally trivial in nature. If choices were trivial in nature, why does Christ allow human beings to choose whether or not to accept God and Jesus as the Source of our Spirituqaal strength and renewal during our physical lives and the source of our eternal Spiritual life in our life after death? Still think choices are universally trivial in nature, Mr. Burke? When you speak of the Christian Churchare you refering to the Holy Catholic Church or the Roman Catholic Church. If your posts on this site, both past and present are any indication, I can safely conclude that you are one of those Traditionally-minded Roman Catholics of my generation (60+) who were routinely spoonfed the idea that the Roman Catholic Church is the only true Christian Church, and that all Protestants are going straight to Hell. Mr. Burke, as a Christian, I place Faith in God over reason any day of the week. Even with God's help,both my own ability and the ability of others to reason appropriately, can be corrupted should I not be able to keep selfish human wants, needs, or desires, inherent in all humans, from influencing my ability to make choices or reason if you prefer, effectively and appropriately which in my case as a Christian, means choices which are in accordance woith God's will and pleasing in God's sight. Finally, Mr Burke, you do realize that according to the definition of heresy, Jesus, who had such hich regard for peoples' right to choose, is a heretic. Feeling a trifle warm, are we?

  • Colin Burke
    March 20, 2013 - 21:36

    I guess I could say, Mr. Morrison, that the point I'm trying to make is that choices are only choices, whereas opinions and beliefs rightly so named have at least some evidence to support them. For instance, did you simply choose to believe that the Catholic Church insists its priests are infallible in matters of faith although you yourself claimed there was much evidence that they are not? The power to choose ought to be subject to the faculty of reason which a great Catholic apologist has said is "supreme in its own sphere" and which is the faculty with which we weigh evidence. Simply choosing to belief is of the essence of heresy; I have read that "heresy" is, or is derived from, the Greek word for "choice." Happy choosing, Mr. Morrison. I have already cited one bit of evidence for my belief in papal infallibility and I have not yet seen anyone here contradict that evidence. I suggest also that changing the essential moral doctrines of Christianity would be justified only by a radical change in the nature of mankind and that such a radical change might well need Christ to redeem again that new humanity unless it is supposed to be already perfect, which, from what I see just by looking around, I do not think likely to have yet occurred.

  • Charles Kennedy
    March 20, 2013 - 21:28

    Well, let's stop for a moment and think.If the RC church was founded on St Peter then according to Jesus own words the RC church was founded on Satan. My oh my oh my ova!!

  • Herb Morrison
    March 20, 2013 - 14:14

    My choice to believe what I believe concerning Divine inspiration is not necessarily confirmed by God's choice. True. I can say the same thing about theThe Roman Catholic Church's Doctrine of Papal infalliability in matters of Faith. So what exactly is the point you are attempting to make, Mr Burke?

  • Colin Burke
    March 20, 2013 - 12:43

    Mr. Morrison, your assertion that the Catholic Church claims that its priests are infallible in matters of faith is false. I don't believe that that notion was even a theological opinion widely held. If it was widely held, it was held chiefly through the naivety of Catholic mothers taught by nuns who like teachers everywhere felt obliged to seem all-knowing in order to keep order in the classroom. But the assertion itself is simply false: the Catholic Church does not deem every impression conveyed by clergy and lay religious to be its own official teaching. You have been misinformed -- I hope. Or else you're just talking through your hat. In any case, your choice to believe what you believe about divine inspiration is not necessarily confirmed by God's choice.

