Intro ...

A few problems in Catholic teaching and practice, with evidence from church documents.

I became Catholic because I wanted to know and live the Truth. But in learning of the various problems, abuses, errors, changes, and just plain wackiness of this complex religious system, I was unable to remain loyal to the cause.

I should mention that none of the following examples concern doctrines of faith and morals and therefore do not "officially" contradict the Catholic doctrine of infallibility.However, the Catholic Church's claim of infallibility,which depends on various trivialities and legal technicalities, is not very satisfying — I can't imagine Jesus teaching anything like this.

Guidelines determining what is and what isn't true.

See also Astrology and the Catholic Church.

Church Councils ...

Decrees from various church councils highlight some problems.

QuotesMy comments

When someone is so notorious for his offences that an outcry goes up which can no longer be ignored without scandal or be tolerated without danger, then without the slightest hesitation let action be taken to inquire into and punish his offences, not out of hate but rather out of charity. If the offence is grave, even though not involving his degradation, let him be removed from all administration.

1215 A.D., Fourth Lateran Council

Too bad this wasn't followed in the modern abuses by priests.

Why does the church wait until the offenders are considered "notorious for his offences" before acting?

Clearly, the church leaders are shirking their responsibility when the laity have to raise an outcry before they take action.

Nobody is to hear the masses of those whom he knows to have wives or concubines.

1139 A.D., Second Lateran Council

Apparently, Catholics need to be careful who presides over the mass. Certainly a homosexual or pedophile priest would be as bad (or worse) than a married priest.

My response is to avoid attending mass with a priest when I have doubts about their holiness and firm belief in the teachings of the Catholic Church.

[It is an error that...] If a bishop or a priest is in mortal sin, he does not ordain or confect or consecrate or baptise.

1414-18 A.D., Council of Constance

In the Council of Constance the church determined that a priest in mortal sin can confect the sacraments.

If any one saith, that, in ministers, when they effect, and confer the sacraments, there is not required the intention at least of doing what the Church does; let him be anathema.

Council of Trent, Session 7, Canon 11

The priest can be in mortal sin but he must have the intention of "doing what the Church does". But how can anyone know someone else's intentions? Perhaps if this said, "follows the rubrics," but it doesn't say this. But even then I would be forever judging whether a sacrament is valid based on carefully observing whether the rubrics were followed (should the laity have to be concerned with this?) So what about priests who habitually have liturgical abuses? I should assume the worst — that they don't intend to do what the church does and the sacrament is, therefore, invalid. In the case of the Eucharist I am guilty of idolatry; in the case of confession my sins are not really absolved. And what if the priest followed the rubrics during my confession, but during mass (which I did not attend) there were serious liturgical abuses? Do those abuses mean my confession was also invalid?

Anyone who is conscious of grave sin may not celebrate Mass.

Code of Canon Law, Can. 916

The priest who should find himself in mortal sin shall not dare to say Holy Mass without previous sacramental confession.

1917 Code of Cannon Law, 650

A priest who is conscious of grave [mortal] sin cannot celebrate mass (except in extreme circumstances). But what about a priest who is, indeed, sinning mortally but who is not conscious of it? Perhaps he doesn't believe the moral teachings of the Catholic Church. I believe that a priest should not celebrate mass if he is guilty of mortal sin whether he is conscious of it or not. And why should he not celebrate mass? I believe it is because he is not able to confect the Eucharist.

The problem is that us lay Catholics don't know when the Eucharist (or the mass) is or isn't valid with so many homosexual, pedophile, and liberal priests in our parishes. And how can we worship Christ present in the Blessed Sacrament if we are unsure whether the Eucharist is valid? I would think that the bishops would take a very strong stand against priestly abuses, but many don't, to the detriment of all Catholics and the church.

[Regarding] priests, who are in mortal sin. . . . The absolution of the priest is the dispensation of another's bounty, . . . a judicial act, whereby sentence is pronounced by the priest as by a judge. . . . The penitent . . . is nevertheless truly and in God's sight absolved, on account of his [the penitent's] faith alone.

Council of Trent, Session 14, Section 6

We don't need to be concerned about whether or not the priest administering the sacrament of confession is in mortal sin or not because it is our faith which results in absolution. This long quote implies that the priest in mortal sin cannot administer absolution of sins (but canon law doesn't state this), the faith of the penitent is sufficient to "trigger" the absolution from God.

The sacraments act ex opere operato (literally: "by the very fact of the action's being performed"). . . . The sacrament is not wrought by the righteousness of either the celebrant or the recipient, but by the power of God.

Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1128

This contradicts the previous quote in which the faith of the penitent (the righteousness of the recipient) is a necessary ingredient when the priest is in mortal sin.

It requires faith to perform the actions of the sacraments, so they don't truly act ex opere operato: there are other ingredients required (such as faith — the sacraments certainly don't operate by "works only" which is what "ex opere operato" implies).

Writings by Popes ...

Popes have declared things which are suspect.

QuotesMy comments

37. [It is an error that] Purgatory cannot be proved from Sacred Scripture which is in the canon.

1520 A.D.,
Condemning the Errors of Martin Luther, Exsurge Domine, Bull of Pope Leo X

He is saying that the doctrine of purgatory can be proved from the Bible. I think this is an overstatement. Certainly there are many verses which support the doctrine of purgatory. I believe in purgatory.

67. [It is an error that] By the law of nature, the marriage tie is not indissoluble.

Pius IX, 1864, Syllabus of Errors

He is saying that divorce is not allowed.

(For other reasons that render the marriage null and void) the Church . . . can declare the nullity of a marriage, i.e., that the marriage never existed.