  • Herb Morrison
    March 20, 2013 - 11:09

    Mr. Burke, one of the pillars which sustains the Holy Catholic Church is the principle which was both practiced and preached by Jesus and the Apostles, and continues to be preached and practiced in most Christian Traditions, including mine, is the reality that God, through Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, can take a flawed, mortal human being and utilize that person to do God's work, that God's will might be known in the world. The Roman Catholic Churchs' Doctrine which attempts to assert that it is neither within Gods' power, or is not Gods' will that either the Laity in general and women in particular be allowed to preacfh or teach within the Christian Church, is contrary to what Jesus Christ practiced and preached during His earthly Ministry. Mr. Burke,perhaps the reason that you find my assertion that I, a mere mortal, have access to Divine inspiration hard to swallow, is because, if you are like most of my R.C.friends, for the same era, you were spoonfed the idea that only the Priest was intitled to read and to interpret Scripture because only the Priest has access to the Divine inspiration needed to interpret Scripture appropriately. Then again, perhaps your lack of faith is attributablr tp the fact that you have choosen that instead of placing your faith in God, you have chosen to place your faith in an institution, the Roman Catholic Church which, in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, insists that both the institution known as the Roman Catholic Church and its' Priests are infalliable in matters of faith. Bottom line, you are free to believe as you choose. Similarily, if I choose to accept in Faith that God has the power, through Christ, by the Power of the Holy Spirit, to enable me to speak inspired truth in a single post on a website that is my choice. Neither I myself nor the Almighty are required to have either your approval to use this method as we attempt to spread the Good news of the Gospel.

  • The Referee
    March 20, 2013 - 09:55

    When someone admits that argument is lost they have no valid points, they resort to name calling. I read the letter Morrison was referring to, full of quotes anecdotes to back up his Catholic view. On the other hand, in his letter above Morrison simply states what he thinks without any backing and takes the discussion to a personal level with name calling. Goes to show who is in the lead.

  • jersey
    March 20, 2013 - 09:46

    I think everyone is forgetting the fact that the real issue isn't about one's personal belief. It's actually about what the Telegram chooses to to print... Mr Hanlon's response was one of disgust over the Telegram printing the original editorial by Peter Jackson. What's severely lacking on all accounts is respect towards other's religions. Personal attacks are no way to address such heresies. I'm one of those who believes God can do anything, and therefor He [God] is able to do far beyond that of our understanding, and no, I'm not Catholic. Shame on Mr. Jackson for the original editorial. (It was bias very much so). Shame on Mr. Morrison for making this a 'personal' attack. Live and let live.

  • Colin Burke
    March 20, 2013 - 09:24

    It is quite possible that I am gravely lacking in true Christian faith. For it seems to me that my believing the Holy Spirit guards the Pope from teaching error when he officially teaches what he says is sound doctrine, requires far less faith than I would need to believe that God inspires Mr. Morrison to declare the whole truth in a media posting. But then again, my lack of faith is not itself positive evidence that God inspires the words of Mr. Morrison.

  • Danny
    March 20, 2013 - 08:47

    From the Billions of ppl born in non christian lands...Yawn

  • Petertwo
    March 20, 2013 - 07:08

    Questions come to mind, on Christianity, why was the Bible written and how has it survived for 2000 years? Though the beginnings are said to go back for another 4000 years. Perhaps what is needed is a second look, given the interpretation today is essentially unchanged from early times of human evolution and, compared with the knowledge today, of massive ignorance. The emphasis in the past is on a physical perspective, yet the Bible has a much stronger spiritual perspective, which were the teachings of Jesus, and largely ignored on the whole by them being "inconvenient", from nearly everybody ever since. Yet the basis of the secular laws were founded on Biblical precepts, and a lot of people deny, even blame, God, for human failings? Not unlike the Hebrews after the Ten Commandments were first given and they agreed to accept them, a short time later they were back to their old ways. Too much bother and too much self examination, not convenient. Abraham thought there had to be a better way for people to get along together, God gave it, but no one wanted it, except for how they could use it for their own human benefits. How much does anyone think that God is going to take, who do people,then and now, think they are fooling? No wonder He gave up directly, though not indirectly.

  • Herb Morrison
    March 19, 2013 - 18:18

    Then again, Mr. Burke, perhaps the fact that the Roman Catholic Church is so resistant to changes in its' belief system of choice," is because those who "call the shots" within a particular Tradition are so lacking in Faith that they can't believe, as I indeed believe, that contemporary Christians have access to the same Divine inspiration as did the twelve Apostles, or any other Believers who walked alongside Jesus, Peter, or the Apostle Paul during their earthly Ministries. If we as Christians don't believe that we have access to Divine inspiration, we deny Biblical teaching which specificially that we are to love and serve God, by loving and serving others, as spelled out in Scripture in the first two of the ten Commandments. Consequently, I can be as inspired by God, throough Christ, by thepower of the Holy Spirit, to know and to do God's will, as any person living in Biblical times was so inspired. Consequently, if God wants Christians of any tradition to initiate changes, I believe God attempts to do so by inspiring Christians to advocate for change. While change might not always be called for, within the context of a particular situation, I do not believe that within any Christian Tradition, resistance to change is always either Divinely inspired or an indicator od the level of Spiritual fortitude of any Tradition as a whole or the level of Spiritual strength of individual Members of that Tradition. If any individual Christian, or Christian is to attain a sufficient level of Spiritual strength, to carry out the will of God in this world, the first step that all Christians must take is to avail of the nearest source of a healthy dose of humility.

  • Ed Power
    March 19, 2013 - 16:57

    The "first-century church against which the gates of hell were not to prevail" is still with us, and it's mythical god is still doing battle with it's equally mythical demonic enemy. "And far away in some recess, the Lord and the Devil are now playing chess...."

  • Frankie
    March 19, 2013 - 15:46

    @PeterL: It appears that you have your facts wrong. >1> There is an unbroken documented line of Popes from Francis right back to Peter. Following Peter was Linus (of 2 Timothy 4) then Cletus, Clement, etc.... Even if you think that the Church was not founded until 312 with Melchiades as Pope, explain the title and role of the leader from Peter to him. >2> In the 300s Constantine simply recognized the Catholic Church as it was well formed by this time. The term Catholic was in use and well recognized in the first century AD. As was the case when Ignatius, a student of John the Apostle, used it in 107 AD. >3> Holy Communion was believed to be the actual Body and Blood of Christ by the first century Catholics and treated with serious devotion as is document in 1 Corinthians 11:23-34: For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you,k that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes. Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many among you are ill and infirm, and a considerable number are dying. If we discerned ourselves, we would not be under judgment; but since we are judged by [the] Lord, we are being disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world. Therefore, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. If anyone is hungry, he should eat at home, so that your meetings may not result in judgment. The other matters I shall set in order when I come. >4> Read the Early Church Fathers and you will see that the Catholic Church today best reflects what they taught.

  • Colin Burke
    March 19, 2013 - 14:26

    Perhaps the chief evidence that the Catholic Church is indeed infallible is its never having reversed officially any teaching which it held officially, despite there having been much dissension within the Church and many theological opinons widely held by members of the church which did not become its official teachings. Perhaps the chief evidence that the Church's opponents can offer for its not being infallible is their own wanting it officially to reverse many of its official teachings. If the latter ever happens, I will then concede that the Church is not infallible and never was infallible. However, I have this question for Peter L: where now are we to find the first-century church against which the gates of hell were not to prevail? Or were they to fail thus only during the first century, which then would be, presumably, the only century that matters, so that now there needn't be anyone truly called Christian? Also, it seems to me that anyone who studied a subject for more than 50 years without becoming a scholar in it has largely wasted a lot of work. Have you read The History of the [Early] Church by Eusebius? If so, sir, you are ahead of me in scholarship. If not, I at least have bought that book.

  • PETER L
    March 19, 2013 - 12:33

    The Roman Catholic Church was not founded on or by Peter, nor was Peter actually the first pope. Peter was the leader of the first century Church, the Catholic Church was founded by the Roman Emperor Constantine around 312 AD or in that date range. The Catholic Church made claims going back to the first century church. The book of Acts, the early history of the church does not claim be to catholic, nor does the term appear anywhere, it was a church that followed Jesus and His teachings, and constitued both Jews and Gentiles. The church founded by Constantine was plagued with dissent from the first formation until today. The foundation of the first century Christian Church was founded on the Word, Peter said that Jesus was the messiah, on it was on that word, the truth of Jesus that the church was built on. Jesus would not found a church on a mere mortal who would eventually deny him, this is a catholic myth. As for the celebration of the communion, it is in memory of Jesus, and it is another myth that the bread and wine turns into his flesh and blood. This was not the way the first century church celebrated the communion, they did not believe it transformed into anything, it was done in memory only as Jesus said. The Roman Catholic Church has in many ways moved away from the teaching of Jesus and the first century church. If anyone is interested in the formation of the first century, and all the turns it has made since then, they should at least look into the history of the church up to the fourth century. Great reading, lots of books and studies and what an eye opener. I have studied Christianity, along with other religions for over 50 years, I'm no scholar, but I'm amazed at the myths that abound.