Catechism of the Catholic Church, Section 1629

Unfortunately, the church is all too happy to issue annulments, especially in marriages in which one of the parties is non-Catholic, as if non-Catholics are incapable of understanding the nature of marriage.

It focuses specifically on the loss of Jerusalem and points to the sins of the Latin States as the reason for this great loss.

1187 A.D., Audita tremendi,
Papal bull issued by Pope Gregory VIII

I am always leery when someone blames a person's sin for some calamity or misfortune.

Whenever popes declare something which is not true, they were not speaking infallibly. Part of the difficulty is that we don't really know for sure which papal statements are intended by the pope as infallible.

Regarding Catholic annulments: The Catholic view that marriage is a sacrament and that divorce is never acceptable is very refreshing. A consequence of these high standards of the Catholic Church implies that many non-Catholic marriages don't qualify as marriage at all. This is when annulments seem proper. I am not addressing the topic of whether or not annulments are given in cases when they perhaps should not be.

"Bad" Popes ...

Pope Honorius I was officially condemned as a heretic by the Sixth Ecumenical Council.

QuotesMy comments

Regarded by Roman Catholic and Orthodox Eastern churches as the sixth ecumenical council. . . . It also condemned several churchmen as Monothelites, among them an earlier pope, Honorius I. The condemnation of Honorius is a much-discussed point in church history.

680 A.D., Third Council of Constantinople

A church council determined that a pope had heretical views. How, then, can we be certain that the views of modern-day popes are sound? Perhaps a future council will declare otherwise?

[Pope] Honorius was . . . incorrect. . . . The letter of Honorius had been a grave document, but not a definition of Faith binding on the whole Church. . . . The final dogmatic decree [of the Sixth Ecumenical Council, 680 A.D.] contains the decisions of the five preceding general councils, condemns . . . heretics by name, including [pope] Honorius.

Pope Honorius, Monothelitism

How are we to know which statements of a pope are binding or not? And how are we to know which "official" papal statements are true and which are heretical?

His chief notoriety has come to him from the fact that he was condemned as a heretic by the sixth general council (680). . . . In addition to these we decide that Honorius also, who was pope of elder Rome, be with them cast out of the holy Church of God, and be anathematized with them, because we have found by his letter to Sergius that he followed his opinion in all things, and confirmed his wicked dogmas.

Pope Honorius I

If popes can be heretics, how can we trust them? How can we know whether or not a pope will be declared a heretic by a future council?

I suppose that a pope who was declared a heretic could not make infallible statements.

We are fortunate today to have popes who are obviously so holy, devout, and orthodox.

Priestly Celibacy ...

The Catholic Church teaches contradictory and confused views of whether or not priests should be married and what celibacy means.

I am not advocating that priests should or should not be celibate. I am merely highlighting that the church's teaching on the topic is in disarray. I can think of practical reasons why priests should or should not be married:

QuotesMy comments

Nobody is to hear the masses of those whom he knows to have wives or concubines.

1139 A.D., Second Lateran Council

The modern-day Catholic Church allows there to be married priests in certain circumstances . . .

  • Eastern-rite Catholic priests
  • Orthodox and Protestant married converts who become priests (with special permission)

The problem is that it dogmatically asserts that priests cannot be married because of the nature of the priesthood itself.

All the ordained ministers of the Latin Church, with the exception of permanent deacons, are normally chosen from among men of faith who live a celibate life. . . . Celibacy is a sign of this new life to the service of which the Church's minister is consecrated; accepted with a joyous heart celibacy radiantly proclaims the Reign of God.

Catechism of the Catholic Church, Section 1579

If celibacy is a sign necessary for the priesthood, then priests should never be married. But the church allows married priests in some situations. Therefore, celibacy is not a sign after all. You can't have it both ways.

In the Eastern Churches a different discipline has been in force for many centuries: while bishops are chosen solely from among celibates, married men can be ordained as deacons and priests.

Catechism of the Catholic Church, Section 1580

Whether priests are married or not is here considered as merely a discipline, not as dogma. Therefore, the church could change the rule in the future and priests could be married. Yet people talk about celibate priests as if it were dogma.

Now Simon's mother-in-law. . . .

Luke 4:38

Apparently, Peter was married. If it's okay for the first pope to be married, why is it not okay now for priests to be married?

Myth: Clerical celibacy has been the norm since the Second Lateran Council in 1139.

A Brief History of Celibacy
in the Catholic Church

As this article shows, the rules for celibate priests has not been constant over the centuries. But we need to distinguish between the decrees of the church and the practices of disobedient church leaders.

Miscellaneous Topics ...

QuotesMy comments

Rome has already made a change in Catholic practice with regard to intercommunion by allowing, for example Orthodox Christians to communicate at our Eucharists. But the Orthodox Church allows divorce and remarriage. Hence, it could well happen that a divorced Catholic would be barred from receiving Communion at a Mass in which an Orthodox Christian in the same situation would be welcomed. . . . It is practicalities such as these that can make Roman regulations seem remote, arbitrary and confusing.

The Ratzinger-Kasper debate

Too many rules lead to inconsistencies. I suspect that the church has overdefined the doctrine of marriage as a sacrament.

Regarding Catholic annulments: The Catholic view that marriage is a sacrament and that divorce is never acceptable is very refreshing. A consequence of these high standards of the Catholic Church implies that many non-Catholic marriages don't qualify as marriage at all. This is when annulments seem proper. I am not addressing the topic of whether or not annulments are given in cases when they perhaps should not be.

Guidelines ...

How to determine which claims of the Catholic Church are true ...

But ...

A few of my complaints about the modern-day Catholic Church: If the church were doing its job perfectly, I would not have these complaints so, for me, these complaints provide a measure of what is right and what is wrong with the church ...